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The Etruscans: A Very Short Introduction

(Very Short Introductions #389)

3.5  ·  Rating details ·  58 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
From around 900 to 400 BC, the Etruscans were the most innovative, powerful, wealthy, and creative people in Italy. Their archaeological record is both substantial and fascinating, including tomb paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and art. In this Very Short Introduction, Christopher Smith explores Etruscan history, culture, language, and customs. Examining the controversial d ...more
Paperback, 148 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Oxford University Press (UK) (first published May 26th 2014)
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I was recently in the British Museum, trying not to collide with the various tour groups, when I found myself in the Etruscan and early Italy gallery. In a glass case, free of currency producing foreign tourists, was a display about the cult site of Diana - the lake at Nemi which inspired Frazer's The Golden Bough. The display labels explained that nothing yet had been found to suggest that it was a site sacred to Diana (Artemis) but that it was clearly an Etruscan cult site in the pre-Roman pe ...more
Grady McCallie
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this ebook on sale on impulse - not wise, since I should have been measuring the opportunity cost of the book in time, not money - but the gamble turned out well for this book, which is exactly what it says: a very short introduction to the Etruscans.

In which one may learn:
* the Etruscans are not mysterious, although there remains an incentive for museums and tourist bureaus to present them that way;
* the Etruscans organized themselves along significantly different folkways than the Ro
Victor Sonkin
(Three is good, do not forget this.) A very sound short introduction to the Etruscan civilization, its composition, its connection to Bronze Age and Villanovan finds in Italy, its (still very poorly understood) tribal/state structure, its language, its art, and the history of its discovery. The author tries to debunk the Etruscan 'mystique', but there is very little to debunk it with: many aspects of Etruscan culture are poorly understood, because the Etruscans are not subjects of history sensu ...more
C. Varn
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very useful on literary, archeological, and historiographical issues. It has a section of linguistics, but this I did not find as useful. The more ancient elements are dry reading insomuch as there can be much narrative attached. Overall, worth the read
Birgitta Hoffmann
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Short and informative overview of the current research, but careful it gives very much Smith's views, Italian and German books on the Etruscans differ.
Pete Missingham
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A slightly frustrating book. The supplied map does not show where the Etruscans lived. Likewise the alphabet chart does not show the Etruscan alphabet. However, the book does provide the basic foundations to be further researched later.
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Perhaps Smith's prose was cut short by a strict editor whenever he threatened to stay too long on any particular hobby horse. The result is a rather disjointed introduction that dwells on how the Etruscans were not mysterious and the romance around the mysterious Etruscans was a modern invention. Most theories attribute their origins to Greece or the east generally speaking; Smith does a creditable job of explaining how the imponderable question of origins is actually more significant in reveali ...more
Vince Ciaramella
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I have read a few books in this series and have walked away feeling like I know something more than I did on the topic. This one, not so much. I feel like I am staring at the Etruscans underwater. Everything is still blurry and out of focus.

The book keeps mentioning that they are not mysterious but to me they still are a mystery. The book seems heavy on the detail but not on the right stuff. I grew bored reading most of it and it was a pain to finish. I did learn a few new things and that's why
Amanda McCrina
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: italy, nonfiction
I found this one pretty unreadable. Lots of vagueness and speculation...which would be all right, one sometimes has to do some speculating when dealing with ancient history, but the speculations come off more as the author's wishful thinking than anything else. Basically "we don't know anything about the Etruscans, but here's what I like to think about them." Not up to the usual standards of this series.
Sep 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Not just about the people who left Etruscan artifacts, but more generally the place of Etruria in history.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: greco-roman
concise and clear overview of Etruscan history and culture. Particulars good when discussing Etruscan art and metalworking.
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Director of the British school at Rome, Professor of Ancient history at St. Andrews University.

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