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When discussing ancient European civilizations, most people think of the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece, as the culture of the people inhabiting those lands, are very well-researched. However, in reality, many other developments existed on the continent during the time with their own interesting customs and ways of living. In particular, it is intriguing to theorize about the culture of the Etruscan civilization, which inhabited the Apennine Peninsula. While these people lived in close proximity to the Roman Empire and were even assimilated into it in the 1st century BC, they were greatly influenced by the Greeks as well. Many of the artworks and cultural findings that were recovered from ancient times relate to death and the different rituals this event entails. This is particularly true for tombs as they are monuments explicitly built for the dead and their journey into the afterlife. This trend is true for the Etruscan civilization as well. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the Tomb of Augurs, one of the more prominent monuments of this culture, according to its appearance and cultural significance.
The Description of the Tomb of the Augurs
The city of Tarquinia is known for having many burial monuments. This collection includes one of the more popular sites of the Etruscan culture, the Tomb of Augurs (Kleiner, 2015, p. 170). The name comes from a Latin word pertaining to a type of priest who was mistakenly believed to be portrayed on one inside it. The particularity of the Tomb of the Augurs is the fact that it is one of the first monuments in Tarquinia to have “figural decorations on all four walls of its main chamber” (Kleiner, 2010, p. 34). It is also important to note that unlike other burial vaults that had mythological themes, the chosen cultural construction depicts burial rituals.
One side of the tomb has a door that many researchers interpret as the symbolic entrance to the Underworld as the individual drawn next to it is shown in a position which signifies mourning (Kleiner, 2010). The right wall of the monument depicts a man in a purple gown who is believed to be of high standing and his attendees. While historians have theorized that this fresco could represent the deceased for whom such a lavish burial monument would be built, this fact is not confirmed. The rest of the right wall, as well as the left and front walls, depict various burial games, including a wrestling match (Kleiner, 2010). Another man is shown holding the leash of a dog-like animal that is attacking its victim.
The Significance of the Tomb of the Augurs
The fact that modern linguists do not know the civilization’s language as well as they do Latin or ancient Greek affects the analysis of the tomb. However, there are many indications that the concept of death and an individual’s journey to the afterlife were as important to the people of Ancient Italy as they were to the citizens of other ancient countries. For instance, important religious text existed on the topics of death, the grave, and the afterlife (Thompson de Grummond & Simon, 2009). The number of tombs that were discovered in Tarquinia only strengthens this belief amongst historians. The Tomb of Augurs is significant to the Etruscan culture as it was a burial monument meant to help an individual pass into the afterlife, a process that was considered important in many ancient civilizations. Nowadays, this vault provides an insight into some of the rituals that were practiced after a person’s death and what was important to depict on its walls.
Despite, the Etruscan culture still being a mystery in some respects, there are clear indications of the importance of the concept of death and an individual’s journey into the afterlife. This is supported by the tombs discovered in Tarquinia, in particular the Tomb of Augurs. This monument is special for the number of illustrations present on its walls that depict the rituals that took place after an individual’s death.
Kleiner, F.S. (2010). A history of Roman art: Enhanced edition. Cengage Learning.
Kleiner, F.S. (2015). Gardner’s art through the ages: A global history. Cengage Learning.
Thompson de Grummond, N., & Simon, E. (2009). The religion of the Etruscans. University of Texas Press.