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Etruscan temple at Veii - a reconstruction

Etruscan temple at Veii – a reconstruction

The Etruscans, about 700 BC, were the first people in northern and central Italy to build big buildings out of stone. They learned from the Greeks and the Phoenicians to build big stone temples for their gods. Not many Etruscan temples survive. This is probably because some of them were built out of wood and clay, and others were destroyed by the Romans when they conquered the Etruscans. But there are ruins of a big Etruscan temple west of Rome at Veii, and on the Capitoline hill in Rome, overlooking the Roman Forum, there are the foundations of a really big Etruscan temple.

Etruscan temples were the same as Greek temples in some ways, but in other ways they were different. Like Greek temples, Etruscan temples had a stone room, the cella, on the inside, and they were on a platform that raised them above the ground. And, like Greek temples, they had peaked roofs and columns. But in Etruscan temples, the columns were only across the front, not all the way around. And the platforms of Etruscan temples were much higher, sometimes two meters high (about six feet) or even more, and they only had steps in the front, not all the way around like Greek temples. Etruscan temples were usually built out of the local tufa and travertine, instead of marble. Also, Etruscan temples often had clay statues on the roof.

Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri

Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri

We don’t know much about Etruscan houses, because Etruscan people built their houses from wood and mud-brick so they didn’t last. But the Etruscans built their tombs out of stone, and they liked their tombs to look like their houses, so we can get some idea what Etruscan houses looked like from their tombs.

There are two main Etruscan cemeteries that we know about: one is called Cerveteri and the other is called Tarquinia. Both of them are just a little north of Rome.

Learn by doing: build a model of an Etruscan temple in Lego or in Minecraft
More about the Etruscans

Bibliography and further reading about Etruscan architecture:

Vulca the Etruscan, by Roberta Angeletti (1999). Easy reading.

The Etruscans, by Don Nardo (2004). Easy reading.

Hands-On Ancient People, Volume 2: Art Activities about Minoans, Mycenaeans, Trojans, Ancient Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, by Yvonne Merrill (2004). Easy reading.

Etruscan Art, by Nigel Spivey (1997). A college textbook.

Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture (Pelican History of Art), by Axel Boethius, Roger Ling, and Tom Rasmussen (second edition 1992). Likewise a textbook.


More about the Etruscans
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