Tomb of the Blue Demons

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Tomb of the Blue Demons Tomba dei demoni azzurri, 420-410 ac ca. 02 viaggio del defunto.jpg
Tomb of the Blue Demons

The Tomb of the Blue Demons (Italian : Tomba dei Demoni Azzurri) is an Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy. It was discovered in 1985. The tomb is named after the blue and black-skinned demons which appear in an underworld scene on the right wall. The tomb has been dated to the end of the fifth century BC. [1]

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Etruscan civilization Pre-Roman civilization of ancient Italy

The Etruscan civilization is the modern name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, south of the Arno river, western Umbria, northern and central Lazio, with offshoots also to the north in the Po Valley, in the current Emilia-Romagna, south-eastern Lombardy and southern Veneto, and to the south, in some areas of Campania. As distinguished by its unique language, this civilization endured from before the time of the earliest Etruscan inscriptions until its assimilation into the Roman Republic, beginning in the late 4th century BC with the Roman–Etruscan Wars.

Tarquinia Comune in Lazio, Italy

Tarquinia, formerly Corneto, is an old city in the province of Viterbo, Lazio, Italy known chiefly for its ancient Etruscan tombs in the widespread necropoleis or cemeteries which it overlies, for which it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.



The fresco on the left wall shows the male deceased riding a biga, a two horse chariot. He is accompanied by musicians in a procession moving rightwards. The fresco on the right wall shows the female deceased. On the far left of the scene is a boat steered by Charon (known as Charun by the Etruscans), the Greek ferryman of the dead. A ribbon hangs on the prow of the boat. A woman holding a branch stands on the shore. She has one hand placed on the head of a young boy in front of her. They face and greet another woman towards their right, flanked by two demons. One demon appears to lead her towards the woman and the boy, but the other holds her around her waist, trying to stop her. On the far right of the scene, two larger demons are shown. The blue demon is on the left, seated on a rock with two snakes in his hands. He faces the black demon on the right, who approaches with exposed teeth, claws and intimidating eyes. The rear wall shows a symposium scene with four or five couples reclining on benches. [1]

Biga (chariot) chariot pulled by two horses

The biga is the two-horse chariot as used in ancient Rome for sport, transportation, and ceremonies. Other animals may replace horses in art and occasionally for actual ceremonies. The term biga is also used by modern scholars for the similar chariots of other Indo-European cultures, particularly the two-horse chariot of the ancient Greeks and Celts. The driver of a biga is a bigarius.

Charun Etruscan mythological deity

In Etruscan mythology, Charun acted as one of the psychopompoi of the underworld. He is often portrayed with Vanth, a winged goddess also associated with the underworld.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.


Left wall Tomba dei demoni azzurri, 420-410 ac ca. 01.jpg
Left wall
Right wall Tomba dei demoni azzurri, 420-410 ac ca. 03 oltretomba.jpg
Right wall
A "blue demon" Tomba dei demoni azzurri, 420-410 ac ca. 04 figura infernale.jpg
A "blue demon"

The fresco in the right wall is notable for its theme of a dangerous journey to the underworld with threatening demons. This contrasts with the cheerful dancing and symposium scenes in painted tombs of the Etruscan Archaic and Early Classical periods. The Tomb of the Blue Demons provided evidence that Etruscan death demons already existed at the end of the fifth century BC. [2]

The fresco of the procession on the left wall signifies the journey to the afterlife. Likewise, the fresco on the right wall has also been interpreted as the journey of a deceased woman to the underworld, where she meets predeceased family members. [3] It depicts an antechamber to the underworld in which demons guide the deceased woman to the ship for her journey. She walks from the rock or cliff on the right, which is the border with the world of the living, towards the boat, which is the boundary with the underworld. It is also possible for the inhabitants of the underworld to enter from the other side, like the women with the boy. The ship of the Etruscan Charun is seaworthy, unlike the skiff of his Greek counterpart. The banquet on the rear wall depicts both the festivities of the living for the funeral and of the deceased in the afterlife. [4]

The term skiff is used for a number of essentially unrelated styles of small boat. Traditionally, these are coastal craft or river craft used for leisure, as a utility craft and for fishing, and have a one-person or small crew. Sailing skiffs have developed into high performance competitive classes. Many of today's skiff classes are based in Australia and New Zealand in the form of 12 ft, 13 ft, 16 ft and 18 ft skiffs. The 29er, 49er, SKUD and Musto Skiff are all considered to developed from the skiff concept, all of which are sailed internationally.

Like many other elements of Etruscan religion, the demons shown on the right wall were probably inspired by the ancient Greek religion. The black-skinned demon bears some similarity to depictions of Thanatos and the blue-skinned demon resembles Eurynomos. [5]

Thanatos Ancient Greek personification of death

In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology, often referred to but rarely appearing in person.

Related Research Articles


In Etruscan mythology, Tuchulcha was a chthonic daemon with pointed ears, and hair made of snakes and a beak. Tulchulcha lived in the underworld known as Aita.

Vanth Etruscan deity associated with death and the journey of the deceased to the Underworld

Vanth is a chthonic figure in Etruscan mythology shown in a variety of forms of funerary art, such as in tomb paintings and on sarcophagi.

Duat in Egyptian mythology, the realm of the dead

Duat is the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology. It has been represented in hieroglyphs as a star-in-circle: 𓇽. The god Osiris was believed to be the lord of the underworld. He was the first mummy as depicted in the Osiris myth and he personified rebirth and life after death. The underworld was also the residence of various other gods along with Osiris. The Duat was the region through which the sun god Ra traveled from west to east each night, and it was where he battled Apophis, who embodied the primordial chaos which the sun had to defeat in order to rise each morning and bring order back to the earth. It was also the place where people's souls went after death for judgement, though that was not the full extent of the afterlife. Burial chambers formed touching-points between the mundane world and the Duat, and the ꜣḫ "the effectiveness of the dead", could use tombs to travel back and forth from the Duat.

QV66 tomb of Queen Nefertari

QV66 is the tomb of Nefertari, the Great Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II, in Egypt's Valley of the Queens. It was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904. It is called the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt. Nefertari, which means "beautiful companion", was Ramesses II's favorite wife; he went out of his way to make this obvious, referring to her as "the one for whom the sun shines" in his writings, built the Temple of Hathor to idolize her as a deity, and commissioned portraiture wall paintings. In the Valley of the Queens, Nefertari's tomb once held the mummified body and representative symbolisms of her, like what most Egyptian tombs consisted of. Now, everything had been looted except for two thirds of the 5,200 square feet of wall paintings. For what still remains, these wall paintings characterized Nefertari's character. Her face was given a lot of attention to emphasize her beauty, especially the shape of her eyes, the blush of her cheeks, and her eyebrows. Some paintings were full of lines and color of red, blue, yellow, and green that portrayed exquisite directions to navigating through the afterlife to paradise.

Etruscan art

Etruscan art was produced by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy between the 9th and 2nd centuries BC. From around 600 BC it was heavily influenced by Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct characteristics. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta, wall-painting and metalworking especially in bronze. Jewellery and engraved gems of high quality were produced.

Tomb of Orcus Etruscan hypogeum (burial chamber) in Tarquinia, Italy

The Tomb of Orcus, sometimes called the Tomb of Murina, is a 4th-century BC Etruscan hypogeum in Tarquinia, Italy. Discovered in 1868, it displays Hellenistic influences in its remarkable murals, which include the portrait of Velia Velcha, an Etruscan noblewoman, and the only known pictorial representation of the demon Tuchulcha. In general, the murals are noted for their depiction of death, evil, and unhappiness.

Tomb of the Whipping

The Tomb of the Whipping is an Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy. It is dated to approximately 490 BC and named after a fresco of two men who flog a woman in an erotic context. The tomb was discovered and excavated in 1960 by Carlo Maurilio Lerici. Most of the paintings are badly damaged.

Funerary cult

A funerary cult is a body of religious teaching and practice centered on the veneration of the dead, in which the living are thought to be able to confer benefits on the dead in the afterlife or to appease their otherwise wrathful ghosts. Rituals were carried on for the benefit of the dead, either by their relatives or by a class of priests appointed and paid to perform the rites. These rituals took place at the tombs of the dead themselves or at mortuary temples appointed to this purpose. Funerary cults are found in a wide variety of cultures.

Tomb of the Leopards

The Tomb of the Leopards is an Etruscan burial chamber so called for the confronted leopards painted above a banquet scene. The tomb is located within the Necropolis of Monterozzi and dates to around 480–450 BC. The painting is one of the best-preserved murals of Tarquinia, and is known for "its lively coloring, and its animated depictions rich with gestures."

Tomb of the Bulls

The Tomb of the Bulls is an Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy. It was discovered in 1892 and has been dated back to either 540–530 BC or 530–520 BC. According to an inscription Arath Spuriana apparently commissioned the construction of the tomb. It is named after the two bulls which appear on one of its frescoes. It is the earliest example of a tomb with complex frescoes in the necropolis.

Monterozzi necropolis Etruscan necropolis in Lazio, Italy

The Monterozzi necropolis is an Etruscan necropolis on a hill east of Tarquinia in Lazio, Italy. The necropolis has about 6,000 graves, the oldest of which dates to the 7th century BC. About 200 of the gravestones are decorated with frescos. Monterozzi was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, notable as "the depiction of daily life in the frescoed tombs, many of which are replicas of Etruscan houses, is a unique testimony to this vanished culture".

Regolini-Galassi tomb

The Regolini-Galassi tomb is one of the richest Etruscan family tombs in Caere, an ancient city in Italy approximately 50–60 kilometres (31–37 mi) north-northwest of Rome. It dates to between 650 and 600 BC, probably 640s BC. It was built by a wealthy family and stocked with bronze cauldrons and gold jewellery of Etruscan origin in Oriental style. The tomb was discovered in 1836 in modern-day Cerveteri in an undisturbed condition and named after the excavators, general Vincenzo Galassi and the archpriest of Cerveteri, Alessandro Regolini.

Tomb of Hunting and Fishing

The Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, formerly known as the Tomb of the Hunter, is an Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy. It was discovered in 1873 and has been dated variously to about 530–520 BC, 520 BC, 510 BC or 510–500 BC. Stephan Steingräber calls it "unquestionably one of the most beautiful and original of the Tarquinian tombs from the Late Archaic period." R. Ross Holloway emphasizes the reduction of humans to small figures in a large natural environment. There were no precedents for this in Ancient Greek art or in the Etruscan art it influenced. It was a major development in the history of ancient painting.

Tomb of the Triclinium Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy

The Tomb of the Triclinium or the Funereal Bed is an Etruscan tomb in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Italy. It was discovered in 1830. Stefan Steingraber, Associate Professor at the Italian Research University 'Roma Tre', dates the tomb to approximately 470 BC and calls it one of the most famous of all Etruscan tombs. He considers the artistic quality of the tomb's frescoes to be superior to those of most other Etruscan tombs. The tomb is named after the triclinium, the formal dining room which appears in the frescoes of the tomb.

Grotta Campana

The Grotta Campana or Tomba Campana is an Etruscan tomb in Veii, which was rediscovered in 1843 by Giampietro Campana. For a while it was considered to contain the oldest known Etruscan frescoes. It is named after the owner of the land where and when the tomb was discovered. Because of a lack of inscriptions, it is unknown who was buried in this tomb. The tomb has not been dated with any precision.

Tomb of the Dancers Peucetian tomb in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy

The Tomb of the Dancers or Tomb of the Dancing Women is a Peucetian tomb in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy. It was discovered in the Corso Cotugno necropolis in November 1833. The date of its construction is uncertain, dates ranging from the end of the fifth century BC to the mid-fourth century BC have been proposed. In any case, the tomb's frescoes are the oldest example of figurative painting in Apulia, together with another tomb in Gravina di Puglia. The Peucetians borrowed the practice of painting tombs from the Etruscans, who had an important influence on their culture. The tomb is named after the dancing women which appear on the frescoes in the tomb. The panels with the frescoes are now exhibited in the Naples National Archaeological Museum, inv. 9353.

Tomb of the Reliefs

The Tomb of the Reliefs Italian: Tomba dei Rilievi) is an Etruscan tomb in the Banditaccia necropolis near Cerveteri, Italy.

Tomb of the Augurs Etruscan burial chamber

The Tomb of the Augurs is an Etruscan burial chamber so called for by a misinterpretation of one of the fresco figures on the right wall thought to be a Roman priest known as an augur. The tomb is located within the Necropolis of Monterozzi and dates to around 530-520 BC. This tomb is one of the first tombs in Tarquinia to have figural decoration on all four walls of its main or only chamber. This tomb is also the first time a theme not of mythology, but instead depictions of Etruscan funerary rites and funerary games are seen.

Ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs

Ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs were centered around a variety of complex rituals, that were influenced by many aspects of Egyptian culture. Religion was a major contributor, since it was an important social practice that bound all Egyptians together. For instance, many of the Egyptian gods played roles in guiding the souls of the dead through the afterlife. With the evolution of writing, religious ideals were recorded and quickly spread throughout the Egyptian community. The solidification and commencement of these doctrines were formed in the creation of afterlife texts which illustrated and explained what the dead would need to know in order to complete the journey safely.



Haynes, Sybille (2000). Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. ISBN   978-0-89236-600-2.
Krauskopf, Ingrid (2006). "The Grave and Beyond in Etruscan Religion". In Grummond, Nancy Thomson de; Simon, Erika (eds.). The Religion of the Etruscans. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN   978-0-29278-233-4.

Further reading

Roncalli, Francesco (1996). "Laris Pulenas and Sisyphus: Mortals, Heroes and Demons in the Etruscan Underworld". Etruscan Studies. 3.
Steingräber, Stephan (2006). Abundance of Life: Etruscan Wall Painting. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. ISBN   978-0-89236-865-5.

Coordinates: 42°14′56″N11°46′13″E / 42.24889°N 11.77028°E / 42.24889; 11.77028

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.