Photo of Etruscan Tomb
Tarquinia, Home of the Etruscans
The City of Civitavecchia is located on the west coast of the Italian boot. As a cruise port, it is usually the jumping off point for a visit to Rome, one of the most magnificent cities on our planet. The bus ride to Rome can take one and a half to two hours however, so even a full day's stop in Civitavecchia leaves little time to explore the city. Tarquinia, a center of the ancient Etruscan civilization, makes an interesting alternate touring destination.
Historical Significance of the Etruscans
The earliest evidence of the Etruscan civilization dates back to the 9th century BC. The origins of the Etruscans remains a mystery, and their language was not of Indo -European origin, however, Etruscan tombs show them to have been great builders, artisans, and artists. The only glimpse of this great culture which remains can be found in the artistry of the tombs they created, and the writings of their contemporaries, the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Famous ancient historians, such as Herodotus and Homer, expounded various theories about the origins of the Etruscan people. Did they originate in Asia Minor, or were they indigenous people exposed to foreign cultures by travelers? No-one knows for sure. This much is known however. They were industrious people who laid the foundations for the building of the city of Rome by driving shepherds off the land and reclaiming the swamps which surrounded it. If their language has seemed familiar it is because many of their words made their way into Latin and English. They ruled the Mediterranean for a time in the 6th century BC, and later were ruled by Venetians and Romans.
There is evidence to suggest that the Etruscans were prolific writers, but their literature and other writings were systematically destroyed by early Christians, who viewed them as the source of all superstitions. Unfortunately, it is the very absence of these writings that makes it difficult to conclusively demonstrate they ever existed.
The Etruscan Necropolis in Tarquinia
We boarded the early morning bus for Tarquinia, and paid for our tickets on board. The bus dropped us off in downtown Tarquinia, and from there the city provided a shuttle service to the Etruscan necropolis. However, the shuttle service was a bit irregular, and we needed the exercise, so we decided to walk instead. The walk to the tombs was mostly up hill, and the distance to the Etruscan necropolis was about two miles. However, we enjoyed our brief journey, as it gave us an opportunity to experience the Tuscan countryside.
The tombs themselves proved well worth the journey. They have been restored expertly, and many contain the sarcophagi of ancient Etruscan noblemen and warriors and their families. They are decorated with colorful paintings depicting Etruscan life. Much of what we know about Etruscan houses, and the Etruscan civilization in general, was learned from the study of these paintings. Furthermore, modern historians believe that one can see the influence of Etruscan artists in the works of masters such as Michelangelo.
Back in Tarquinia, we stopped off for a fantastic Tuscan lunch at local cafe. Then it was on to the Etruscan Museum.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Etruscan Museum, a facility which is devoted entirely to presenting the story of the Etruscan civilization, and which greatly enhanced our appreciation for these remarkable people.
After an exhilarating day spent learning about the Etruscan people, we boarded the 3:15 pm Civitavecchia bus, having confirmed that a visit to Tarquinia was a great way to spend the day.
Happy cruising. Andrew Kruglanski, Cruisin Susan Cruise Blog, http://cruisesuz.com
*Photo Courtesy of Department of Ethnology, Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma