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Origin of the Tuscans-The Tyrrhenian and Pelasgic migrations, connected with the history of that nation-Extent and boundaries of Etruria Proper-Description of the coast and adjacent islands-Interior-The river Tiber-Public roads.
Of all the ancient nations of Italy, none appears to have such claims upon our notice as that of the Tuscans. Their celebrity at a time when Rome as yet had no existence; the superiority of their political institutions; their progress in navigation, commerce, and many other arts of civilized life, when the surrounding nations were to all appearance enveloped in ignorance and barbarism, are circumstances which even in the present day must arrest inquiry, and command alike the attention of the historian and philosopher.
Whence this improvement in civilization, this rapid advancement in political growth, is a question which immediately suggests itself to every inquirer, and for which he unfortunately in vain seeks for an answer in the scanty fragments of antiquity, which shed but a faint and glimmering light on the annals of this singular and illustrious people.
So evident indeed has the insufficiency of historical information on the origin of the Tuscans appeared, that many antiquaries of celebrity in the last
century, despairing of obtaining any clue to this search from the conflicting testimony of ancient writers, have not hesitated to quit altogether the beaten track of history, and to venture amidst the untrodden and alluring mazes of conjecture. The consequence of this mode of investigation was easy to be foreseen; system followed system, till there scarcely remained any nation of acknowledged antiquity, to which the honour of having colonized Etruria was not attributed.
Thus it was supposed that the Tuscans might be descended from the Egyptians, the Canaanites b, or the Phoenicians c. Others again contended for their Celtic origin. Freret ascribed it to the Rhæti. Hervas to the ancient Cantabrif; while some again gave up all hope of arriving at any certain conclusion in this puzzling question, and seemed to consider it as one of those historical problems which must for ever remain without a solution 8. The multiplicity of the opinions which have just been noticed, is the best proof of the little dependence that is to be placed on systems which trust for support to conjecture alone. The rational inquirer into obscure points of history will never rely solely on this
mode of investigation for success. If he requires the aid of conjecture, he will use it at least with caution, and he will rather be led towards it by the
a Bonarruoti ad Monum. Dempster.
b Maffei Ragion. degli Itali primitivi, p. 218-228. Mazzochi Comment. in Tab. Heracl. p. 15. and Orig. Tirrhene. Mem. Acad. Corton. t. iii.
Swinton de Ling. Etruriæ Regalis vernacula, Oxon, 1738.
d Pelloutier Hist. des Celtes, lib. i. p. 178. Bardetti dei primi abit. d'Ital. t. i.
e Freret Hist. de l'Acad. t. xviii.
f Idea del Universo, t. xvii.
· Micali l'Italia, &c. i. c. 10.
natural course of his inquiry, than suffer it to assume the front and leading feature of his plan. The records of history, even where they seem most to fail us, will be found a safer and surer guide than reasoning which is founded on mere assumption and hypothesis.
It is then with the united aid of history, and conjecture used with moderation, (for I fear that in a question of such remote antiquity it cannot altogether be dispensed with,) that I shall endeavour to feel my way through this intricate subject; and though I may not succeed in throwing much new light upon it, yet, as the discussion may be of use to the young antiquary and the historical student, I will enter upon it as far as my own limited knowledge, and the little space I can devote to it in a work of this general nature, will allow me.
There are three sources from which we may expect to derive information respecting the origin of the ancient Tuscans. 1st, The accounts of Greek writers. 2d, Those of the Romans. 3d, The existing national monuments discovered in Etruria. With respect to the Romans, it is well known that they concerned themselves but little about inquiries into the origin of nations, and received without much examination all the accounts even of the early population of Italy, which were transmitted to them by the Greeks, their masters in every species of literature; so that little original information can be derived from them in an inquiry which is to be traced considerably higher than the foundation of their city. The evidence which is supplied by the inscriptions and coins of Etruria, respecting the origin of its inhabitants, has hitherto done little towards
settling the question; and since the age of these monuments, which had been greatly overrated, has been proved by able judges to be posterior to the commencement even of the Roman republic, we are obliged to seek among the historians and poets of Greece for the earliest records of Etruscan history. It is well known that the inhabitants of that country are always spoken of by the Greeks under the name of Tyrseni, or Tyrrhenii, while the Romans designate them by that of Etrusci, or Tusci. This difference of nomenclature will be considered more fully hereafter; but it may be observed at present, that it seems too decided to allow of the supposition that either is a corruption of the otherk; whence we should be led to infer, that the Tyrrheni and Tusci were not originally the same people, even if history did not farther establish the fact.
Who then were the Tyrrheni of the Greeks, and whence did that name originate? This is in fact the problem, on the solution of which the whole difficulty of the present question seems to hang, and which I will at once proceed to examine. But whether it admits of being decided with our present data, will perhaps be still doubted by abler critics.
h Lanzi Saggio di Lingua Etrusca, P. iii. p. 38. Id. Notizie Prelim. circa la Scoltura degli Antichi, p. 10. Heyne Monumentorum Etrusca Artis ad genera sua et tempora revocatorum illustratio. Nov. Comment. Soc. Gotting. ann. 1774. t. v. Id. Etrusca Antiquitas a Commentitiis interpretamentis liberata, t. vii. p. 17. ann. 1776.
i The older writers, up to Polybius, always employ the former
And yet Heyne, who forms the word Tyrseni from the Rasena of Dionysius, has not scrupled to derive the Latin appellations also from the same origin, with what probability, I must leave the reader to judge. See Heynii Comment. de Fab. Relligionumque Græc. ab Etrusca arte frequentatarum Nov. Soc. Gott. t. iii. p. 39.
If we are to credit the famous Lydian tradition recorded by Herodotus, (I. 94.) that ancient people ought to be considered as the parent stock of the Tyrrhenians. According to their account, a great famine arose in Lydia during the reign of Atys, one of their earliest kings: when it had lasted for several years, it was at length determined that the nation should divide itself into two parts, under the respective command of Lydus and Tyrrhenus, the two sons of Atys; one of which was to migrate, the other to remain in possession of the country. It fell to the lot of Tyrrhenus to abandon Lydia, with the people under his charge. He accordingly equipped a fleet at Smyrna, and set sail in quest of a country to settle in; when, after passing by various nations and countries, he finally arrived among the Umbri, where he founded several cities, which the people, who from him were called Tyrrhenians, occupied up to the time of Herodotus.
It is to be observed, that Herodotus simply delivers this account as he received it from the Lydians, without vouching for the truth of the remarkable event it was intended to record. But it would not be difficult to shew that he himself gave credit to the legend, or at least saw no improbability in the facts which it related. It is usual with that historian to express his dissent where his mind is not convinced; and on one occasion of a similar nature, where he notices an Illyrian nation which pretended to be descended from the Medes, he says, "that he "cannot see how that could be;" but adds, " that any "thing may happen in length of time." (V. 9.) If we divest the Lydian tradition of some marvellous circumstances which are attached to it, particularly