Theories as to the origin of the ancient Etruscan civilization, which flourished from roughly 800 BC, or even earlier, until its final domination by Rome in 100 BC, have fired the imagination of historians for millennia.
Now a team of researchers from Turin University has discovered a key genetic component that closely links Etruscans with the inhabitants of today’s south eastern Turkey, proving that Greek historian Herodotus was correct when he wrote in the fifth century BC that the mystery people came from Lydia, today’s Anatolia. Another research conducted by Piacenza University has discovered a unique genetic similarity between Tuscan and Turkish cattle.
Etruria occupied a vast swathe of territory bordered to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, covering regions known today as Campania, Lazio, Tuscany, and the island of Corsica: Etruscan influence reached as far as Po valley and the foot of the Alps.
The Etruscan language has still to be fully deciphered, but many superb examples of Etruscan art have been preserved to this day and statutes (such as those to be found in Rome’s Villa Giulia Museum) portray a serene authoritative people with an undeniable aura of mystery. Differing so greatly in appearance and culture from neighbouring Italic peoples, it was believed that the Etruscans may have originated in far away Northern European or Asian countries.
Etruria’s capital was Velzna, today’s Orvieto. Among the towns in Lazio of Etruscan origin are Tarquinia and Cerveteri. Rome, which was founded in Etruscan territory, may have taken its name from the Etruscan language.