Etruscan mythology

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The Etruscans were a diachronically continuous population speaking a distinct language and practicing a distinctive culture that ranged over the Po Valley and some of its alpine slopes, southward along the west coast of Italy, most intensely in Etruria, with enclaves as far south as Campania, and inland into the Appennine mountains, during the period of earliest European writing in the Mediterranean Iron Age, in the second two quarters of the first millennium BC. Their prehistory can be traced with certainty to about 1000 BC. During their floruit of about 500 BC they were a significant maritime power with a presence in Sardinia and the Aegean Sea. At first influential in the formation and conduct of the Roman monarchy they came to oppose the Romans during the Roman Republic, entered into military conflict with it, were defeated, politically became part of the republic and integrated into Roman culture. The Etruscans had both a religion and a supporting mythology. Many Etruscan beliefs, customs and divinities became part of Roman culture, including the Roman pantheon.

The Etruscans believed that their religion had been revealed to them in early days by seers,[1] the two main ones being Tages, a child-like figure born from tilled land and immediately gifted with prescience and Vegoia, a female figure. A number of canonical works on their teaching were written in Etruscan and survived until the middle centuries of the 1st millennium AD, when they were destroyed by the ravages of time and by Christian elements in Roman society. After defeating the Etruscans the Romans, whose original population had included significant Etruscan elements, did not harbor ill-will against them but the Senate voted to adopt the key elements of their revealed religion. It was in practice long after the general Etruscan population had forgotten the language and was perpetuated by haruspices and members of the noble families at Rome who knew Etruscan and claimed an Etruscan descent. In the last years of the Roman Republic the religion began to fall out of favor and was satirized by such notable public figures as Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Julio-Claudians, especially Claudius, who claimed a remote Etruscan descent, perpetuated an obscure knowledge of the language and religion for a short time longer, and then it was lost.


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