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Bill Thayer

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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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Etruscan mirror,
representing "Phuphluns," "Semla," and "Apula,"
Bacchus, Semele, and Apollo.

(Frontispiece to Volume I)

This work is the fruit of several tours made in Etruria between the years 1842 and 1847. It has been written under the impression that the Antiquities of that land, which have excited intense interest in Italy and Germany during the last twenty or thirty years, deserve more attention than they have hitherto received from the British public; especially from those swarms of our countrymen who annually traverse that classic region in their migrations between Florence and Rome. A few Englishmen, eminent for rank or acquirements, have long been practically acquainted with the subject — but till the appearance of Mrs. Hamilton Grey's work on "The Sepulchres of Etruria" the public at large was in a state of profound ignorance or indifference. That lady is deserving of all praise for having first introduced Etruria to the notice of her countrymen, and for having, by the graces of her style and power of her imagination, rendered a subject so proverbially dry and uninviting as Antiquity, not only palatable but highly attractive. Her work, however, is far from satisfactory, as all who have used it as a guide will confess; for there are many sites of high interest which she has not described, and on some of those which she has treated many remarkable monuments have been subsequently discovered. It is to supply such deficiencies that I offer these volumes to the public. The interest and curiosity that lady has aroused in the mysterious race to which Italy is indebted for her early civilization, I hope to extend and further to gratify.

The primary object of this work is to serve as a Guide to those who would become personally acquainted with the extant remains of Etruscan civilization. The matter therefore is so arranged that the traveller may readily ascertain what monuments he will find on any particular site. I have deemed it advisable to add succinct notices of the history of each city, so far as it may be learnt from ancient writers, with a view to impart interest to the traveller's visit, as well as to give the book some value to those who would use it, not as a Hand-book, but as a work of classical and antiquarian reference. Yet as the former is its primary character, the traveller's wants and convenience have been particularly consulted — by statements of distances, by hints as to means of conveyance, as to the accommodation to be found on the road, and sundry suchlike fragments of information, which, it is hoped, may prove the more acceptable to him, as they are intended for his exclusive use and benefit.

Some apology may be thought necessary for the copious annotations which give the work pretensions to something more than a mere Hand-book. As in the course of writing it I have had occasion to make frequent references to the classics and to modern works on archaeology, it seemed to me, that by the insertion of my authorities I should avoid the charge of loose and unfounded statements; while at the same time, by collecting and arranging these authorities according to the several subjects on which they bore, and by pointing out the sources whence further information might be derived, I should be rendering service to the scholar and antiquary. Yet to avoid swelling the work to an undue extent, I have contented myself, for the most part, with simply indicating, instead of quoting. Though the exhibition of the process by which the work was constructed may be useless or even unpleasing to the general reader, to the student of these matters it will not prove unwelcome.

The obligations I have been under to Cluver, Müller, and other writers, living as well as dead, I must here acknowledge in general terms, as it would be impossible to state the source whence every reference or suggestion has been derived. Yet wherever I have availed myself of the labours of others, I have carefully verified their authorities, or, very rarely, have transferred the responsibility to the proper quarter.

I must also take this opportunity of paying my personal tribute of thanks to certain living antiquaries, whose names stand high in European estimation; particularly to Doctors Braun and Henzen, the secretaries of the Archaeological Institute of Rome, for their kindness in affording me facilities for the prosecution of my studies, especially by placing the copious library of the Institute at my command. To these I must add the names of Professor Migliarini of Florence, whose obliging courtesy has stood me in good stead when in that city; and of Mr. Birch, of the British Museum, who has favoured me with his notes of two sarcophagi at Musignano, described at page 439 of this volume. Nor must I forget to mention my friend and fellow-traveller Mr. Ainsley, to whom I am indebted for the free use of the notes of his Etruscan tours, as well as for several sketches used in illustrating this work.

The drawings of masonry, tombs, and other local remains have been mostly made by myself with the camera lucida. Those of portable monuments are generally copied from various works little known in England. Most of the plans of ancient sites are also borrowed, but two have been made by myself, and though laying no claim to scientific precision, will be found sufficiently accurate for the purposes of the tourist. The general Map of Etruria has been formed principally from Segato's Map of Tuscany, aided by Gell's and Westphal's Campagna di Roma, and by the official maps of the Pontifical State.

My chief aim throughout this work has been truth and accuracy. At least half of the manuscript has been written in Italy, and the greater part of it has been verified by subsequent visits to the scenes described. Notwithstanding, the book has, doubtless, its share of errors and imperfections. Those who take it up for mere amusement will think I have said too much, the scholar and antiquary that I have said too little, on the subjects treated, — on the one hand I may be accused of superficiality, on the other of prolixity and dulness. To all I make my apology in the words of Pliny — Res ardua, vetustis novitatem dare, novis auctoritatem, obsoletis nitorem, obscuris lucem, fastiditis gratiam, dubiis fidem, omnibus vero naturam, et naturae suae omnia — "It is no easy matter to give novelty to old subjects, authority to new, to impart lustre to rusty things, light to the obscure and mysterious, to throw a charm over what is distasteful, to command credence for doubtful matters, to give nature to everything, and to arrange everything according to its nature."

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Page updated: 19 Jun 02