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Publisher's Summary

How much do you know about the Etruscans? Many people, even those who are fascinated by ancient history, are less familiar with this intriguing culture than with the history of Greece and Rome - but the story of the Etruscans is equally captivating and far more important than you may have known. This ancient civilization prospered in the region of modern-day Tuscany, maintaining extensive trade networks, building impressive fortified cities, making exquisite art, and creating a culture that, while deeply connected to the Greeks and Romans, had striking contrasts.

The Etruscans were the original inhabitants of central Italy. Centuries before Rome's rise, they built cities such as Pompeii, Capua, and Orvieto along fortified hilltops. They developed a system of roads and invented what we call the Roman arch. While they had their own system of government, their own myths and legends, and their own cultural attributes, the Etruscans imported and repurposed much from the Greeks - and, in turn, gave much to the Romans. You might be surprised to find out how much of Roman civilization - from togas to bronze military armor to Rome itself - actually has Etruscan origins. The Etruscans are largely responsible for:

  • transmitting the alphabet to the Romans and other ancient societies as far away as the Nordic regions
  • granting Rome much of its celebrated architecture and infrastructure, from the Cloaca Maxima water-control system to the storied arch
  • developing exquisite works of bronze and terra-cotta, as well as mesmerizing tomb paintings
  • creating well-known symbols of republican government, imagery that still lives on in US government buildings like the Lincoln Memorial

Without the Etruscans, much of what we associate with the Roman world, and thus the foundations of Western civilization, would largely disappear.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

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Does What it Can with Limited Material

This is a good course, bound to expand your knowledge of the Etruscans, as well as of the Romans and Greeks. But you may need to adjust your expectations to really enjoy it. As the title suggests -- and Professor Steven L. Tuck is up-front about this -- much about the Etruscans remains mysterious even to scholars.

As a people without a literature, the Etruscans didn't leave us much in the way of stories or contemporary accounts; those we do have come from biased Greek and Roman sources. Thus, scholarship leans heavily on archaeology (chiefly tomb paintings, it seems) to tell us about their culture, and Tuck does an admirable job extrapolating. The supplied PDF is useful for images, but you'll probably want to image search the various tombs mentioned for full-color photos.

Some of the most interesting info here is about cultural exchange in the ancient Mediterranean. For instance: a vast majority of the Attic vases found to date were found not in Greece but in Etruscan tombs. And many of the cultural practices we think of as quintessentially Roman (triumphal processions, gladiatorial combat) had Etruscan origins.

By no fault of Professor Tuck's, you'll walk away with only a sketchy understanding of the Etruscans… But your knowledge of the Greeks and especially the Romans will be deepened significantly.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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New Clues In The Etruscan Mystery

What did you love best about The Mysterious Etruscans?

<br/>So much is still unknown about the Etruscans, but this lecture series gives a nice overview of recent archaeological finds and academic scholarship (up through 2015). <br/><br/>The course focus is cultural and its organization is thematic, which works well and is appropriate based on our knowledge or lack thereof. I always appreciate how Professor Tuck discusses the generally accepted theories while including his own thoughts and presenting interesting alternative theories. Importantly, he also highlights areas that are still a total mystery. <br/><br/>We haven't yet solved the Etruscan puzzle, but I enjoyed this enthusiastic presentation of newly found pieces.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I had no idea so much was known

What did you love best about The Mysterious Etruscans?

These lectures covered a very wide range of topics about the Etruscans and taught me much more than I'd expected to learn. I was especially impressed to find out how much they contributed to Roman civilization and also how high the status of women was in Etruscan society.

What other book might you compare The Mysterious Etruscans to and why?

SPQR by Mary Beard. These cover similar periods and are similarly wide in their range of topics.

What about Professor Steven L. Tuck’s performance did you like?

It was easy to understand but also rather annoying because of his propensity to stress the unimportant words in the sentences ("and" "of") rather than the major nouns and verbs. I hear this sort of speaking on the radio all the time and I cannot understand why people do it. It really detracts from the listener's ability to grasp the main points.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Neither. It's not that kind of book. However, it did make me change my plans for my upcoming trip to Italy so that I can visit some of the Etruscan sites that are mentioned in the lectures. I'm pretty excited about that!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Honora
  • Washington, DC
  • 07-10-17

Didn't get very far in this.

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

I was really looking forward to this course. I've always been fascinated by the Etruscans and have been to many cities founded by them. First, Tuck lost me when he said Florence was an Etruscan city. It is not. Fiesole is but not Florence. <br/>Then the speaking style of the Professor is grating, his info. irritatingly personal and irrelevant. I guess he's trying to be funny but if I were grading a student paper with this content I would say "Weak beginning. Your reader doesn't care how many folksy people you asked about the Etruscans. Get to the content without boring or patronizing your audience." I can't imagine anyone who doesn't know anything about the Etruscans listening to this course. What is the point of telling the listener how many people at the grocery didn't know who the Etruscans were?

How could the performance have been better?

Some actual content that was organized and presumed a modicum of intelligence on the part of the listener.

Any additional comments?

I am sorry to be so blunt but this was a real disappointment. It seems GC is going for a more folksy, chatty, personal style that seems so inappropriate and grating. As if actual content must be introduced slowly or listeners will be too intimidated by ideas. <br/><br/>One the other hand, I loved Elizabeth Vandiver's The Aeneid. Content rich. Fast moving. Wish GC had more like it but unfortunately, this newer, folksy, chatty, beginnings and strange interludes seem forced which makes me suspect it is a new direction the company is imposing on instructors. Anti-intellectualism comes to GC.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam
  • Raleigh, NC, United States
  • 12-08-17

Eye opening. More than I expected

I had this course in my wishlist for a long time but was hesitant to use one of my credits. I thought there wasn't much to say about the Etruscans. I was under the mistaken impression that their history was largely shrouded and lost. This course opened my eyes and really helped me appreciate this important culture that I knew nothing about!

The course is entertaining as well as informative. The presenter is witty, knowledgeable, clear spoken, and shows a genuine enthusiasm and love for his subject. The only criticism I could levy is that the presenter seems to sometimes give the Etruscans a bit too much credit or emphasis. However, this comes across as another show of genuine enthusiasm and a desire to make the Etruscan historical contribution clear. Its also, for lack of a better word, kind of cute.

Overall I heartily recommend this course. I especially recommend listening to this after having listened to a couple of the courses on Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Near Eastern ancient empires. Putting the Etruscans in that context makes this course even more interesting.

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Totally Dug It!

This is a must have for history buffs. Eventually, what's argued here will be standard material!

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Thorough, Definitely Worth Your Time

I highly recommend this series, especially if you aren't familiar Etruscan culture, as I was when I picked this up. There's enough intriguing material in the first five lectures to get you hooked, even if you're not coming in with a burning interest in the Etruscans. As a culture, the Etruscans feel delightfully alien compared to other ancient Mediterranean civilizations. For me, learning about Etruscan beliefs and culture gave me that same sense of wonder as when I first learned about Ancient Greek mythology as a kid. The lectures on Necropoli and the Etruscan Afterlife were my personal highlights of the course. In my current hierarchy of Great Courses lecturers, Dr. Tuck ranks solidly in the top 5, up there with John Hale, Kenneth Harl, and Dorsey Armstrong.

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Somewhat Underwhelming

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Steven L. Tuck?

Yes of course and probably not

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Simply put, there is almost no historical narrative, major characters, or script. Unfortunately there just isn't a large enough written body of information on the Etruscans alone to create a compelling narrative. This lecture would be MUCH more palatable in visual format. Much of the narrators time is spent describing tombs, frescos, pottery, and the like because this is the majority of the "record" the Etruscans left us. It could perhaps be improved by combining it with other contemporary civilizations like Rome and/or Carthage who's civilizations left us rich records. Professor Tucks performance is quite dull, with spasms of energy and charisma.

What three words best describe Professor Steven L. Tuck’s performance?

Dry, uninspiring, somewhat boring

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes absolutely. The wonder of the Etruscans lies in the visual artifacts left from tomb complexes to pottery to cities. This just simply cannot be conveyed through audio. The entire lecture I was wishing I could just watch this as a television series.

Any additional comments?

I would recommend not spending you money on the audio version but perhaps the video lectures.

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A Thorough and Academically Credible Examination

What did you love best about The Mysterious Etruscans?

Far too often the history of Italy is overshadowed by the well-known culture and society of the Romans. Again, all too often, the other ancient peoples of Italy, who lived before and during the rise of the Roman Republic and later Empire are treated as little more than notations in many academic and popular histories of Italy. This course takes an important step in remedying that problem.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mysterious Etruscans?

Tuck's analysis of the impact and influence of early and later Etruscan religious practices on the emerging culture of the Roman world can not be understated, which is repeatedly addressed in this course.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Steven Tuck PhD., is not a professional narrator. He is a distinguished scholar and gifted lecturer, but at times his manner of speech could be a little more energetic. Perhaps more subtle changes in tonal quality would help keep the listener's attention more focused. All in all, Tuck does a good to fair job in engaging his audience.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No.

Any additional comments?

Professor Tuck is a stellar academic. With that said, it is necessary to point out that as an audible book, this lecture relies heavily upon the description(s) of numerous archaeological sources, such as tomb paintings, vase artwork and the like. Without actually seeing these references, it might be hard for a more casual listener to fully appreciate the splendor and magnitude of these pieces. Fortunately, I had access to numerous outside sources which provided excellent pictures/videos of many of the referenced tomb paintings and statuary.

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Fascinating history and good lectures

Where does The Mysterious Etruscans rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's among the best three or so of the Great Courses.

What about Professor Steven L. Tuck’s performance did you like?

He is truly fascinated by the Etruscans and manages to convey the enthusiasm to the listener, I think.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

At times I was impressed.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-10-16

Interesting, but repetitive.

Not enough material to justify it's length.. Would have been better done in half the chapters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • 05-17-17

fascinating exploration of an often missed topic

this is a course that probably best serves those who already have a good understanding of the ancient world.

For those who think they know Rome, think again. Every chapter was an eye opener and filled in major gaps that I didn't know I had in my knowledge.

I found myself immersed in the story of a really likeable civilisation and I shall certainly explore them further as they deserve to live in our memories.

Highly recommended .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Christine lee
  • 10-02-16

The Mysterious Etruscans

What would have made The Mysterious Etruscans better?

It was just dull . Too bad as I love the subjectand was excited to find it on audio.

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

I was really happy to find it on audio.

How could the performance have been better?

Rewrite and renovate. The structure of the lectures was weak. Engage Nigel Spivey to write and narrate an Etruscan series.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

disappointment

Any additional comments?

Moving on. Best thing on The Great Courses is the History of Ancient Egypt. Very good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Pauline M
  • 11-15-16

Etruscans revealed

If you could sum up The Mysterious Etruscans in three words, what would they be?

No longer so mysterious. A really interesting account of a fascinating people, where women were treated as autonomous human beings.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mysterious Etruscans?

Learning about all the cultural borrowings from the Etruscans by the ancient Romans.

What about Professor Steven L. Tuck’s performance did you like?

A really thorough account of Etruscan life.