The Mysterious Etruscans

Course No. 3421
Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
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65 Reviews
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Course No. 3421
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What Will You Learn?

  • Meet the Etruscans and see how they served as a conduit between the Greeks and the Romans.
  • Explore the Etruscan necropolis - a literal city of the dead - to learn about the afterlife, social class, and more.
  • Discover the innovations that we associate as being Roman were actually Etruscan, such as chariot races and architecture.
  • Review the role of women as priestesses, wives, mothers, and members of society at large in a culture ahead of its time.

Course Overview

How much do you know about the Etruscans? Many people, even those who are fascinated by ancient history, are less familiar with this intriguing culture than with the history of Greece and Rome—but the story of the Etruscans is equally captivating and far more important than you may have known. This ancient civilization prospered in the region of modern-day Tuscany, maintaining extensive trade networks, building impressive fortified cities, making exquisite art, and creating a culture that, while deeply connected to the Greeks and Romans, had striking contrasts.

The Etruscans were the original inhabitants of central Italy. Centuries before the rise of Rome, they built cities such as Pompeii, Capua, and Orvieto along fortified hilltops. They developed a system of roads and invented what we call the Roman arch. While they had their own system of government, their own myths and legends, and their own cultural attributes, the Etruscans imported and repurposed much from the Greeks—and, in turn, gave much to the Romans.

Etruscan culture acted as a conduit, transmitting Greek art, mythology, language, and cultural icons to Rome, but it also had many unique elements that the Romans later adopted. You might be surprised to find out how much of Roman civilization—from togas to bronze military armor to Rome itself—actually has Etruscan origins. The Etruscans are largely responsible for:

  • transmitting the alphabet, and therefore writing, to the Romans and other ancient societies as far away as the Nordic regions
  • granting Rome much of its celebrated architecture and infrastructure, from the Cloaca Maxima water-control system to the storied arch
  • developing exquisite works of bronze and terra-cotta, as well as mesmerizing tomb paintings
  • creating well-known symbols of republican government—imagery that still lives on in U.S. government buildings like the Lincoln Memorial
  • engaging in sports and spectacles such as chariot racing and gladiatorial combat

Without the Etruscans, much of what we associate with the Roman world, and thus the foundations of Western civilization, would largely disappear. The Mysterious Etruscans is your opportunity to discover this astounding culture and fill in a critical gap in your understanding of the ancient world. Taught by Dr. Steven Tuck, an award-winning Professor of Classics at Miami University, these 24 fascinating lectures give you an inside look into a seldom-studied but vitally important history.

Explore This Culture through Historical Detective Work

Little from Etruscan society remains unchanged, which means that to flesh out more than a bare-bones description, we must rely on deductions from the artworks, records, and tombs that survive. Part Sherlock Holmes, part CSI detective, Professor Tuck compiles the evidence to build the case for who the Etruscans were and what impact they made on the world around them. Over the course of his investigation, he considers questions such as:

  • Where did the Etruscans come from? Did they migrate to the region from Asia Minor, or were they autochthonous—that is, did they spring up in from the region itself? Consider the evidence from primary sources such as Herodotus and the Aeneid, and compare it to the results of modern DNA research.
  • What can we deduce from their tombs? Funeral practices are slow to change in any society, and therefore tell us much about how a civilization viewed itself in relation to the cosmos, as well as its cultural beliefs and priorities. Professor Tuck takes you inside the Etruscans’ famous “cities of the dead,” where you’ll discover a great deal about Etruscan culture among the living.
  • Was Rome actually an Etruscan city? The Etruscans built a number of city-states on fortified hills, much like the geography of Rome. Professor Tuck examines the rulers and customs of Rome, as well as its urban design, to show why it isn’t too far-fetched to suggest that the city actually has Etruscan origins.
  • Where did the Etruscans go? Because we know the Etruscans are no longer here, we might assume they gradually folded into Roman culture. Take a look at their final years as a distinct culture—and how the Romans appropriated and repurposed much of what was uniquely Etruscan.

Go Inside the Public and Private Lives of the Etruscans

Beyond their influence on Roman culture, the Etruscans are fascinating in their own right. Their family structures alone make them unique among ancient civilizations. For instance, unlike women in Greek or Roman societies, Etruscan women enjoyed relative equality with men—appearing in public and at social gatherings

One of the most popular forms of social entertainment was the banquet. The Etruscans held banquets to honor the dead, celebrate military victory, and worship the gods, among other reasons. As you’ll discover, other societies often viewed the Etruscans as decadent and immoral with all those women out in public, but the Etruscans had different—and, we might say, ahead of their time—cultural beliefs and priorities.

Although original Etruscan cities have largely been built over, Professor Tuck is able to take us inside their homes by looking at the current city foundations as well as the Etruscan necropolises—literal cities of the dead fashioned to mirror their cities for the living. This evidence gives us crucial insight into the Etruscans’ sophisticated family structure, as well as their views on children, religion, and more.

Gain a New Perspective on the Ancient World

The Etruscans built an impressive trade network across the Mediterranean. As such, they were able to import much from the Greeks, the Phoenicians, and other societies and bring it to central Italy and the Romans. One of the delights of this course is seeing how the Etruscans took cultural motifs from elsewhere, modified them, and made them their own. For example, you’ll see how they borrowed extensively from Greek mythology and adapted it for their own religious practices.

You’ll also see how Etruscan culture influenced the larger world around them. One dramatic example is their art, craftsmanship, and metalworking. Tomb paintings, portraits, terra-cotta vessels, and other pieces give us insight into the process of artistic creation and the way art reflects, and in some cases informs, society. Meanwhile, the Etruscan traditions of bronze sculptures, military armor, and more were picked up by the Romans and revived in the Renaissance.

Although they are too often ignored by today’s history enthusiasts, the Etruscans had complex religious, social, and governmental customs; built an incredible trade network; and created exquisite and advanced arts and architecture. Their stories may have been overshadowed by their outsized neighbors, but now, The Mysterious Etruscans gives you the chance to fill in those eye-opening details and learn about one of the most interesting civilizations omitted by the history books.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Between the Greeks and Romans
    Meet the Etruscans. Although you may not know much about them, this opening lecture quickly shows how they served as a conduit between the Greeks and the Romans, influencing much of what we think of as Western civilization. Begin by surveying their world to gain context for this mysterious people. x
  • 2
    Lost Cities of Tuscany
    Although Etruscan cities no longer survive, we can learn much by studying the geography and the foundations of cities that were built over the Etruscan developments. Explore three Etruscan cities to find out how they were designed, and see what urban development tells us about the people and their impact on future civilizations. x
  • 3
    Who Founded Rome?
    Much of Rome's geography, architecture, and artistic inscriptions suggest strong Etruscan influence. After discussing three Etruscan kings who ruled Rome, Professor Tuck reviews the evidence - particularly in some of the city's prominent temples - that Rome was, in fact, largely founded as an Etruscan city. x
  • 4
    Etruscan Cities of the Dead
    Step into the Etruscan necropolis - a literal city of the dead - which tells us much about how the culture viewed the afterlife, social class, and more. In this first of three lectures on the dead, you'll visit several ancient tombs to find out about how this mysterious people lived - and how their culture changed over time. x
  • 5
    Etruscan Burial and Mourning
    Funeral rites are some of the most conservative components of a culture. Because they change so slowly, we can learn much from looking at a society's funerals. Here, examine Etruscan tomb paintings to learn about their religious rituals, from which we can deduce much of their beliefs, cultural priorities, and more. x
  • 6
    Etruscan Afterlife
    Round out your study of the Etruscan view of the dead and the afterlife by examining wall paintings. Reflect on some of the key symbols around the transition from the living to the dead - including divers, underworld guides, and kings. Then consider how the Etruscan afterlife compared to Greek beliefs and mythology. x
  • 7
    Etruscan Gods and Goddesses
    Shift your attention from the afterlife to survey Etruscan gods and goddesses. Learn about their pantheon and see how their deities compare to Greek and Roman gods, and consider what these deities indicate about the Etruscan worldview. See how collective action among the deities mirrored the culture's government, family life, and more. x
  • 8
    Divination: The Will of the Gods
    One of the longest-lasting Etruscan legacies is divination, which had a profound influence on Rome. Venture into the Etruscan cosmos and find out how the interpretation of entrails, the flight of birds, and portents such as lightning strikes influenced their world. Then turn to blood sacrifices and other rituals designed to interpret the world and appease the gods. x
  • 9
    Sanctuaries and Sacred Places
    Sanctuaries reflect Etruscan religious beliefs and offer critical insight into their culture and politics. Examine the placement and design of several key sanctuaries, and contrast them with Greek temples. After reflecting on the geography of religious spaces, Professor Tuck turns to religious art and sculpture. x
  • 10
    Etruscan Myths, Legends, and Heroes
    While much of their art incorporates Greek elements - confusing archaeologists for decades - the Etruscans have their own distinct myths and legends. Here, delve into some of those stories and meet heroes such as the Vipinas brothers, who were a pair of folk heroes rooted in history. Explore the relationship between myth and history. x
  • 11
    Greek Myth: Etruscan Tombs and Temples
    Between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC, the Etruscans imported thousands of pieces of Greek pottery, and this ubiquity influenced much of their own art. Study the urns, tomb paintings, and other artworks to uncover how the Etruscans incorporated and reinterpreted Greek myths for their own purposes. x
  • 12
    Greek Myth: Etruscan Homes
    Continue your study of how Greek mythology influenced the Etruscans. Look at carvings, sculptural reliefs, bronze works, and other media that depict scenes from Greek myths. Examples include scenes from the Odyssey and the Iliad - adapted to Etruscan life in interesting ways. x
  • 13
    Etruscan Language and Literature
    The Etruscan language survives in more than 13,000 texts, from religious transcriptions on mummy linens to fascinating legal contracts written in stone. Because the Etruscans had a primarily oral culture, their writing tended to be analytical and straightforward, yet from it we can deduce much. x
  • 14
    Etruscan Government
    Reflect on the Etruscan form of government, which shifted from tyranny to a kind of city-state democracy. Examine some of the limitations of their democracy - especially in the realm of defense against Roman invaders. Then consider how much the Etruscan government and its symbols informed Rome, and therefore much of Western civilization. x
  • 15
    Etruscan Warriors and Warfare
    The Etruscan militaries were formidable, and their navies sailed around the Mediterranean, threatening many foreign settlements. Yet the military structure - or lack thereof - combined with a lack of any grand strategy, meant that the Etruscan military was more of a loose confederation than a unified force. Learn about their armor, battle tactics, and major confrontations. x
  • 16
    Mediterranean Artisans and Merchants
    Turn to the Etruscans' extensive trade network across the Mediterranean, and consider some of their imports from the Greeks and Phoenicians - including pottery, ivory, glass, and more. Reflect on arts and crafts such as Greek vases, terra-cotta vessels, and pottery, and find out what Etruscan imports and exports might tell us about their politics and society. x
  • 17
    Bronze, Terra-Cotta, and Portraiture
    Dig deeper into Etruscan artwork and go inside the world of bronze metalworking and the terra-cotta industry. Professor Tuck shows you the patterns to their art, traces the Greek influence, and surveys the Etruscan gift for portraiture. You'll study examples of their art and the techniques that went into making it. x
  • 18
    Etruscan Sports and Spectacles
    Sport and spectacle have long been part of human affairs. We associate gladiatorial combat with the Romans, but it actually originated with the Etruscans, who held such combats and chariot races as part of religious observances. Study the exciting world of Etruscan sports and find out the context surrounding different types of games. x
  • 19
    The Etruscan Banquet
    Banquets were the most significant social experience in the Etruscan world. Using tomb art as your guide, delve into the banquet world and see the customs for celebrating victories and observing religious events. You'll also learn about the inclusion of women in these public events - unique in the ancient world. x
  • 20
    Etruscan Women
    One stark contrast between Etruscan society and the Greek and Roman worlds is the relative equality of Etruscan women to men. They appeared in public and even danced and banqueted in mixed company, inspiring strident condemnation from foreign authors. Here, review the role of women as priestesses, wives, mothers, and members of society at large. x
  • 21
    Etruscan Families
    Relative equality between men and women extended to family life, as well. In this lecture, take a look at the Etruscan family structure and compare it to the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews. Professor Tuck uses tombs, funerary markers, myths, and more to present a picture of the Etruscan family, gender roles, and the status of children. x
  • 22
    The Etruscan World Falls Apart
    Many people assume that Etruscan culture simply died after the rise of Rome, but in truth, the culture lived on several centuries into Roman rule. Trace the history of the Etruscans' final years, from the invasion of Rome to various resistance and revival movements to their eventual integration into the Roman world. x
  • 23
    Etruscan Legacy in the Roman World
    Tour Rome in the era of Augustus at the turn of the Common Era to reveal the Etruscans' influence on all things Roman. While Etruscan culture officially faded away, you'll see that without the Etruscans, Rome would lack many of its strongest attributes, from roads and bridges to military armor and togas to religion and sport. x
  • 24
    Where Have the Etruscans Gone?
    In this final lecture, you'll trace the influence of Etruscan art and architecture in the Renaissance, when many exports of Roman" culture were actually Etruscan. Then review what modern DNA research tells us about the origins and endings of the Etruscans - and the limits of our knowledge about this mysterious people even today." x

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 183-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Steven L. Tuck

About Your Professor

Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
Professor Steven L. Tuck is Professor of Classics at Miami University. After earning his B.A. in History and Classics at Indiana University, he received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. He held the postdoctoral Arthur and Joyce Gordon Fellowship in Latin epigraphy at The Ohio State University. An esteemed teacher, Professor Tuck received the 2013 E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award,...
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Reviews

The Mysterious Etruscans is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 65.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entrancing I found this course, and the Etruscans as they were revealed by it, entrancing. The aristocrats who built the family tombs excavated by archaeologists lived wonderful lives--until the Romans began picking them off, one city-state at a time. Their lives appear to be so much like ours that it requires some distancing of ourselves from them to realize how different they were from the other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean. Unlike those, the Etruscans had family names, companionate marriages, ownership of property by women, wives who kept their own family names rather than taking those of their husbands, openness about sexuality--perhaps even homosexual marriages, women warriors and househusbands. By contrast, they had no military organization to speak of, much less our military-industrial complex, although they were quite good at making swords. The aristocratic lords who depicted themselves in the tombs insisted on fighting at the head of their own bands of tenants and submitted to no higher command, military or political. They were no match for the Roman legions. I listened to this course on audio CDs, but after each lecture I easily found images on the internet of the works of art that the professor had referred to as sources of information about Etruscan life and mythology. Consequently I would recommend any version of this course.
Date published: 2016-08-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More Sociology Than History, Partly Unavoidably I largely agree with TheWaywardAugustine’s review, and share his regret that this course is more sociology than history, though of course the lack of evidence makes a full traditional history impossible. I do think this wasn’t all due to necessity, and that somewhat more respect could have been paid to chronology. Contrariwise, I also agree with BGZRedux that Professor Tuck is often more specific than the evidence warrants, though the examples I could detect were necessarily (given my own ignorance) largely in other fields: • In cataloging innovations due to the Etruscans, knowledge of the Platonic solids hardly justifies reassigning credit for all of science from the Greeks to the Etruscans. • Similarly, the late date of the discovery of the Chimera of Arezzo, 1553, precludes assigning so much influence on the Renaissance. • Professor Tuck seems far too precise about the date of the Iliad.
Date published: 2016-07-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Revelation I'd always thought the Etruscans were a mysterious, unimportant part of Roman history and never had any interest in knowing more. I was astounded to learn that almost everything we think of as a Roman invention came from the Etruscans. There were some lectures I skipped halfway through because it was more than I was really interested in, but the last one is especially important to summarize why we owe much of civilization to them.
Date published: 2016-07-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting This is a great topic. The course started out a bit slow but gained momentum and finished strong. Worth the value.
Date published: 2016-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course As Always this course is very engaging and well presented
Date published: 2016-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A marvelous tour once again with Professor Tuck In looking over the posted reviews, I find many of those with whom I agree on what a fine course Professor Tuck has once again presented. I worried that Pompeii might be impossible to match, especially with that memorable ending. But Professor Tuck has the ability to enthrall the listener/viewer with a wide range of cultural, historical, geographic, literary and general information about a subject I truly knew quite little. I cannot travel physically, but I surely travel thoroughly, enjoyably, and richly in this course. And it's been a marvelous journey. I watch for the mere joy of "being there" and learning. So many of the previous reviews hit the highlights and content of the course. I won't do that. But my reaction is that it is so well designed that it does not drag at any point. At the end it leaves me with the sense "I wish it wasn't ending." Isn't that grand? The graphics are excellent, and the images add so well to the content and seemed "enough" for me. The guidebook is excellent as well. If some find Professor Tuck speculative, I don't find it inappropriate. He's scholarly and knowledgeable, and I want to hear his conclusions delivered with a passion for his subject. If he can't speculate (and he always advises that it is his opinion), who can? Everything now about the Etruscans and their place in the world, even today, is fascinating - as if newly discovered. How little we hear of that time and the people. This was stepping back into history and meeting a civilization with very unique aspects that are at times admirable and memorable, as well as our now recognizing their legacy. I have one negative to mention but it is more directed at The Great Courses company than Professor Tuck. The closed captions are ghastly and could have been written better by a class of fourth graders (no insult directed at these students). I ordered this course as soon as it was available, and perhaps these have been corrected. Let me cite a few examples: - basks and Basques are not the same - Lecture 17 alone: three times "it's" was used incorrectly ("it's spots", etc.); Professor Tuck's words: "terra-cotta culture" while the caption was "terra culture"; "these set of games"; "some of the principle sports" and on and on. - place names are wrong, verbs are incorrect, sentences aren't close to what he said... I wonder if these were uncorrected and inserted by mistake. I turned it off after Lecture 17 and used earphones as it was annoying. If anyone as ever read what Professor Tuck requires of his students in writing - and it is a high level, he or she would know he did NOT provide these captions. I did not lower my evaluation levels ONLY because I do not think the lecturer is responsible for a technical aspect like this. Professor Tuck's wit is appreciated and very good. His presentation skills are confident, non-irritating and even lively as any ancient civilization course that includes Mary Poppins, Kim Kardashion, and West Wing lightly counters an perceived inherent risk of dryness. The last lecture is amazing! Cattle DNA and history all one in a fine final presentation. This is a quick review more out of appreciation for another fine course that brightens my world and for Professor Tuck's presenting another splendid course. How I hope he will be back after these superb four courses. Thank you.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hand-in-hand with Latin 101 I got this course as a sort of supplement to the Latin 101 course thinking there would be valuable complimentary information even though this is a history and the other a language course. It has worked out pretty much as I thought it would. While not directly complimentary it does shed light on some of the intricacies of pre-ancient Rome and fits well as a companion course. The only problem is that now I am going to have to buy a followup in Roman history! Ah well; It wil be money well spent I am sure. ;)
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Review of a little known part of history An excellent review of a part of your western history and culture which is seldom reviewed by an enthusiastic speaker who knows the etruscan history well.
Date published: 2016-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Badly named With so much information about the Etruscans in early Italy, I find it odd to have the course called Mysterious. While it was a very enlightening set of lectures, I was under the impression from the title that we knew very little about them. We can read their inscriptions, have excavated their tombs, and have considerable information about how they lived. Hardly mysterious to my way of thinking! PKG
Date published: 2016-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Buy the DVD I bought the audio CD to listen to in the car, but a large part of the lectures consist of descriptions of art and artifacts--very hard to keep follow along. I am buying the DVD hoping there is a visual presentation of what is described in the audio.
Date published: 2016-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Socio-Anthropological Overview of the Etruscans This is an interesting course, it is just unfortunate that it is ultimately not what I expected. For starters, this course is not a history course. Or rather, it is not traditional history. Some individuals may desire to make history exactly like this course (an examination of generalized characteristics without individual example or historical narrative), but to anyone else you can more accurately describe this course as a sociological examination of an antique society. It is thin on details, a bit speculative, and tends to take the precious few lines of primary sources that are about the Etruscan in a way that sometimes left me questioning the conclusions. But that's kind of the point. The Etruscans are a vastly important civilization, but we know almost nothing about them. Had it not been for the Romans and Greeks, we would have nothing about them at all. In a way, it is somewhat similar to Carthage, Pre-Roman Britain, or the Germanic Invaders of Rome. We know some details, and some details exceedingly well, but that is only because they were highlighted by others. The Etruscans lack of a strong centralized government and a cohesive narrative makes their history a bit like the history of the Greek Poleis. Only just imagine trying to study archaic and classical Greece without Athens, Sparta, or Corinth, and without a great writer like Herodotus or Thucydides. One cannot be too hard on this course, however. Almost all of the lectures are worth while, and you will discover the Etruscans by way of contrasting them from Greece and Rome. Even if you do not learn the narrative history of the people or their leaders, you do get a decent grasp of the overarching situation that the people and their cities resided in. Through archaeology, you do see a shift in the Etruscan way of life and religion. This more than makes up for at least some of that deficiency. So, where to go from here? A History of Ancient Rome is all but required if you have not yet viewed it at this point. Rome and the Barbarians will provide about as much information on the non-Greek non-Roman Western Mediterranean world as you can hope for at the Great Courses. Ancient Empires before Alexander fills in for the Eastern Mediterranean. The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World is interesting, detailed, but perhaps only for those who know a bit about Ancient Greece beforehand as he explores some roads less traveled by and ignores more mainstream opinion.
Date published: 2016-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Slam-Dunk by Professor Tuck If archaeology had been taught like this when I was young, I may well have found myself avidly pursuing the subject! Dr. Tuck has the gift of not only being a superb presenter, but also of linking various facts from many fields, including from the arts, skilled crafts, architecture, urban planning, civil administration, and military armaments and strategies. Because of this, over the course of 24 lectures one receives both a 360 degree understanding of the Etruscans and a deep appreciation of the ways of life -- and world-view -- of these distant peoples. It was exciting to better understand the many ways that Etruscan artistry and skills contributed to Rome -- and hence, to us -- and to realize that after their military defeat by Rome these people survived, not just as identifiable personages in the city of Rome but also in modern residents of ancient Tuscany. This makes it all the more intriguing that we are still unsure about where they originally came from and, furthermore, that their language was not at all related to the Indo-European family group that surrounded them in the western Mediterranean world. While they traded widely with the neighbors and, for a while, successfully resisted first Greek, and then Roman, forays into their territories, their "modern" attitude toward women's status was unique in the ancient world. How wonderfully curious! My understanding of ancient Italy -- and, indeed, of the Roman Empire -- will never be the same!
Date published: 2016-03-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fascinating topic BUT Although I'm extremely interested in Etruscan and early Roman history, I found this course difficult to follow. Prof. Tuck's delivery is punctuated with very audible stiffs throughout which become more and more distracting, even unnerving, as the course progresses.. Why aren't they edited out? I'm certain he delivers a better classroom lecture than this. For contrast, listen to Prof. Kenneth Harl's course on Rome and the Barbarians. It's a shame he doesn't cover the Etruscans.
Date published: 2016-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First, I am a fan of Dr. Tuck who combines scholarship and humor. This is my third course from him. Second, I actually had a course on the Etruscans and have a book on the everyday life of Etruscans. This course, however, brought in new scholarship and much more information.
Date published: 2016-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Worthwhile, if Often Speculative This is a wonderful course for any with an interest in ancient history and the roots of Western civilization. The Etruscans played a far greater role in both transmitting and inventing Western culture than they are generally given credit for. Major contributions included the areas of roads, water control, metallurgy, portraiture, and family structure and relationships, to name just a few. Our lack of any significant Etruscan literary production is primarily responsible for our underestimation of this culture. We also fail to realize the great debt that Rome owed to them - arches and togas are only the beginning, not to mention the alphabet. This course provides a fascinating overview of what we do know of the now somewhat-less-mysterious Etruscans. The first half focuses on ritual, including beliefs surrounding death and the afterlife; religion; gods and goddesses; and myths. The second treats more mundane concerns: government, wars, arts, sports, women, families, and the like. And the final lectures describe the cultural - and genetic - Etruscan heritage that we may still find, if we know where to look. Professor Tuck is outstanding, even if it is a little too obvious that he is reading from a teleprompter. His conversational tone is easy to listen to. He is very well-organized and enthusiastic, and he seems to know everything about his subject. This brings up my one significant caveat: Sometimes our good professor seems to know a little too much about his subject. That is, he appears to provide us with a much fuller description of the Etruscans than could possibly be known about a people without its own written history, as determined primarily from archeology, albeit with some contributions from Roman authors. Prof. Tuck often notes the evidence for his conclusions, points out scholarly disagreements, and hedges many observations with such modifiers as "likely", "possibly", and "obvious, at least to me". But I found it easy to get lost in the narrative, and to lose track of where evidence ends and speculation begins. As one of many possible examples, based largely on the fact that family names were an Etruscan innovation, we are told that "Family was the prioritized identity for both men and women, even seeming to transcend city-state as an identifying principle" (quote from the Course Guidebook, Lecture 21.) The visuals - maps and photos of archeological finds - are very helpful and reasonably plentiful, but there could have and should have been many more. The Course Guidebook is a well-done review, and includes a timeline and an annotated bibliography. A glossary and index would have been appreciated. So - I highly recommend this course for any with an interest in the area. As you watch, bear in mind the variable quality of evidence for the different aspects of this fascinating story.
Date published: 2016-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting, but some criticisms Overall I enjoyed the course and learned a lot. However, I have some specific criticisms. First, the subtitles that appear in all lectures were rather annoying to me, and there was no way to turn them off. You are not given an option to view the lectures with or without the subtitles. The subtitles appear to have been written using some type of voice recognition technology, or possibly someone actually typed the words as they were spoken. In either case, there were many errors of transcription throughout the lectures. Some errors were complete distortions of the meanings. Just a few examples from the last couple of lectures: lecture 23, "fasces" was written "fasgaze"; lecture 24, 1769 was written 1796, "cite" was written "site". Someone should have reviewed and corrected the subtitles. I would think Prof. Tuck would want to be sure that they were correct. Secondly, I thought that Prof. Tuck spent too much time on Etruscan mythology and adaptations of Greek mythology and their presence in Etruscan tombs, homes, etc. There were at least 6 lectures dealing with these topics. I would have preferred that more time was devoted to the Etruscan language and a more detailed chronology of major events. There was only one lecture devoted to language and literature. Surely the decipherment of the Etruscan language and their alphabet is worth more than that. The decipherment itself was not actually addressed at all. Then the chronology of events from 800 BC to the first century BC was addressed mostly in passing while discussing other topics and not in a continuous historical manner to give the listener a clear idea of the sequence of what happened. I think some of the more important military and political events should have been examined in more detail, particularly those events involving the Romans and the Carthaginians. Also, some discussion of the other tribes and ethnic groups living on the Italian peninsula during that time would have been interesting.
Date published: 2016-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unexpected As always Steven Tuck comes thru with flying colors. He reveals many little known facts about these mysterious people and their influence on Roman civilization. A must for ancient history buffs. Also see course no. 3742 "Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient City".
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Filling an important gap in historical knowledge Professor Tuck does an excellent job bringing to light a great deal of new knowledge about this unfairly forgotten ancient civilization. Most potential customers of this course probably already know a bit of ancient Greek and Roman history, and this is an excellent way of deepening their understanding of the background to those cultures. Today we think of Roman culture as basically a mix of native Latin and imported Greek traditions. But after watching this course, it appears that Roman culture should be more accurately described as an equal hybrid of Latin, Etruscan, and Greek tradition. So thoroughly did the Romans conquer and subsume Etruscan culture that Etruscan influence on Latin and later Western civilization has become almost invisible. This course will hopefully revise this view and give back to the Etruscans much of the credit they deserve for contributions to Western social organization, art, religion, and government. Kudos to the Great Courses for continuing to produce quality intellectual classes, no matter how "niche" the subject matter may appear. For those debating video and audio versions, I would greatly recommend the video version because of the images of artworks and archaeological sites included. However, it would still be ok on audio for those who strictly consume their Great Courses in that format.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If You Love Western History This One Is a Must This is an absolutely fascinating course. I knew too little about Etruscan history and now have a good understanding of how this critical civilization fit in with the wider ancient Mediterranean world. The Etruscans were one of the most important pieces in the Mediterranean world interacting with Phoenicians, Greeks, Celts, numerous Italic tribes, and ultimately served as one of the key building blocks of Roman civilization. Given that western language and many aspects of our civil and cultural life are direct descendants of Rome, knowing about the Etruscans is highly illuminating and lots of fun. If you love history, this one is a must.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating and unique perspective In the last two lectures of the course, Professor Tuck answers quite directly the questions that anyone taking the course is really interested in understanding: where did the Etruscans come from, where did they go, and why should we even be interested? When I say that he answers the questions, what I mean is that he surveys all of the available evidence. In some of the cases the answers are very clear, but in others they remain vague. This course is quite unique within the TGC in that it explores Western Europe (today’s Central and Southern Italy) in the periods between the 7th century BCE and about the first century CE, and not focusing on the Romans. The other courses that focus on this geography and period are courses on the Greek and Roman cultures, so this course provides a very unique perspective. The Etruscan were a strong and dominant people, and it was not clear at all in around 5th century BCE that they would end up being dominated by the Romans, their culture blending in with the Roman one. As Professor Tuck tells us in the narrative survey of their history, they lived, warred and allied with the most influential peoples of the classical period: the Greeks, the Romans and the Phoenicians. The major part of the course, however is analytical. Many different aspects are tackled, such as their treatment of their dead, the roles of women, how they governed, and how they fought. In most of these topics, Professor Tuck’s analysis is that of an archaeologist in the sense that it is based primarily on archaeological artefacts. The Etruscan texts as well as external contemporary texts tend to be focused on limited aspects of Etruscan culture and can therefore shed only limited light. Professor Tuck stresses many times the “normalizing” tendencies of the Etruscan culture as opposed to the Roman and Greek ones. This is shown repeatedly in the relative centrality of the family in their culture and is manifested by the important role women and children played both privately and publicly. The Greeks found this absolutely shocking… They were, as it turns out, highly influenced by the Greeks much like the Romans – adopting many of their gods and myths. In many ways, however, their adopted gods tended to be much more Etruscan than Greek. A prime example are the chief Etruscan deities, parallel to Zeus an Hera (in fact based on them). In the Greek myths, this pair is highly dysfunctional committing almost any imaginable crime and breaking many taboos. The Etruscan parallel is much more like a married middle class couple. Much more boring in fact… Professor Tuck paints a picture of a highly developed and in many ways unique and fascinating culture, maintaining its identity through many centuries of interaction with other dominant peoples with developed cultures. So, where did they come from? This is not so clear… DNA evidence seems to indicate that they had been in Italy for many thousands of years. Where did they go? Nowhere. They blended into the Roman culture and still live in Tuscany to this very day. Why should we be interested? Because much of their culture formed central aspects of what we today consider the Roman culture (much as the Greek culture did), and this in turn is the most central heritage of Western Civilization. Most of the course is centered around demonstrating this last point… This course has been wonderful. It touches upon a subject only tangentially touched upon in others. Professor Tuck was very compelling in showing how important and central this culture is (was) in the Western context. The course is extremely well structured, and Professor Tuck’s presentation was clear, easy to follow and entertaining. Having said that, he is also very focused and to the point – there is no extra fluff and every sentence holds new information. In the last two summary lectures, he does a fantastic job of wrapping it all up in such a way so as to make the motivations of the previous lectures obvious and coherent.
Date published: 2016-01-18
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