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sport in Etruria


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Etruscan society, based in the geographical region of what became northern Italy, pre-dated and was coterminous with classical Greek (Athenian) civilization, and overlapped with the emergent Roman republic. Often absorbed into generalized accounts of classic Mediterranean culture and civilization, the Etruscans were actually considered by Greek and Roman writers to be different from other societies of their time. Scholarly consensus recognizes that Etruscans have prehistoric antecedents in Etruria itself, and that Etruscan civilization was influenced by Greek society (though Etruscans, classified as ‘barbarian’, were barred from the Greeks' four-yearly athletic festivals). Sporting events in Etruria were widely associated with death and represented in funerary art. Funeral games may have included brutal and unequal struggles between human victim and animal, and illustrations of forms of boxing, wrestling, and tug-of-war have been preserved in Etruscan tombs. The Etruscans took other sports from the Greeks, such as discus-throwing. At pan-Etruscan festivals, a range of activities was staged, as depicted on an Etruscan black-figure amphora of the later 6th century bc. One probable Etruscan legacy to Roman sporting culture, scholars agree, was the notion of the public sporting event. The first laying out of the Circus Maximus at Rome may have been modelled on Etruscan precedent, and Roman chariot racing drew on Etruscan practice, including the use of three-horse teams and the attire of the charioteer. (See G. Barker and T. Rasmussen, The Etruscans, 2001.)

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