THE ETRUSCANS by Werner Keller


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Keller is not far from the truth when he states that ""No other European people has been as neglected as the Etruscans, and the legacy of no other group has been so systematically destroyed."" It was not Romulus who founded Rome -- Livy himself admitted that such stories have ""more of the charm of poetry than of a sound historical record"" -- but the Etruscan Tarquinius Priscus; and it was his relative, Tarquinius Superbus, who constructed the Cloaca Maxima and the Jupiter Temple. Nor does Etruscan art excel only in the ""originality of [its] incompetence,"" as is often alleged. Keller conveys the artists' preoccupation with the supernatural, a concern apposite to a culture devoted to haruspicy (divination from the entrails of animals) and other religious rites; but otherwise he's pedestrian and superficial on Etruscan art. He is best on the political and military history. From the first signs of neolithic settlements circa 750 B.C., through the Veil and Punic Wars, to the Emperor Claudius, Keller is informative and direct, if not scholarly or innovative. As popular history, the book is adequate.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1974
Publisher: Knopf