The Origin of the Etruscans

Etruscan mural of the God Typhon, from Tarquinia
Etruscan mural of the God Typhon, from Tarquinia
The Origin of the Etruscans

R.S.P. Beekes

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen: Amsterdam (2003)


Herodotus says that the Etruscans came from Lydia. The question is whether this is correct. My answer is: yes, but the Lydians lived at that time (also) in another area.

The question of the origin of the Etruscans is one of the most debated problems of antiquity. Nowadays most scholars are convinced that they came from Asia Minor (Turkey); only in Italy does a large number of scholars deny or doubt this. The eastern origin seems certain to me, for reasons that I will present below.

However, an important part of the problem has not been solved: where exactly in Asia Minor did they come from, and was this in Lydian territory, as Herodotus says? Until now we had no arguments pointing especially to Lydia. On the contrary, the indications we have seem not to point to the area called Lydia in antiquity. My solution, then, is that the Lydians lived originally in a different area than in Herodotus’ time (at least partly; this matter cannot now be decided). Therefore our story falls into two parts. the prehistory of the Lydians. what this tells us about the origin of the Etruscans. We shall see that after establishing the older habitat of the Lydians the question of the origin of the Etruscans is solved, without the need of further assumptions.

I arrived at this idea via a linguistic question – the old name of the Lydians. I was interested in this question because my field is comparative Indo-European linguistics. I had looked into the problem of Etruscan origins earlier, but without reaching any new insight. This time, by chance, I found the solution. As the matter has a rather complicated background, I shall make a few preliminary remarks.

Click here to read this article from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

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