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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria

by George Dennis

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1848.

The text is in the public domain.


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2d half of
this Chapter

p275 Chapter XVIII (Part 1)

CORNETO.

TARQUINIIThe cemetery.


[image ALT: zzz]
CITHARISTA AND SALTATRIX FROM THE GROTTA MARZI.
                             Dead men
Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around.

Shelley.

Qual di pennel fu maestro o di stile,

Che ritrasse l' ombre e gli ch' ivi
Mirar farieno uno 'ngegno sottile?

Danteº

Εἲ καὶ τις ἄλλη τῶν αὐτόθι πόλεων, ἐπιφανὴς καὶ μεγάλη· δῆλοι γὰρ αὐτῆς οἵ τε θεμέλιοι τῶν τειχῶν, καὶ τάφοι τινὲς ἀρχαιοπρεπεῖς καὶ πολυανδρίων ἐν ὑψηλοῖς χώμασι μηκυνομένων περίβολοι

Dionys. Halic.

These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Let the page load completely before clicking on them.

Road from Vetralla First view of Tarquinii and its cemetery Corneto, its inns, interest, and antiquity Signor Carlo Avvolta Bruschi Gardens Painted tombs Grotta Querciola First impressions An Etruscan bancquet Dancers Wild-board hunt Greek style of art Superiority of the Etruscans to the Greeks in their treatment of the fair sex Colours used in this tomb Grotta del Triclinio Striking scenes Banquets and dances Peculiarities of the figures Etruscan modesty Apparent incongruity of festive scenes to a sepulchre, explained Religious character of music and dancing among the ancients Are these scenes symbolical? Colours in this tomb, how laid on Camera del Morto Death-bed scene Tipsy dance and jollity Egyptian character of the figures Grotta de' Pompej Its peculiarities Typhons on the pillar Etruscan inscription Date of these paintings Latin inscriptions The Pompeys of Etruria Ariosto's pictures of Etruscan tombs Funeral procession on the wall Charun with his hammer and snakes Procession of souls and demons Etruscan inscription Grotta del Cardinale Temple-like tomb Paintings on the walls Byres' work Cisapennine cockneys Spirited combats Souls in charge of good and evil spirits Scenes in the Etruscan hell Etruscan Cupid and Psyche Omnes una manet nox

From Vetralla a good road leads to Corneto, eighteen miles distant. It is an instance of the imperfect system of communication in this land, that this is the high-road from Viterbo to Civita Vecchia; but in order to reach that port you must make a large angle, first westward to Corneto, and thence south to Civita Vecchia.

p276 About three miles from Vetralla, in a glen to the right of the road, may be observed many traces of sepulture, indicating the existence of some Etruscan town, whose name and memory have utterly perished.1 Six or seven miles further on the road is the village of Monte Romano, on the hill of that name, presenting, as far as I could perceive, no signs of antiquity.

On approaching Corneto, cultivation gives place to bare, undulating downs. The "Queen of the Maremma" comes into view at the distance of several miles, crowned with a tiara of many towers, and enthroned on the extremity of a long barren ridge, whose strangely broken surface at once arrests the eye. To the right, separated from it by a deep vale, stretches a parallel ridge, browed with white cliffs. This once bore the walls, the temple, the palaces of ancient Tarquinii — that contained its sepulchres. The one was the city of the living; the other the city of the dead. Once, how different! now, but too similar — rivals in desolation! The whole is a wild and dreary scene. Not a tree on either height, or in the vale between — wide sweeps of bare country on every hand — the dark, serrated range of the Tolfa to the south. An aqueduct of many arches occupies the foreground; the sunny blue of the Mediterranean, the only cheerful feature in the landscape, gleams on the horizon.

The road here branches to Civita Vecchia on the one hand, and to Corneto on the other. The latter track traverses the hill of the Necropolis, the whole surface of which is rugged with tumuli, or what have once been such, but are now shapeless mounds of earth, overgrown with lentiscus, myrtle, wild olive, broom, and rank grass, and giving to the hill, even when seen from afar, a p277strange, pimply appearance. Hence its appellation of "Montarozzi."

Fanno i sepolcri tutto 'l loco varo.º

Towards the sea the eye passes over lower grounds, in which are olive-groves, a farm-house or two, and several tumuli of large size. Lower still lies the flat, barren strip of coast — the region of salt-works and deadly fevers. Here, on the beach, stands a hamlet, dignified with the title of Porto Clementino: a few small craft are at anchor off shore, waiting for cargoes of corn and salt.

It is a drive of nearly three miles over the Montarozzi to the gate of Corneto. Here a glance brings the thoughts from the most remote antiquity, down to the days of chivalry. Long lines of yellow battlemented wall stretch along the crest and down the slope of the hill; and the style of masonry, the absence of bastions and ravelins, and of embrasures for artillery, show these fortifications to date from the middle ages.

Though the chief city of the Papal Maremma, having a population of four or five thousand souls, and lying on the high-road from Civita Vecchia to Leghorn, Corneto has, or till very recently had, no inn — none at least where the traveller, fessus viarum, might repose and recruit in comfort. There is a massive Gothic building in the lower Piazza, from its original application and actual condition styled Il Palazzaccio — "the great ugly Palace" — which has long served as an hostelry; but every one in quest of comfort and cleanliness has ever devoutly eschewed it, in spite of its graceful mullions and winning tracery. On my first visit to Corneto, five or six years since, the only decent hospitium was a private house — Casa Moirano — the resort of the few artists and antiquaries who visited the spot; its attractions lying less, it may be, in the p278civility and attention of the worthy hostess, than in the charms of her daughter, the pretty Gioconda. I have since learned that the Palazzaccio, having fallen into fresh hands, affords more tolerable accommodation than formerly; but I speak not from experience, for, having no great reason to quarrel with my old quarters, on subsequent visits I have returned to them. Beds may also be had at a caffé in the high street.

Corneto possesses little interest, save to those who love who dwell with the past. The scenery around it, though wild, and occasionally grand, is not — for Italy at least — picturesque. Bare, hog-backed heights — the broad desert strip of shore — no wood but olive plantations, dull, grey, solemn, formal, and monotonous, less cheerful even than treeless tracts, and which are to scenery what a drab coat is to humanity — these are not promising materials for the portfolio. The city itself is the finest feature in the scene, and viewed from the north, on which side the ground sinks precipitously to the banks of the Marta, it is particularly bold and imposing. With this exception, the scenic delights of Corneto may almost be summed up in what none but the determined admirer of nature will appreciate —

"Watching the ocean and the sky together,

Under the roof of blue Italian weather."

With so little of the beautiful or picturesque around it, with dulness and dirt within its walls, the atmosphere for half the year leaden and febrile, Corneto can have charms for few. Such, however, there are — antiquaries of credit and renown — who can leave Rome and its social attractions, to pass weeks in this secluded city.

The antiquity of Corneto is very questionable. The fond pride of its citizens has assigned to it an origin in the remotest ages, identifying it, on the strength of the first p279syllable — on the Macedon and Monmouth principle — with the Corytus of Virgil;2 a pretension too absurd to need refutation. If it had an existence in Etruscan times, it were less unreasonable to suppose, with Sir W. Gell, that it occupies the site of Cortuosa, or Contenebra,3 towns in the territory of Tarquinii, which were captured and destroyed by the Romans, A.U.C. 366.4 But it is not likely that either of these towns was so close to the great city of Tarquinii; and as there are no traces whatever of ancient habitation, it is more probable that this site was not occupied in Etruscan times, or at most by an outpost or fort.

There are few relics of antiquity within Corneto. In the Palazzo Bruschi are some Latin inscriptions, found on the site of the ancient city.5 The Palazzo Falsacappa also contains a few remains. In the Cathedral, beside some curious inscriptions of the middle ages, is a marble slab, forming a step in the aisle, and bearing an Etruscan epigraph, probably sepulchral.6

The visitor to Corneto will do well to obtain an introduction to Signor Carlo Avvolta, once the gonfaloniere, or chief magistrate of the city, now a consultore, or counsellor, p280of Civita Vecchia. He is a lively, intelligent, old gentleman, experienced in excavations, deeply interested in the antiquities of this site, his birthplace, ever ready to impart information, and displaying as much courtesy to strangers as cordiality to his friends. Such as feel little interest in antiquities may consult him with profit on the more rousing matters of Maremma sports. Though now nearly eighty years of age, he is still a keen sportsman, and enters on the fatigues and perils of the chase with the ardour of a man of thirty. He resides in a spacious, gloomy house, where everything breathes of antiquity; but, wherever his activity may lead him during the day, in the evening he is sure to be found at the caffé, or at the spezieria, where he will descant, with all the enthusiasm of his nature, on the last boar or roe-buck he made to bite the dust, or on the paintings and furniture of Etruscan tombs.

The Bruschi gardens, outside the city on the road to Civita Vecchia, are worthy of a visit, even from the antiquary. The parterres are adorned with altars, sarcophagi, fragments of columns, and other relics of Etruscan and Roman antiquity; and in the lower garden are some stone lions, of amusing quaintness.

But the grand lions of Corneto are the painted tombs on the Montarozzi. These, after having remained open to the wantonness of travellers and the ignorance of shepherds — in one case for nearly a century — were a few years since fitted with doors by order of the government; and the keys were intrusted to a citizen of Corneto. This man, Agápito Aldanesi, who is to be found exercising his vocation of cordwainer in the Piazza Angelica, doffs cap and apron, and comes forth a new man at the traveller's call, provided with keys and tapers to do the subterranean honours of the spot.

p281 I shall describe these tombs in the order in which they are generally visited. More than a cursory notice may be thought superfluous after the full and lively descriptions of Mrs. Hamilton Gray; but as that lady, at the time of visiting Etruria, had no intention of writing a work on the subject, and has been obliged to depend as much upon memory as upon notes,7 it is no matter of surprise that errors have crept into her statements. The weeks I have spent at Corneto, day after day, from sunrise to sunset,

"Hid from the world in the low-delved tombs,"

the paintings in most of which I have copied with the camera-lucida, and coloured on the spot, so as to familiarise myself with all their details, and the visits I have subsequently paid to the place, warrant me in laying claim to greater accuracy than can be attained by the observation of a passing tourist.


About a mile from Corneto, in the heart of the Montarozzi, a deep pit by the wayside marks the entrance to the

Grotta Querciola,

a name derived from the owner of the ground in which the tomb lies. Agápito, "the happy man who shows the tombs" of Tarquinii, is much dissatisfied with the nomenclature hitherto given to them, and is wont to designate this as the Grotta della Caccia del Cinghiale — "Tomb of the Boar-hunt."

A descent of about twenty steps, hewn in ancient times from the solid rock, leads to the entrance of the tomb, which is closed by a modern door. This opens into a p282spacious chamber. The first impression is one of disappointment. The chamber is in the form of an Etruscan tomb — but where are the paintings? — why close a sepulchre with naked walls? Presently, however, as the eye becomes accustomed to the gloom, figure after figure seems to step forth from the walls, and you perceive two rows of them, separated by a striped coloured ribbon — the upper row being nearly four feet, the lower only half that in height. In the pediment, left at each end of the chamber by the ceiling sloping down from the central beam, is a third row, not more than twelve inches high.

The next impression is one of surprise. Can this be the resting-place of the dead? — Can these scenes of feasting and merriment, this dancing, this piping, this sporting, appertain to a tomb? There on the inner wall, and occupying the principal row, is a banqueting scene — figures in richly-broidered garments recline on couches, feasting to the sound of the lyre and pipes; attendants stand around, some replenishing the goblets from the wine-jars on a sideboard hard by; a train of dancers, male and female, beat time with lively steps to the notes of the instruments, on which some of them are also performing; while in the lower row are depicted field-sports, a boar-hunt being the most conspicuous.

But observe that fond and youthful pair on the central couch. The female, of exquisite beauty, turns her back on the feast, and throws her arms passionately round the neck of her lover, who reclines behind her. The other guests quaff their wine without heeding them. The elegant forms of the couches and stools, the rich drapery, the embroidered cushions, show this to be a scene of high life, and give some idea of Etruscan luxury.8 Even the p283dancers are very richly attired, especially the females, in figured robes of bright colours, with embroidered borders of a different hue.9 A simple mantle, either the chlamys or scarf, or the pallium or blanket, suffices for the men; but the attendants at the sideboard have unornamented tunics. The dancing-girls, like those of modern times, are decorated with jewellery — earrings, necklaces, and bracelets — and have also a frontlet on their brows;10 while the men wear chaplets of myrtle. A tibicen, or subulo, as the Etruscans called him, blowing the double-pipes,11 and a citharista with his lyre, stand at one end of the banqueting-scene, and a subulo at the other; another performer of each description mingles in the distance.12 All this feasting and merry-making is carried on p284in the open air, as is shown by the trees behind the festive couch and alternating with the dancers; yet the candelabrum indicates it to be by night.

The figure over the doorway, which seems to have been a man in a biga, or two-horse chariot, does not belong to the foregoing scene, but seems introduced merely to fill an awkward space; though it is probable it has reference to the funeral games.

To hunt the wild-boar of Etruria — Tuscus aper13 was a favourite sport of the old Romans, as it is still of their modern representatives. From this and other ancient monuments we learn that it was also the delight of the Etruscans themselves. The bristly monster is here depicted brought to bay by the dogs. Men on foot and horseback are rushing eagerly to the attack; the former, while brandishing a spear in one hand, have an axe in the other to cut their way through the thickets, or to sever the boar's head from his carcass. Behind these figures are the nets into which it was the custom to drive the game, in order to bring it to bay. Such a scene is described by Virgil,14 in his usual circumstantial and picturesque manner, and with more conciseness, but not less accuracy, by Horace;15 and that such was the ordinary mode of hunting p285the boar and deer among the Greeks and Romans we have abundant evidence in ancient writers.16 In this lower band there seem also to have been chariot-races, but many figures have been obliterated from the wall.

In each pediment are two warriors, with short curved swords, leading their horses by the bridle;17 and the angles are filled by panthers — an animal frequently portrayed in Etruscan tombs, and generally over the doorway; whence it has been inferred that they were intended as figurative guardians of the dead. But their presence in tombs may be otherwise explained by their being sacred to Bacchus, who, as an infernal deity, was closely allied to, perhaps identical with, Mantus, the great god of the Etruscan Hades.

This tomb was discovered in April, 1831. It is larger and loftier than any other sepulchre in this necropolis, whose walls are completely covered with paintings,18 and in its original state must have been truly magnificent; but the colours have now almost faded from the walls, and it is to be feared that they have faded very much during the last few years.19 This is the more to be regretted, on account of the peculiar beauty of the design here exhibited, which places this at the head of the painted tombs of Tarquinii. Professor Gerhard p286pronounces the design to be genuinely Hellenic, of a free and perfect character, yet accompanied by features purely Etruscan; in fact, he regards it as the most instructive monument extant for the history of pictorial art in Etruria.20 Yet though Greek art be decidedly evident in this tomb, the subject, as in almost every other sepulchral painting, is genuinely Etruscan. The most striking peculiarity is the presence of the two sexes on the same festive couch. It is not improbable that the fair one in this scene, from her amorous attitude, and from the absence of any other of her sex at the banquet, is as frail as fair — in short, that she is a hetaera.21 But in others of these tombs females of most modest appearance are represented reclining with the males. And this is never found in Greek works of art — bas-reliefs, or even painted vases. For, with all their refinement, the Hellenes never attained to such an elevation of sentiment towards the fair sex, as to raise it to an equality with the male. In the feeling with which they regarded, and the suspicion with which they treated their females, they were half-orientals; indeed, the polished Athenians were in this respect behind their ruder Dorian rivals. Their wives and daughters were never suffered to share the festive couch with their p287lords. Hetaerae alone were admitted to that equivocal honour. The superiority of the Romans in this point,22 there is little doubt was owing to the example of the Etruscans, who, as is abundantly proved from their monuments, as well as from history,23 admitted their females to an equal place at the board. Such, however, was not the custom of the early Romans, for they reclined at table, while their women sat on chairs;24 and so also they used to represent their deities in the lectisternia, or sacred feasts, for the statue of Jupiter was laid on a couch, while those of Juno and Minerva, his sister-wife and daughter, be it remembered, were placed in a sitting posture.25

One peculiarity of this tomb is, that the sexes are not p288distinguished by their colour, as is always the case in the early and purely Etruscan tombs, where the males are coloured a deep-red, but the females left white. Another peculiarity is, that there are no chaplets represented, either suspended from the walls, or in the hands of the dancers. The colours used in these paintings are red, yellow, blue, grey, black, and white. It is said that when the tomb was opened, an Etruscan inscription was legible near the principal figures of the banquet; but it has completely disappeared, the surface of the wall in this part being sadly dilapidated.26

Grotta del Triclinio,

called also from the owner of the ground, Grotta Marzi, but the former designation, or that which Agápito gives it — Grotta del Convito Funebre — "Tomb of the Funeral Feast" — is more appropriate. It was discovered in 1830, by Manzi and Fossati.27

This tomb is entered in the same way as the last. The first peek within it is startling, especially if the sun's rays p289happen at the moment to enter the chamber, which they do in the course of the afternoon. Such a blaze of rich colour on the walls and roof, and such life in the figures that dance around! In truth, the excellent state of preservation — the wonderful brilliancy of the colours, almost as fresh after two or three and twenty centuries, as when first laid on — the richness of the costumes — the strangeness of the attitudes — the spirit, the vivacity, the joyousness of the whole scene — the decidedly Etruscan character of the design, distinct at once from the Greek and from the Egyptian, yet in certain points approximating to both — render this one of the most interesting tombs yet opened in Etruria.

The subjects of the paintings are in character and arrangement very similar to those in the Grotta Querciola. Here are the same scenes of joy and festivity; the banquet at the upper end; the dances on the side-walls; but on each side of the door is a man on horseback. The broad beam of the ceiling is painted with ivy and lotus leaves; the slopes are chequered with black, brown, red, p290blue, yellow, and white. Where the painting has suffered, it is not so much from the colours fading, as in the other tomb, but from the surface of the wall peeling off, which it has done to a considerable extent at the upper end, so as to obliterate a portion of the banquet; but there still remain, little impaired, four figures, two of each sex, reclining in pairs on separate lecti or couches, attended by a female servant with an alabastron, or pot of ointment, and a boy with a wine-jug, while a subulo stands in one corner playing the double-pipes. On the third couch can now be traced but a single figure, and that a male, whose hand is still seen stretched out in the act of offering an egg to the gentleman next him.28 The sex of the figures is distinguishable by the colour; that of the males is a deep red; that of the females, being left unpainted, is of the ground-colour of the wall — a rich creamy white.29 This distinction holds in all the tombs save the Querciola; and is also made on the vases of the Second or Tyrrhene style, where the p291figures being black, the males are left of that hue, but the female flesh is painted white. In front of each couch is an elegant trapeza, or four-legged table, bearing sundry dishes full of refreshments; and beneath are a cock, a partridge, and a cat. Depending from the ceiling above the banquet are several chaplets of different colours.30

How much more animated is the action of the dancers in this tomb than in the last! Their steps are regulated by the lyre and pipes played by two of the men, and by the castanets rattled by one of the females.31 All enter heartily into the spirit of the dance; but here, as now-a‑days, p292woman asserts her right to excel, and the nymphs step out more merrily than their partners; especially one, who with head thrown back and hands raised, betrays true Terpsichorean abandon, and might pass for some Gaditana puella — some "lovely girl of Cadiz" of the olden time. The attitudes, as in many archaic Greek and Etruscan designs, are sometimes unnatural and unattainable, which arises from the inability of the artist to foreshorten — the limbs and features being represented in profile, even when the body is in full.32 The form of the hands, too, is remarkable — fingers of such undainty length are not often seen in the painted tombs of Etruria, though general on black-figured vases of the Tyrrhene style, and also in the small bronze figures of Etruscan deities. Most of the dresses of both sexes are transparent, representing gauze or other fine linen, which shows the forms beneath; but in a display of this sort these ancient Taglionis and Ceritos cannot rival those of modern days. The richness of the borders of the garments, and the strange stiffness and regularity of the folds, is quite Etruscan.33 So also is the physiognomy of p293the figures. Yet there is something Jewish in the female profiles. Mark this, ye seekers of the Ten Tribes!a The cheeks show that a high colour was as much admired in Italy in former days as at present; and probably the Etruscan fair ones, like the Greek and Roman, heightened their charms with rouge.

It is worthy of remark that all the females in this tomb, even the slave who is waiting on the banqueters, are decently robed. So it is in the other tombs; and this tends to belie the charge brought against the Etruscans by the Greeks, that the men were waited on by naked handmaids.34 No such representation has been found on any Etruscan monument yet discovered, painting or relief; on the contrary, the women are draped with far more than Greek modesty.35 One only in a tomb in this necropolis is depicted with bosom bare; and another figure, of uncertain sex, is naked; but that is in a Bacchic dance, where all are in the same state. The Etruscans may not have been better than their neighbours in such matters, but any reproach of this sort comes from the Greeks with a very bad grace.

Each couch, it will be observed, is covered with a cloth, on which the cushions are laid; and each figure lies under a separate coverlet differing in this respect from the recorded custom of the Etruscans.36

It is evident that this tomb is of earlier date than the p294last. That shows the dominance, this the partial influence of Greek art. Gerhard considers that "with all the delicacy of the ornaments, and all the archaic Greek character of the design, there is still an awkwardness about the former, and a rudeness in the latter, which mark these paintings as imitations of the Greek, spoilt in the execution."37 The woodcuts, which are faithful transcripts, speak for themselves on this point.

Every one, on entering these tombs, must be struck with the inappropriateness of such scenes to a sepulchre; but happily for us we regard them from the high vantage-ground of Christianity, and our view is not bounded by a paradise of mere sensual gratification. If we cast ourselves back into antiquity and attempt to realise the sentiments and creed of a Greek, Etruscan, or Roman, we shall perceive how well such scenes as this represent, or at least typify, the state of bliss on which a departed spirit was supposed to have entered. They believed in the materiality of the soul; and their Elysium was but a glorification of the present state of existence; the same pursuits, amusements, and pleasures they had relished in this life they expected in the next, but divested of their sting, and enhanced by increased capacities of enjoyment. To celebrate the great event, to us so solemn, by feasting and joviality, was not with them unbecoming.b They knew not how to conceive or represent a glorified existence otherwise than by scenes of the highest sensual enjoyment.38

p295 The funeral feast is still kept up by the most civilised pagans of our day, the Chinese, and even by certain people of Christendom, — by such as on account of their isolated position, or of national prejudices, have adhered most closely to the customs and usages of antiquity. The wakes of the Celtic races of our own land have in all probability an identity of origin — in feeling at least — with the funeral feasts of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans.

Dances, among the ancients, had often a direct religious meaning and application, and were introduced at sacrifices together with songs in honour of the Gods.39 Music, to our ideas, is hardly consistent with a scene of mourning, yet it might be solemn and dolorous. That such was intended to be its character in this case the accompanying figures forbid us to suppose; it must have been lively and animated, in harmony with the action of the dancers. But on other Etruscan monuments it seems to have been of a different character. Not a few bas-reliefs represent the praeficae, or hired mourners, wailing over a corpse, p296beating their breasts and tearing their hair, while a subulo chimes in with his double-pipes.

It may be doubted whether such scenes are emblematical of the bliss of the departed, or representations of the actual feasts held in their honour;40 in either case there can be no doubt that they are truthful delineations of Etruscan costumes and manners. I am inclined to a descriptive interpretation, admitting at the same time the symbolical character of certain objects, some of which were probably introduced on that account at the actual feasts. It seems to me, indeed, quite superfluous to regard all the pictorial furniture of these tombs as symbolical, as some have done. In this case, for instance, the trees which alternate with the dancers, are probably introduced merely to indicate that the festivities are held in the open air;41 and the animals seem for the most part mere ornamental accessories, or whims of the artist. The known relation of the panther to Bacchus is suggestive of a funeral signification of the two over the doorway, and the same may be said of the ivy which surrounds the room in a broad band above the heads of the figures; but why seek a symbolic interpretation in the cat and domestic fowls gleaning the crumbs of the feast, or in the squirrels and birds among the trees, or in the hare and fox at their feet? The men on horseback seem introduced by a sort of pictorial synecdoche — a portion being put for the whole — p297to indicate the games which formed part of the funeral entertainments.42

Did not the archaic character of the paintings in this and similar tombs of Tarquinii, forbid us to assign to them so recent a date, the recurrence of Bacchic emblems might lead to the supposition that these festive scenes represent the Dionysia, which were imported from Greece into Etruria about two hundred years before Christ, and thence introduced into Rome.43

The colours in this tomb are black, deep red, or maroon, light red, blue, and yellow. Neither in this, nor in any other painted tomb in this necropolis do we meet with green.44 All the colours, except the blue which in the leaves of the trees has much faded, retain their original brilliancy; and it must be remembered that two or three-and‑twenty centuries have elapsed since they were laid on, and that they are on the bare rock, the natural creamy hue of which forms the ground to the whole. Damp does not seem here to have affected them as in some other tombs.45 p298They have suffered more from streams of a semi-transparent, stalactitic substance, — a tartaric deposit often found in caves in the Etruscan plain.

I have said that the colours were laid on the bare rock. The surface of this, however, has undergone some preparation. The rock is not here volcanic, but a sort of calcareous stone, of tertiary formation, ful of minute marine substances. It is soft, even plastic when damp, but acquires a considerable degree of hardness on exposure to the atmosphere. Where the surface of the wall has crumbled away, it is evident that it is composed of a stucco, scarcely differing in texture and colour from the rock itself. It seems to be made of the finer particles of the rock, plastered over the coarser surface, and subsequently dried and indurated perhaps by artificial heat. The colours were laid on al fresco.46 These remarks apply to all the painted tombs of this necropolis, except those of the Typhon and Cardinal, which are stuccoed with a different material.47

Camera del Morto.

Hard by the Grotta del Triclinio is another painted tomb called "The Dead Man's Chamber," discovered in 1832.

p299 The tombs hitherto described contain none but festive scenes; but here is a painting of another character. On one of the side-walls, the body of a hoary-bearded man is seen stretched on an elegant couch, and a young female leans over him, performing the last offices to the dead — apparently in the act of drawing his hood over his eyes.48 A man stands at the bottom of the couch, and seems with one hand to be pulling the clothes over the old man's feet, while he raises the other to his head, according to the conventional yet natural mode of expressing grief among the Etruscans. Behind him stands another man, who with more frantic gestures seems to be manifesting his sorrow in a similar manner,49 — if he be not dancing — a supposition which his attitude and the analogy of other figures in this tomb seem to favour. A third man, who stands at the head of the couch, has also his hand to his head. The precise attitudes and meaning of these figures it is impossible now to determine, owing to the dilapidated state of these paintings, but two of them at least appear to be giving manifestations of deep sorrow.

Turn to the other walls of the tomb, and how the scene is changed! — from grave to gay in an instant! Here all is tipsy dance and jollity! These naked men, crowned with p300chaplets, and dancing with Bacchanalian frenzy, seem unconscious of, or indifferent to, the mournful scene adjoining. On the inner wall, one fellow is playing a fife,50 though not moderating his saltatory action a whit on that account; the other is brandishing a kylix or flat bowl, which he appears to have just emptied, but a large amphora of wine stands at his feet, whence he may replenish it at pleasure. Of the two figures on the adjoining wall, one is in the act of quaffing from a similar bowl; the other is whirling a chaplet in his hand; and all four, though torn into fragments and almost destroyed by time, display in their disjecta membra such feats of capriole agility, that the seeker for Celtic analogies might declare them to be dancing an Irish jig or a Highland reel. Similar chaplets are represented hanging from the wall around the chamber, even over the death-bed, and some are seen suspended from the olive-tres which alternate with the dancers, and from the handles of the amphora.51

You are struck with archaic, or what is nearly equivalent, the Egyptian character of the paintings in this tomb, for the earlier the Etruscan work of art, the nearer it approaches in general to the Egyptian — in this respect resembling the Greek. This character is most strongly marked in the physiognomy, in the eyes, which are always full though the face be in profile, in the shape of the heads, in the cut of the beards, and in the contour of the bodies p301of the dancers. You may observe this archaic character also in the figure of the woman, in her stiff, ungainly form, and may remark that her dress differs from that of the females in the last two tombs, principally in her hair hanging down in long braids, and in her long and sharp-toed boots.52 Her name, written in Etruscan characters over her head, is "thanaueil,"53 and its similarity to that above the old man "thanarseia," together with the duties she is performing, seems to mark her as a relative, probably his daughter. The two men at the foot of the couch are now anonymous, but the third has the inscription "enel" above him, which is, however, but a portion of his name.

The fourth wall of this tomb has no paintings beyond the usual pair of panthers on the pediment. In the corresponding position on the opposite wall are two parti-coloured lions and two blue pigeons, probably introduced as mere ornaments; or, if symbolical, perhaps representing the ministers of death about to seize the soul.

This is the smallest of the painted tombs of Tarquinii; indeed, it is rare to meet with tombs of such confined dimensions.54 The colours, in as far as they are preserved, retain all their original depth, but the surface of the wall p302is greatly dilapidated. The flesh of the males is a very deep red, save that of the corpse, which is paler, perhaps intentionally so represented. That of the woman, as usual, is left uncoloured. The average height of the figures is about two feet and a half.55

Grotta de' Pompej

In a pit of more than ordinary depth, is the entrance to the "Tomb of the Pompeys," or, as it is otherwise called, "the Cave of the Typhon" — Grotta del Tifone — which was discovered in 1832. Before the door are vestiges of a small anti-chamber, four feet square, and of a shaft with niches to descend from the ground above, as in the tombs of Civita Castellana and Falleri.

The door is opened — and, oh! the gloom of this dark-walled cavern! — the blackness, the solemn silence, the sepulchral damp, chill and awe the senses and oppress the spirits. It is a very Tartarus after the comfortable, gay, Elysian air of the tombs you have just quitted.

Cernis, custodia qualis

Vestibulo sedeat? facies quae limina servet?

No Fury, no Cerberus, nor even panther or lion, mounts guard at the door of this Orcus, but the stone figure of a venerable Etruscan reclines just within the entrance — the first object that meets your eye when the door is opened. Look again! — those two skulls grinning at you from the high ledge of rock opposite, seem to chuckle you a mock welcome to the dismal abode of the dead.

But descend these half-dozen steps to the floor, light p303your tapers, and look around. This tomb differs in many respects from those you have already seen. It is of great size;56 its flat roof is supported in the centre by a massive square pillar; and a triple tier of benches, all hewn from the living rock, surrounds the chamber. In fact it more nearly resembles the sepulchres of Caere than those of Tarquinii. Its size, and the many sarcophagi which lie scattered and broken about the tomb, prove that this was a family-vault, the last resting-place, it may be, not merely of a single family, but of a gens, or I might say, a clan of ancient Tarquinii.

The walls of this tomb are not covered with paintings, but simply adorned with a double band — the upper, of dolphins sporting above the waves; the lower, of patera-like flowers — except on one wall where a small space is occupied by a funeral procession of singular interest.57 The square pillar in the centre is also painted. On three of its sides is a divinity of Etruscan mythology; that in the centre a female, terminating in foliage, the other two, males, conventionally called Typhon — in Italian, Tifone — whence the tomb receives its vulgar appellation.58 They p304have winged human bodies terminating in serpents instead of legs. The female figure is comparatively tame, but the other two are most spirited and grand. Such as these it is with which Tasso peoples hell —

Oh come strane, oh come orribil forme!

Quant' è negli occhi lor terrore e morte! . . . .

E 'n fronte umana han chiome d' angui attorte;

E lor s' aggira dietro immensa coda! —

Oh what unearthly, oh what fearful shapes!

Terror and Death are flashing from their eyes!

Their human heads are haired with writhing snakes,

And their vast tails coil back in loathsome guise!

One of these two figures is particularly fine. The attitude of the body — the outspread wings — the dark massy coils of the serpent-limbs — the wild twisting of the serpent-locks — the countenance uplifted with an expression of unutterable woe, as he supports the cornice with his p305hands59 — make this figure imposing, mysterious, sublime. In conception, the artist was the Michael Angelo of Etruria.60

On the front of the pillar is an Etruscan inscription of nine lines, scratched on the stucco, now injured, but the proper name of "Pumpus" is distinctly visible in the first line.61

It is obvious at a glance that the paintings in this tomb are of much later date and higher style of art than those in the p306tombs already described. There is nothing archaic about them. Here are grouping, perspective, fore-shortening, full faces — never attained or even attempted in the earlier paintings; here are correctness and ease of design, modelling of form instead of mere outline, a natural and harmonious tone of colour in place of conventionalities and startling contrasts, drapery no longer in stiff, formal plaits, but hanging in broad, easy folds. In a word, these frescoes are so like those of Pompeii, that they might be pronounced Roman, were it not for their national peculiarities. There is little doubt that they belong to the period of Roman domination in Etruria. Read the inscription on one of the rock-hewn benches, and you have proof that the tomb was used by the conquerors:—

AVRELIA · L · F · OPTVMA · FEMINA
VIXSIT · AN · XLV

p307 On one of the sarcophagi you find another Latin epigraph with the name of L. PERCENNA or TERCENNA62— an Etruscan name in Roman letters. But with these exceptions everything is Etruscan — the form and character of the sepulchre, the sarcophagi, the dolphin-band, the procession, the Typhon figures, and the inscriptions of wall, pillar, and sarcophagi — are all purely Etruscan. From the recurrence of the name of "Pumpus" twice on the wall, attached to the principal figure in the procession, and again in the inscription on the pillar, it is highly probable that this was the sepulchre of a family of that name, from which the Roman gens of Pompeius was descended;63 if so, there may have been no mixture of Etruscan and Roman bodies in this tomb, as appears to be the case, for those with Latin epitaphs may have been Etruscans by birth, education, customs, religion — in everything but language; their native tongue, though not perhaps extinct, being in their time no longer a polite language, but confined to the lower orders, like the Erse and Gaelic with us.

In front of the pillar and attached to it, is a large squared mass of rock, which has been supposed to be an altar, on which offerings were made to the Manes; but it almost seems too lofty. Its front and sides have been painted with a procession of figures, but these have now p308almost utterly perished.64 A few years more, and no trace will be left of the paintings in this tomb, which will be known only from prints and descriptions as things that have passed away.

Milton is said to have drawn the scenery of the "Paradise Lost" from that of Tuscany. With more perhaps of truth may it be said that Ariosto often introduced the peculiarities of Cisapennine scenery into his great epic. This has often been brought to my mind in my wanderings through Etruria. What is the grotto where Orlando found the fair Isabella,65 or the cave of the sage Merlin,66 but one of these ancient sepulchres, which the poet has p309drawn from nature? There is the mouth of the tomb in the face of the hill, choked with bushes and brambles — the passage of many steps hewn out of the rock, and leading straight down to the door of the sepulchre — the spacious gloomy chamber within, retaining the marks of the chisel on its walls and ceiling, and resembling a temple or church supported by columns with architectural adornments, having even a sort of altar in the midst, as in this Grotta Pompej, and with sculptures or paintings on the walls around, only revealed by the light of the torch. The poet may have indulged slightly in his professional licence, but who can doubt, on seeing the tombs of Etruria, especially those of Tarquinii and Caere, whence the portraiture was drawn? One could almost wish the poetical description borne out in every point — that there was still some genius loci, some wise Merlin —

Che le passate e le future cose
A chi gli dimandò, sempre rispose —

to unravel the mysteries of antiquity here interred.

The procession painted on the wall of this tomb has given rise to as much speculation as any other local relic of Etruscan antiquity. Its resemblance to that of the temple-tombs of Norchia is visible at a glance.67 In both are genii or demons leading souls into the unseen world; but that of Norchia is so much injured as scarcely to be intelligible without the aid of this painting, which, like the Greek on the Rosetta stone, is a key to the interpretation of the relief. Here are no shields, helmets, or p310weapons suspended — it may be because this is of the inglorious days of Etruria, when she had sunk to the tame condition of a Roman province; but here are figures bearing those singular twisted rods, the symbols of the Etruscan Hades, which are sufficient to identify the character of this painting with that of the Norchian relief. Here are no winged genii, but the attributes of certain of these figures mark them to be demons. There are three of these in prominent positions — at the head, in the rear, and in the centre of the procession. They are of different colours; that in front is of fair complexion, and seems to represent a female; that in the rear may be of the same sex, but is of darker tint; while he in the centre is of negro hue and features, and is recognised as the Etruscan "Charun." All are distinguished by the hammer borne aloft, a frequent emblem of supernatural power,68 and also by serpents bound round their heads, like the Furies of Greek mythology.69

Serpentelli e ceraste avean per crine
Onde le fiere tempie eran avvinte.

Dante

p311 Among the Egyptians also the snake-bound brow was emblematical of sovereignty, whether of gods or men. The import of the snake in the mythological system of the Etruscans seems to have been very similar; it was an emblem of divine or supernatural power, of mystery, perhaps of eternity, certainly of sacredness, and it had evidently a funereal meaning.70 On the Bomarzo sarcophagus, now in the British Museum, it is seen wound round the arm of Charun,71 as in the case of the leading demon in this painted procession, who might well pass for Tisiphone, one of the Furies.72 The same figure bears in her other hand a flaming torch, another attribute of the Furies, who are often represented brandishing a snake in one hand, and a torch in the other.73 She may therefore p312be regarded as one of the "daughters of gloomy Night," though she has been designated "the wife of Charun;" while the reddish-faced demon in the rear is supposed the son of the aforesaid dignitaries,74 but what authority there is for supposing "the pilot of the livid lake" have to been a family-man, I know not. It is clear that the black, hideous, bearded, brute-eared demon in the middle of the procession, who towers above all the rest, is no other than the conveyer of souls — terribili squalore Charon75

Che intorno agli occhi avea di fiamme ruote.

The second figure in the procession is a cornicen, or blower on the horn,76 and probably represents an attendant on the infernal deities. One of the other figures bears a lituus, or augur's crooked staff in his hand,77 and the rest, with the exception of two or three in the centre, have the singular twisted rods, which are seen in the Norchian bas-relief, and are evidently of funereal import.78 Whether p313all these, or only those who do not bear the rods, are souls, is difficult to determine, but there can be no doubt that the two principal figures of the group — the male on whose shoulder old Charun has set his fearful paw,79 and the female behind, under the charge of the young demons — are intended to represent the spirits of the defunct. Each of these has a designatory inscription in Etruscan characters attached — the male, indeed, has two of these titles, but the lower one is now almost destroyed. That above his head is very distinct, and runs thus:—

In Roman letters it would be — Laris. Pumpus. Arnthal. Clan. Cechase.80 The first two words, or his praenomen and nomen, are repeated in the lower inscription.

It is evident that these two figures are portraits of those interred in this sepulchre. But why represent the p314souls of the departed in the clutches of demons? — it may be asked; such a sight could have been little grateful to the feelings of survivors, on their annual visits to the grave. Mrs. Gray's lively imagination conceives a romantic tale of woe, and sees in this pair an Etruscan Paolo and Francesca.

                               O lasso!
Quanti dolci pensier, quanto desio,
Menò costoro al doloroso passo!

But it is not necessary to suppose this a scene of retributive justice.81 The Charun of the Etruscans is represented of this fearful character, rather as the messenger of the grim King of Terrors than as a persecutor and tormentor of guilty spirits. Charun is in general but the guide, the infernal Mercury of the Etruscans; whose office it is to conduct disembodied souls into the unseen world; and such seems to be the duty he and his fellow-demons are performing in this fresco.82

Grotta del Cardinale,

A little beyond the Grotta de' Pompej, in a hollow spanned by the arches of a medieval aqueduct, which supplies Corneto with water, runs a road, leading from p315the ancient city across the Montarozzi, and probably of Etruscan formation. Here in a bank opens the Grotta del Cardinale, the earliest discovered of the painted tombs of Tarquinii, found as long since as 1699, re-opened in 1738, again in 1760, and finally in 1780, by a certain Cardinal Garampi, bishop of Corneto, from whom it derives its vulgar appellation. A more appropriate name would be Grotta del passagioº delle Anime — "Tomb of the passage of Souls;" or Grotta Vesi, from an Etruscan inscription on the wall.83 It is the largest tomb in this, or perhaps in any other Etruscan necropolis, being no less than fifty-four feet square, with a flat ceiling, so low that a tall man can scarcely stand upright, coffered in concentric squares and oblongs, and supported on four pillars, six or seven feet square, hewn out of the rock in which the chamber is hollowed. It is very imposing on first entrance, when the feeble light of the tapers just reveals the forms of these massive pillars, one behind the other in dim perspective. You might fancy yourself in one of the rock-hewn temples of Egypt or India. In truth, in its general aspect it bears no small resemblance to a temple; yet the paintings on the walls determine its sepulchral character. These paintings are on one side only of the tomb,84 on the walls and pillars, in a frieze of small figures p316scarcely a foot high, and are now almost obliterated by the smoke of the fires, which the shepherds of several generations past were wont to make in the tomb, before it was taken under the protection of the government. In fact, so sadly have these paintings suffered through neglect and wantonness, that a stranger unaware of their existence might go round the tomb without perceiving them. Where they can still be made out, they are seen to be drawn with much spirit and masterly ease, especially those on the pillars, and mark a later epoch than belongs to any other sepulchre in this necropolis, save that of the Pompej. From the style of art and the character of the decoration in this tomb, it is highly probable that it dates from the times of Roman domination, as late, it may be, as the fifth or sixth century of the City.85 The subjects of the paintings, nevertheless, are for the most part unquestionably Etruscan, representing the passage of souls into the unseen world, and their condition therein; and opening to us a clearer and more comprehensive view of Etruscan religious belief, than is to be gathered from any other single monument extant.

Representations of these paintings, as they existed many years since, are given by Micali and Inghirami, but the fullest delineations of them have recently been published from the drawings of Mr. Byres, an English artist resident at Rome in the middle of the last century, who, on the re-opening of this tomb, proceeded to Corneto to make drawings of the contents.86 Signor Carlo Avvolta p317asserts that Byres was sent by the British government, and was accompanied by several other artists, among whom was the celebrated Giambattista Piranesi. Avvolta declares that he has a distinct remembrance of the party, because, there being no inn at Corneto, they were entertained by his father, one of the principal inhabitants. The visit of these strangers, their foreign tongue, and the rich presents they made his mother on their departure, made a deep impression on his infantile memory; and the old gentleman loves to produce from the recesses of some quaint cabinet, a number of portraits of the party, which they made of each other, not less than as a memorial of their visit.

The illustrations of Byres are valuable records of the original state of this and other tombs at Corneto, which are now almost destroyed, or reclosed with earth, and forgotten. Many of the figures in this tomb which are given by Byres, are now entirely obliterated, and of others nothing but a faint glimmering is now discernible through the thick smoky coating of the walls; while a few remain sufficiently preserved to approve the general accuracy of his drawings.87 Much as these p318paintings have suffered from smoke, they have been further defaced by the wantonness of visitors. Micali says, "they have been pilfered piece-meal by trans-Alpine travellers, who boast of their intelligence."88 Such an assertion is in accordance with the rampant nationality of that writer, but of such pilferings I could perceive few signs, and of the names scratched on the wall, which have done the most injury, I saw none by Italian. Though Englishmen have an extended reputation for this sort of barbarism, they by no means monopolise the privilege. "I am afraid this great lubber, the world, will prove a cockney" in other portions than Britain. Throughout Spain, Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere on the Continent, I have always found the same propensity to remark individual insignificance prevalent — to fulfil, what some one calls, "tousº les petits devoirs d'un voyageur;" and on any remarkable site or building, especially in the neighbourhood of large cities, have always remarked the great majority of names inscribed to be those of natives.

The figures painted in this tomb may be divided into two classes or worlds — of the living and the dead; which in some instances, however, are scarcely distinguishable. In the latter must be included another class, not less numerous, for the tomb teems

"With all the grisly legions that troop
Under the sooty flag of Acheron."

To the living belong the combats, on the frieze of the p319pillars, where the figures are represented almost or entirely naked, and armed with sword and shield. In attitude and action they are in general spirited and expressive; a few are graceful. One of these scenes is remarkably fine and spirited, approximating more closely to the Greek than any other in the tomb.89 With truth may these paintings be regarded as the germs of that native genius of Etruria, which more fully developed itself in Luca Signorelli and Michael Angelo.90

The mythological scenes are yet more curious and interesting. They represent numerous souls, in the form of men, robed in white, conducted into the other world by genii of opposite characters, the good being depicted red or flesh-colour, the evil black, like the Furies of Grecian fable;91 both alike in human form, but with wings, red or white, at their shoulders.92 Sometimes a good and evil p320spirit seem contending for the possession of a soul, — as where this is pursued by the malignant demon, and hurried away by the better genius; sometimes they are acting in unison — as where they are harnessed to a car, and are driven by an old man, who may possibly represent the Minos or Rhadamanthus of the Etruscans. In another instance a similar pair of antagonist spirits are dragging a car, on which sits a soul shrouded in a veil.93 We may conclude they are attending the soul to judgment, for such was their office, according to the belief of the Etruscans, in order that when their charge was arraigned before the infernal judge, they might confirm or contradict his pleadings, according to their truth or falsehood.94 When the good demons have anything in their hands, it is simply a rod or wand, but the malignant ones have generally a heavy hammer or mallet, as an emblem of their destructive character; and in some instances, probably after condemnation has been pronounced, they are represented with these instruments uplifted, threatening wretched souls who are imploring mercy on their knees. In a somewhat similar scene, a soul is in the power of two of these demons, when a good genius interposes and arrests one of the evil ones by the wing. In another scene the p321soul is represented as seizing the wing of the good genius, who is moving away from him.95 The same dark demons are in more than one instance mounting guard at a gateway, doubtless the gate of Orcus — atri janua Ditis — which stands open day and night. One of these figures is very striking, sitting at the gateway, resting on his mallet, his hair standing on an end, and his finger raised as if to indicate the entrance to some approaching souls. Were this figure a female, it would answer in every respect, even to the colour of its raiment, to the Fury Tisiphone, whom Virgil places as guardian to the gate of Hell.96

Some of these scenes are now but faintly traceable, while others are still distinct. But there is one of very remarkable character delineated by Byrnes, which is not now to be verified, as it has too much perished. It represents two children, Cupid and Psyche, the latter with butterfly-wings, embracing each other; with a good genius on one side and an evil one on the other. They appear to have the same symbolical meaning as the Cupid and Psyche of the Greeks, for the evil genius is drawing Cupid, i.e., the bodily appetites and passions, towards the things of this p322world, represented by a tree and a labourer hurrying along with a huge stone on his head, as if to intimate that man is born to trouble, and his lot below is all vexation of spirit; while on the other hand Psyche, or the more exalted part of human nature, draws him back, and her persuasions are seconded by the good genius, who, be it remarked, does not seize the soul, like the antagonist principle, but tries, with outstretched arms and gentle looks, to win it to herself. Behind her is a gate, through which a soul is calmly passing, as if to contrast the tranquil bliss of a future existence with the labour, unrest, and turmoil of this. It is a simple truth, eloquently and forcibly told.97

I have spoken of souls on cars; others are seated on horseback; one is led by a good genius; another genius is contending with an unmounted horse, as if leading it to a soul for him to mount. These favoured spirits may represent the great and wealthy of this world, or may merely indicate more clearly the journey into another state of existence, which is frequently symbolised by a horse on the Etruscan monuments of Chiusi and Volterra. The majority of souls are on foot — some full of horror, eager p323to escape; others imploring mercy from their malignant tormentors; but many are calm, resigned, melancholy beings, gliding along with rods in their hands. There is abundant room here for the imagination. Here it will perceive the warrior, arrested in his career of glory; here the augur, for whose sacred functions Death has no regard;98 here the bride, giving her hand, not to an earthly husband, but to a ghostly visitor; the village maiden with her water-pot on her head; the labourer with his spade or pitchfork on his shoulder, hurried away by one who knows no distinction of ranks;99 and the infant in its mother's arms, fetched by a pale messenger, ere it had known aught of the joys or sorrows of the life it was called on to resign.100


The Author's Notes:

1 Westphal (Ann. Inst. 1830, p18), suggests that this may be the site of Cortuosa, mentioned by Livy (VI.4); but this is a mere conjecture.

2 So sings a poet of the fifteenth century (Bull. Inst. 1839, p68) —

Is Coritus Mons, veteris primordia Trojae
Cornetum quo nume urbs opulenta sedet.

Cardinal Garampi (ap. Tiraboschi, Litter. Ital. I. p30, ed. Milano, 1822), dates the origin of Corneto from the eighth or ninth century of our era, and says it was first called Corgnitum, perhaps from the abundance of cornels in the neighbourhood. In the middle ages Corneto was much better populated than at present, for its walls are now half empty.

3 Gell, Rome, &c. I. p373.

4 Liv. VI.4. We have no clue whatever to the site of these towns. The position which Mariani, Sarzana, and others have assigned to them, on the Marta where it issues from the Lake of Bolsena, is mere conjecture. Dempster and Cluver wisely determine nothing.

5 They will be found in Bull. Inst. 1830, p198; Ann. Inst. 1832, p151, et seq.; 1839, p29.

6 In Roman letters it would be — Larth. Velchas. Thuicesu. It is correctly given by Kellermann, Bull. Inst. 1833, p61.

7 Sepulchres of Etruria, p171, 3rd edit.

8 Diodorus Siculus (V. p316, ed. Rhod.) and Posidonius (ap. Athen. IV, c13, p153) tell us that the Etruscans were wont twice a day to have a sumptuous banquet prepared, and to recline under flowered coverlets, drinking out of silver vessels of various forms, and attended by a multitude of handsome slaves, magnificently apparelled. Each lectus or couch in this scene has beneath it the usual long stool — hypopodium or suppedaneum — and, though both are intended to have four legs, two only are represented. The dogs beneath the couches answer to the κύνες τραπεζῆες of Homer. Il. XXIII., 173; Odyss. XVII., 309.

9 They wear the Ionic chiton, or long tunic, with short, loose sleeves; and over it a shawl, in some instances the peplos, in others the lighter chlamys.

10 It is the ampyx— the same frontlet as is generally given by ancient artists to Juno, Diana, and the Muses.

11 Varro, de Ling. Lat. VII.35; Festus, v. Subulo. Both these writers cite Ennius as saying —

Subulo quondam marinas propter adstabat plaga —

a position in which a fife-player has never, I believe, been found on an ancient monument, though in a parable which Herodotus (I.141) puts into the mouth of Cyrus, one is represented as playing — not preaching, like St. Anthony — to the fishes. Varro adds that the root of subulo must be sought in Etruria, not in Latium. Vossius went to the East for it, and fancied he had found it in the Arabic — sunbul — spica, calamus. Macrobius (Saturn. II.1) º represents this class of men as being proverbial for their indecent language — subulonis impudica et praetextata verba. The pipes used by the Etruscans at sacrifices are said to have been of ivory (Virg. Georg. II.193), or of box-wood; those at public festivals, of lotus-wood, of asses' bones, or of silver. Plin. XVI., 66. Pliny says these double-pipes were of Phrygian origin. VII., 56.º A representation of an Etruscan subulo is given in the woodcut at page 289.

12 The union of the pipes and lyre in ancient music, as exemplified in this and other Etruscan tombs, is frequently mentioned by classic writers. Horace (Epod. IX., 5) gives us to understand (p284)that a Doric song accompanied the lyre, and a "barbarian," i.e., most probably a Lydian, the pipes — as he elsewhere (Od. IV., 15. 30) says — Lydis remixto carmine tibiis. Lydian was frequently used by the ancients as synonymous with Etruscan, on account of the generally received tradition, that Etruria had been colonised from Lydia, but the pipe was really of oriental origin. See Müller, Etrusk., IV.1, 3, p203.

None of the subulones in this, or indeed in any other of the tombs of Tarquinii, wear the φορβειά, or capistrum — the bands fastened behind the head, to assist the action of blowing, by compression of the cheeks; though it is not unfrequently represented on Etruscan sarcophagi and vases.

13 Juven. Sat. I.22; Stat. Silv. IV.6, 10; Mart. VII. epig. 27; XII. ep. 14, 9; The boars of Umbria (Horat. Sat. II.4, 40), and of Lucania (Hor. Sat. II.3, 234; 8, 6) were also celebrated as a dish, but that of Etruria had more reputation, at least than the former, for Statius says — Tuscus aper generosior Umbro.

14 Virg. Aen. X.707‑715.

15 Horat. Epod. II.31.

16 See the article "Retis," in Dr. Smith's excellent Dictionary of Antiquities.

17 Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, p321) considers these warriors to represent the souls of the deceased, figured in an heroic, and, as it were, a deified aspect.

18 It is 18 feet by 17, and about 10 feet high at the sides, and 12 to the central beam of the ceiling.

19 This must be owing to the action of the atmosphere. So thought Maffei (Osserv. Litter. V. p312) and Winckelmann (Liv. III. cap. 2, § 23, 24) of other painted tombs of Tarquinii, that the colours lost their freshness by exposure to the atmosphere; but Ruspi, who has paid much attention to these paintings, pronounces this to be quite a mistake, and that the true colours are only brought out by exposure to the sun and air. Ann. Instit. 1831, p326.

20 Ann. Inst. 1831, pp313, 319, 357. The Greek character is seen not only in the general style of the design, but in the details of the drapery, the furniture, the crockery; but the high-necked crater on the sideboard is very un-Hellenic in form, nor have I ever seen its counterpart in reality. The two amphorae at its side are not much superior in form. The folded cushion under the elbow of each banqueter is the ὑπαγκώνιον of the Greeks, answer to the cubital or pulvinar of the Romans. The flowered coverlet (ἀνθίμη στρωμνή), however, over the figure in the corner of the inner wall, is one of the articles cited by Posidonius (ap. Athen. IV. c13, p153) as a proof of the extravagant luxury of the Etruscans.

21 Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, p347) makes her an honest woman and the wife of her feast-fellow. Mrs. Gray (Sep. of Etruria, p193), with a praiseworthy tenderness for her sex, is blind to the evident amorous abandon of this fair Etruscan, and can see in her only "an afflicted mother consoled by her remaining son."

22 Quem Romanorum pudet uxorem ducere in convivium?. . . multo fit aliter in Graeciâ — triumphantly exclaims Corn. Nepos (praefat.).

23 Aristot. ap. Athen. I. c19, p23. That the same custom prevailed among the Volsci seems proved by certain reliefs discovered at Velletri. Theopompus (ap. eund. XII. c3, p517), while he admits that the Etruscan females took their meals with the other sex, maligns them by saying, that it was with any one rather than with their own husbands. But the simple fact of the two sexes reclining together at meals, must have appeared so outrageous a breach of decorum to the Greeks, who always associated such a position with hetaerae alone, as to lead them naturally to regard the women as immodest; just as a Persian on hearing of distant lands, where all the women went unveiled, would set them down as dead to all shame and virtue. Before the discovery of these painted tombs, the union of the two sexes at the banquet had been remarked by Micali (Italia avanti il dominio de' Romani, II. p86, tav. 37) on certain Etruscan monuments; but Inghirami (Mon. Etrus. I p665) would not admit it — each considering his own view most flattering to his Etruscan forefathers. "How so licentious a custom," exclaims Inghirami, commenting on his opponent, "can be termed refinement, delicacy, and the elegant custom of a civilised people, as he declares the Etruscans to be, I leave to the judgment of any one who has the most superficial idea of decency." Yet in the same work (I. p403) he had previously admitted that both sexes are represented on Etruscan urns reclining together at banquets; but he interprets such scenes symbolically — fancying the men to signify heroes, the women, souls!

24 Varro, ap. Isid. Orig. XX.11.Viri discumbere ceperunt, mulieres sedere, quia turpis visus est in muliere accubitus. Valer. Max. II.1, 2.

25 Valer. Max. loc. cit. Yet Livy (V.13) and Dionysius (Excerp. Mai. XII.7) describe Latona and Diana reclining with male divinities at the first lectisternium exhibited at Rome A.U.C. 355, just before the capture of Veii.

26 For notices and opinions of this tomb, consult Bull. Instit. 1831, p81‑3. Ann. Inst. 1831, p313, et seq. (Gerhard). Ann. Inst. 1831, p325 (Ruspi). 1831, pp346‑359 (Gerhard). Ann. Inst. 1834, p56 (Bunsen). For illustrations, see Mon. Ined. Inst. I. tav. 33, a copy of which will also be found in Mrs. Gray's Sepulchres of Etruria, p192, but inaccurately coloured. No copies of these paintings are in the British Museum, though they will be found in the Museo Gregoriano at Rome, and are engraved in the work of that name, tom. I tav. CIV.

27 This tomb faces S. by E. Its dimensions are about 15 ft. by 11; nearly 8 ft. in height in the centre, and 6 ft. 3 in. at the sides. The height of the figures is about 3 ft. 6 in. The floor of the inner half of the tomb is raised in a dais, about 2 or 3 inches high, in one corner of which are four holes, marking the place of the sarcophagus, which was found in it. Few of the painted tombs on this site seem to have been family-sepulchres, which predominate over those for individuals in most of the Etruscan cemeteries.

28 The copies of these paintings, but in the British Museum and in the Vatican, represent a pair of figures on the third couch. Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, p338) also so describes it. If that were the case, the couch must have been foreshortened.

29 A similar distinction in the colour of the sexes was observed by the Egyptians in their paintings. Vermilion seems to have been the conventional hue of male rank and dignity also among more Eastern nations. "She saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion . . . all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity." Ezek. xxiii.14, 15. Just so are the Assyrian sculptures coloured, which have recently been discovered at Khorsabad, near Mosoul. See Quarterly Review, March 1847, p443. That it was also an ancient custom in Italy to represent gods and heroes of this red hue is evident from Pliny (XXXIII.36), who states that the statue of Jupiter was wont to be fresh painted with minium or vermillion on high festivals, and that Camillus, the conqueror of Veii, so bedaubed himself on his triumph. He adds that in his day the custom prevailed in Aethiopia, where all the great men painted themselves of this hue; and the images of the gods were similarly be-dyed. The Romans doubtless derived the custom from the Etruscans, with whom, as these painted tombs and the recumbent figures on their sarcophagi abundantly testify, it was a conventional mode of expressing a state of glorification and beatitude. Tibullus (II.1. 55) says the husbandman of old was wont to dance before the gods — minio suffusus rubenti.

30 An erudite explanation of the paintings of this tomb is given by Professor Gerhard, Ann. Instit. 1831, p337‑346. In illustration of the analogy between the banquets of the Greeks and Etruscans, he quotes Amphis (ap. Athen. XIV. c12, p642) who describes a banquet as composed of "milk-cakes, sweet wine, eggs, sesame-cakes, ointment, a chaplet, and a female flute-player:—

Ἄμητες, οἶνος ἡδυς, ὠὰ, σησαμαὶ,

Μύρον, στέφανος, αὐλητρίς.

The tibicen is not here of the fair sex, nor is this so general on Etruscan as on Greek monuments, though instances occur in the Grotta delle Bighe, and Grotta Francesca, in this same necropolis, of females blowing the tibiae pares. Gerhard (loc. cit. p340) declares that all the figures in this tomb wear garlands of myrtle, and so they are represented in the copies in the Vatican and British Museum (cf. Ann. Inst. 1831, p327 — Manzi and Fossati), but no signs of such chaplets have I been able to perceive. Perhaps, being blue, they have faded from the wall, like the leaves of the trees in this tomb. In the above woodcuts the figures are represented without chaplets, as they now appear on the walls.

31 Castanets — crotala — were used at the dances of the Greeks and Romans, by whom they have been transmitted to the southern people of modern Europe. Thus the "Copa Syrisca," attributed to Virgil, was —

"Crispum sub crotalo docta movere latus."

So the senatorial youths of Rome in early times were wont to dance — crotala gestantes — Macrob. Saturn. II.10. Castanets with cymbals were the weapons of the saltatrix. Petron. Priap. 26. The castanets of the ancients were of various materials — wood, shell, brass, or sometimes of split reed. Suidas, v. κρόταλον. Eustath. Iliad. XI.160. Those of the Etruscans seem never to have varied from the straight form shown in this tomb; though on the vases, which, however, represent Greek rather than Etruscan life, they have sometimes the extremities crooked. On the bronzes they are of the same form as in this town (Ann. Inst. 1836, p64; Mon. Ined. Inst. II. tav. XXIX); and in the Tomb of the Tarquins, at Cervetri, they are also like these, and are painted on the wall as if suspended over the head of a corpse. Crotalon was used by the Greeks as a term of reproach, equivalent to our "chatterbox." Eurip. Cycl. 104; Aristoph. Nub. 260, 448.

32 An awkward instance of this may be observed in the female attendant behind the couch, whose body is in full, but head and feet in profile, and turned in opposite directions. The left foot of the dancing girl in the above woodcut is the only exception in this tomb.

33 The stiffness in the drapery is also found in archaic works of the Greeks. But the style and costume of these danseuses may be regarded as genuinely Etruscan. They differ considerably from those in the Grotta Querciola, where all has more of a Greek character, and strongly resemble some dancing-women on two Etruscan specchj or mirrors found at Bomarzo, which figures have also castanets, and in one case dance to the music of a subulo. Trees even, as here, alternate with the figures, and beneath them is the same wave-pattern as surrounds this tomb. Gerhard's Etruskische Spiegel, taf. XCVIII. XCIX.

34 Timaeus ap. Athen. XII, c3, p517, IV, c13, p153.

35 To the nudity of the Spartan women I need not refer; but the Thessalian women danced at banquets naked, or with a very scanty covering. Athen. XIII., p607.

36 Aristotle (ap. Athen. I, c19, p23) records that the Etruscans reclined at their banquets under the same himatia with their wives. The ἱμάτιον in this sense is the same as the στρωμνὴ, and is equivalent to the pallium, stragula, or stragulum of the Romans. The under-covering of the couch was probably designated περίστρωμα.

37 Ann. Inst., 1831, p319.

38 The funeral feast in honour of the dead was called by the Greeks νεκρόδειπνον, or περίδειπνον, the latter term being applied, it may be, from the feast being held "round about" the sepulchre, though some would derive it from the position of the guests, or make it equivalent to a circumpotatio. The Romans held a similar feast, and called it silicernium (Festus, sub voce) the etymology of which word is uncertain; though Servius (Aen. V.92) suggests a very probable one — silicernium quasi silicenium, super silicem positae (coenae) — because the meal was spread upon the rocks. If the upper and open chamber in the tombs of Castel d'Asso and (p295)Norchia were for the funeral feasts, it well illustrates this etymology. That the ancients did hold these feasts in the open air, and among the tombs, is pretty evident. At Pompeii a triclinium for such purposes stands in the midst of the sepulchres. Lucian (de Luctu, p813, ed. 1615) tells us that the feast was held to comfort the relatives of the deceased, and induce them to take food.

39 Plato, de Leg. VII.799; Tibul. II.1, 56; Quintil. I.11. Of this character were, the Corybantian, or armed dances of Phrygia in honour of Cybele; the Hyporchema and Geranos in honour of Apollo (see Müller, Dor. II, 8, 14); and the Salian dances of the Etruscans and Romans in honour of Mars. The Dionysiac, though also religious, were peculiar in their mimetic character — in representing the deeds of the god. Servius (ad Virg. Eclog. V.73), gives us the philosophy of sacred dancing among the ancients:— haec ratio est, quod nullam majores nostri partem corporis esse voluerunt, quae non sentiret religionem: nam cantus ad animum, saltatio ad mobilitatem pertinet corporis. The bodily expression of some sentiment was the essence of all the dancing of the Greeks, says Becker (Charicles, sc. VI); and it might be added, of the Romans. Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, p321), thinks the dances in these tombs symbolize the welcome given to the deceased in the abodes of the blessed, and were therefore placed in the most prominent position.

40 Micali (Mon. Ined., p364) views them as symbolical. Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, pp346, 350) is of opinion that they represent the bliss of souls in the other world. He also offers a conjecture (p339) that the pair on the central couch in this tomb, where the female is veiled, may represent a priest and priestess of Bacchus and Ceres, and all the surrounding figures, dancers included, the initiated.

41 The trees are either olives, known by their small black berries, or myrtles, or the lotus, or ivy, now represented only by large black berries, the shrubs to which they were attached having almost entirely faded from the walls.

42 Gerhard, however, (Ann. Inst. 1841, pp321, 323, 345) seems to regard these mounted figures as emblems of the souls of the defunct, represented under the most noble aspect they assumed during life. The birds are thought by M. Lajard (Ann. Inst. 1833, p90‑98) to be emblematical of gods, such being the usual mode of expressing divinity on the ancient monuments of the East. He finds a sacred or funeral symbol in each of the animals in this tomb, and says that ribbons tied to trees, as in this scene, have a religious meaning in Persia. M. Lajard perceives still further oriental analogies in this tomb, especially in the dancing women, whom he declares to be similar, in their attitudes, and in the style, materials, and arrangement of their costume, to the bayadères of modern Persia. The oriental women, he observes, rest their girdles on their hips, and endeavour to make their bosoms sink to their waists; here, also, the women are represented with flat forms, while in figures of purer Greek style they are drawn with bosoms of symmetrical fulness.

43 Liv. XXXIX.8, 9.

44 Ruspi (Ann. Inst. 1831, p325) asserts that green exists in the Grotta Querciola, but I could not perceive it. And the Grotta Cardinale is said to have had green (Letter of Garampi to Tiraboschi, Litterat. Ital. I. p52), but this is not now to be verified. Bright blues, seen by candle-light, may easily be mistaken for greens.

45 Ruspi (loc. cit. p326) maintains that the damp has been a preservative of (p298) the colours. He remarks, that when the sun enters this tomb, and dries the surface of the wall, the figures in that part appear more natural and beautiful than the rest, because they then lose their extreme depth of colour, and acquire just the tint the ancient artist intended.

46 So thinks Ruspi; and Mr. Ainsly, who has paid great attention to these paintings, is of the same opinion. "From the circumstance," he says, "of the colour brushing off on the slightest contact, it might be concluded that the paintings are in distemper, but the proof is by no means complete, for a stain is left inward, and the whole substance of the stucco is so decayed as to rub off with great facility; the outline also is frequently traceable, scratched in the stucco, which would have been unnecessary in distemper."

47 For details and opinions respecting this tomb see Bull. Inst. 1830, p231; Ann. Inst. 1831, p324 (Ruspi); Bull. Inst. 1831, p5; Ann. Inst. 1831, p327 (Manzi and Fossati); 1831, pp337‑346, 359‑161 (Gerhard). For illustrations see Mon. Ined. Inst. I, tav. XXXII; Mus. Gregor. I, tav. CII. The best copies of these paintings are in the British Museum, on the left hand wall of the "Etruscan Room," but the colouring is much too hard and crude, and sometimes incorrect, particularly in the absence of the distinction between the sexes. Mrs. Gray also has given a plate of these paintings (Sepulchres of Etruria p188), but of indifferent accuracy in outline, and in colour incorrect throughout.

48 This is the figure which Mrs. Gray (Sepul. of Etruria, p69) likens to a Capuchin monk, from the cowled tunic in which he is dressed. But cucullus non facit monachum. It is as much like the bornous of Barbary.

49 He has been described as placing a chaplet on his head (Bull. Inst. 1832, p213); and so he is represented in the restored copies in the Gregorian and British Museums. The other two male figures in this scene may be striking their brows to betoken grief.

50 The tibia is interested in one of the three occasions on which it was frequently used, according to Ovid (Fast. VI.657) by the early inhabitants of Italy:—

    Temporibus veterum tibicinis usus avorum

Magnus, et in magno semper honore fuit.
Cantabat fanis, cantabat tibia ludis;

Cantabat moestis tibia funeribus.

We have already seen it represented at games and scenes of festivity. Here it is an accompaniment to the mourning of survivors over the corpse. Instances of its employment at such scenes are not unfrequent on Etruscan bas-reliefs.

51 For an explanation of the chaplets in tombs, see the Appendix to this chapter, Note I.

52 Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, p181) remarks that the figures in this tomb are identical in character with those on the vases of the school prior to that of Puglia and Basilicata — mere magnifications, he would say, of the vase-paintings — on which account it is difficult to assign to them a date later than the fourth century of Rome. Two schools prior would have been more correct, as the Perfect, or Greek style, preceded that of the Basilicata, and these figures are more like the black ones of the Archaic Greek, or Tyrrhene style.

53 The Etruscan letters are very small, and have almost faded from the wall. A very slight alteration — the insertion of one stroke and the omission of another — would make her name "Thanachvil," which by metathesis might be "Thanchavil," the known Etruscan form of Tanaquil — a name which is not of unfrequent occurrence on monuments of this antiquity.

54 It is only 8 ft. square, 5 ft. high at the sides, and somewhat more than 6 ft. in the centre. The beam of the ceiling is painted red, and is represented as resting on a large double modillion or bracket of the same colour, in the pediment.

55 A plate of the scenes in this tomb will be found in Mon. Ined. Inst. II. tav. 2; also in Mus. Gregor. I. tav. XCIX. Copies, of the size of the originals, exist in the Gregorian Museum at Rome, and in the British Museum, in the "Etruscan Room," over the door.

56 The area, or the arena, so to speak, of this tomb, is 26 ft. by 15½; but if to this be added the depth of the benches, the dimensions will be 41¼ ft. long, by 31 wide. The height is 11 ft., and the floor cannot be less than 30 ft. below the surface of the ground. The pillar is roughly 5 ft. square. The roof is flat, stuccoed, and painted with broad red beams intersecting each other at right angles.

57 The outlines of the figures in these bands are scratched, as well as painted, which is not the case with the figures on the pillar or in the procession.

58 The Etruscan name of this mythical being is not yet known to us. But he bears an analogy to the Typhon of the Egyptians and Greeks, and is significant of the principle of Destruction; just as the Typhon of Egypt was the evil and destructive power, in opposition to Osiris, the good and productive. With the Egyptians he was, in particular, the personification of whirlwinds and storms, — and so Hesiod (Theog. 307) also describes him — δεινόν θ᾽ ὑβριστὴν τ᾽ ἄνεμον; cf. Pliny, II.49, 50. In the Greek mythology Typhon was one of the giants who made war on the gods, and who were smitten by Jove's thunder, and cast beneath Aetna and other volcanoes, where their belchings caused eruptions, and their writhings occasioned earthquakes. Pindar Pyth. I.29 et seq.; (p304)Aeschyl. Prom. 351‑372; Ovid, Met. V.346, et seq.; cf. Virg. Aen. III., 578. Under this same snake-tailed form were the giants described by the ancients. Apollod. I.6.2; Ovid, Trist. IV.7, 7; Pausan. VIII.29; Serv. ad Aen. III.578. Macrobius (Saturn., I.20) gives us the symbolic meaning of these limbs, and says that Aesculapius and Salus were also so imaged. The giants are also represented of this form, on ancient monuments. In a well-known intaglio, Jupiter is driving his quadriga over two of them; on another monument Minerva, and on a third Mars, is slaying a similar being. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. VI. L.4, X. 4. 3, 4. It is obvious that these Giants are symbolic of volcanic powers. Their contests with the Gods took place in the Phlegraean Fields, or in other volcanic regions. Pindar, Nem. I.100; Strab. V. p245, VI. p281; Pausan., loc. cit. The very name of Typhon indicates this meaning — being derived from τῦφος, "smoke," metaphorically, "conceit, arrogance." The origin of the myth is manifest in the volcanoes, the smoking sons of Earth, who dared to brave Heaven, and hurl rocks and fire against the gods. That Etruscans should have had such a being in their demonology is not surprising, when the volcanic character of their country is remembered. In this tomb, he is represented under a solemn, imposing aspect, not with that exaggeration of the horrible that amounts to the grotesque and to caricature, as in the Grotta Dipinta at Bomarzo, and as the Egyptian Typhon is said to be depicted in the Temple of Ombos. Description de l'Egypte, I. pl. XLV. cited by Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. I p173.

59 The Greeks introduced Typhons or Giants into their architecture as Atlantes, as is proved by statues found of late years beneath the Theseum at Athens. Mure's Greece, II. p317. Similar monsters were used by the Romans in architectural decoration as Telamones. At Pompeii, in the Casa della Camera Nera," are many of them painted, supporting the cornice with both hands, as in this Etruscan tomb.

60 The above woodcut serves to show the nature of the Typhon, but fails to give the vigorous design, the Satanic sublimity of the original painting.

61 This inscription is given by Kellermann (Bull. Inst. 1833, No. IV) and is indifferently copied by Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, p178), who gives his interpretation of it. On the cornice of the pillar is a band of wild beasts' heads painted, and below the Typhons is a Doric frieze with patera-like flowers in the metopes.

Orioli gives a minute description of this tomb, which may interest those who delight in mystic and symbolic interpretation. I will state his notions in order to give the reader some idea of the modern Italian school of antiquaries, of which the Professor is one of the most distinguished members; though there are some who do not give so loose a rein to their fancy. In the (p306)sepulchres of the Etruscans generally, as well as in their cities, circuses, amphitheatres, theatres, and temples, he sees "a secret allusion to the economy of the universe and its grand divisions." This particular tomb "manifestly figures the kingdom of shades and the infernal world. The pillar in the centre is the chief of the five mountains which were supposed to support our globe. The surrounding frieze expresses this still better in the language of art; for its upper portion, with waves and dolphins, indicates most clearly the sea which covers the infernal world and surrounds our globe; and the lower, with rose-flowers, indicates the infernal world itself, which has its own peculiar vegetation. The pillar itself, still better to set forth the hidden idea of the artist, bears the rose-flowers, but no waves or dolphins, because the central mountain which it represents has vegetation, but is not covered by the sea. Nor are the mutules and triglyphs without meaning; for as in architecture they represent beams and rafters, so here they are hieroglyphical of the skeleton and frame-work of the infernal world and of its great mountain — a bold artistic metaphor, which of rocks makes beams, but not less bold than that other, which of the waves of the sea makes a meander-pattern." In the figures on the pillar the same writer sees Ceres or the Earth, and her two sons, the giants Othus and Ephialtes, who are supporting and steadying the earth, their kingdom; and in the painted mouldings of the cornice above, he interprets the panther's heads as symbols of monsters guarding the gates of hell; and the foliage as representing that of the upper world, our globe. Ann. Inst. 1834, pp156‑159.

62 This inscription is also given by Kellermann (loc. cit.) and by Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, p155), but not more than half the letters are now legible. Orioli thinks these Latin inscriptions as late as the commencement of the Empire. A local antiquary even took this one for a Christian epitaph, but through an evident blunder. Bull. Inst. 1832, p215.

63 The name of "Pumpu," "Pumpus," or "Pumpuni" (Pompeius or Pomponius) is frequently found also among the sepulchral inscriptions of Chiusi, Cortona, and Perugia. Lanzi, Sagg. II pp419, 444. Vermiglioli, Iscriz. Perug. I. pp199 et seq. 222. 263.

At the last-named site a sepulchre of the "Pumpu" family was discovered in 1792, containing many urns inscribed with this name.

64 This procession, as it existed when the tomb was opened, is represented in Mon. Ined. Inst. II. tav. V. The face of one figure, and the lower part of another in tunic and sandals, are alone now distinguishable; but these fragments suffice to show this scene to have been inferior in style and more archaic in character than the other paintings in this tomb. The altar, or whatever it be, is 5 feet high, 7 feet wide, and 3 feet deep.

65 Orlando Furioso, XII.88, 90:—

Giunse,º ove ne la selva diffonde
Da l' angusto spiraglio di quel monte,
Ch' una capace grotta in se nasconde;
E trovò inanzi ne la prima fonte
Spine e virgulti, come mura e sponde,
Per celar quei, che ne la grotta stanno
Da chi far lor cercasse oltraggio e danno.

Scende la tomba molti gradi al basso,
Dove la viva gente sta sepolta.
Era non poco spazioso il sasso
Tagliato à punte di scarpelli in volta;
Nè di luce diurna in tutto casso,
Benche l' entrata non ne dava molta.

It is not improbable that the legend about the "Cave of Orlando" at Sutri (Chapter IV. p102) may have originated in the above stanzas; in consequence of the general habit among the Italians of giving every event "a local habitation," and every spot "a name."

66 Orlando Furioso, II.70, 71; III.6, 7, 15:—

Ecco nel sasso trova una caverna,

Che si profonda più di trenta braccia,

Tagliato à picchi, ed à scarpelli il sasso

Scende giù al dritto, ed ha una porta al basso.

Nel fondo havea una porta ampia e capace,

Ch' in maggiore stanza largo adito dava . . . .

Dentro la porta andò, ch' adito dava

Ne la seconda, assai più larga, cava.

La stanza quadra, e spaziosa pare

Una devota e venerabile chiesa;

Che sù colonne alabastrine e rare

Con bella architettura era sospesa.

Surgea nel mezzo un ben locato altare

Ch' avea dinanzi una lampada accesa;

E quella di splendente e chiaro foco

Rendea gran lume a l' uno e l' altro loco.

Discopria lo splendor più cose belle

E di scoltura, e di color, ch' intorno

Il venerabil loco haveano adorno.

67 See Chapter XVI. pp243,º 253. This procession is 9 feet in length, and the tallest figure is nearly 6 feet in height. Mrs. Gray (Sep. of Etruria, p213, 3rd edit.) by some unaccountable mistake has described these figures as "not above twelve inches" in height; whereas they are as large as life, covering the entire wall from the upper bench to the ceiling. In this respect also they correspond with those in the Norchian procession.

68 The hammer savours much of the East, thinks Inghirami (Mon. Etrus. I p254), who cites Pococke, the oriental traveller, as saying that the Turks believe in two black demons, who dwell in the sepulchre with the dead, judge him, and punish him with hammers if found guilty. Dr. Braun (Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p274) calls it the solemn symbol of the Cabiri, in whose mysterious worship the Etruscan Charun had his seat and origin.

69 Aeschylus, Cheoph. 1049. Pausanias (I.28) says Aeschylus was the first so to describe the Furies, for in their temple at Athens they were not so represented, nor indeed with any features of the horrible. In the Orphic Hymns (LXVIII.16; LXIX.10), they are described with serpent-locks — ὀφιοπλόκαμοι. So also Ovid, Met. X.349 — atro crinitas angue Sorores — and Catullus, LXIV.193. Virgil also (Aen. VI.280) so describes —

Discordia demens

Vipereum crinem vittis innexa cruentis.

Euripides (Iphig. Taur. 285) seems to mean the same gate — ἐχίδναις ἐστομωμένη. Horace (Od. II.13. 35) and Virgil (Georg. IV.482) describe the snakes as being woven in with the hair of the Furies; and the latter speaks of them as being blue — the colour of those in this Etruscan tomb.

70 See Chap. XIV. page 221.

71 See Chap. XIV. page 227.

72 Virgil, Aen. VI.571 —

Tisiphone . . . torvosque sinistrâ
Intentans angues.

73 So they are represented on monuments, Etruscan or Roman, when persecuting Orestes — as in the celebrated sarcophagus of the Lozzano tomb, outside the walls of Rome, and now in the Lateran Museum; and in the Etruscan sarcophagus of the death of Clytemnestra, in the Museum of Volterra, illustrated by Micali (Stor. Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. CIX), though here the snake is not actually round the arm of the Fury.º

There are two events in Roman history which throw light on this singular painting. The first occurred in the year 328, when the citizens of Fidenae, finding themselves unequal to the Romans in the field, rushed out from their gates, like Furies, armed with torches, and bearing particoloured chaplets like serpents, in order to strike terror into their foes. But the Roman dictator, seeing his men give way under the novel attack, taunted them with being overcome, like bees, by mere smoke, rallied them to the charge, beat back the Fidenates with great slaughter, and captured their city. Liv. IV.33, Flor. I.12, Frontin. Strat. II.4, 17. The second time was in the year 398, when the priests of Tarquinii and Falerii resorted to the same mode of attack, advancing like Furies in the van of their army, armed with flaming torches and brandishing serpents in their hands, and struck a temporary panic into the Romans by the unwonted sight. Liv. VII.17, Frontin. loc. cit. What can be a more correct description of the leading figure in this procession? — and it is interesting to find such a confirmation of history in this very necropolis of Tarquinii. The seekers of analogies between the Celts and Etruscans might find somewhat in Tacitus (Ann. XIV.30), who relates that the women of Mona ran about like Furies armed with torches among the ranks of the Britons who were drawn up on the shore to oppose the landing of the Romans.

74 Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, pp160, 165, 166) suggests this relationship. Urlichs (Bull. Inst. 1839, p47) takes this young demon for a female, who does for souls of her sex what Charun does for the males.

75 Virg. Aen. VI.299, et seq. cf. Seneca, Herc. Fur. III.74, et seq.

76 So it is described by Orioli (Ann. Instit. 1834, p160), but it might as well represent a tibicen playing on the curved tibia of Etruria (Virg. Aen. XI.737), though that is said to have been used at festive scenes. Compare Tibullus (II.1, 86), who calls the crooked pipe Phrygian. The tuba or cornu however, being used at funerals (Virg. Aen. XI.192, Ovid, Amor. II.; Eleg. 6, 6; Petron. Satyr. LXXVIII; A. Gell. XX.2), may well have a place in such a procession as this.

77 The lituus was used by the augurs in their divinations to mark out the heavens into "regions," (Cic. de Divin. I.17, Liv. I.18, Plut. Romul.; A. Gell. V.8; Macrob. Sat. VI.8), of which the Etruscans had sixteen, the Romans only four. Cic. de Divin. II.18. There was also a sort of trumpet called by the same name, probably because it was similarly crooked, (Festus v. Lituus, Cic. de Divin. I.17; A. Gell. loc. cit.); but it was a question whether the trumpet was called from the staff, or the staff from the trumpet. A player on this trumpet was called "liticen," as à tubâ "tubicen," à cornu "cornicen." A. Gell. XX.2, Varro, de Ling. Lat. V, Festus, loc. cit. Müller (Etrusk. IV.1, 5) suggests that the word lituus probably meant crooked in Etruscan.

78 See Chapter XVI. p253, and the woodcut at p243.

79 Ambrosch (de Charonte Etrusco, cited by Dr. Braun, Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p268) regards this paw as belonging to a lion's skin hanging from Charun's shoulders; but it seems to me to be the brachial termination of the demon. So think Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, p163) and Urlichs (Bull. Inst. 1839, p47).

80 In other words it means — Lars Pompeius, son of Aruns . . . . The last word does not seem to be a proper name, but is more like a verb. Kellermann, Bull. Inst. 1833, p56. I have no doubt, from a careful observation of numerous Etruscan inscriptions, that the word "Clan" signifies natus or filius — a conclusion to which I had arrived (Bull. Inst. 1847, p60) before I was aware that Lanzi (Sagg. I pp172, 340) and Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, pp169, 171) had suggested the same meaning. The latter regards it as one of the very few Etruscan words which have survived the lapse of ages. "I know not if it have any relation to the clan of Scotland and Sir W. Scott — I should think not; but I find it still existing among the Tuscans in the word Chiana, corrupted from the Latin Clanis, Glanis, or Clanius, which is evidently the Etruscan clan with a Latin termination." He proceeds to show that Chiana, in the language of modern Tuscany, means a canal, or water-course, whence the emissary of the lake of Perugia has received this name, as also the celebrated Val di Chiana; wherefore he infers that the primitive word clan implied derivation, whether applied to children, to water, or to any thing else.

81 Urlichs (loc. cit.), on the contrary, conceives this procession to represent the triumphal ingress of the dead into the infernal regions, and draws a parallel between it and the triumphal processions of the Romans, as represented on their monuments.

82 The hammer with which Charun is armed, as Dr. Braun remarks (Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p260), is in general rather an attribute than an instrument. Demons with hammers, however, who seem to have much analogy with Charun are sometimes represented in the act of tormenting souls, as in the Grotta Cardinale, and the now lost Grotta Tartaglia, in this necropolis of Tarquinii.

For further details and opinions of this tomb, see Ann. Inst. 1834, p82 (Bunsen); pp153‑181 (Orioli); 1837, 2, p268 (Braun); Bull. Inst. 1832, p214 (Avvolta); 1839, pp46‑48 (Urlichs). A plan of the tomb, with prints of its paintings, will be found in Mon. Ined. Inst. II. tav. 3, 4, 5.

83 This inscription is of two lines kind in black letters on the wall to the left of the doorway, and is now much injured; but the name of Velus Vesi is still distinct. Vesi seems to be the family or gentilitial name of the owners of the tomb — a name which is found not unfrequently among Etruscan inscriptions, generally in its derivatives — Vesial, and Vesialisa. Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. III p98) here reads it "Phelce." I have given it in Etruscan characters, as it now exists, in Bull. Inst. 1845, p138. Byres gives a fragment of another inscription on one of the pillars, but this is now destroyed.

84 One third of the tomb is in an unfinished state. In the central portion, the ceiling is coffered as in the tombs of Chiusi, and the Pantheon at Rome; in the remaining part it is cut into rafters highly decorated with patterns in colour. There is another tomb, very like this in form and arrangement, but without paintings, in a field above the Mercareccia.

85 Yet the best judges do not think that the paintings betray the decadence of the art (Gerhard, Ann. Inst. 1831, p319) — the attenuation of the figures on the wall rather tends to prove an early period. The date that Agincourt (Hist. de l'Art, III. p9) assigns to them — the time of Demaratus — is quite inadmissible. Inghirami (Mon. Etrus., IV p137), who knew them from sketches only, ran to the other extreme, and thought them as late as the Antonines.

86 The drawings made by Byres were engraved, but never reached publication during his lifetime, and after lying perdus in Italy for sixty or seventy years, they have recently been brought to light and published in London — "Hypogaei, or the sepulchral caverns of Tarquinia, by the late James Byrnes, Esq., of Tonley, Aberdeenshire. Edited by Frank Howard, author of the 'Spirit of Shakspeare,' &c., &c. London, Colnaghi, Cadell, Pickering, 1842."

87 There is, however, a mannerism about his drawings, which, after having carefully compared them with the originals, I am compelled to refer to the artist alone, Indeed, from the superior spirit and energy of the original figures, and from the inaccuracy of some of Byres' details, I am of opinion that the engravings were made from slight sketches, in the course of reworking which, some of the peculiarity and spirit of the originals was overlaid by a tame mannerism. Agincourt's evidence is to the same effect — "J'en ai vérifié l'exactitude sur les lieux mêmes; elle est entière quant aux sujets, mais le style du dessin m'a paru amélioré, et n'avoir pas le caractère de celui qui était propre aux Etrusques." Hist. de l'Art, III. p9. It must be confessed, however, that Byres' task cannot have been (p318)much easier than it would be at present; for in his time these figures may not have been in better condition than they are now. Winckelmann speaks of them as very indistinct. Cardinal Garampi, in 1786, said certain of the colours only were preserved, and the figures were in general dark shadows, with the attitudes and outlines distinguishable. And even in 1760, Pacciaudi said they had almost vanished, and were to be made out only by putting the light very close; the red alone being very apparent. Some are now only to be traced by the scratched outline, but others which were merely coloured have faded from the wall.

88 Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. III p99.

89 It has been copied by Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. LXVI), and from him by Mrs. Gray (Sepulchres of Etruria, p203). According to Sir W. Gell (Rome, &c., I. p376) "many of these figures are positively the same as those represented in the Phigaleian marbles, and particularly the group in which one warrior prevents another from killing his wounded foe." I confess myself unable to perceive any close resemblance between the groups, though it exists between particular figures.

90 Lanzi, Sagg. II p252.

91 Aeschylus (Eumen. 52) describes the Furies as "black and utterly horrible" — (cf. Orph. Hymn. 69, 6, — κυανόξρωτοι. Eurip. Orest. 321. — μελαχρῶτες), and so they were always represented on the Greek stage. Aeschylus also describes them as clad in sable robes (Eumen. 374. — μελανείμονες, cf. 352. Choeph. 1049 — φαιοχίτωνες). Inghirami (Mon. Etr. I p277, et seq.) opposed the idea that the demons in this tomb were genii, good and bad; and pronounced them all to be Furies. But though many have the attributes of the Eumenides, even as they are represented on Etruscan monuments, the distinctive, nay antagonistic, character is clearly set forth.

92 Byres has drawn these figures with wings at their ankles, sometimes fastened to the leg, and sometimes like those at their shoulders, growing from the flesh — in both which ways the talaria of Mercury and Perseus are represented on ancient monuments. Nothing of this sort could I perceive; it was manifest to me that these were not talaria, but simple buskins with peaked flaps, such as are commonly depicted on vases of the archaic Greek style, and on the legs of Roman Lares in the paintings of Pompeii. This fact is most clearly marked, for where the flesh is black, as in the case of the evil spirits, the flaps and all the leg below them are red; and where the flesh is red, the buskins are black. Talaria, however, would (p320)not be unapt attributes of the evil demons, for the Furies are described by Aeschylus (Eumen. 74, 111, 131, 147, 231, 246) as chasing guilty souls as hunters chase their prey, and are represented by other ancient writers as being winged (Eurip. Orest. 317; Iphig. Taur. 287; Orph. Hymn. 68.5; Virg. Aen. XII.848); and so they are often represented on Greek and Etruscan vases, running rapidly with wings both at their shoulders and ankles. Aeschylus (Eumen. 51, 250) however describes them as wingless.

93 See Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p261. This is the scene misrepresented by Mrs. Gray (Sep. Etr. p198) as a contest between a good and evil spirit for the possession of a soul, whereas it is clear that they are, literally as well as metaphorically, pulling together. Inghirami (Mon. Etrus. IV. tav. 25) represents a large amphora on the car with a draped figure standing behind it.

94 Plato ap. Apuleium de Deo Socratis, p48, ed. Lutet. 1625.

95 Byres has represented almost all these demons, both good and bad, as females. But two or three of the former only can now be distinguished as of that sex; a few are clearly males; but the majority preserve no sexual distinction. Yet it is not probable that Byres is correct in this particular, judging from the analogy of the sepulchral urns, on which the winged demons, especially those who are mere messengers of Death, are commonly represented of the fair sex, and may be called "Junones;" but those with hammer or mallet, as allied to Charun, are generally males, or "Genii," though Byres here represents them as females. So in the copies made by Cattel, by order of Millin (Inghir. Mon. Etrus. I p273, VI. tav. E. 3), and so Agincourt also represents them (Histoire de l'Art, IV. pl. 10, and Ingh. I. p275, IV. tav. 27); but Micali makes them almost all males.

96 Virg. Aen. VI.555 —

Tisiphoneque sedens, pallâ succincta cruentâ
Vestibulum exsomnis servat noctesque diesque.

It seemed to me a male, but others have taken it for a female. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. IV. tab. 25, VI. C.3. A figure very similar will be found on an Etruscan sarcophagus in the Campo Santo of Pisa.

97 Though I have heard antiquaries of renown question the truth of this scene as represented by Byres, I see no reason to do so. It is certain that the figures on the wall, as far as it is possible to make them out, correspond with those in his plate, though almost all distinctive character has vanished. The stone-bearer and the tree are the most distinct portions; the two genii are far from clear; and it is only possible to perceive that something like two children has existed in the centre of the scene. The soul in the gateway appears to me to be leaning indolently against the wall. Moreover, as I have compared the whole series of Byres' plates with the original paintings, as far as it was practicable, and have found them to correspond in subject and general character, though not always in minute detail, I am willing to accord him credit for accuracy, in the subject at least of this scene. The apparent confirmation of his correctness afforded by Lanzi (II. p252) who mentions a representation of Psyche with butterfly-wings in the paintings of this tomb (cf. Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. IV.p112), is open to suspicion, as Lanzi had evidently seen his drawings, and probably described from them, not from the originals.

98 This figure is represented leaning on a lituus. Byres draws him with wings, but I could perceive no traces of them. He has a snake on the ground by his side. None of the genii in this tomb have these reptiles bound round their brows, as in the Grotta Pompej; but Byres gives drawings of two monstrous serpents, drawn with great boldness, each bestridden by a boy, who is lashing it with a cord. They are no longer visible.

99 These figures are represented by Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. LXV) as bearing agricultural implements, which, as he gives them, are very like those used in this part of Italy at the present day; but in Byres' plates no such instruments are given, nor could I perceive them in the paintings.

100 This tomb has been described by Pacciaudi, in Caylus, Antiq. Egypt. Etrus. IV. p110; Piranesi, Maniere d' adornar gli edifizi, p22; Winckelmann, Storia delle Arti. I. lib. III. cap. 2, § 23, 24; Garampi, ap. Tirabos. Litter. Ital. I. p50. Micali, Italia vanti il dominio de' Romani, tav. LI. — all quoted at length by Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. IV. Ragion. VI. No copies of the paintings in this, or in the Grotta Tifone, have been preserved in the Vatican or in the British Museum.


Thayer's Notes:

a O how I wish Dennis had not written this! This off-the‑cuff aside of his will probably be responsible for half the traffic to this webpage. The serious student is reminded that of all the lunacies written in connection with the Etruscans, almost none has any basis in definite fact. Let not the aquiline noses of three dancing women in one decaying fresco out of hundreds scattered thruout Etruria convince you that the Tribe of Dan lurks in central Italy. . . .

b This whole passage says very little about the Etruscans, and a good deal about 19c European Christianity: the younger student especially should beware of the many not-very-concealed assumptions, to which, fortunately, Dennis himself, an honest man, tips us off by explicitly stating that he is looking at it all "from the high vantage-ground of Christianity".

Two assumptions stand out, one factual, one moral:

Facts first. There is not a shred of evidence that the Etruscans "believed in the materiality of the soul"; no Etruscan literature, philosophy, or non-ritual religious text survives; we do not know what they believed. Nor is there any evidence that their view was "bounded by a paradise of mere sensual gratification", or that "their Elysium was but a glorification of the present state of existence . . . enhanced by increased capacities of enjoyment"; here Dennis is arguing not with the Etruscans, whose views are unknown, but with Islam: such things are set forth in crude and explicit detail in Mohammedan scripture.

Moral assumption next: what is "inappropriate" about scenes of life and happiness in a tomb? Not only Dennis never says, merely referring vaguely to death as solemn — in the 21c, I think of it mostly as disgusting and a clear sign of a generally evil world — but he runs against classic Christian theology of all denominations, and of the highest antiquity. We will watch him defend the debased Christianity of Victorian England in the paragraph that follows, in which, aware that in many countries joy and feasting are not viewed as incompatible with a Christian view of death, he lays it to the door of "isolated" (read primitive, not thoroughly Christianized) cultures. Any Mexican Christian, for example, who reads this passage of Dennis will be as unpleasantly mystified as I; as will my Russian Orthodox friends in Washington, DC many years ago with whom I sang pannikhida so many times, immediately afterwards sharing funeral feasts, of varying moods, with singing and vodka.

There is indeed a moral in all this, and it's not the one that Dennis wants to convey. It is very difficult indeed for us to "cast ourselves back into antiquity".


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