History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 84

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Ancient Italian Peninsula


Etruscans (Iron Age)

The Etruscans were long though to be a pre-Indo-European people in Early Italy. Possibly, it was thought, they were indigenous pre-Neolithic inhabitants of the peninsula, but one school of thought from the twentieth century had them migrating from the eastern steppe immediately prior to their rise around 800 BC. This was deemed unlikely for non-Indo-Europeans as they would have had to make their way through a wall of various Indo-European groups to get there.

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, they were known in their own language as the 'Rasenna' (or 'Rasna'). They were called 'Etrusci' or 'Tusci' by the Romans and 'Tyrrhenoi' or 'Tyrseni' (Tuscans) by the Greeks. Herodotus claimed they were descended from Lydian colonists who landed in Etruria in the thirteenth century BC (perhaps following the collapse of the Hittite empire - he also called them Tyrsenians, the Greek Tyrrhenoi seen above). Hellicanus of Lesbos ascribes their existence to the settlement of Pelasgian refugees, fleeing from the Mycenaean domination of Thessaly.

FeatureEarly twenty-first century genetic studies seemed to support these westwards migration stories to an extent, claiming an unusual eastern heritage for the Etruscans which was found in no other Italian peoples (see feature link for more on this). A 2013 study proposed a connection with Central European Neolithic farmer communities, and a possible onwards ancestral connection through that with the Raeti of the Alpine region.

A 2019 study (edited by John Hawks) came up with a startling new finding, that the Etruscans and Latins were genetically similar despite the Etruscans having a non-Indo-European language. This would seem to suggest that the Etruscans had been culturally and linguistically absorbed by earlier inhabitants of the region, taking up their language. The further suggestion then is that they were originally Proto-Italics of the main West Indo-European branch who 'went native' prior to Indo-European domination of Italy.

A further study (A Genetic Crossroads...) backed up this finding by confirming that Etruscan steppe ancestry was principally the same as that of the Latins. The 2021 study (The origin and legacy of the Etruscans...) applies even more confirmation of a steppe heritage.

The answer then seems to be that the Etruscans were steppe-born Indo-Europeans who were part of the main West Indo-European thrust into lower Central Europe during the period between 3000-2000 BC. It can by hypothesised that they were relatively few in number, and perhaps (hypothesising even further) entered Italy well ahead of the main push by Indo-Europeans which seems to have taken place in the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC.

Once there they found themselves dominated by the indigenous Neolithic inhabitants with Raeti connections so that they adopted Neolithic language and culture, but of course retained their steppe DNA. Any migrations from Anatolia would have taken place well before their arrival, dating from the Sesklo culture in Greece to the end of the 'Old Europe' period of Neolithic farmer domination around 3500 BC.

Their culture flourished in Etruria and the Po Valley in central and northern Italy from around 800 BC. It evolved to take over from the preceding Villanova culture. Etruscan tribes established a series of independent city states which appear sometimes to have acknowledged the authority of a form of high king.

The cities they created included Arimnus (Ariminum, modern Rimini), Arretium (its Roman name - the Etruscan name began with 'Arret-' but the remainder has been lost - modern Arezzo), Caisra (or Cisra, Agylia to the Greeks, Kisry to the Phoenicians, and modern Cerveteri), Clevsin, (modern Chiusi), Curtun (modern Cortona), Perusna (modern Perugia), Pupluna (or Fufluna, modern Populonia), Tarchna (modern Tarquinia), Velathri (or Felathri, modern Volterra), Veii, Velch (modern Volci), Velzna (Volsinii, modern Bolsena), and Vetluna (modern Vetulonia).

The Etruscans dominated northern Italy until the end of their control over the Latin Romans on their southern border. Then, between 509-29 BC they were conquered piecemeal by the Romans and other tribal forces which bordered them. Rome always viewed them as former colonial masters, which coloured the relationship between the two peoples. It also influenced the Roman distrust of, and vehement opposition to, kings in their own territories. Julius Caesar's fate was partially decided because some Romans feared that he wanted to establish himself as a king in the city (despite his murder, his adopted son went one better and established himself as emperor in all but name).

Some of the principle Etruscan city states mentioned above are included in the timeline below, along with their known rulers. Etruscan city names are shown first, and then the more familiar Latin version of the city's name and its modern equivalent in parenthesis. The earliest rulers are semi-legendary, while others are known from inscriptions but cannot be dated. Details about the Etruscans tend to be sketchy, and their language is still a mystery today. Most records regarding them were made or preserved by the Romans, and were influenced by Roman views.

Rulers of the cities were known as a lauchum, an elected position which was nevertheless for life. Rather than governing like medieval monarchs, the position seems to have been closer to that of the priest-kings of ancient Sumeria, tending to the secular administration of the city, its spiritual life, and also serving as a battle leader in times of trouble.

Etruscan art

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson (linguistics) and Adam Casanovas (DNA research findings), from The Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, J C Yardley, & Anthony A Barrett, from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Perseus Digital Library, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Polybius, Histories, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans' mtDNA, John Hawks (Ed, 2013, available via the National Library of Medicine), and Ancient Rome: A genetic crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean (Science, 2019), and The origin and legacy of the Etruscans (Science, 2021).)

Etruscan Legendary Period
c.1150 - 800 BC

Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans were descended from Lydian colonists who landed in Etruria in the thirteenth century BC (perhaps following the collapse of the Hittite empire). This is largely reflected in the earliest 'Etruscan' names, which are of an improbably early date so that they can be tied with the Lydian kings.

While this story is dismissed by modern historians, there has long been a leaning towards the idea that the Etruscans did migrate from the eastern Mediterranean, probably in the tenth century BC. The idea continues that they blended into the indigenous population which at that time formed the Villanova culture. It would have been a well-trodden path as evidenced by the Sesklo culture of Neolithic farmers and all its various descendant branches. However, more recent DNA studies have proven it to be entirely incorrect (see main introduction, above).

Curiously, the island of Lemnos appears to bear close links to the Etruscans. The Lemnos Stele, dated to about 600 BC, is written in a language which is remarkably similar to that of the Etruscans. It was found in a warrior's tomb on the island along with artefacts which were similar to Etruscan equivalents. The implication is that a community on the island was related to the Etruscans, possibly Pelasgians (which would suggest an element of shared Neolithic heritage with the Etruscans) or Etruscan pirates (which would mean they were merely adventurers out of Early Italy).

Etruscan art

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, J C Yardley, & Anthony A Barrett, from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Perseus Digital Library, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Polybius, Histories, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

fl c.1176 BC


Exiled Etruscan king.


Son. In Caisra (Caere, modern Cerveteri). Killed.

c.1176 BC

Mezentius is an Etruscan king who is exiled (apparently due to his cruelty according to a biased Roman account). He gains refuge in Latium where, according to Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas and his Dardanian followers have been welcomed by Latinus, leader of Latium.

They are forced to fight the first Italian War against Turnus of the Rutulians and his allies, which are formed of most of the other Latin tribes. In battle with Aeneas, Mezentius receives a critical wound, but his son, Lauses, blocks the killing blow with his own body and dies. Tradition which predates Virgil has Mezentius surviving to outlive Aeneas.

Etruscan sarcophagus
An Etruscan sarcophagus of a man and his wife from the city of Caisra (modern Cerveteri), which was one of the older cities, having been formed in the late ninth century BC by a melding together of clusters of Villanovan villages

c. early 1100s BC


In Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi).

fl c.1100 BC

Tarchun / Tarchon

Legendary founder of Tarchna (Tarquinii, modern Tarquinia).

According to tradition, Tarchun and his brother, Tyrrhenus, are the Lydian founders of Etruria. The latter gives his name to the sea on Italy's western coast, and it is also another name for the Etruscans themselves.

Tarchun founds the ancient city of Tarchna, one of the oldest Etruscan cities and, whatever the truth of this, the city certainly grows and eclipses its neighbours well before the advent of written records in Italy. The city's location is a strategic one, on an easily defended plateau which allows it to control the coastal plain and gives it access to the hinterland via the River Marta, which flows from Lake Bolsena past the northern flank of Tarchna into the Tyrrhenian Sea and provides a natural route of penetration.

However, the city does not appear to emerge as a trading power until the eighth century BC, which places its rise at the very beginning of the Historical period.

Tyrrhenus / Tyrsenos



Son. Legendary founder of Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi).


Legendary founder of Curtun (Corito, modern Cortona).

The foundation legend for the city of Curtun, which is compiled in the seventeenth century AD, states that Noah dwells in Italy for thirty years, finding it a hundred and eight years after the Flood (which event occurs in Sumeria). One of his descendants is Crano, who arrives at a hilltop and likes the location and clear air. He founds the city of Curtun on that hilltop 273 years after the Flood.

Sumerian flood tablet
The Sumerian flood story includes a depiction of a large vessel which is packed with various objects and, presumably, animals, clearly showing a basis for the later Old Testament flood story of Noah and the ark

c.11th century BC

Lista, the 'metropolis' of the early Latins, is destroyed by the Sabini of Amiternum after a night attack. The inhabitants are never able to recover it and are seemingly forced westwards by the event, into the territory of the Siculi around the River Tiber.

Dionysius says that the Latins are now reinforced by the Etruscans of Curtun (modern Cortona). They send out yearly colonies into the territory of the dominant Siculi, in the form of consecrated bands, to settle in the territory which they are able to conquer from the Siculi. This process eventually drives the Siculi southwards and out of the region entirely.

Unusually for the establishment of an origin story by the ancients, these early, legendary Etruscan rulers cannot be linked in any way to the later, historical rulers. They appear and disappear at the end of the twelfth century and bear no apparent relation to the later rulers of Etruscan city states.

The Sabini settlement of Reate (modern Rieti) was founded by the Sabini and prospered under Roman control to survive into the modern age

FeatureUnfortunately, the Etruscans leave no written records of their history. Their writings are concerned mainly with their religion. One Etruscan burial from around this time is uncovered in 2006 (see feature link).

Etruscan Historical Period
c.800 - 400 BC

From about 800 BC, Etruscan civilisation began to flourish, and eventually achieved regional dominance in a near-seamless break with the previous Villanova culture, which meant that the Villanova was gradually subsumed. The Etruscans also dominated the Marsi to the south, and edged out the Umbri to the east.

The city of Tarchna (Tarquinii, modern Tarquinia) was one of the very earliest Etruscan cities to emerge and become powerful, hinting at an early date of settlement, perhaps one of the very first places which was truly Etruscan. There is certainly evidence of occupation at least as early as the ninth century BC, the early Iron Age, predating most other settlements and pushing its founding back into the late Villanovan period.

The Etruscans of the eighth and seventh centuries were significantly influenced by eastern Greek culture, probably providing the basis for Herodotus' claim that they were descended from Lydian colonists. They also started trading via the Lusatian culture of north-eastern Central Europe with the Baltic tribes who were heavily involved in producing large quantities of amber.

Etruscan art

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, J C Yardley, & Anthony A Barrett, from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, and from External Links: Perseus Digital Library, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Polybius, Histories, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

c.800 BC

It is at this time that the city of Velathri (Roman Volaterrae, modern Volterra) is first settled, as noted by inscriptions on artefacts and stelae. It becomes an important and prosperous city with territory which reaches as far as the island of Elba in the west, and controls the important sea port of Pupluna (or Fufluna, modern Populonia).

The city of Curtun (Roman Corito, modern Cortona) is also settled, although it is probably of Umbrian origin. Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi) is another important city to be founded at this time, on the site of an earlier Umbrian settlement named Camars. As with Tarchna, the cities of Veii and Caisra are older, having been formed in the late ninth century by a melding together of clusters of Villanovan villages.

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows not only the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy, during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, but also Gaulish intrusion to the north, which compressed Etruscan borders there (click or tap on map to view on a separate page)

fl 8th century BC


Ruler of an unnamed city.

mid-8th cent BC

Etruria is dominated by a collection of city states, twelve of which form the Etruscan League over time to defend the region against attacks by Greeks and Phoenicians, sometimes known as the Dodecapolis. There is no clear consensus of which cities form the league, but most of the best-known cities are generally included.

By this time, Etruscans dominate western central Italy, along with a wide swathe towards, but not quite reaching, the Adriatic Veneti, and a stretch of territory along the western coast as far south as Naples. The city of Alalia dominates eastern Corsica, completing a semi-circle of territory which forms the border with the Phoenicians of Carthage and the Greeks of southern Italy and Sicily.

Two other Etruscan Leagues also form, one of which is Campania in the south, led by the city state of Capua (and containing what is now the city of Naples). This league dominates the Opici people in that region. The other is that of the Po Valley City States in the north-east, which include Adria (modern Atria) and Spina (in the Veneto region of modern Italy).

early 7th cent BC

The city of Velathri (Roman Volaterrae, modern Volterra) is first settled by Etruscans. It quickly prospers thanks to its mineral wealth and trade in metals, and over the course of the next two centuries sets up trading links with Phoenician and Greek settlements such as Carthage and Syracuse to the south.

The Greek colony of Motya
The colony of Motya (modern San Pantaleo) on Syracuse changed hands twice during the revolt, with Ducetius of the Siculi at the centre of the fighting in his attempts to oppose Greek dominance

At least part of the Tolfa range has come under control of Caisra by now (passing out of the hands of Tarchna). By this time the villages of Caisra have already amalgamated into a single city. Before long, Caisra extends its power and ownership farther to the north and north-west, incorporating a number of considerable inland settlements.

Moreover, it succeeds Tarchna as the principal Etruscan naval and sea-trading power, possessing no less than five identifiable ports at Alsium (modern Palo), Castellina, Fregenae (modern Fregene), Punicum (modern Santa Marinella), and Pyrgi (modern Santa Severa). Being the southernmost of the Etruscan maritime cities, Caisra is the nearest to the Greek markets and colonies of Campania, notably Cumae (modern Cuma), from whose alphabet the Etruscan script is adapted.

fl 7th century BC?


In Perusna (Perusia, modern Perugia). Female lauchum.

Sarina is referred to on an inscription of the third or second century BC as 'fel Rina' (effectively, 'high queen'). The inscription contains a list of kings and queens and seems to be a history. Sarina may be the supreme authority of the Etruscan League, and is possibly responsible for uniting the twelve cities at a time when they are quarrelling amongst themselves.

The position of high king or queen is known to be an electable one, which Livy describes as being decided at an annual meeting held in sacred grove of the Fanum Voltumnae at Velzna.

mid-7th century BC

The city of Rusellae (or Roselle) is founded around this time, and becomes one of the major Etruscan settlements. This proud city overlooks a valley which at this time is part of the Mediterranean, about eight kilometres (five miles) north-east of Grosetto, opposite the island of Corsica. Curving mud brick walls around the settlement can be dated to this period.

The Etruscan city of Rusellae quickly developed as an important river port facility on the River Ombrone, and it remained important well into the Roman domination of Italy until it began to fade in the sixth century AD

As this and other newer cities flourish, ancient Tarchna remains powerful and prosperous but is struggling to keep up with the energetic younger cities. The large and wealthy city of Veii is in its heyday, with a population of about 100,000 and a city which equals Athens in size. It also holds hegemony over the Latin town of Rome during this and the following century.

fl c.650 BC


In Caisra (Caere, modern Cerveteri). Female lauchum.

Discovered in 1836 in an unplundered state, the Regolini-Galassi Tomb at Caisra dates to about 650-625 BC. It dramatically reveals the full splendour of the Orientalising period of Etruscan civilisation, when Greek and Phoenician influences are at their strongest.

The tomb's main chamber belongs to a fabulously wealthy woman of the nobility who, inhumed with her banqueting service and a wide array of jewellery made by granulation and repoussé, may well be called a queen. The word 'Larthia' on her belongings may record her name.

Port of Sidon
The modern port of Sidon, which has been one of the principal ports on the Phoenician coastline for at least three thousand years

616 BC

With the death of Ancus Marcius, the first non-Roman king is elected in place of one of the teenage sons of the former king. This is a departure for Rome, as it marks the first time a non-Roman gains the kingship, and effectively confirms the Etruscan domination of central Italy.

c.600 - 580 BC

The city of Velch reaches its height during this period. It has expanded its territories to occupy the land between Latium and Tuscany, probably under the leadership of Mastarna, who is a key figure in the events of 578 BC.

The mouth of the River Fiora has become a bustling port which trades extensively with the eastern Mediterranean and Magna Graecia, as attested by the distribution of Etruscan bronzes in this period. Imports of pottery from Attica, Corinth, and Ionia appear in the city's grave goods.

Around the same period, the first century BC writer, Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus), writes of an invasion into Italy of Celts during the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, king of Rome. As archaeology seems to point to a start date of around 500 BC for the beginning of a serious wave of Celtic incursions into Italy, this event has either been misremembered by later Romans or is an early precursor to the main wave of incursions.

Corinthian coins
This rather indistinct photo shows two sides of a Corinthian coin which was minted in the fifth century BC, a time of momentous events for Greece

Livy writes that two centuries before major Celtic attacks take place against Etruscans and Romans in Italy, a first wave of invaders from Gaul fights many battles against the Etruscans who dwell between the Apennines and the Alps. They are apparently lead by Bellovesus of the Bituriges tribe, and the Etruscans soon find themselves being defeated in battle near the River Ticinus.

c.580 BC

The Etruscans lose control of the Marsi to the south, while in the north, the major centres of Padan Etruria are being founded. This region to the north-east of the Etruscan heartland is settled up to three hundred years later than the main Etruscan centres, and had more recently formed the centre of the Villanova culture.

Although barely known, the cities formed in this region include Adria, Arimnus, Caesena, Felsina, Mantua (modern Mantova), Mutina (Modena), Parma, Ravenna (later capital of the Roman empire), and an unnamed city which becomes the Roman city of Placentia (Piacenza).

The region has a long tradition of interaction with the Celtic tribes to the north which remains largely peaceful until the late fourth century. Epigraphic inscriptions testify to the cohabitation and intermarriage of Celts and Etruscans.

Gauls on expedition
An idealised illustration of Gauls on an expedition, from A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

? - 578 BC


In Velch (modern Volci).

578 BC

The city of Clevsin enters into an alliance with its sister city, Arret- (the full name has been lost), and other Etruscan towns against the dominant and powerful Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus.

Mastarna and his comrades, the brothers Aulus and Caeles Vibenna, from the city of Velch, play a key role in overthrowing Tarquinius Priscus, with Mastarna achieving this by slight of hand. The Vibenna brothers are killed in the conflict, but Mastarna assumes power and changes his name to Servius Tullius. He is considered a strong reformer, and becomes known as the second founder of Rome.

mid-500s BC

Rusellae is at its height in this century. It replaces its mud brick walls with stone walls and expands its territory to take over some of that of nearby Vetluna. The city of Velch (modern Volci), also emerges out of a number of Villanovan villages and prospers in this century, mainly as a result of trade.

This progress from scattered villages to urban centres is typical of the Etruscan resurgence of Italy after a period of late Villanovan stagnation. Located on the west bank of the River Fiora, it lies on a volcanic plateau in an area which is today uninhabited. The city is surrounded by vast walls which contain an extensive network of streets.

c.540 - 535 BC

The threat from the Greek colonies such as Syracuse and Alalia (modern Aleria on Corsica) in the western Mediterranean recedes when Carthage, in alliance with Etruscan cities, backs the Phoenicians of Corsica and succeeds in excluding the Greeks from contact with colonies such as Gadir in southern Iberia.

Following victory at the Battle of Alalia on Corsica in 535 BC, Caisra's forces massacre the surviving members of the Greek crews and subsequently establish their own settlement on Corsica (according to Diodorus), either at Alalia or nearby.

Unfortunately, despite being on the winning side, the Etruscans see their influence being limited to the Tyrrhenian Sea thanks to the sheer dominance of Carthage in the Mediterranean.

Greek theatre
The fifth century BC Greek theatre lies on the southern slopes of the Temenite Hill on Syracuse, still in surprisingly good condition despite centuries of spoliation

525/524 BC

Aristodemus of the Greek colony of Cumae (modern Cuma) repels an Etruscan expedition in Campania. At this time bilingual inscriptions in Greek and Punic of King Thefarie Velianas of Caisra are incised on sheets of gold leaf which are later discovered at Pyrgi.

The inscriptions indicate that the connection with the Carthaginians still remains strong, but hostile relations with Caisra's neighbour, Veii, throws the city's rulers into the arms of Rome during that city's late Etruscan and early republic period.

fl c.510 - 490 BC

Thefarie Velianas

In Caisra (Caere, modern Cerveteri).

509 BC

Etruscan rule of the Latins is ended by an insurrection. The newly-liberated Romans immediately begin to push on Etruscan borders, slowly taking territory in a piecemeal fashion.

Etruscan cities are not unified, and often find it hard to support one another, so Rome is able to create treaties with individual Etruscan cities. As if this is not enough, the Etruscans come under increasing pressure from the enthusiastically combative Celts to the north.

It is probably not coincidental that the city of Arret- (Roman Arretium, modern Arezzo) grows in importance from the late sixth century BC onwards. Located on a high, hilly slope close to a wide plateau, it holds a strategic position overlooking valleys and rivers to the south-east of Florence, and can control communications between southern Etruria and the Apennine passes which lead to Padan Etruria.

fl 507 BC

Lars Porsena

In Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi).

509 - 507 BC

The former Etruscan king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, attempts to regain control of the city. In 507 BC he enlists the help of Lars Porsena, ruler of Clevsin. Lars Porsena attacks Rome and probably captures it (although the Roman version of events paints a more flattering picture from their point of view, with Porsena saluting their brave defenders and withdrawing). Even if the city is in fact conquered, Porsena's occupation is brief, perhaps ending after a peace treaty is signed.

Etruscan art
Early Etruscan civilisation was heavily influenced by the Phoenicians and Greeks and, in turn, it influenced early Roman (Latin) culture

501 BC

Titus Lartius Flavus, dictator of Rome, commands forces against the thirty Latin cities which have sworn to reinstate Lucius Tarquinius Superbus as the Etruscan king of Rome. Aruns of Clevsin may be the Aruns Tarquinius who is a son of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, and the brother of Lucius Tarquinius.

This Aruns is the subject of a plot involving his brother and his wife, Tullia, daughter of Servius Tullius, former king of Rome. They conspire to murder Lucius' wife (another Tullia who is also a daughter of Servius Tullius) and Aruns himself so that they can marry each other.

fl c.500 BC


In Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi). Murdered?

5th century BC

Vetluna shows a marked decrease in tomb burials at the start of this century, suggesting a minor crisis which is possibly caused by Pupluna's emergence as the dominant city in the region. That city gains control of the metal deposits in the Metalliferous Hills.

5th century BC?

Arimnestos / Armnestos

In Arimnus (Ariminum, modern Rimini).

The second century traveller, Pausanias, relates that Arimnestos is the first 'barbarian' (or non-Greek) to make a dedication to Zeus at Olympia 'who reigned among the Tyrrhenians'. While this offers a possible window in which to place the reign of Arimnestos, it does little to narrow it down. By the third century, Arimnus would appear to be a possession of the Picentes.

480 BC

Hamilcar of Carthage lands a huge army in Sicily in order to confront Syracuse on the island's eastern coast. The Carthaginians are defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Himera, and a long struggle ensues with intermittent warfare between Carthage and Syracuse.

The defeat results in substantial political changes in Carthage, and it also results in the loss of the Etruscan cities of Campania in the south during the course of this century, to Rome and the Samnites. This marks a clear start to the Etruscan decline.

Hamilcar on Sicily
The Carthaginians and Greeks seemed pretty evenly matched in their struggle for dominance of the western Mediterranean - this time around, Hamilcar's defeat on Sicily (shown here in a Victorian print of the event) merely triggered a series of conflicts

477 - 476 BC

As a close neighbour of Rome, the powerful city of Veii is seen as a serious rival and even a threat to its existence. A long-running series of wars results, starting in this year. Despite having major Etruscan connections, the Fabian Gens, one of the most powerful familial groups in Rome, builds a defensive post on land between the two cities which they own but which is subject to heavy cattle raiding by both sides.

Veii attacks the post which is held by the semi-private army of the Fabii. The resulting Battle of the Cremora sees three hundred Fabii killed and the area abandoned to the Veiians. Veii now controls the entire west bank of the Tiber, including the Janiculum Hill which overlooks Rome. Less than a year later, Veii's navy is crushed off the coast of Cumae by Hieron of Syracuse and the city is forced to agree a treaty with Rome.

Orgolnium / Orgolnius Velthume

In Tarchna (Tarquinii, modern Tarquinia).

Two fragmented slabs discovered by archaeologists at the start of the twenty-first century, which are known as the Elogia Tarquiniensis, pay tribute to Velthur Spurinnas and Aulus Spurinnas, noblemen of first century BC Tarchna.

They mention the otherwise unknown and undated King Orgolnium of Caisra in a flavouring of Etruscan history, recalling the family name of Urgulanilla which later includes among its number the wife of Roman Emperor Claudius. The fact that Orgolnium is undated makes it hard to properly place him in the list of kings, but he must predate Caisra's move to a republic around 400 BC.

474 BC

It seems that the Celtic arrival in northern Italy has not been entirely welcomed. The Etruscans, who themselves have been migrating northwards to the River Po from central Italy, have been clashing increasingly with the Celts for domination of the region.

Celtic warriors
The Gaulish presence in northern Italy brought it into direct conflict with Estruscan colonies which were spreading northwards into the same territory

A pivotal showdown takes place at the Battle of Ticinum in this year (which must be located close to the main Celtic settlement of Mediolanum which had been founded by the Bituriges and Insubres of Bellovesus around a century before). The Etruscan force, which is little more than a well-armed militia, is butchered by the Celts in a ferociously-fought battle.

This victory confirms Celtic domination of the region for the next couple of centuries, so that it is called Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul on 'our' side of the Alps, 'ours' being the Latin and Italic side).

mid-400s - 437 BC

Voluminius / Volumnius

In Veii (18km north-west of Rome).

late 400s - 428 BC

Lars Tolumnius

In Veii. Last lauchum of Veii. Died.

438 - 421 BC

The Samnites expand south-westwards into the rich plains of Etruscan Campania, capturing the towns of Capua in 438 BC and Cumae (modern Cuma) in 421 BC.

428 BC

Veii and Rome are again at war, possibly resulting in the loss to the Etruscans of Fidemae (either at this point or in 406 BC). It also results in the death of the lauchum, Lars Tolumnius, and the establishment of a republic governed by a council of the nobility.

Etruscan Subjugation Period
c.400 BC - AD 12

Etruscan society underwent changes from about the mid-fifth century, along with an economic slump. While the cities recovered from the slump, the political changes became more fully evident in the fourth century. The city states gradually began replacing kings or tyrants with republics governed by the aristocracy, possibly based on Roman lines.

The old system was clearly no longer working and Etruscan domination of Italy was starting to come under severe threat from Rome's increasing power and prominence in local politics.

The cities of Caisra, Clevsin, Curtun, and Tarchna all threw out the old system around 400 BC. The city of Velathri thereafter declined, losing control over Pupluna (or Fufluna, modern Populonia) and the important sea port it provided. Many Etruscan cities were threatened militarily by Rome, and were conquered one by one as the Roman republic extended its grip over Italy.

Etruscan art

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, J C Yardley, & Anthony A Barrett, from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, and from External Links: Perseus Digital Library, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Polybius, Histories, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed).)

406 - 396 BC

After a ten year siege, the once-dominant Veii is conquered by its former subject city, Rome, under the command of Marcus Furius Camillus. (More recent views tend to lean towards a six year siege, with the ten year claim being made in order to draw parallels with the fall of Troy.)

With Veii's fall, a key southern defence is lost, leaving the Etruscans under pressure from all sides by several different forces. Much of the city itself is destroyed and its inhabitants are driven off, a new tactic of Rome's which ensures that its most dangerous opponent cannot rise again. Land is parcelled out between Roman citizens and they later rebuild the city as a Roman colony.

Etruscan villa near Vetulonia
This Etruscan villa was excavated at the town of Vetluna (near modern Grosseto in Tuscany), and seems to have belonged to a wealthy family at a time of peace with Rome, in the third century BC

c.400 BC

A group of the Cenomani tribe of Celts, a branch of the Aulerci in Gallia Celtica, under the leadership of Elitovius cross the Alps into Italy and drive the Etruscans south, occupying their territory. This is probably eastwards to Adige or Etsch, the Ollius on the west and the Padus on the south, while some of their number settle near Massilia. Chief among the occupied towns are Brixia (modern Brescia) and Verona.

392 BC

The Etruscans of Velzna attack Roman lands, although little is known of their relations with Romans in general at this time and for the next century. Despite their city's decline in the previous hundred years or so, the Etruscans of Vetluna construct an extensive wall system around their city in this century, protecting what must still be a significant settlement from attack, both from Rome and from the dominant Celts to the north.

fl 390s BC


In Clevsin (Clusium, modern Chiusi). The Aruns of 500 BC?

391 - 386 BC

The Etruscans of Clevsin are appalled by the war being waged against their northern territories by the strange barbarians called Celts. Arruns of Clevsin is attempting to deal with a rebel called Lucomo, and he makes the mistake of hiring a band of Celts to help, led by one Brennus of the Senones.

Gauls on expedition
An idealised illustration of Gauls on an expedition, from A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Instead they besiege Clevsin itself, intent on securing some of the city's territory on which to settle. With few options and fewer supporters, Arruns sends ambassadors to ask the Roman senate for assistance (although this last event may be later propaganda designed to show Rome as the principle power in Italy).

Rome sends three ambassadors, but far from conducting a peaceful negotiation, they and the Celts quickly come to blows. The ensuing fight sees one of the Romans, Quintus Fabius, kill a Gaulish chieftain, so the Celts withdraw to discuss threatening Rome directly while the ambassadors flee the scene.

The chronology for Marcus Terentius Varro places this fight in 390 BC, but given subsequent events, it seems much more reasonable to place it in 388 or 387 BC. This event perhaps allows the Etruscans themselves a respite in the incessant pressure from the Latins, although the city of Clevsin is allied to Rome for the duration of the Celtic incursion.

Celtic warriors
While most of the Gauls of the third century BC fought fully clothed, their Gaesatae mercenaries tended to fight with nothing more than their weapons, and not even the trousers shown here

c.353 BC

The city of Caisra at last becomes impatient of the increasing domination by Rome and protests or rebels. However, their gesture is brought to order, and they are deprived of their coastland territory (in favour of Roman colonists) by the terms of a hundred-year treaty or truce.

The city's independence is at an end, although Roman nobles are still sent to Caisra to study the Etruscan language and literature, and perhaps to learn Greek as well.

351 - 311 BC

While at its peak, the city of Tarchna becomes embroiled in a bitter struggle with Rome, with appalling cruelty exhibited on either side. A truce is agreed between the two cities which lasts for forty years. At the end of this period, two joint rulers, or perhaps consuls in the Roman fashion, appear to emerge in the city state republic of Curtun, while Tarchna and Rome reignite their struggle.

fl 310 BC

Larth Cusu Titina

In Curtun (Corito, modern Cortona).

fl 310 BC

Lars Salinis of Avle

In Curtun (Corito, modern Cortona).

310 BC

Etruscans allied to the Samnites fight Rome at the Battle of Sutrium (modern Sutri). The Roman forces are commanded by the now-Consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus. After winning the battle on this key route into Etruscan territory, he pursues the Etruscans into the ancient Ciminian Forest, which divides Latium from Etruria, where he defeats them again. The Etruscan cities of Curtun and Perusna (Perusia, modern Perugia) both fall to Rome in the same period.

Samnite soldiers
Roman military tactics may have owed something to the Samnites, with this efficient and seasoned warrior force matching the Romans and bettering them in the fourth century BC

308 BC

Tarchna is finally forced to submit to Rome.

301 BC

The city of Arret- has been suffering civil turmoil in this century, possibly a result of Roman pressure on Etruscan lives and freedoms. In this year the plebeians revolt against the important and powerful Cilnii family. A Roman army under Marcus Valerius Maximus arrives to help to restore order, and within twenty years or so, the city submits entirely to Rome.

By this time, a little-known Etruscan city near the modern town of Marzabotto, close to Felsina (modern Bologna), has greatly declined. This region had been settled later than most of the main Etruscan centres to the south and west, between two or three hundred years later.

Founded in the sixth century BC, the city had been built on a north-south grid, with paved streets and civic and sacred buildings in the Acropolis. Prosperous until the late fourth century BC, its role suddenly declines to the status of a military outpost following massive Celtic incursions into the Po Valley.

298 BC

Roman General Scipio defeats the forces of the city of Velathri, and the city itself is severely damaged in the process. It now becomes a Roman possession and later provides military aid and supplies to Rome during the Second Punic War.

Roman consuls
Rome's republic was usually headed by two consuls and the Senate, but on a very few occasions the post was replaced

297 BC

The Samnites march into Etruria in 297 BC to rouse the Etruscans and form a coalition against Rome. The combined armies of consuls Lucius Volumnius Flamma Violens and Appius Claudius Caecus defeat this force and the Samnites withdraw back into their own territory.

294 BC

Lucius Postumius Megellus defeats the Etruscans of Velzna. The city of Rusellae, close to Vetluna, is occupied by Rome, the first Etruscan city in northern Etruria to suffer this fate. This is much to Vetluna's detriment, and the city begins to decline. The irrigation systems begin to decay, the drainage systems silt up, and the area slowly reverts to malaria-infested swamp. The Romans attempt to establish a garrison nearby, at the port of Graviscae, but fever kills off its inhabitants.

291 BC

The city of Clevsin is subjugated by Rome after it is defeated at the Battle of Sentino. The tomb of the city's greatest king, Lars Porsena, survives as late as the first century BC, but is lost to history after that. According to Pliny the Elder, Lars Porsenna had been buried 'sub urbe Clusio' (under the city of Clusium), in a huge square tomb ninety-one metres wide, containing an inextricable labyrinth.

Clevsin Etruscan urn
An alabaster cinerary urn showing the murder of Clytemnestra by Orestes and Pylades, with them wearing capes and Phrygian caps, discovered in Clevsin, modern Chiusi (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Generic - click or tap on image to view full sized)

282 - 280 BC

The city of Pupluna suffers badly during Rome's wars against the Boii tribe. Having seen the expulsion by Rome of the Senones in the previous year, the Boii raise a general levy which includes Etruscans and set out to meet the Romans on the battlefield. Near Lake Vadimonis the battle sees the Etruscans suffer the loss of more than half their men, while hardly any of the Boii escape alive.

The following year the Boii and Etruscans try again. This time everyone is armed, including youths who have only just reached manhood. Again they are decimated and completely defeated, and this time they surrender, sending ambassadors to Rome to conclude a treaty. Polybius writes that constant defeats at the hands of the Gauls had inured the Romans to the worst that could befall them, so that they are able to fight the Boii on this occasion like trained and experienced gladiators.

Novilara Stele
The Novilara Stele, the only one of four which can be attested fully by modern archaeology, remains a mystery, its language still undeciphered

The next year, 280 BC, the city of Vulci loses what has become an increasingly uneven fight against Rome and now falls. Forced to give up control of its large territory, including its access to the coast at Regae, the city rapidly declines and is abandoned completely.

273 BC

The first Roman colony is founded in Etruria. Pressure on Estruscan civilisation is gradually throttling it.

265 - 264 BC

Velzna, the last independent Etruscan city, is suffering civil strife, so the Romans are called upon by the city's aristocrats to help calm the situation in their favour. Roman troops take a very heavy-handed approach, plundering around two thousand bronzes from all over the city. Their loot is often melted down to provide bronze coin for the war chest.

The following year, the city is razed to the ground by the Romans, and the fortunate survivors are forced to resettle, leaving the city's ruins abandoned (it is likely that the modern city of Orvieto has been built directly over those ruins). The Romans interpret the city's name as Volsinii, and the resettled populace now occupy a fresh site which is named Volsinii Novae (modern Bolsena).

Italian city of Orvieto
The modern city of Orvieto (Urbsvetus to medieval Italy) arose from a late Roman empire garrison which was built here, possibly over the ruins of the Etruscan city of Velzna, to provide better protection during Rome's decline

253 BC

The city of Caisra supports Tarchna against Rome, despite Tarchna's subjugation by Rome in 308 BC. Both Etruscan cities are defeated and Caisra loses part of its territory, including the coastal strip. The city declines noticeably, with the only burials being in poor graves, mostly re-using existing tombs. By the first century AD the city is totally abandoned.

218 - 202 BC

Etruscan forces including those from Tarchna fight on the side of Rome in the Second Punic War, alongside units from the Frentani, Picentes, and Umbri. Arret- has prospered noticeably under Roman rule, and is able to send a large contingent to bolster the Roman forces during the war.

200 BC

The city of Caisra is drawn directly under Roman control. Its decline continues, and by the early Roman imperial period it is regarded by Strabo as little more than a village, although a Roman theatre and an Augusteum exist there.

91 - 89 BC

Along with the Iapyges, Lucani, Marrucini, Marsi, Paeligni, Picentes, Samnites, and Vestini, the Etruscans fight the Social War (Italian War, or Marsic War) against Rome. The war is the result of increasing inequality in Roman land ownership, and the spark for conflict is delivered by the assassination of the reforming Marcus Livius Drusus, whose efforts would have led to citizenship for all of Rome's allies. Although defeated, the Italic tribes are granted the Roman citizenship which had previously been withheld from them.

80 BC

The Etruscans gain Roman citizenship, but as a result of their support of Gaius Marius during the Roman civil war of 88 BC, their language and customs are suppressed.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla defeated his opponent, Gaius Marius, in the Roman civil war, and then dealt harshly with the Etruscans who had supported the losing side

AD 12

The last Etruscan inscription is said to be carved at this time, as the Etruscan people gradually lose their identity within the melting pot of Roman empire Italy. Despite this, a large number of Roman families have Etruscan roots, including the Larcii, Licinii, Minucii, Sempronii, and Urgulanilla.

The last recorded use of the Etruscan language is in AD 410 when Etruscan priests are said to utter incantations in order to save Rome from the Visigoths of Alaric. However, Etruscan influence may survive to some degree in the city of Venice, which is probably within former Etruscan territory, and some Etruscan cities survive as small settlements in the medieval period, to be rebuilt and expanded as today's modern cities.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.