The Etruscan people were residents of the Roman Empire during the time period before Caesar Augustus was in power. They inhabited various regions of the Italian peninsula before the formation of the Roman Republic, and assimilated into Roman society after the empire’s formation. There were even some Etruscan emperors of Rome in the earlier chapters of the Roman Empire. Despite their longtime residence of modern day Italy, Etruscan customs differed from those of Greco-Roman societies, one of these differences was how they honored their deceased.
Greco-Romans and Etruscans both found their final resting places often inside some type of sarcophagus, but unlike Greco-Romans who buried their dead like we do today, the Etruscan dead saw their sarcophagi entombed in elaborate structures carved out of bedrock. Different types of tombs existed for various levels of society and different families, but there were common themes among all these tombs.
The Banditaccia Necropolis gives us many details of what these tombs were like. The Necropolis or “city of the dead” is a place where wealthy Etruscan families built tombs out of a limestone known as Tufa, and aligned them along a two-hundred acre network of streets. These tombs have a central room surrounded by chambers reserved for the sarcophagi of the dead. The entry halls sometimes have the chambers along the walls as well. There is usually some form of relief decorations and other items on the walls. Additionally, there are usually chairs with various terracotta vases on the seats adorning these chambers which are meant to be items the dead take with them into the next life. The Etruscans believed in the afterlife, as shown by the carving of Cerberus (The three headed dog who guards the gate to the underworld) in the Tomb of the Reliefs within the Banditaccia Necropolis.
If the families honored in the tombs are wealthy enough, there may be paintings adorning the walls within the tomb, and the ceiling in some, like the Tomb of the Leopards. These tomb wall murals show that the families entombed alongside them were of very high status in Etruscan and Greco-Roman society.
If my family were to be laid to rest in a tomb within the Banditaccia Necropolis, I wouldn’t want to have a supersized tomb like the Tomb of Shields and Chairs. My family is not an extremely wealthy upper class family. I would like to have paintings on the walls due to my visually artistic obsessions. Perhaps a reference to Peurto Rican culture due my partner and I both being of Puerto Rican descent. Perhaps something swampy with various native Floridian wildlife like alligators and Florida panthers since we are both native Floridians. As customs dictate there will be a central room to host this painting. Along the walls of this room and the hallway from the entrance to the tomb will be some ornamental items. I would like some objects to reference our beloved family pets. Jackie, my Jack Russell Terrier, and Lucina, my partner’s Persian Cat should be recognized in the tomb. Perhaps our other interests like music, auto racing, and animation could be acknowledged through the designs on the vases placed atop the chair seats.
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