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The Romans and the Etruscans

The Romans and the Etruscans

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will provide an introduction to the Etruscans and the Romans

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Tutorial

An overview of the Roman and Etruscan civilizations.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about the Romans and Etruscans. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives or the things you're going to learn today are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe briefly the Etruscan civilization and its relationship to Roman civilization, and describe some of the artistic and architectural influences the Etruscans had on the Romans.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is a rounded arch, a type of arch that consists of a semicircle. Barrel vault is a type of vault consisting of a rounded arch extended forward in space.

Voussoirs are the stones that make up an arch. Keystone is a stone that lies at the top of an arch and holds the entire arch together. Big idea for today is that the Etruscans were a civilization that predated the Roman civilization, and influenced the art and architecture of ancient Rome.

And keep in mind, there is required artwork in this lesson. And, as always, the titles are in purple. So the timeframe that we're looking at today does not include the entire length of time that the Etruscans existed, but rather the timeframe that encompasses the artwork that we're looking at today. And it extends from around 515 BC to 100 BC give or take.

The Roman Republic was founded in around 509 BC so just as a comparison to see how they overlap. So we're moving west from ancient Greece to the Italian peninsula shown here in dark green. And here's the city of Rome as a reference. And the Etruscan civilization was centralized approximately in this region in blue between the Tiber and Arno Rivers.

We'll take a moment just to look at some key terms a little bit more in detail. This is an example of the rounded arch with the voussoirs, which are the stones that make up the arch. And the keystone, which is the centerpiece, the one that kind of keeps the whole thing together. So a rounded arch is a rather simple semicircle arch. A barrel vault is just a rounded arch, if you could imagine, taking the rounded arch and stretching it out so that you have a series of rounded arches one right after the other, kind of creating a tunnel effect, that would be a barrel vault.

Now unlike Etruscan temples as we'll see in a few moments, there are examples of Etruscan architecture that still exist, like this example from Perugia, Italy called the Porta Augusta or a trusted arch. And it's a great example of the use of a rounded arch, which was subsequently adopted by the Romans, becoming one of the defining characteristics of Roman architecture. It's important to point out that Etruria, where the Etruscans lived, was never an empire, and it never united politically.

It was a region where the Etruscan civilization existed. Now the civilization itself was concentrated in the major Etruscan cities of Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Vulci, Veii. The Etruscan ethnic origins are unclear because their language was not Indo-European. It was eventually replaced with Latin after Rome conquered the Etruscans.

Now in some ways, they developed along a similar trajectory with the Greeks artistically and architecturally, at least for periods of time. And the architectural elements, like the rounded arch, the barrel vault, and the housing layout that was centered around a central court, these were highly influential on Roman architectural designs.

This first image is a reconstruction of an Etruscan temple. And they were highly inspired by the architecture the Greeks, particularly in their layout and the stylistic elements that you see. And one of the key differences was in their use of building materials, which is why no examples exist today. As opposed to the Grecian use of stone, the Etruscans only used stone for the foundations of the temples and used a mixture of sticks, clay, and mud as their primary building materials.

Now the Etruscan religion, like the Greeks and Romans, was polytheistic with specific deities that accounted for-- among other things-- the major natural phenomena, like such as the sun deity. This image of Apulu-- or Apollo as he's more commonly known-- the Sun God demonstrates the Etruscan familiarity with Greek kouros. It's a life-sized sculpture in terracotta, which is fired clay. And depicts similar stylistic elements to the archaic sculptures from Greece, such as the archaic smile.

However, what can't be seen in this photo is the overall composition of the sculpture in which he is shown moving forward. Archaic Greek sculptures, on the other hand, are known for their stiff characteristics, similar to the Egyptian stylistic conventions that we've seen before. A sense of movement has come to be associated with Etruscan artwork.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms?

Can you describe briefly the Etruscan civilization and its relationship to Roman civilization? And can you describe some of the artistic and architectural influences the Etruscans had on the Romans. And once again, the big idea is that the Etruscans were a civilization that predated the Roman civilization and influenced the art and architecture of ancient Rome.

There you go. Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Round Arch

    A type of arch that consists of a semicircle.

  • Barrel Vault

    A type of vault consisting of a rounded arch extended forward in space.

  • Voussoirs

    The stones that make up an arch.

  • Keystone

    The stone that lies at the top of an arch and holds the entire arch together.