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Home Paleolithic HISTORY OF SEX
Activism & Sex Cave Peoples
Arts & Sensuality TIME LINE Etruscans of Italy
Commercial Sex Mesopotamia Minoans of Crete
Contraception Ancient Egypt Myceneans of Greece
Disabilities/Illnesses Ancient India Etruscan families were
Dysfunctions Ancient China Etruscans of Italy centered around women.
Human Body Early Biblical Sicani/Siculi of Sicily It is extremely difficult
History of Sex Early Mediterranean Iberians/Celts of Spain to tell what happened in
Law & Sex Ancient Greece the past with the Etruscans
Love & Intimacy Incan Empire Dorians: South for several reasons. When
Paraphilias Aztec Empire Aegean Islands the Greeks came into
Pleasures of Sex Mayan Empire Ionians: North Aegean contact with the Etruscans
Pregnancy Native Americans Amazons they wrote in their own
Relationships Roman Empire culture and renamed
Religion & Sex Middle Ages Phoenician Empire Etruscan deities with
Research Renaissance/Reformation Greek names, although
STDs Puritans Persian Empire the deities appear to
Societies Victorianism be non-Greek. Another
Variances Adolf Hitler reason is that when the
Violence Kinsey - 1950s Romans conquered the
Sex Revolution-60s Etruscans, they destroyed
their written language and
broke into the tombs and grave sites of the Etruscans to steal their pottery and burial goods. The rest of the
Etruscan cities were rebuilt, the temples were Romanized, making it difficult to determine the Etruscans original
identity. We know that the Etruscans occupied the western coast of Italy from at least the 7th century BC to the
1st century BC. From the artwork and artifacts found, they paint a very different picture of the Etruscans in
comparison to what the Greeks and Romans said about them.

The Greek historian Theopompus described the Etruscans in the 4th century BC claiming that the women gave
themselves to men that were not their husbands. He described some sort of public orgy with drink and a feast,
and said that after eating all the men and women watched each other having sex and swap partners. He described
the women engaged in gymnastic sexual positions with the men. He said that the women shaved their bodies and
styled their hair. But he said that the women had no way of knowing who the father of their children were
because they had sex with different men but there were no illegitimate children in their society. That suggests
matrilineal lineage of children if the women were allowed to have multiple partners with no worry of illegitimacy
of their children.

Historians and archeologists are not certain of the legitimacy of Theopompus' description. It may be possible
that he was simply describing one particular religious festival for one particular cult and not the rest of the
Etruscan people. Etruscan pottery and artwork usually pairs up men and women into couples and not groups. But
what truly makes Etruscan pottery unique is the depiction of the common people. In a large portion of artwork
Etruscan men are always naked, while the women are fully clothed and robbed sometimes with veils. The only
time that a woman is depicted naked in Etruscan artwork is if it is a deity or goddess. The Etruscan women
always have clothes on while their male counterparts in the same artwork are stark naked. When Etruscan men
were depicted in war scenes, sometimes they wore skirts, but most of the time they were naked soldiers.

Greek historians also name certain deities, but there have been no artifacts to suggest that the names that
the Greek said these deities were named to be correct. The Greeks named off the Etruscan deities as being
"Vertumnus" (a beardless young god of vegetation), Fufluns (a version of Dionysus), Tiv (the moon), Nortia
(Fortune), Tinia and Turan. The Greeks said that Tinia was the most important deity and the Greeks labelled
statues of men to be this deity at a later date. The Greeks claimed that a bearded man resembling Zeus was
"Tinia" and they also claimed that a young man without a beard was "Tinia." However, there are no inscriptions
on any statues of any men to suggest this and no known representations of this deity at all. It could also be
possible that "Tinia" wasn't a male deity at all, but a female deity as the name is feminine. The Greeks
claimed that Turan was the Etruscans most important goddess. The word origin for Turan is Asian from 'turannos'
from which the words 'tyrant' and 'mistress' and 'ruler' also derived. They describe Turan as a mother-goddess
similar to the Mediterranean culture on Crete (Minoan goddess). But by the third century, the Greeks divided
her into smaller goddesses taking on Greek names such as Aphrodite, a goddess of love and pleasure.

In later archeology digs of the Etruscan areas of Veii and Volsinii, we do find that the Etruscans had names
for their own deities. Known Etruscan names for their deities were Uni, Minerva, Maris, Laran, and Nortia.
Many have theorized about these deities and attempted to put them into triads, but there is nothing in the
Etruscan writings to suggest triads because none of their deities are ever mentioned together. Nortia was
the principle goddess of the city Volsinii with her own temple. Minerva seems to be worshipped by the Etruscans
from about 500 BC and she replaces where Zeus would be to the Greeks. She also had the names of Minerva,
Menerva, Menrva, Merva, and Mera. Uni was the principle goddess of Veii and the Greeks labelled her "Hera."
She is usually depicted naked on carved mirrors. But in a more recent archeology dig in Pyrgi two sections
of an Uni temple dating back to 480-470 BC and the other to c. 384 BC tell a unique story. The Etruscan
inscriptions on gold foil for the temple say "Uni-Astarte." Astarte is the Phoenician name for the goddess
Ishtar, suggesting that the Etruscans may have migrated from the Canaanites, Sumerians, Babylonians and
Phoenicians by boat or intermarried with them. The other votive inscriptions in the temple on clay
have only an Uni dedication.

Maybe the Greek historian Theopompus was more correct than most people thought and possibly was describing
the orgy activities or a festival in an Uni-Astarte cult among the temple women.

For Further Reading on the Etruscans:

Banti, Luisa. (1973) Etruscan Cities and Their Culture. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Hus, Alain. (1961) The Etruscans. United States: Grove Press Inc.
Keller, Werner. (1974) The Etruscans. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Macnamara, Ellen. (1973) Everyday Life of the Etruscans. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd.

Etruscan Links

ArtLex on Etruscan Art
Beer Making: Celts and Etruscans
Etruscan Influence of Runes Alphabet
Etruscan Virtual Museum of Art
Exploring Ancient World Cultures
Museo Gregoriano Etrusco I: Etruscan Art Museum in the Vatican
Mysterious Etruscans: Pre-Ancient Rome Society

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Last updated 12.7.2014