The highest civilization in Italy before the rise of Rome. Etruria, as it was known to the Latins, was located northwest of the Tiber River, now in modern Tuscany and part of Umbria. While historians have not come to agreement on the origins of these people, the two most popular beliefs are that they had migrated from a great famine in Lydia in the 12 century BC, or they are an ancient, indigenous Italian race.

Etruscan culture evolved around the 8th century BC, achieved its peak of wealth and power about the 6th century, and then declined during the 5th and 4th cent. Etruria had no centralized government but was loosely comprised of a federation of city-states. Important centers were Clusium, Veii, Tarquinii and Perusia.

During the period of 500 B.C., the Etrurians had a great maritime power and colonized Corsica, Elba, Sardinia and the coast of Spain.

The Romans, while having been been greatly influenced by the Etrurians, were distrustful of their power. In the early 4th century, Gallic invasions from the North weakened the Etrurians, giving Rome the opportunity to beat them back and conquer their cities. In 88 B.C. Sulla eradicated the last traces of Etruscan independence.

Etruscans were known for their black bucchero pottery. Their art was heavily influenced by both the Greeks and civilizations from the East with whom they had substantial commerce.

The debate on Etruscan origins reveals the modern obsession with race. Ancient peoples were unified through culture rather than racial origins (this was conspicously true for the Celts, Egyptians and Jews amongst others, all of whom were a mixed people).

The Etruscans were most likely the result of a culture produced by a community of Lydians (and perhaps Trojan Sea People), Gallic tribes and Indigenous peoples. The resultant combination producing a unique and vibrant culture open to further influxes of ideas

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