Motherhood in Etruria

Authored by: Larissa Bonfante

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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The plentiful archaeological and iconographic material available for a study of Etruscan motherhood makes up for the absence of literary evidence. Though the Etruscans were very literate, very little of their writing survives from which we can learn of their customs, beliefs, and histories. As for their neighbors and contemporaries, the Greeks and Romans, they rarely wrote of Etruscan matters, and when they did, their reports were negative and showed a lack of understanding of a culture so different from theirs. In the absence of the words of the living, the tombs, grave monuments, epitaphs, and votive gifts of the dead provide important evidence for the study of gender in general and motherhood in particular. There is also a great deal we can learn from the iconography, if we know how to read it, for just as the Etruscans adapted the Greek alphabet to write in their own language, they used Greek myths and classical images to express their own ideas, customs, and realities.

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