Art: Treasures of Etruria

When Rome was little more than a cluster of hill villages and the Forum a swampy marketplace, the proud and pleasure-loving Etruscans ruled Italy from the Tiber to the Po. In the end, the Roman legions crushed the loose confederation of Etruscan city-states and razed their walls. Etruria's bizarre hobgoblin world of superstition, ritual and magic provided the folk mythology from which poets from Virgil to Dante evoked their images of Hades and Hell; its art was buried in underground tombs to await latter-day grave robbers.

Even today, Romans prefer to dwell on the...

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