Published  02/08/2007

Lost Tribes of Mankind

The common tendency for historians in the nineteenth century has been to marginalise those ethnic 'nations' such as the Picts, the Carthaginians and the Etruscans largely because there is little trace linguistically of these remarkable groups. The Etruscans are a particularly interesting example of these lost magic kingdoms. For a long period the Romans succeeded in denying the Etruscans, or marginalising their culture and society. But not for nothing was Michelangelo a great admirer (and collector) of Etruscan art. Today one has only to see the Etruscan Chariot now restored to a commanding position in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, to ask the question, why is so little known? Careful archaeology in the area between Rome and Florence has begun to yield some answers which refute almost all Roman speculation, including that of the historian Livy. The strongest argument currently suggests a Trojan or Greek origin, and tracing back to the Lydians, whose last king was rich Croesus. They made alliances with the Carthaginians, and were clearly a threat to the self-image of the Romans. Perhaps in Britain we too can blame the Romans for denying the culture of the Picts, who have been equally hard to keep out.

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