صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

present day, inust excite inquiry, and command alike the attention of the historian and the philosopher. Whence this improvement in civilization, this rapid advancement in political growth, is a question which immediately suggests itself to every inquirer, and for which he seeks in vain for an answer in the scanty fragments of antiquity, which shed but a faint and glimmering light on the annals of this singular and illustrious people.

So evident, indeed, has the insufficiency of historical information on the origin of the Tuscans appeared, that many antiquaries of celebrity in the last century, despairing of obtaining any clue from the conflicting testimony of ancient writers, have not hesitated to quit altogether the beaten track of history, and to venture amidst the alluring mazes of conjecture. The consequence of this mode of investigation was easy to be foreseen; system followed system, till there scarcely remained any nation of acknowledged antiquity, to which the honor of having colonized Etruria was not ascribed.

Thus it was supposed that the Tuscans might be descended from the Egyptians," the Canaanites,t or the Phænicians. Others, again, contended for their Celtics origin. The multiplicity of these opinions is the best proof of the little dependence that is to be placed on systems which trust for support to conjecture alone. The records of history, even where they seem most to fail us, will be found a safer and surer guide than reasoning which is founded on mere assumption and hypothesis. It is, then, with the united aid of history, and conjecture used with moderation, that we shall endeavor to feel our way through this intricate subject; and there are three sources from which we derive information respecting the origin of ancient Tuscany, viz.: The accounts of Greek writers, those of the Romans, and the existing national monuments discovered in Etruria.

With respect to the Romans, it is well known that they concerned themselves little about inquiries into the origin of

• Dempster. Italia antiqua, lib. i. p. 79. Swinton. De Lingua Etruria, p. 92. VOL. XVIII.-X0. XXXV.

Maffei. Degli Italia prim., p. 218-228. & Pellosetior. Hist. des Celtes, lib. i. p. 178, 10

nations, but received without much examination all the accounts, even of the early population of Italy, which were transmitted to them by the Greeks, their masters in every species of literature ; so that little original information can be derived from them in an inquiry which is to be traced considerably higher than the foundation of their city. The evidence which is supplied by the inscriptions and coins of Etruria, respecting the origin of its inhabitants has hitherto done little towards settling the question; and since the age of their monuments, which had been greatly exagerated, has. been proved by able judges* to be posterior to the commencement even of the Roman republic, we are obliged to seek among the historians and poets of Greece for the earliest records of Etruscan history.

If we are to credit the famous Lydian tradition recorded by Herodotus, that ancient people ought to be considered as the parent stock of the Tyrrhenians. According to their accounts a great famine arose in Lydia during the reign of Atys, one of the earliest kings; when it had lasted for several years, it was at length determined that the nation should divide itself into two parts, under the respective commands of Lydus and Tyrrhenus, the two sons of Atys; one of which was to migrate, the other to remain in possession of the country. It fell to the lot of Tyrrhenus to abandon Lydia with the people under his charge. He accordingly equipped a fleet in quest of a country to settle in; when, after passing by various nations and countries, he finally arrived among the Umbri, where he founded several cities, which the people, who from him were called Tyrrhenians, occupied up to the time of Herodotus, who simply delivered this account as he received it from the Lydians.

Frerett has observed, that the Lydians were never considered as a maritime people; and, at any rate, that the art of navigation at the period which we ought to assign to the Lydian colony, according to the acconnt of Herodotus, must have been quite in its infancy. With regard to this objection it is remarkable, that in the naval epochs of Castor,* we find the Lydians mentioned as an early maritime power. It is evident that the art of navigation had already attained to a certain degree of perfection before the siege of Troy, but we cannot admit so late a period as this for the Tyrrhenian migration, since the existence of the Tyrrhenian Italy before the siege of Troy, appears to be placed beyond a doubt.

* Lanzi. Saggio di Lingua Etrusca, iii. 38. † Freret, Mem. de l'Acad., xviii. 91.

Not to mention the Phænicians, who in the most remote ages are known to have navigated every part of the Mediterranean sea, as well as other seas, we find that Minos, King of Crete, had a powerful navy for that age, and made expeditions into Sicily and Italy.t The insignia of royalty, such as the curule chair and purple robe, which the Romans borrowed from the Tuscans, are recognized by Dionysius, of Halicarnassus, himself, as Lydian badges of honor; and the eagle standards of Rome, also originally Tuscan, appear to have been common to the armies of Persia. The comic dancers of Etruria, called Ludii, were celebrated for their agility and grace; and according to Val. Maximus, who mentions their introduction at Rome, they derived this talent from the Curetes and Lydians. It is also remarked that divination and augury, which form so leading a distinction in the religion of Etruria, took their rise in Caria, according to Pliny. The superstitious practice of divining from the inspection of the livers of victims, obtained in Asia, at a very early period, being alluded to by the prophet Ezekiel, where Grotius observes, that the Lydians had probably derived this practice from the Chaldeans, and had transmitted it to the Tuscans.

It is a fact sufficiently established on good authority, that the Greeks were acquainted with a people whom they called Tyrrhenians, but whose geographical position was very different from that of their Italian namesakes. Thucydides has noticed them in the Chalcidic region, near mount Athos; and described them as the Tyrrheni, who once dwelt in the island of Lemnos.* From other sources we learn, that these Tyrrheni, or Pelagi, as they are often called, had built for the Athenians the wall which surrounded their acropolis; but being afterwards driven out of Attica, are said to have retired to the island of Lemnos and Imbros. The father of Pythagoras is said to have been one of these Tyrrhenians.

* A Greek of Marseilles, who flourished under the Ptolomies, and wrote on the nations who in ancient times were masters of the sea. † Herodotus, vii., 169.

Xen, Anab., i. 10. &C. XI, v. 21.

Here, then, is sufficient evidence of the existence of the Tyrrheni as a people, known to the Greeks, under that specific appellation, though they are frequently designated by the generic name of Pelasgi; and if we admit that it was this people, which at an early period migrated from Thrace and the north of Greece into Italy, there will be found no better system for reconciling the various and contradictory opinions which have been entertained on this point of history by many writers, both in ancient and modern times.

Where historical records fail, the analysis of language is the only clue, it must be allowed, which can enable us to trace the origin of ancient nations with any probability of success; but when the results are so much at variance with each other, much doubt must, of necessity, attach to the process by which those results have been obtained. The knowledge of the ancient languages of Italy, of which the Latin must be considered as a dialect only, though it became the prevailing one, is comparatively of recent date. The Etruscan alphabet, the characters of which are the same as that of the Umbrian and Oscan dialects, had not been identified and made out with certainty till within the last fifty years; for the inscribed monuments of these people being rare and scanty, it has been a work of time as well as of great industry and sagacity, to draw any well established conclusion from them. These two last qualities, we think eminently displayed in the learned work of Lanzi, on the Etruscan and other dialects of Italy; and it is but a small part of the praise due to him to say, that in his essay he has done more towards making us acquainted with this curious branch of philology, than all the writers who had preceded him. The analogy which subsists between the forms, Tusci, Osci, and Volsci, would furnish a presumption of the indigenous origen of the former, but that point seems abundantly established by the fundamental similarity of language which has been discovered to exist between the Etruscan and the other native dialects of Italy.

* Thucydides, iv., 109.

| Herodotus, iv., 145.

Having thus far tried to explain the origin of the Tuscan people, it remains for us to see how far their improved civilization and political superiority can be traced to the settlements formed by the Tyrrhenians amongst them. But as it will be naturally asked how we are to suppose that this people arrived in Italy, and at what period, we feel it necessary, first of all, to say a few words respecting that part of their history.

The easiest and most obvious way by which the Tyrrheni, coming from Thrace and the north of Greece, may be supposed to have reached Italy, would be by the Danube, and then by the Save up to the Italian Alps, and the head of the Adriatic. It is on this sea, doubtless, that history, however faint in its records of these transactions, places their first settlements, whether they reached it by land or in a fleet. They were unquestionably a maritime people, and their first settlements, Hadria, Spina, and Ravenna were seaport towns. If we follow the plain thread of history, divested of the romantic circumstances which Dionysius has interwoven in his narrative of the transactions of the Pelasgi with the Aborigines, it will appear that the former gradually advanced from the Po into the country of the Umbria, who being then at war with the Siculi, gladly received their assistance, and after the expulsion of the enemy, gave them settlements and lands in the newly acquired territory, which was Etruria proper. In the history of these events we adhere chiefly to the authority of Philistus, the Sicilian historian, who makes the Siculi of Ligurian origin, and states that the people who expelled them were the Umbri and Pelasgi, that being the most rational and intelligible account of this early revolution. According to the same historian, the migration of the Siculi took place about eighty years before the siege of Troy; so that we shall not be very far from the mark in assigning the

« السابقةمتابعة »