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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Etruscans: Who knew?

Etruscan Temple Reconstruction (Sailko)
The big news lately (for those who ponder such things) is this:  Ancient images of a mother giving birth found.  The small print on this headline reveals the following:  The scene was discovered on a small fragment from a ceramic vessel that is more than 2,600 years old. 

After recovering from the “Wow!” factor, readers might want to ask themselves, “What mighty civilization could have produced such a work of art?  And the answer is… the Etruscans, of course.  After all, as the author of this Discovery News article points out, it was the Etruscans who not only artistically depicted childbirth when few others were doing so, but also “taught the French how to make wine, the Romans how to build roads, and introduced the art of writing into Europe…”  (Perhaps they shouldn’t have taught the Romans so much; after dominating “much of Italy for five centuries,” the
Etruscans were eventually “absorbed” into the Roman Empire.)

But way before that, during the Etruscan heyday, female goddesses may have prevailed.  An archaeological site, Poggio Colla, not only “spans most of Etruscan history,” but was also “home to a sanctuary.”  Due to the great
amount of weaving tools and gold jewelry that was excavated at this site, it is theorized that “the patron
divinity may have been female.”  The childbirth that is depicted on this newfound ceramic vessel might
therefore be that of a fertility goddess.  Larissa Bonfante, “a world-renowned expert on the Etruscan civilization” (yes, there are such specialists) believes that this theorized goddess might also be “apotropaic” (lay translation: “protective”).

Good thing, too, because reports that “the basis of the Etruscan religion was the fundamental idea that the destiny of man was completely determined by the vagaries of the many deities…”  In that case, having an apotropaic goddess on your side could be mighty handy. 

Having one that is perhaps giving birth to another could be doubly so…

Copyright November 1, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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