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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a review in the
American Historical Review
Vol. 30 No. 2 (January 1925), p383

The text is in the public domain.

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 p383  [Minor Notices]

Etruria and Rome. By R. A. L. Fell, M. A. [Thirlwall Prize Essay, 1923.] (Cambridge, University Press, 1924, pp. vii, 182, 8s. 6d.) The fascination of Etruria is as perennial as it is elusive. Mr. Fell admits that "any study of the Etruscans must inevitably cover some ground on which much work has already been done". The reviewer fails to find much outside that category. Nevertheless this Thirlwall Prize Essay is well done. It has four parts. In part I ("The Origin and Growth of the Etruscan Power") are stated the theories of Etruscologists on the provenience of this puzzling people. Mr. Fell sides with those who hold the Etruscans to be an Asiatic people and to have come to Italy by sea, about 850 B.C. The author is at his best in part II ("The Etruscans in Latium"). He traces Etruscan influences in Roman architecture with the help of many an Ariadnean thread, and comes very well out of the maze. He handles the social life and political expansion of Rome under the Etruscans with a less sure hand; he purposely — and sensibly — passes by the dark corridors that might have led him into the limbo of Etruscan phonology; but he neglects his opportunity in touching so lightly Etruscan art, the most tangible thing about them. He mentions in his notes Poulsen's Etruscan Tomb Paintings and Mrs. Van Buren's Figurative Terracotta Revetments — though one is not sure he knows who she is, for he quotes her by three different names in almost successive notes (p66, n. 4; p68, n. 2; p69, n. 3) — but he gets almost nothing from their fine works. It is in "The Roman Conquest of Etruria and Umbria" that the author falls into the same quagmire with his predecessors. He gives the whole story — which he recognizes is not history — which he recognizes is not history — from Roman sources, and documents it in his notes with great care, but when all is said and done, one has arrived — nowhere. Nevertheless, the book is a valuable little résumé.

Ralph Van Deman Magoffin.

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