Classics Etruscans
David Ridgway
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0016


For most of the nine centuries prior to the Augustan settlement of Italy in 27 BCE, the Etruscans were the most significant indigenous inhabitants of the Italian peninsula. At its height, their civilization amounted to a great deal more than a pale reflection of the glory that was contemporary Greece, or an eccentric prelude to the grandeur that was destined to suffuse Republican and Imperial Rome. Treated in its own right and on its own terms, the archaeological, architectural, artistic, historical, linguistic, political, and religious record of the largely autonomous Etruscan cities is indispensable to the proper understanding of the whole pre-Roman Mediterranean.

General Overviews

Dennis 1883 still provides the best description of the land of Etruria proper: this corresponds to the modern Italian administrative regions of Lazio and Toscana, bounded on the western seaboard of the peninsula by the Tiber (the river of Rome) and the Arno (the river of Florence). Not everything that Dennis saw in the 19th century CE has survived until the 21st. Massimo Pallottino (b.1909–d.1995) was appointed in 1945 to be the first holder of the chair—the first in Italy—of Etrusco-Italic Studies at the University of Rome (“La Sapienza”); he is universally recognized as the father of modern Etruscan Studies. Pallottino 1975 transmits to English readers the concise and ground-breaking presentation of the whole field that has influenced the present generation of Italian and other specialists. Though effectively superseded by Haynes 2000, it is still worth consulting for basic facts and earlier references that later writers often take for granted. Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983 and Briquel 1999 are authoritative overviews, emanating from Germany and France, respectively. General and particular entries (corresponding to most of the sections listed here) will be found in the three associated reference works listed below as Campbell 2007, Grove Art Online, and Turner 1996.

  • Briquel, Dominique. 1999. La civilisation étrusque. Paris: Fayard.

    An elegant introduction to the whole field, by a major French player; authoritative and reliable, but less substantial than Pallottino 1975 and Haynes 2000.

  • Campbell, Gordon, ed. 2007. The Grove encyclopedia of classical art and architecture. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press.

    A distillation of Grove’s Dictionary 1999– and Turner 1996.

  • Dennis, George. 1883. The cities and cemeteries of Etruria. 2d ed. London: John Murray.

    An exceptionally thorough, accurate and (for its time) well-informed guidebook: ideal for armchair tourists, and still useful for planning fieldwork today.

  • Grove art online.

    Provides access to the entire text of Turner 1996, with ongoing additions of new material and updates, and extensive image links.

  • Haynes, Sybille. 2000. Etruscan civilization: A cultural history. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

    Currently the best introduction to the whole field, a masterly and well-illustrated survey of the Iron Age to Hellenistic range, with appropriate attention to the life and status of Etruscan women at each stage.

  • Pallottino, Massimo. 1975/1978. The Etruscans. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

    Second English-language edition, based on the 6th (revised) Italian edition of Etruscologia (Milan: Hoepli, 1975), first published in 1942. The standard account throughout the second half of the 20th century, and still useful today.

  • Sprenger, Maia, and Gilda Bartoloni. 1983. The Etruscans: Their history, art and architecture. Translated by Robert E. Wolf. New York: Harry N. Abrams.

    A substantial and extensively illustrated account of the three fields specified in the title (translation of Die Etrusker: Kunst und Geschichte; Munich: Hirmer, 1977).

  • Turner, Jane, ed. 1996. The dictionary of art. 34 vols. New York: Grove’s Dictionaries.

    Covers the world’s art, with good basic coverage of Etruscan centers and main topics, along with convenient access to contemporary phenomena in adjacent areas.

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