When visiting Italy, do not miss the small township of Tarquinia. The Romanesque church San Maria in Castello is the main attraction in the center of that village. Near to a high medieval tower, this Romanesque church was included in the fortified citadel that protected the town. There is an elegant doorway and a majestic interior.
But Tarquinia's main attraction is about a mile away from there.
Up on a deserted plateau, a necropolis occupies a site parallel to that of the former city. No buildings are visible from the outside, but down in the funerary chambers, on the walls, there are extraordinary paintings: the tomb of the Baron, of the Leopards, the tomb of the Bulls (decorated with erotic pictures), the tomb of the Lions, the Hunt and the tomb of Fishing are the most remarkable in the ensemble.
Photographs by Mark Wolk.
Submitted by : Mark WolkARTICLE :
It is an often ignored fact that Italy had quite a significant civilisation before the Roman times. The Etruscans were the occupiers of the land, and have left few monuments that survived until nowadays. Etruscan tombs are among these monuments. And observing the drawing and painting of these tombs reveals a lot about Etruscan way of life.
One Etruscan tomb shows two wrestlers, one of whom has lifted the other from the ground, to the accompaniment of the flute-player who is standing between the two groups. This and many other Etruscan paintings confirm that the Etruscans made their boxers perform to the sound of the flute. Flute-playing was so popular that masters scourged their slaves and caused their cooks to work in the kitchen to the sound of the flute; and the Romans adopted the Etruscan tradition and gave their flute-players a recognized position in the community. The flute-players left Rome in disgust and went in a body to Tibur, and the only device the Romans could think of was to make the excellent fellows drunk and cart them back to Rome, where the citizens made haste to confirm the ancient privileges of the flute-players and to add several new ones in order to make the awakening more pleasant.
In another tomb, an equestrian procession begins and is continued on the back wall to the central false door. Four young naked horsemen, some of them with staves in their hands, are received by a naked youth who carries a palm-branch over his shoulder. Apart from the nakedness, which must be attributed to the influence of Greek art, this equestrian procession is genuinely Etruscan. The equestrian procession is presumably the preliminary to a horse-race. The nobles of Etruria were celebrated for their race-horses and often sent their chariot-teams to the games in early Rome.
Dancers appear in a number of Etruscan tomb-paintings, and abandon themselves to their gambols with a frenzy which might seem incompatible with death and entombment. In the Tomba del Morto at Corneto, dating from the same period, we find traces of a pirouetting dancer close to the couch of the dead and the lamenting mourners; the dance was thus as important as the funeral lament. The finest representations of Etruscan mourning dancers are found in the Tomba del Triclinio, which dates from the beginning of the fifth century B.C. On each wall three female and two male dancers are seen among trees; singing birds appear in the foliage. The male dancers play the lyre and the flute; the dancing-girls have castanets and the foremost a strap or chaplet with bells over her shoulder. Similar chaplets with bells are often seen hanging on the walls in pictures representing the symposia in honour of the dead, and bear witness to the childish predilection of the Etruscans for gipsy-like noise and merry-making. The most beautiful dancing-girl, however, in any Etruscan tomb is the 'bella ballerina di Corneto', discovered on a wall in the Tomba Francesca Giustiniani.
The primitive nature of the verses connected with these dances is shown by the songs. Tragedies in the Etruscan language were undoubtedly versions of the Greek ones, even worse than those made for the Romans by Livius Andronicus. Apart from some religious and a little historical literature, and a number of recipes, little tradition of any Etruscan intellectual life in writing or poetry has been handed down to posterity.