Commerce and Social Structure

jewlery      Etruria possessed great farmlands, forests and mineral resources, all of which the Etruscans exploited skillfully. By the 9th century BC, Etruscans had mastered mining and the working of bronze and iron. In time, they became traders and this foreign commerce stimulated new technologies like glassmaking, mass production of terracotta tiles and pottery, monumental stone carving, and advancement of metal crafting, including fine metals like gold. Throughout the Mediterranean world, the Etruscans’ most distinctive products were highly sought after and traded for luxuries like perfumes, ivories, amber, and even human slaves. Aristotle, the infamous Greek philosopher, recorded that the Etruscans and Carthaginians signed treaties pledging alliance for purposes of trade expansion. (UPenn; Hamblin, 14-15)

      tomb of triclinum outsideAs commerce boomed and wealth grew, a social pecking order developed, with a powerful aristocracy living in stone palaces while their serfs resided in wooden huts. Very little information exists about the common Etruscan. Depictions of average people’s daily lives do not exist, as most pictures portray only affluent aristocrats, their families, and extravagant lifestyles. The majority of information about daily Etruscan life comes from images and personal belongings found in Etruscan tombs. Paintings on the walls of the larger tombs depict extravagant banquets, games, ceremonies, weddings, and rituals of worship. On occasion, the larger tombs symbolized the deceased’s home, which allows us a glimpse into what the house of an affluent Etruscan may have looked like. Favorite personal belongings, buried with the deceased in their tombs, show us what they valued in life and the fashion of the era. Those who could not afford chamber tombs, burial gifts, or luxuries of non-perishable materials remain the biggest mystery of the Etruscan culture. (ArtLex; UPenn; Hamblin, 57)
(Left Image: Outside view Tomb of the Triclinium )

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Artistic Influences & Identity ~ Language in Art ~ Conclusion: Disappearing Culture ~ Works Cited ~ About the Author

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