Review – The Etruscans

Posted 25 March, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Etruscans by Lucy ShipleyThe Etruscans, Lucy Shipley

This is part of a series on “Lost Civilisations”, but Shipley pushes back on that idea from the start — Angkor Wat, for example, was never “lost” to local people; it was “discovered” by non-local people who acted as though locals had no connection to it, and this is a pattern that keeps repeating: Westerners find something monumental and assume that it has been “lost” and the civilisation that created it is dead, etc, etc. I don’t want to get into the truths and lies about that or debate it too much, but I found it interesting and refreshing to view history and archaeology this way.

The Etruscans are pretty enigmatic, and frequently portrayed as such, partly because we don’t have much insight into their language. The amount of Etruscan we have to work with is steadily growing as finds are made, though, and maybe someday soon we’ll know more. Shipley takes the reader on a tour of the finds we have got, focusing each chapter on a single find or site to tease out what it says about the Etruscans on various topics, including the position of women in their society (often portrayed as rather egalitarian). I enjoyed it very much: Shipley writes well and makes her points very clearly. It helps that the book has a lot of colour photographs as well, and the finds are well-chosen: I love the “Sarcophagus of the Spouses”, in particular.

Definitely what I was looking for. I wonder how good the other books in this series are…

Rating: 4/5

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2 Responses to “Review – The Etruscans”

  1. I have a very dense book on Etruscan mythology which I’ve dipped into and rapidly dipped out of again, it not really being a dippable sort of work (pretty photos though). Someday I’ll give it the close attention it deserves!

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