Past Event

Myth in Etruria: Images and Inscriptions

November 20, 2009
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
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Organized by Larissa Bonfante (NYU) and Francesco de Angelis (Columbia) (continuing Nov 21, off-site, at Columbia’s Dept. of Art History & Archaeology)

In contrast to the Greek and Roman worlds, our knowledge regarding the diffusion and use of mythology in Etruria is primarily based not on literature, but on material evidence—images and inscriptions. Far from being a limitation, this feature is instructive as regards the specific channels of the transmission of myths, and also suggests an interdisciplinary, object- and context-oriented approach to their study. The myths we encounter in Etruria are applied myths, i.e. tales that are tightly linked to the occasions in which the artifacts carrying them—be they vases, mirrors, or pediments—played a role in social life. This embedded-ness of myths in Etruscan culture only apparently contrasts with their nature as imports from abroad; it must in fact be understood as a consequence of the constant engagement with the Greek world that was one of the defining aspects of Etruscan civilization throughout its history.

Through the interdisciplinary focus on iconography and epigraphy, the conference aims at fully exploiting the peculiarities of mythological evidence in Etruria in order to explore two key traits of Etruscan religious and cultural practice: seeing/interpreting, and writing. Moreover, the built-in comparative perspective determined by the Etruscans' relationship with the Greeks provides an optimal background for the broader historical assessment of mythology's role within Etruscan culture.