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Tarquinia e le civiltà del mediterraneo: Convegno internazionale, Milano, 22–24 giugno 2004

Tarquinia e le civiltà del mediterraneo: Convegno internazionale, Milano, 22–24 giugno 2004

By Maria Bonghi Jovino. Pp. 432, figs. 172, tables 10. Cisalpino, Milan 2006. €25. ISBN 88-323-6046-2 (paper).

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Tarquinia occupies a distinctive place in the modern imagination’s picture of ancient Etruria. This was the city of Tages, the mythological man-child who leapt from the ground to teach the Etruscans rituals of divination. This was the adopted city of the legendary Demaratus the Corinthian, patriarch of Rome’s Tarquin dynasty. The frescoed tombs of the city’s Monterozzi cemetery inspired writers such as D.H. Lawrence to declare an idyllic past of an Etruscan world. Yet somehow legend, myth, and romance conspired to largely ignore the very present physical history of this place. Indeed, the city’s famous painted tombs, known to Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, escaped comprehensive cataloguing until 1985.

Today, Etruscan archaeology sits at the edge of the traditional classical world with the patience of a pinless grenade. After years of dismissal as degenerate, barbarous, or simply mysterious, the ancient populations of central Italy are now achieving a mature study and recognition that does justice to the complex peoples of this region. Bonghi Jovino’s volume contains 21 contributions framed by the editor’s introduction and concluding remarks; it represents an important step along the academic path to a full appreciation of Tarquinia’s place among the urban polities of central Italy and Etruscan culture’s critical role in the social and economic development of the Iron Age Mediterranean.

The studies in this volume rely on the excavations conducted by the University of Milan at Tarquinia. Moretti Sgubini’s “Conoscenza e valorizzazione in Etruria meridionale” begins the collection with a brief overview of the history of excavations and is followed by the remarks of Tarquinia’s mayor, Alessandro Giulivi.

The essays that follow relate to several themes associated with the emergence of Etruscan city-states and Tarquinia’s importance within that constellation, although the writings are not in fact grouped as such. Ridgway’s “Riflessioni su Tarquinia. Demarato e i’ ‘ellenizzazione dei barbari’” returns to the familiar subject of the legend of Demaratus and its influence on modern interpretations of the region’s archaeology. Ridgway’s nuanced consideration of the utility of this myth does not seek out Demaratus the man but instead looks to untangle mythologies from the clear and important role that foreign agents play in the creation of an urban central Italy. His work is complemented by that of Cerchiai’s essay, “A proposito degli artifices pliniani,” which focuses not on the Corinthian refugee but instead on Pliny’s anecdote that Demaratus brought craftsmen with him who in turn lent their talents to the emerging material culture of the Etruscans.

Cataldi (“Tarquinia: Una coppa ‘euboica’ dalla necropolis di Poggio della Sorgente”) and d’Agostino (“I primi Greci in Etruria”) look not to Greek immigrants of ancient legend but instead to the physical evidence of their historical colonial counterparts. The study of Euboean ceramics and imitations of such vessels provides a pivotal chronological anchor with which to secure our sense of absolute chronology associated with the earliest stages of urban formation in Etruria. This precolonial material has yet to find an audience worthy of its importance. In these simple cups placed in Etruscan graves, we see the first indications of a network of manufacturing and exchange far more complex than previously appreciated. Cataldi and d’Agostino certainly point the way for further research into this primordial period of urban growth.

Six studies adopt a broad comparative approach, placing Tarquinia within the larger urbanizing environment of the Italic Iron Age. Bartoloni (“L’inizio del processo di formazione urbana in Etruria”) focuses on Iron Age cemeteries, especially those of Veii, and looks to internal factors to explain the increasing evidence of social complexity within their chronological development. This refreshing approach reminds us that while Etruria’s urban development does not occur without influence from the east, we cannot ignore indigenous social pressures in constructing our interpretive paradigms for this period.

The five other essays of this group consider somewhat later comparable material to complement our understanding of Tarquinia during various phases of its development. Prayon (“Lastre architettoniche di tipo tarquiniese da Castellina del Marangone”) and Gran-Aymerich (“Les confines maritimes entre Tarquinia et Caere”) both find evidence of Tarquinia’s orbit of political influence in the Archaic period, while Ciafaloni (“Nota sulle tipologie architettoniche e murarie tarquiniesi”) and Stopponi (“Tecniche edilizie di tipo misto a Orvieto”) both draw on architectural parallels from the Punic world and Etruscan Orvieto (respectively) to establish a technical typology of early Etruscan sacred architecture. Gnade (“Tarquinia a Satricum: Raffronti fra le prassi rituali”) examines votive behavior at Satricum to suggest commonalities of religious behavior between Etruria and Latium to the south.

Rathje (“Il sacro e il politico. Il deposito votivo di Tarquinia”), Bagnasco Gianni (“Ritornando ai depositi votive del ‘complesso monumentale’ di Tarquinia”), Bruni (“Le analisi chimiche nello studio dei materiali ceramici di Tarquinia”), and Serra Ridgway (“La ceramica del ‘complesso’ sulla Civita di Tarquinia”) all consider the evidence from Tarquinia’s Iron Age sacred complex on Pian di Civita, excavated by Bonghi Jovino in the final decades of the 20th century. The startling discoveries of what appear to be foundation deposits of bronzes and the possible ritual killing of juveniles who are then buried within the precinct remind us how little we can prove archaeologically about Etruscan religious behavior of any period, especially one as early as this. As a result, Rathje and Bagnasco Gianni’s well-considered essays on the question of votive behavior benefit from a body of evidence that is virtually without parallel in the region, while Serra Ridgway and Bruni’s important contributions offer the physical evidence for behavior within such a sacred precinct.

The remaining group of essays consists of diverse studies ranging from Colonna’s analysis of the work of an archaic vase painter (“Un pittore veiente del Ciclo dei Rosoni) to Winter’s addition to her exhaustive study of Italic architectural terracottas (“Le terrecotte architettoniche archaiche di Tarquinia”). Steingraber (“La pittura funeraria tarquiniese del periodo tardoclassico e del primo ellenismo nel contesto mediterraneo”) looks to later aspects of the iconography of Tarquinian tomb painting, and Torelli (“Due ritratti greci, una villa marittima e le coste Gravisca”) considers evidence from a late Etruscan coastal villa. Finally, the geophysical evidence from the survey of areas around ancient Tarquinia is presented in Piro’s excellent summary, “Indagini integrate ad alta risoluzione nelle aree di Tarquinia antica.”

In all, these essays represent a penetrating and significant contribution to our understanding of this important Etruscan city-state, although a collection so suitable for thematic organization might have benefited from such a structure. Bonghi Jovino is to be commended not only for her prompt publication of the excavations on the Pian del Civita but also for her ability to attract such a cast of luminaries to grapple with the challenging evidence that work provides. Indeed, as scholars become more aware of the importance of Etruscan city-states in the larger study of the ancient Mediterranean, it is scholars like Bonghi Jovino who rightly and proudly hold the grenade’s pin.

Anthony Tuck
Center for Etruscan Studies
Department of Classics
541 Herter Hall
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst, Massachusetts 01003

Book Review of Tarquinia e le civiltà del mediterraneo: Convegno internazionale, Milano, 22–24 giugno 2004, edited by Maria Bonghi Jovino

Reviewed by Anthony Tuck

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 4 (October 2007)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1114.Tuck

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