The famous Etruscan tombs of Northern Italy have yielded archaelogists a wealth of art and artifacts -- jewelry, pots, mirrors, sarcophagi -- but the Etruscans themselves are still a mystery. It was a civilization that rose, flourished and disappeared within a few centuries time, physically destroyed by Rome, but never culturally obliterated. The author is experienced in this kind of historical reconstruction. She has put art and artifact together with modern theories to present a ""horizontal"" history of the Etruscan people. From their ethnic origins in both Europe and Anatolia, she follows them to their fortified hill cities, magnificent burial mounds, the knowns about their daily life, politics, wars and the final destruction of their last city, Perugia, in 41 B.C. The same Etruscans who had helped found the power of Rome and whose Tarquinian kings had ruled it for nearly two centuries may have succumbed to a combination of fatalism and the Roman tactic of divide and conquer. The author's discussion of Etruscan legend reveals the thread of fatalism that may have obstructed any desire to put up an effective defense against Roman invasion. This is straight popular history, not intended to be definitive, but serving as at least an introduction to ""those mysterious Etruscans.