Page images
PDF
EPUB

even the more ancient mode of inclosingi “We condescended at last to approach these the remains in a sarchophagus had been rocks, that we might examine them more closely, devised.

and found beneach each engraved door, if I may We shall now bring before our readers

use the expression, an open one, six or eight feet

lower, wbich led into the burial chamber. It would another species of sepulchre, one more im

m appear that these cavern moutlis had formerly been mediately connecting Etruria with the East covered up with earth; and that nothing remained than any we have yet seen. After leaving above ground but the sniooth face of the rock, with Agylla, our authoress went to visit the its false Egyptian door and narrow cornice. We monuments which were said to be visible at entered several of these sepulchres. Of those we Castel d'Asso, and which have been hither did enter the greater part consisted of a single low to almost unknown to the literati of Europe.

chamber, and the roof was hewn out of the rock, It is believed, with much probability, to be

and was either vaulted or flat; some consisted of

two chambers, the inner one being lower than the the site of the ancient Voltumna, the pre-outer. Almost all, if not every one of these cise position of which has been hitherto caverns, had a ledge round it; sometimes grooved, unknown, and which was the great gather for vases or other ornaments, at others merely for ing place of the Etruscan chiefs. Here it sarcophagi ; and in some instances with stones was that their great national assembly was

laid across the ledge, on which the uncoffined body held every year, for all purposes, whether

had been placed, like the grave of the Larthia, at

Agylla. The further we advanced, and the more of politics or religion, if, at these early

se early we saw, the stronger was the impression which times, a distinction can be drawn between

these caverns made upon us, and the more solemn them. Here, too, was the temple of Vol. and exalted became our ideas, as to the grand and tumna, the protecting divinity of their race magnificent conception which had first dedicated and country, though the precise spot on them to the memories of those whose fame they which it stood can be no longer ascertain were intended to render immortal. We met with ed, if it be not that on which the oratory of|

two or three that were very little injured. They

were large and perfect in form, and deeply hewn, San Giovanni now stands, and which has an

s and we thought them truly noble monuments from from time immemorial been a place of de- their very simplicity. About a quarter of a mile votion to all the neighboring country. The from where we had first detected the hand of art, monuments at Castel D’Asso bear a strong we began to perceive deep regular lines of inscripresemblance to those of the Egyptian kings tion in the rocks. The letters were a foot high, at “Biban el Melek," near Thebes, and and sometimes chiselled two inches deep in the consist of two rows of sepulchral chambers,

stone; they were all in the oldest Etruscan cha.

racter, and evidently intended to be read at a discut out of the solid rock. These chambers

tance, perhaps even from the other side of the face each other, like the sides of a long and valley.' We were shown one or two, which on magnificent street, and extend about a mile account of the difficulty of access we did not aton each side of the steep valley, in the mid-tempt to enter, but which have an upper chamber dle of which rise the rock and castle from above the vault, ascended by a spiral staircase cut which it derives its name. They would be in the rock. In the inside of some we saw the relike the tombs of Petra, described by La

mains of a very narrow cornice, cut in the stone,

' and going all round beneath the roof; and in one borde. but for the sculptured figures with of them the roof itself had some ornamental squares. which the latter are adorned. Unlike that. The fortress is seen from all the tombs that we enof Petra, where not a blade of grass is to tered; and, indeed, even commanded and protected be seen, the Valley of Castel D'Asso is so the sacred gorge. We could not help thinking it overrun with trees and underwood that the probable that the sepulchres in this glen were all ruins are not immediately perceived, and the tombs of noted warriors, laid in front of the Mrs. Gray was at first about to turn back

il castle. Those of the centre might be of kings and

statesmen, those nearer the temple of high-priests. in despair ;-but we shall allow her to de

These valleys of hallowed dust, these cliffs which scribe her feelings on the occasion.

were supposed to eternize the names and deeds of

the mighiy, whose spirits had fled, give rise to no“We walked on about twenty yards, and then ble ideas; and so much did they grow upon us the sat down to try and make out if there really was more we considered them ;-and co profound was any thing remarkable within our view. We walked the impression they left, that at this inoment I feel on twenty more, and then began to copy what we as I did before we set off to visit them, that I had saw. We walked on twenty more, and we fairly rather have seen the glens of Castel d'Asso than fell into ecstasies worthy of Orioli or Marini, or any any other spot in Europe, except Rome.” other scavant who may have written upon Castel d'Asso. They (meaning her guides) had their These extracts may give the reader some revenge. “Ay,' said one guide, éthis is just the lidea of these monuments of an extinct peoway Signor Dodwell went on. He was a learned

ple; and even those who may not have it in Englishman, who visited this place twenty years ago. He at first saw nothing, and then he began

their power to consult the original work of to draw, and then he measured, and then he talked,

Mrs. Gray, and the plates by which it is il. and then he held up his hands like you !

lustrated, will admit that they are well enti

tled to the attention of the learned world. I bors, and compelled them so often to abanEven previously to the discovery of these don their well-lilled fields and seek more remarkable remains, the Etruscans occu- peaceful settlements elsewhere, that their pied a distinguished place in early Euro. very name became synonymous with wanpean history; and the evidence which derer, and was used to designate the man these monuments present of their civili- who had neither a home nor a residence in zation and refinement, has but deepened the land. A branch of this wandering peothe interest with which we regard a people ple, the legend says, set sail for the shores so singular, powerful, and enlightened, as of Italy; and after many perils by sea and they must once have been. They must | land, despite the opposition of the natives, have had a literature, or at least a written and after many a reverse of fortune, suc. language, if we are to judge from their re- ceeded at length in finding a resting-place mains; they must have been wealthy and in the territory of the Siculi. They built luxurious, if we may infer from the repre. the cities of Agylla and Pisa, Saturnia and sentations depicted on their walls; their Alsion, and sowed the seeds of that future streets must once have been lined with the eminence, which was attained by their suc. busy hum of industry and commerce; and cessors and conquerors the Etruscans.we know that their sway extended from This vague tradition does not assume the Genoa to Venice, and from Naples to the consistency of history, but supported as it Alps. What was their origin? How were is by the testimony of later times, and by their wealth and knowledge acquired ?- the monuments of remote antiquity which And how has that knowledge been subse. Agylla itself affords, it will justify us in asquently destroyed, and destroyed so utter- serting that the Pelasgian migration into ly, as to leave scarely a memorial behind, Italy, must be something more than a lesave those which the persevering zeal of gend, and that this city must have been the speculator and the antiquary have ex among the original seats of Etrurian civili. tracted from their tombs ?

zation ; that before the Trojan war it must There is no part of ancient history more have attained a considerable degree of reobscure than the inigrations of those early finement, and prior to the domination of the races of men, by which the world was first Etruscans, was probably inherited by an possessed and peopled. The origin of the earlier race of people. But our purpose is Etruscans, as of the others, can at best be no- with the Etruscans. By some, and more thing but a plausible conjecture. The tra especially the Greek writers, they have ditions of the Greeks would derive them been confounded with the Tyrrhenians, from the Pelasgians, and thus claim their from whom they were altogether distinct. civilization as kindred to its own. In early The Romans called them indiscriminately times, long before the Trojan war, tradi- Etrusi and Trusci, and their country Etru. tionary legends would say, there dwelt in ria. By themselves they were called Ra. Greece, a peaceful and industrious race of senæ, and their country Rasena. Pliny de. men; a branch they were of a wide-spread rives their origin from the Rhetian Alps, people who possessed the countries north- while others would have us believe, that ward to the Danube. Quiet and unwarlike the course of their migration was in an opin their habits, they preferred agricultural posite direction. Müller and Micali, with labor to the excitement and peril of war; much ingenuity, suppose them to have and would rather derive subsistence from been an aboriginal people of the Apenthe fertility of the soil, than extort it by nines, who, abandoning their mountain force, from the weakness and timidity of homes, established themselves in the valothers. What Manco Capac was to the leys of the Tiber and the Arno, and thence, Peruvians, the Pelasgi were to the original after having become a powerful and enlightinhabitants. They made them acquainted ened and numerous people, to have colonwith the mysteries of agriculture ; they lized the rich plains of Lombardy, and ex. taught them to sow the seed, to reap the tended their sway to the Alps. Between corn, to gather and to save the produce, to these opposite and conflicting statements, know the fitting times and seasons, to pre- supported, respectively, by some of the vent the mountain stream from carrying greatest names of ancient and modern desolation through their fields, and from times, it is impossible to ascertain the truth. being a minister of destruction, to make it When they do come within the domain of even an agent of fertility. Their quiet and history, they are found in occupation of industrious habits, coupled with their un- the best and richest part of central Italy; skilfulness in war, made them more than constituting several great federal republics once a prey to their more savage neigh. one in northern Italy, another between the Tiber and the Arno, in what we may call, make it, a strict monopoly. They would Etruria proper; and another to the south of permit none else, if possible, to share it Rome, though the existence of the latter is with them. The ports frequented by their denied by Niebuhr. Each of these republics traders, and the sources of their wealth, was independent of the other, and was itself were, as far as in them lay, a mystery to subdivided into twelve divisions, or can- the nations. No eye but their own was to toos; for we may convey our meaning see where their mines of gold, and tin, and more clearly by employing a modern illus. silver lay, or to search the deep from which tration. Each of these cantons consisted their amber was extracted. The “El Doof a principal city, and of several depend- rado" was only to be arrived at through the encies; and was subject to a chief magis, perils of many a stormy sea, and by bravo trate, elected for a term of years, and by ing the fury of many a dragon and monster the suffrages of the people. He is known dire, that kept its watchful guard over the by the peculiarly Etruscan term of Lucumo. charge committed to it. The golden ap

The cities of the confederacy on the right ples of the Hesperides were to be won only bank of the Tiber are better known by our by valor and perseverance more than huclassical readers. They are those which man. The commerce of the ancient world have been visited by Mrs. Gray, and are was professedly exclusive. It would have intimately connected with the history of no iraders but its own; no merchandize Rome. The Etruscan power, in its great- but what was freighted in its own vessels ; est extent (which is supposed to have been these traders must have the market entirely at the time of the Roman monarchy), com- in their own hands, and buy and sell at their prehended the greatest part of central It. own prices alone. Acting on this princialy. The cantons at the foot of the Alps ple, the Etruscans wished to destroy the are said to have been connected with those commerce of the Greeks, by the destruction of Campania by an unbroken chain of trib- of their settlements in Sicily. Failing in utary principalities. The Etruscan fleets that attempt, and probably overrating their were not apfrequent visitors in Ionian own strength, they were vanquished and Greece, and in the cities of the Nile; while crushed themselves, and had their commerfrom Sicily to Gibraltar, they had no rivals cial existence destroyed, by the operation .but those of Carthage. The commerce of of the very same principles of monopoly

the western coast of the Mediterranean and exclusiveness, by which they them. was engrossed by these two maritime pow. selves were governed and impelled. ers, and the Greeks have preserved the The remains of Etruscan art will enable memory of several commercial treaties, us to trace their progress as a people. In which were in all probability directed the rude simplicity and massiveness of some chiefly against themselves. The estab of their architectural remains, may, we think, lishment of the Greek colonies in Sicily, be traced the work of those who introduced and on the western side of the Italian pen- the first knowledge of the arts. The simiinsula, enabled them first to compete with, larity of style and construction would class and then to undermine, the Etruscan supe-them with those remains which are found in riority by sea. It seemed never to have re-Greece, which are discovered in Thessaly covered the loss sustained in the naval vic- and Epirus, and which, by general tradition, tory obtained by the Greeks at Cumæ, and are said to have been the work of the Pelasgi. after a brief struggle to have resigned its These remains, which Sir William Gell has legitimate commercial character, and to traced along the line of the Etruscan cities, have sunk into that of privateers. Their are undoubtedly the work of those who first rivalry and the subsequent defeat of the introduced the knowledge of the arts into Etruscans, had their source in the jealousy Western Europe. The tomb of Atreus, at of their commercial interests. Each pow- Mycenæ, seems to have been built by the er was anxious to crush the other. How- same people who erected the tomb at Agylla. ever extensive may have been the inter- The advantages of their position must have course of the trading nations of antiquity, necessarily directed their attention to nautitheir commerce was never conducted on cal pursuits. The remembrance of their those enlarged, and if we may use the early voyaging cannot have vanished from word, catholic principles, which it is the their minds; and we thus find, that, in very just pride of modern times to discover, and early times, they are bold and adventurous however partially as yet, to some extent at navigators of the seas. The success of their least to act on. The commerce of Tyre, first efforts, and the wealth with which their and Carthage, and Etruria, and Greece, enterprise was rewarded, must have stimuwas, as far as their respective powers could lated them still further to exertion, and ex. cited many of the neighboring cities to an with Greece was frequent, when wealthy honorable rivalry of gain. How far this citizens of the latter country, like Demeraadvance in nautical skill is to be attributed tus, the father of Tarquin, took refuge there to the Etruscans, or their predecessors in when driven from their own by violence, the occupation of the land, it is not, at this and the contemplation of the matchless prodistance of time, and with our imperfect ductions of Grecian art served to enkindle means of information, possible to ascertain. the zeal and to correct the taste of their

The frequency of their intercourse with artists. We meet several instances of Greek Egypt may be inferred from the strong in-artists having been employed in Etruria and fusion of Egyptian art which is visible in all in Rome, and the influence they exerted their more ancient remains. Even though was eminently salutary. Greece was at this we admit that its first development was time becoming a noble school for the artist. owing to the intellectual vigor of the peo- To Egypt was she also indebted for the ple, still there cannot be a doubt that its elements of her civilization and the rudiafter-studies were formed in an Egyptian ments of the arts; but on the banks of the model. To Egypt belong the numerous Ilyssis and the shores of the Ægean they sarcophagi, the scarabei or beetles of gold found a more genial home. Art came to and precious stones, which were always ob- the shores of Greece arrayed in the uncouth jects of veneration in the latter country. habiliments of Egyptian symbolism, stiff The style of architecture, too, has evident and distorted, from the monstrous and un. ly had its origin on the banks of the Nile. natural forms which it had been compelled The paintings of Tarquinia are in the man to assume, and chilled by its connection ner of coloring similar to those on the with the sarcophagus and the tomb ; but tombs of the kings, near Thebes; and the the quick imaginative genius of the Greek admission of females to their banquets, on soon set the captive free. From the gloom terms of social equality, are peculiar to of the temple, and the loneliness of the seEgypt and Etruria alone. The very con- pulchre, she was led by her votary abroad struction of the door is that by which an in the bright gleam of the summer sun, and oriental artist would secure the sepulchre by the brink of many a crystal stream and from intrusion, as may be seen in Thebes, fountain, and was worshipped in the still and in those which are called the tombs of repose of many a wooded dale, and was inthe sons of David, near Jerusalem. This duced to shed her graces on the light enjoyEgyptian character is so strongly manifested ments of the domestic hearth, and by his in the productions of Etrurian art, that the own fireside, and, in the very seclusion of impression made on the minds of those who his home, to become the handmaid of his see them for the first time is that they are bappiness and refinement. Art was not, as admitted to a collection of Egyptian anti- in Egypt, the servile minister of a crushing quities. But this Egyptian character is not despotism, or the organ of a gloomy superfound in all, and least in those of later times. stition, leading, by the majesty and power If we have the sarcophagus and scarabeus, of its creations, men's hearts and souls away and the images of Osiris and Horus, we have from the best impulses of nature and the also the illustrations of Grecian story, and rights of social life. In Greece it was an the fables of its mythology; we have the active and useful element of society; and as story of Edipus and the sphynx, and the it was the record and the monument, so expedition of the Argonauts, and many an was it among the sources, of some of its noinscription in Grecian letters and language blest achievements. The humblest citizen bearing testimony to the country of the art. could look forward to the day when his ist. These vases and works of art are pre- name too would be inscribed on the chroncisely similar in shape to those which once icles of his country, when the memory of were made at Corinth, and which, after the his deeds would be preserved on the canvas, destruction of the city, were dug out of the or engraved on the marble. As he passed sepulchres by the Roman colonists establish- along the streets, or repaired to scenes of ed on its ruins. These pieces of art were public festivity or private relaxation, the purchased by the curious in ancient Rome monuments of departed excellence were ever at exorbitant prices, as those of Tarquinia before him. The image of the patriot of and Veji are by the curious and wealthy other times looked on approvingly from its of our time. The date of this great im- pedestal, and even the lips which moved not provement in the arts must have been con- sent forth their mute encouragement. Theirs temporary with the Roman monarchy, was a noiseless eloquence, which supported which was also the most briliant period of the sufferer in his country's cause, which Etruscan sway. The intercourse of Etrurial discoursed sweet music to him in the hour of his darkest despondency; when his heart these souls are light and cheerful in the was heaving within him with the bitter feel consciousness of innocence: others seem ing of injustice, when his actions were mis- afflicted with the apprehension of approach. construed, his motives suspected, or, like ing calamity. The tears are seen to flow the virtuous Aristides, he became the injur- as the evil genius brings to the mind the ed victim of popular envy, the sustaining torturing remembrance of the deeds done influence of art came soothingly over his in the flesh. This evil genius is representsoul, supporting him in the hour of his ad-led with almost a Christian accuracy of outversity, cheering his sinking spirits, and, line: the artist has given him, as did probalike a herald from on high, telling him of bly the general belief, a negro configuration other times and of other men who would do of countenance, and a more than negro' darkjustice to his character.

ness of color ; while round his temples is In Etruria it would have exercised the coiled a serpent, the head of which is brought same influence, and been productive of the close to the ear of the individual whom the same results, had not the national mind been evil genius is addressing. Another evil more akin to that of Egypt. We find tra- genius, yet more black and ugly, has his ces of the same serenity of thought, of the eyes depicted as very coals of fire. They same national gravity of character, of the are conducted by a good genius, whose cosame gloomy massiveness—to use the word lor and appearance are quite the opposite of -of the public taste. Etruscan art seems the others. These paintings are done in never to have completely emancipated her. fresco, and in an excellent style of art: they self from the thraldom of Egypt, and, to her are especially valuable, as telling us how very latest development, to bear the im- clear a conception this people must have press of her dependence. All her great had of a future judgment. This great frag. public works seem to speak of the subjec- ment of the primitive tradition seems to tion of the masses of the people, by whose have been carefully preserved among them. toil they were constructed, and are but A few, in the pride of their intelligence, echoes of that sepulchral voice, which, in a may have disputed and denied its truth, as grander scale and in louder accents, is ad- they subsequently did in Rome; and as dressed to us from the pyramids of Cairo many, in the pride of their philosophy, have and the palaces of Carnak.

done at the present day, mistaking, for the If we strip the Grecian mythology of some prejudices of education, what was but the of its most fanciful and legendary stories, witnessing of the Divine voice within them; we shall bave an idea of what the Etruscan but the great body of the people always redivinities were in times of old ;-we shall tained some sense of their future responsihave their gods, but under different names. bility. With their incorrect sense of moral Who would recognize his old acquaintances duty, it could have had but little moral inJupiter, Juno, Venus, and Mercury, under fluence; but an influence of some extent it the strange Etruscan names of Tina and must have had and exercised. To the parTalne, Turan and Turms? The latter name tial influence of this belief are generally as. is evidently the Hermes of the Greeks. The cribed those virtues of the natural order Egyptian mythos also was substantially the which distinguished the old Roman characsame, though the names and symbolical rep. ter. They were indebted for them to this resentation of the respective deities were maxim of their religion, which in its defiwidely different; and was, in all probability, nite form they borrowed from the Etrusthe parent stock from which the others were cans. But while acknowledging the purity derived. The religious rites and ceremo- of their belief in this great truth, we must nies of the Etruscan worship are known to admit, that they are strongly suspected of us through the medium of the Roman cere- ningling with their religious rites, the hor. monial, the latter having been avowedly derible and revolting practice of human sacri. rived therefrom, and formed on the Etruscan fices. This abominable rite was probably model. The practice of augury, or divin- introduced among them from their intering by the flight of birds, was also Etrus-course with Carthage, where it prevailed in can. This people were deeply imbued with its foulest enormity ; though it may not im. a feeling of moral responsibility. The paint-probably be assigned to the frequency of ings in the chambers of Tarquinia, are con- their intercourse with the people of the clusive evidence of their belief in a judg-eastern coast of the Mediterranean, where ment to come,-and in a future state of re- the rites of the Canaanite superstition were wards and punishments. One painting rep. practised, and where every grove and altar resents a procession of souls to judgment, was stained with the abominable crime of conducted by good and evil genii. Some of Moloch.

« PreviousContinue »