Ancient Italic people, the Etruscans lived in Tuscany, in Umbria and in the northern part of Lazio, in the territory that took their name, Etruria.

The Etruscan civilization’s golden age was between the 8th century BC and 396 BC – the year of the conquest of Veio by the Romans.

The Etruscans – also called Tusci – were the most important civilizations in Italy before the birth of the Roman Empire, reaching as far as present-day Veneto to the north and Campania to the south.

The origins of the Etruscans are still discussed today, but the main theories are:

  1. According Herodotus, the Etruscans had oriental origins
  2. Dionigi di Alicarnasso maintained instead that the Etruscans were an indigenous Italic people
  3. one last theory, the most widely shared, suggests they derived from a Villanovan civilization

This last theory is particularly popular as the Villanovan civilization spread between the 9th and 8th centuries BC and shares many characteristics with the Etruscans including the same territory of development, the same manner of burial and the same types of necropolis and tombs, strongly influenced by Celtic culture.

Between the 7th and 6th centuries BC, the Etruscans imposed their hegemony on the Tyrrhenian Sea and expanded on the Italian territory to settle in Campania and southern Veneto, founding some important city states.

The main city states were Caere, Tarquinia, Vulci, Roselle, Vetulonia, Veio, Volsinii, Chiusi, Perugia, Cortona, Arezzo and Volterra, which formed the Etruscan Dodecapoli.

From 510 BC, the Etruscan civilization began to decline. The city of Rome, until then led by Etruscan kings – the Tarquini – began a strong policy of expansion into Etruria. In 505 BC, the Etruscans lost the cities of Capua and Pompeii, while in 474 BC, the Greeks defeated the Etruscan fleet, irreparably weakening their economy. In 396 BC, Rome conquered the city of Veio, between 356 and 311, the cities of Tarquinia and Cerveteri and in the 3rd century, the cities of Arezzo and Perugia.

Deprived of its political and economic hegemony, the Etruscan civilization was slowly assimilated into the Roman one, until it disappeared.