BMCR 2010.02.32

New Perspectives on Etruria and Early Rome: In Honor of Richard Daniel De Puma

, , New Perspectives on Etruria and Early Rome: In Honor of Richard Daniel De Puma. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009. xxiv, 305. ISBN 9780299230302. $55.00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This collection of essays honours the personality and work of Richard Daniel de Puma, of the University of Iowa, whose many essays and volumes on Etruscan ceramics, jewellery and mirrors, and more recently on Etruscan fakes and forgers, have always been models of careful and intelligent scholarship.

The essays cover a broad and diverse range. Togninelli gives an account of the region around Crustumerium, where de Puma has excavated. This area is fascinating because it demonstrates chronological transitions from the Iron Age into the archaic period, and also shows the fluidity of ethnic identities in an area between Latium and the Sabina. The chapter may be profitably read alongside Cupito’s explanation of the work by La Sapienza University in the region, and there is more to come from this interesting site.1

Peter Holliday’s examination of the never completed terracotta sculptural group at Civitalba (Picenum), with a pediment representing Dionysus’ discovery of the abandoned Ariadne, and a frieze of Gauls pillaging a temple but being interrupted by the gods, shows their debt to Pergamene art. As others have done, Holliday interprets the group in the context of the foundation of colonies at Pisaurum and Potentia by the censors M. Fulvius Nobilior and Q. Fulvius Flaccus, who had celebrated victories over Aetolians and Celtiberians, and the victories of Cn. Manlius Vulso over the Galatians. Holliday concludes (38) that the sculptural groups point to Roman victories over the Gauls (and this one is therefore doubly appropriate given the importance of the Roman victory over a coalition of Gauls and Etruscans at Sentinum in 295 BC), but also ‘the desired unification of local peoples with Rome.’

Soren and Nell describe, with interesting virtual reconstructions, the complex at Chianciano Terme, hypothesising a connection with the fonts Clusini. There seems to have been some sort of bath building here already in the second century BC, although the heyday of the site is second century AD.

Green discusses the tutelary deities of the Circus Maximus, with an emphasis on the deities of boundaries who are associated with the area. The importance of the Circus Maximus in some reconstructions of the rape of the Sabine Women is discussed. Another aspect to be added to this is Wiseman’s emphasis on plebeian deities in this area.2

Steingräber declares that the collection of Etruscan objects in Tenri University Sankokan Museum, in Tenri City Japan, contains a large number of evident fakes, though it remains unclear where they came from; they were collected on the art market. Turfa’s essay on the combination of genuine, replica and fake jewellery in the University of Pennsylvania Museum is intriguing, and demonstrates the muddle in the late 19th century. Some of the replica material is attributed to the Castellani workshop. This group of essays concludes with an interesting account by de Gennaro, again based on Crustumerium, of the importance of loan exchanges for the avoidance of looting. This account concludes with support for the exchange of entire funerary deposits, thus avoiding the dissociation of finds from their archaeological context.

Essays on art and iconography follow. Clarke discusses how Pompeian wall painters used a combination of mechanisms, including figure books, outline books and sample books, but not perhaps one-to-one tracing as he has found for mosaics, to replicate images. Small shows the limitations of linear perspective, and thereby that the Romans may have actively decided against it as a predominant method. Bonfante shows the way that the Baubo or anasyrma gesture was used in Etruscan and Roman art, with a strong emphasis on apotropaic symbolism, and traces the complex relationship between nudity as shameful and as a sign of powerful beauty, culminating in an interesting account of a Roman bronze figurine of Victoria. Nielsen discusses a female figure from a sarcophagus originally showing both husband and wife, and attributes it to Perugia which now seems to have a number of such sarcophagi from the second or first century BCE. Carpino discusses a number of mirrors with duelling figures, including an interesting Tydeus and Melanippos depiction from the mid-fifth century at Blera. Carpino uses this to challenge the view that all mirrors were destined for female patrons, but they can certainly be seen in the same broader context which Menichetti demonstrated for Praenestine ciste.3

Warden’s essay interestingly tackles the funerary sacrifices and anthropophagy evident in a variety of Etruscan art. This takes Warden to some very interesting suggestions of links between transformation through animals towards immortality. This is a challenging and provocative chapter, with reference to a number of important examples, including the Amazon sarcophagus of Ramtha Huzcnai, with its Actaeon scene, depictions of funerary sacrifice, the Murlo terracottas and Etruscan tomb painting. Similarly interesting is Camporeale’s attempt to identify evidence for the deification of the deceased, especially of ancestors of family descent groups. Both chapters have to depend heavily on guesses and assumptions in the absence of secure textual evidence, but show the potential of the evidence. Tuck’s comparison of Vanth and the Celtic Badb is also speculative since the representations of the latter are much later. Vanth appears in the fourth century, so there are perhaps references taken from the Celtic world, but it is also true that we struggle to understand fully the role of Vanth.

The last three essays are quite disparate. Mattusch discusses the row between Winckelmann and the Reale Accademia Ercolanese di Archeologia over his premature and inaccurate publication of a bust from the series at the Villa dei Papiri. Rowland writes a brilliant account of a lost work by Athanasius Kircher entitled Iter Hetruscum, which we know largely through the Jesuit censors’ rejection of it. Rowland suggests that Kircher may have been engaged in highly complex games in his presentation of the Etruscans. The chapter reminds us of the difficulties of Etruscan scholarship in its earliest phases. The volume concludes with Edlund-Berry’s account of some fictional representations of Etruria, and the way our increasing knowledge of Etruscan material culture feeds a fascination with this society.

The volume is well presented and contains much of interest. Coherence is a little wayward, but de Puma’s own broad scholarship is well-reflected and celebrated here.

Table of Contents

1. Paolo Togninelli, Between Crustumerium and Eretum: Observations on the First Iron Age Phases and the Finds from the Archaic Period

2. Peter J. Holliday, Civitalba and Roman Programs of Commemoration and Unification

3. David Soren and Erin Nell, Etruscan Cults in Roman Times: The Strange Ruins of Chianciano Terme

4. Carin Green, The Gods in the Circus

5. Stephan Steingräber, Far from Etruria: Etruscan Fakes in Japan

6. Jean MacIntosh Turfa, “Etruscan” Gold from Cerverteri (and Elsewhere) in the University of Pennsylvania Museum

7. Francesco di Gennaro, From Crustumerium: A Proposal against Looting. Loans in Exchange for Resources for Preservation

8. John R. Clarke, How Did Painters Create Near-Exact Copies? Notes on Four Center Paintings from Pompeii

9. Jocelyn Penny Small, Is Linear Perspective Necessary?

10. Larissa Bonfante, Some Thoughts on the Baubo Gesture in Classical Art

11. Marjatta Nielsen, One More Etruscan Couple at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

12. Alexandra A. Carpino, Dueling Warriors on Two Etruscan Bronze Mirrors from the Fifth Century B.C.E.

13. P. Gregory Warden, The Blood of Animals: Predation and Transformation in Etruscan Funerary Representation

14. Giovannangelo Camporeale, The Deified Deceased in Etruscan Culture

15. Anthony Tuck, On the Origin of the Vanth: Death Harbingers and Banshees in the Etruscan and Celtic Worlds

16. Carol C. Mattusch, Guests, Hosts, and Politics at Herculaneum

17. Ingrid Rowland, The Lost Iter Hetruscum of Athanasius Kircher (1665-78)

18. Ingrid Edlund-Berry, Larthi, Turms, and Vel: Real Etruscans in Modern Fiction


1. C. Cupito, Il territorio tra la via Salaria, l’Aniene, il Tevere e la via “Salaria Vetus” : Municipio II Rome, 2007.

2. T. P. Wiseman, The Myths of Rome. Exeter, 2004: 63-96.

3. M. Menichetti, Quoius forma virtutei parisuma fuit… Ciste prenestine e cultura di Roma medio-repubblicana, Rome, 1996.