A review by
Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, 6 September 1964,
of six books:
Baltimore: Penguin Books, 19xx
by Raymond Bloch,
Frederick A.Praeger, 19xx
ETRUSCANS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD,
by Otto W. von
New York: St Martin's Press, 19xx
by Alain Hus.
Evergreen Profile Paperback. Grove Press, 19xx
ETRUSCAN CULTURE: Land and People,
by Axel Boethius et al.
New York: Columbia University Press, 19xx
ETRUSCANS BEGIN TO SPEAK,
New York: Simon & Schuster, 19xx
"The Etruscans: Some New Theories on Their Origin"
Massimo Pallottino. 295 pages, 38 plates and figures. Penguin Books.
Raymond Bloch. 260 pages, 120 illustrations and maps. Frederick A.
THE ETRUSCANS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD.
Otto W. von Vacano. 195 pages, 54 plates and drawings. SI. Martin's
By Alain Hus. 192 pages, 80 illustrations. Grove Press, Evergreen
Profile Paperback. $1.35.
ETRUSCAN CULTURE: LAND AND PEOPLE.
By Axel Boethius and others for Swedish Institute, Rome. 478 p ages,
Columbia University Press. $42.50.
THE ETRUSCANS BEGIN TO SPEAK.
Zacharie Mayani. 474 pages, 93 photographs and figures. Simon &
Since 1955, when a spectacular exhibit of Etruscan art toured the chief
European cities, there has been a growing interest in the Etruscan
problem. In the same period a new "solution" has won wide
acceptance. This is concerned with the origins and language of these
mysterious people who preceded the Romans as rulers of western Italy
between the Tiber and the Arno. For two thousand years, controversy on
this subject has oscillated between the view of Herodotus (about 450 B.
C.) that they were Asiatics who migrated by sea in the prehistoric
period from Lydia in western Anatolia to Italy and the view of Dionysius
of Halicarnassus (about 20 B. C.) who insisted that the Etruscans were
not Asiatics but were the indigenous inhabitants of Tuscany, "a very
ancient people which does not resemble any other either in its language
or its customs."
Between these extreme positions the controversy has continued.
Those who quoted as evidence of an Eastern origin the obviously Oriental
character of many Etruscan beliefs and customs were refuted by the
persuasive argument that these were simply survivals of a basic archaic
Mediterranean culture which existed in Italy as well as Asia before the
Indo-European conquests of the Greeks, Macedonians, and Romans. A
most significant feature of this submergence of archaism beneath the
veneer of Classical culture was the spread of Indo-European languages.
Accordingly, a significant" part of the Etruscan problem became
concerned with the question whether the Etruscan language was an
Indo-European tongue or one of the earlier archaic languages whose most
notable example is Basque.
From Several Directions
The compromise over Etruscan origins began with Alfredo Trombetti and
his pupils, with its chief supporter now in Pallottino. This view
contends that the Etruscan people may have come from several diverse
directions, but that the formative process of the Etruscan nation and
culture "can only have taken place on the territory of Etruria proper;"
and we are able to witness the final stages of this process thanks to
the rich archaeological documentation we possess for the period from the
8th to the 6th century B. C." (P. 69). On this subject
disagreement still exists beneath the apparent compromise and the shift
of emphasis from ethnic origins to cultural development.
These disagreements now appear as differential weighing of evidence.
Thus Pallottino has little to say on any specific influences from the
East in the Etruscan cultural development but, instead, makes constant
references to the "Italinity" of the Etruscan "nation." Bloch, on
the other hand, still insists that many of the dominant elements in this
cultural development came from Asia in the late 7th century B. C. and
that Etruscan development would have taken place on quite different
lines or would probably have remained insignificant without these
In a situation like this, the lay reader can only hope to find
some-single volume which will give him a fair account of what the
dispute is about. Fortunately such a book is available in Alain
Hus' little paperback. This concentrates on exposition, not argument,
and, in view of its modest price, is now the one book to be recommended
as an introduction to this subject.
The effort at reconciliation of differences in regard to Etruscan
culture has had much less influence in discussion of the Etruscan
language. Whatever weight the various experts now place on the Oriental
elements in the Etruscan cultural synthesis, they have tended to regard
the language as a much less mixed entity. In general they have
felt that it is basically non-Indo-Europem. Those who emphasize the
indigenous element in Etruscan culture derive that element from Italian
sources before the Indo-European invasions. Those, like Bloch, who
give more weight to the Asiatic element regard that element also as
pre-Indo-European. In fact, Bloch in an article in the Scientific
American for February 1962 says, "Enough is known to state categorically
that Etruscan is not an off-shoot of the Indo-European language, from
which all the other significant languages in Western history were
derived." Pallottino is less emphatic but seems to feel that any
Indo-European element in Etruscan is restricted to vocabulary and is
probably fairly late.
Opening a Wasp's Nest
In these circumstances Magani's volume can hardly escape smashing open a
wasp's nest. His thesis, derived from J. G. von Hahn (1854) and
sustained by years of research in Indo-European philology, is that the
Etruscan language is closely related to “the Illyrian Kernal of AlbAnian
tnat tDe &ruscan language is closely related to "the Illyrian Kernel of
Albanian." The common source of both were the Illyrian tribes who
moved from the northern Balkans into Asia Minor in the 2d millennium B.
C. and later spread westward as Picenians, Iapygians, Messapians,
Dardanians, and others. This theory combines an Eastern origin of the
Etruscans with an Indo-European language and helps to explain why
Etruscan and Albanian belong to the Eastern (so-called "satem") group of
the Indo-European languages rather than to the Western (or "Kentum")
Mayani defends his interpretation of the evidence with page after page
of minute philological discussion which will be far outside the
competence and interests of all except a small group of linguistic
specialists. A flowing style and an interesting subject are not
sufficient to carry the ordinary reader through these many pages of