Etruscan Myths and C.S. Lewis

Etruscan Mythologies Alive Today

Pentecost 65

From the mythologies of Greece and Rome we have our modern world and belief systems. It is an undeniable fact that modern society has facets that hearken back to the ancient mythologies of these two cultures. The creation of the law, democratic practices, governments, as well as civil engineering and metropolitan planning speak to the traits of ancient Greco-Roman times. The literature and art which have originated from these stories is everlasting and aspects of the modern arts have their roots in these stories. Additionally, great correlations can be drawn between Rome and its influence on Christianity.

Before being assimilated into the Roman way of life somewhere around 500 BCE, the Etruscan culture was alive and well and flourishing. Inhabitants of an area known as Etrusci or Tusci, the actual beginnings of this culture are unknown. IT is believed by many that they are descendants of an indigenous Villanovan culture or possibly from the Near East. Their political structure mirrored that of Magna Graecia to their south as they expanded into the Apennines and Campania.

The Etruscans were known for the ability to mine and then take the metals mined and turn them into a thriving commerce. Their mining of copper and iron led to their forming allegiances with Carthage in opposition to the Greeks. Around 540 BCE, the Battle of Alalia changed the balance of power in the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage spread its influence and both the Greeks and Etruscans suffered. In 480 BCE Syracuse led the coalition of Magna Graecian cities against Carthage and in 474 BCE, the Etruscans were defeated at the Battle of Cumae.

The fourth century saw the Etruscan culture subject to a Gallic invasion and by 500 BCE Rome had begun assuming control over the Etruscan cities. There is much speculation about the Etruscan culture. No graves of any Etruscan kings exist. There are no surviving books of literature and the few artifacts that have been found pose more questions rather than giving answers. There are inscriptions for there were great artists with metal. Etruscan women wore priceless jewelry which bore heavily ornate craftsmanship. Even today their skill and artistry as goldsmiths cannot be duplicated nor matched.

What is remaining bears witness to little distinction made in Etruscan culture between the spiritual and non-spiritual. Most Etruscan art and artifacts relates in some manner to religion. In their culture there seems to have been little difference between the secular and the sacred.

Could someone look at your life and see what you believe in it? IT is a running gag among social media that a man cuts another off in traffic and then blaringly uses his horn along with hand gestures. A police officer sees the altercation and pulls the driver over, suspecting he has stolen the car. The evidence, explains the officer, has to do with the bumper sticker on the car: WWJD? In other words, the officer does not consider the man’s action and belligerence in keeping with “What Would Jesus Do?”

The Etruscans left us an indecipherable alphabet with some characters that seem to have been borrowed from the Greek alphabet put together in a fashion reminiscent of Far Eastern writings. Perhaps we have not yet figured out the key to their language code or perhaps they believed actions spoke louder than the written word. Maybe that is there greatest legacy – They lived their faith.  C. S. Lewis once said:  “We are what we believe.”

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