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Title: Etruscan Places
Author: D H Lawrence
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Language: English
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Title: Etruscan Places
Author: D H Lawrence

First published 1932


1. Cerveteri
2. Tarquinia
3. The Painted Tombs of Tarquinia 1
4. The Painted Tombs of Tarquinia 2
5. Vulci
6. Volterra

LIST OF PLATES [not included in this text-only version of the ebook]

 1. Cerveteri. Entrance to the Chamber Tombs
 2. Cerveteri. Tomb of the Sarcophagi
 3. Cerveteri. Tomb of the Stuccos, or the Grotta Bela
 4. Cerveteri. Terra-cotta Heads on Sarcophagus now in the Villa Giulia
                 Museum, Rome
 5. Cerveteri. The Regolini-Galassi Tomb
 6. Tarquinia. Greek Vases with Eye-pattern and Head of Bacchus
 7. Tarquinia. Tomb of hunting and Fishing
 8. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Leopards
 9. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Leopards
10. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Feast
11. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Lionesses
12. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Bulls
13. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Baron
14. Volterra.  Porta dell' Arco
15. Volterra.  Ash-chest showing the Boar-hunt
16. Volterra.  Ash-chest showing Actaeon and the Dogs

* * *


The Etruscans, as everyone knows, were the people who occupied the middle
of Italy in early Roman days and whom the Romans, in their usual
neighbourly fashion, wiped out entirely in order to make room for Rome
with a very big R. They couldn't have wiped them all out, there were too
many of them. But they did wipe out the Etruscan existence as a nation
and a people. However, this seems to be the inevitable result of
expansion with a big E, which is the sole _raison d'étre_ of people
like the Romans.

Now, we know nothing about the Etruscans except what we find in their
tombs. There are references to them in Latin writers. But of first-hand
knowledge we have nothing except what the tombs offer.

So to the tombs we must go: or to the museums containing the things that
have been rifled from the tombs.

Myself, the first time I consciously saw Etruscan things, in the museum
at Perugia, I was instinctively attracted to them. And it seems to be
that way. Either there is instant sympathy, or instant contempt and
indifference. Most people despise everything B.C. that isn't Greek, for
the good reason that it ought to be Greek if it isn't. So Etruscan things
are put down as a feeble Greco-Roman imitation. And a great scientific
historian like Mommsen hardly allows that the Etruscans existed at all.
Their existence was antipathetic to him. The Prussian in him was
enthralled by the Prussian in the all-conquering Romans. So being a great
scientific historian, he almost denies the very existence of the Etruscan
people. He didn't like the idea of them. That was enough for a great
scientific historian.

Besides, the Etruscans were vicious. We know it, because their enemies
and exterminators said so. Just as we knew the unspeakable depths of our
enemies in the late war. Who isn't vicious to his enemy? To my detractors
I am a very effigy of vice. À la bonne heure!

However, those pure, clean-living, sweet-souled Romans, who smashed
nation after nation and crushed the free soul in people after people, and
were ruled by Messalina and Heliogabalus and such-like snowdrops, they
said the Etruscans were vicious. _So basta! Quand le mâitre parle, tout
le monde se tait_. The Etruscans were vicious! The only vicious people
on the face of the earth presumably. You and I, dear reader, we are two
unsullied snowflakes, aren't we? We have every right to judge.

Myself, however, if the Etruscans were vicious, I'm glad they were. To
the Puritan all things are impure, as somebody says. And those naughty
neighbours of the Romans at least escaped being Puritans.

But to the tombs, to the tombs! On a sunny April morning we set out for
the tombs. From Rome, the eternal city, now in a black bonnet. It was not
far to go--about twenty miles over the Campagna towards the sea, on the
line to Pisa.

The Campagna, with its great green spread of growing wheat, is almost
human again. But still there are damp empty tracts, where now the little
narcissus stands in clumps, or covers whole fields. And there are places
green and foam-white, all with camomile, on a sunny morning in early

We are going to Cerveteri, which was the ancient Caere, or Cere, and
which had a Greek name too, Agylla. It was a gay and gaudy Etruscan city
when Rome put up her first few hovels: probably. Anyhow, there are tombs'
there now.

The inestimable big Italian railway-guide says the station is Palo, and
Cerveteri is eight and a half kilometres away: about five miles. But
there is a post-omnibus.

We arrive at Palo, a station in nowhere, and ask if there is a bus to
Cerveteri. No! An ancient sort of wagon with an ancient white horse
stands outside. Where does that go? To Ladispoli. We know we don't want
to go to Ladispoli, so we stare at the landscape. Could we get a carriage
of any sort? It would be difficult. That is what they always say:
difficult! Meaning impossible. At least they won't lift a finger to help.
Is there an hotel at Cerveteri? They don't know. They have none of them
ever been, though it is only five miles away, and there are tombs. Well,
we will leave our two bags at the station. But they cannot accept them.
Because they are not locked. But when did a hold-all ever lock?
Difficult! Well then, let us leave them, and steal if you want to.
Impossible! Such a moral responsibility! Impossible to leave an unlocked
small hold-all at the station. So much for the officials!

However, we try the man at the small buffet. He is very laconic, but
seems all right. We abandon our things in a corner of the dark little
eating-place, and set off on foot. Luckily it is only something after ten
in the morning.

A flat, white road with a rather noble avenue of umbrella-pines for the
first few hundred yards. A road not far from the sea, a bare, flattish,
hot white road with nothing but a tilted oxen-wagon in the distance like
a huge snail with four horns. Beside the road the tall asphodel is
letting off its spasmodic pink sparks, rather at random, and smelling of
cats. Away to the left is the sea, beyond the flat green wheat, the
Mediterranean glistening flat and deadish, as it does on the low shores.
Ahead are hills, and a ragged bit of a grey village with an ugly big grey
building: that is Cerveteri. We trudge on along the dull road. After all,
it is only five miles and a bit.

We creep nearer, and climb the ascent. Caere, like most Etruscan cities,
lay on the crown of a hill with cliff-like escarpments. Not that this
Cerveteri is an Etruscan city. Caere, the Etruscan city, was swallowed by
the Romans, and after the fall of the Roman Empire it fell out of
existence altogether. But it feebly revived, and today we come to an old
Italian village, walled in with grey walls, and having a few new, pink,
box-shaped houses and villas outside the walls.

We pass through the gateway, where men are lounging talking and mules are
tied up, and in the bits of crooked grey streets look for a place where
we can eat. We see the notice, _Vini e Cucina_, Wines and Kitchen;
but it is only a deep cavern where mule-drivers are drinking blackish

However, we ask the man who is cleaning the post-omnibus in the street if
there is any other place. He says no, so in we go, into the cavern, down
a few steps.

Everybody is perfectly friendly. But the food is as usual, meat broth,
very weak, with thin macaroni in it: the boiled meat that made the broth:
and tripe: also spinach. The broth tastes of nothing, the meat tastes
almost of less, the spinach, alas: has been cooked over-in the fat
skimmed from the boiled beef. It is a meal--with a piece of so-called
sheep's cheese, that is pure salt and rancidity, and probably comes from
Sardinia; and wine that tastes like, and probably is, the black wine of
Calabria wetted with a good proportion of water. But it is a meal. We
will go to the tombs.

Into the cavern swaggers a spurred shepherd wearing goatskin trousers
with the long, rusty brown goat's hair hanging shaggy from his legs. He
grins and drinks wine, and immediately one sees again the shaggy-legged
faun. His face is a faun-face, not deadened by morals. He grins quietly,
and talks very subduedly, shyly, to the fellow who draws the wine from
the barrels. It is obvious fauns are shy, very shy, especially of moderns
like ourselves. He glances at us from a corner of his eye, ducks, wipes
his mouth on the back of his hand, and is gone, clambering with his hairy
legs on to his lean pony, swirling, and rattling away with a neat little
clatter of hoofs, under the ramparts and away to the open. He is the faun
escaping again out of the city precincts, far more shy and evanescent
than any Christian virgin. You cannot hard-boil him.

It occurs to me how rarely one sees the faun-face now, in Italy, that one
used to see so often before the war: the brown, rather still,
straight-nosed face with a little black moustache and often a little tuft
of black beard; yellow eyes, rather shy, under long lashes, but able to
glare with a queer glare, on occasion; and mobile lips that had a queer
way of showing the teeth when talking, bright white teeth. It was an old,
old type, and rather common in the South. But now you will hardly see one
of these men left, with the unconscious, ungrimacing faun-face. They were
all, apparently, killed in the war: they would be sure not to survive
such a war. Anyway the last one I know, a handsome fellow of my own
age--forty and a bit--is going queer and morose, crushed between war
memories, that have revived, and remorseless go-ahead women-folk.
Probably when I go South again he will have disappeared. They can't
survive, the faun-faced men, with their pure outlines and their strange
non-moral calm. Only the deflowered faces survive.

So much for a Maremma shepherd! We went out into the sunny April street
of this Cerveteri, Cerevetus, the old Caere. It is a worn-out little knot
of streets shut in inside a wall. Rising on the left is the citadel, the
acropolis, the high place, that which is the arx in Etruscan cities. But
now the high place is forlorn, with a big, weary building like a
governor's palace, or a bishop's palace, spreading on the crest behind
the castle gate, and a desolate sort of yard tilting below it, surrounded
by ragged, ruinous enclosure. It is forlorn beyond words, dead, and still
too big for the grey knot of inhabited streets below.

The girl of the cavern, a nice girl but a bad cook, has found us a guide,
obviously her brother, to take us to the necropolis. He is a lad of about
fourteen, and like everybody in this abandoned place shy and suspicious,
holding off. He bids us wait while he runs away somewhere. So we drink
coffee in the tiny café outside which the motor-omnibus reposes all day
long, till the return of our guide and another little boy, who will come
with him and see him through. The two boys cotton together, make a little
world secure from us, and move on ahead of us, ignoring us as far as
possible. The stranger is always a menace. B. and I are two very
quiet-mannered harmless men. But that first boy could not have borne to
go alone with us. Not alone! He would have been afraid, as if he were in
the dark.

They led us out of the only gate of the old town. Mules and ponies were
tied up in the sloping, forlorn place outside, and pack-mules arrived, as
in Mexico. We turned away to the left, under the rock cliff from whose
summit the so-called palace goes up flush, the windows looking out on to
the world. It seems as if the Etruscans may once have cut this low
rock-face, and as if the whole crown on which the wall-girt village of
Cerveteri now stands may once have been the arx, the ark, the inner
citadel and holy place of the city of Caere, or Agylla, the splendid
Etruscan city, with its' Greek quarters. There was a whole suburb of
Greek colonists, from Ionia, or perhaps from Athens, in busy Caere when
Rome was still a rather crude place. About the year 390 B.C. the Gauls
came swooping down on Rome. Then the Romans hurried the Vestal Virgins
and other women and children away to Caere, and the Etruscans took care
of them, in their rich city. Perhaps the refugee Vestals were housed on
this rock. And perhaps not. The site of Caere may not have been exactly
here. Certainly it stretched away on this same hilltop, east and south,
occupying the whole of the small plateau, some four or five miles round,
and spreading a great city thirty times as big as the present Cerveteri.
But the Etruscans built everything of wood--houses, temples--all save
walls for fortification, great gates, bridges, and drainage works. So
that the Etruscan cities vanished as completely as flowers. Only the
tombs, the bulbs, were underground. But the Etruscans built their cities,
whenever possible, on a long narrow plateau or headland above the
surrounding country, and they liked to have a rocky cliff for their base,
as in Cerveteri. Round the summit of this cliff, this headland, went the
enclosure wall, sometimes miles of the great cincture. And within the
walls they liked to have one inner high place, the arx, the citadel. Then
outside they liked to have a sharp dip or ravine, with a parallel hill
opposite. And on the parallel hill opposite they liked to have their city
of the dead, the necropolis. So they could stand on their ramparts and
look over the hollow where the stream flowed among its bushes, across
from the city of life, gay with its painted houses and temples, to the
near-at-hand city of their dear dead, pleasant with its smooth walks and
stone symbols, and painted fronts.

So it is at Cerveteri. From the sea-plain--and the sea was probably a
mile or two miles nearer in, in Etruscan days--the land leaves the coast
in an easy slope to the low-crowned cliffs of the city. But behind,
turning out of the gate away from the sea, you pass under the low but
sheer cliff of the town, down the stony road to the little ravine, full
of bushes.

Down here in the gully, the town--village, rather--has built its
wash-house, and the women are quietly washing the linen. They are
good-looking women, of the old world, with that very attractive look of
noiselessness and inwardness, which women must have had in the past. As
if, within the woman, there were again something to seek, that the eye
can never search out. Something that can be lost, but can never be found

Up the other side of the ravine is a steep, rocky little climb along a
sharp path, the two lads scrambling subduedly ahead. We pass a door cut
in the rock-face. I peep in to the damp, dark cell of what was apparently
once a tomb. But this must have been for unimportant people, a little
room in a cliff-face, now all deserted. The great tombs in the
Banditaccia are covered with mounds, tumuli. No one looks at these damp
little rooms in the low cliff-face, among the bushes. So I scramble on
hastily, after the others.

To emerge on to the open, rough, uncultivated plain. It was like Mexico,
on a small scale: the open, abandoned plain; in the distance little,
pyramid-shaped mountains set down straight upon the level, in the not-far
distance; and between, a mounted shepherd galloping round a flock of
mixed sheep and goats, looking very small. It was just like Mexico, only
much smaller and more human.

The boys went ahead across the fallow land, where there were many
flowers, tiny purple verbena, tiny forget-me-nots, and much wild
mignonette, that had a sweet little scent. I asked the boys what they
called it. They gave the usual dumb-bell answer: 'It is a flower!' On the
heaping banks towards the edge of the ravine the asphodel grew wild and
thick, with tall flowers up to my shoulder, pink and rather spasmodic.
These asphodels are very noticeable, a great feature in all this coast
landscape. I thought the boys surely would have a name for it. But no!
Sheepishly they make the same answer: '_È un fiore! Puzza!_'--It is
a flower. It stinks!--Both facts being self-evident, there was no
contradicting it. Though the smell of the asphodel is not objectionable,
to me: and I find the flower, now I know it well, very beautiful, with
its way of opening some pale, big, starry pink flowers, and leaving many
of its buds shut, with their dark, reddish stripes.

Many people, however, are very disappointed with the Greeks, for having
made so much of this flower. It is true, the word 'asphodel' makes one
expect some tall and mysterious lily, not this sparky, assertive flower
with just a touch of the onion about it. But for me, I don't care for
mysterious lilies, not even for that weird shyness the mariposa lily has.
And having stood on the rocks in Sicily, with the pink asphodel proudly
sticking up like clouds at sea, taller than myself, letting off pink
different flowerets with such sharp and vivid _éclat_, and saving up
such a store of buds in ear, stripey, I confess I admire the flower. It
has a certain reckless glory, such as the Greeks loved.

One man said he thought we were mistaken in calling this the Greek
asphodel, as somewhere in Greek the asphodel is called yellow. Therefore,
said this scholastic Englishman, the asphodel of the Greeks was probably
the single daffodil.

But not it! There is a very nice and silky yellow asphodel on Etna, pure
gold. And heaven knows how common the wild daffodil is in Greece. It does
not seem a very Mediterranean flower. The narcissus, the polyanthus
narcissus, is pure Mediterranean, and Greek. But the daffodil, the Lent

However, trust an Englishman and a modern for wanting to turn the tall,
proud, sparky, dare-devil asphodel into the modest daffodil! I believe we
don't like the asphodel because we don't like anything proud and sparky.
The myrtle opens her blossoms in just the same way as the asphodel,
explosively, throwing out the sparks of her stamens. And I believe it was
just this that the Greeks _saw_. They were that way themselves.

However, this is all on the way to the tombs: which lie ahead,
mushroom-shaped mounds of grass, great mushroom-shaped mounds, along the
edge of the ravine. When I say ravine, don't expect a sort of Grand
Canyon. Just a modest, Italian sort of ravine-gully, that you could
almost jump down.

When we come near we see the mounds have bases of stone masonry, great
girdles of carved and bevelled stone, running round touching the earth in
flexible, uneven lines, like the girdles on big, uneasy buoys half sunk
in the sea. And they are sunk a bit in the ground. And there is an avenue
of mounds, with a sunken path between, parallel to the ravine. This was
evidently the grand avenue of the necropolis, like the million-dollar
cemetery in New Orleans. _Absit omen_!

Between us and the mounds is a barbed-wire fence. There is a wire gate on
which it says you mustn't pick the flowers, whatever that may mean, for
there are no flowers. And another notice says, you mustn't tip the guide,
as he is gratuitous.

The boys run to the new little concrete house just by, and bring the
guide: a youth with red eyes and a bandaged hand. He lost a finger on the
railway a month ago. He is shy, and muttering, and neither prepossessing
nor cheerful, but he turns out quite decent. He brings keys and an
acetylene lamp, and we go through the wire gate into the place of tombs.

There is a queer stillness and a curious peaceful repose about the
Etruscan places I have been to, quite different from the weirdness of
Celtic places, the slightly repellent feeling of Rome and the old
Campagna, and the rather horrible feeling of the great pyramid places in
Mexico, Teotihuacan and Cholula, and Mitla in the south; or the amiably
idolatrous Buddha places in Ceylon. There is a stillness and a softness
in these great grassy mounds with their ancient stone girdles, and down
the central walk there lingers still a kind of homeliness and happiness.
True, it was a still and sunny afternoon in April, and larks rose from
the soft grass of the tombs. But there was a stillness and a soothingness
in all the air, in that sunken place, and a feeling that it was good for
one's soul to be there.

The same when we went down the few steps, and into the chambers of rock,
within the tumulus. There is nothing left. It is like a house that has
been swept bare: the inmates have left: now it waits for the next corner.
But whoever it is that has departed, they have left a pleasant feeling
behind them, warm to the heart, and kindly to the bowels.

They are surprisingly big and handsome, these homes of the dead. Cut out
of the living rock, they are just like houses. The roof has a beam cut to
imitate the roof-beam of the house. It is a house, a home.

As you enter, there are two small chambers, one to the right, one to the
left, antechambers. They say that here the ashes of the slaves were
deposited, in urns, upon the great benches of rock. For the slaves were
always burned, presumably. Whereas at Cerveteri the masters were laid
full-length, sometimes in the great stone sarcophagi, sometimes in big
coffins of terra-cotta, in all their regalia. But most often they were
just laid there on the broad rock-bed that goes round the tomb, and is
empty now, laid there calmly upon an open bier, not shut in sarcophagi,
but sleeping as if in life.

The central chamber is large; perhaps there is a great square column of
rock left in the centre, apparently supporting the solid roof as a
roof-tree supports the roof of a house. And all round the chamber goes
the broad bed of rock, sometimes a double tier, on which the dead were
laid, in their coffins, or lying open upon carved litters of stone or
wood, a man glittering in golden armour, or a woman in white and crimson
robes, with great necklaces round their necks, and rings on their
fingers. Here lay the family, the great chiefs and their wives, the
Lucumones, and their sons and daughters, many in one tomb.

Beyond again is a rock doorway, rather narrow, and narrowing upwards,
like Egypt. The whole thing suggests Egypt: but on the whole, here all is
plain, simple, usually with no decoration, and with those easy natural
proportions whose beauty one hardly notices, they come so naturally,
physically. It is the natural beauty of proportion of the phallic
consciousness, contrasted with the more studied or ecstatic proportion of
the mental and spiritual Consciousness we are accustomed to.

Through the inner doorway is the last chamber, small and dark and
culminative. Facing the door goes the stone bed on which was laid,
presumably, the Lucumo and the sacred treasures of the dead, the little
bronze ship of death that should bear him over to the other world, the
vases of jewels for his arraying, the vases of small dishes, the little
bronze statuettes and tools, the, weapons, the armour: all the amazing
impedimenta of the important dead. Or sometimes in this inner room lay
the woman, the great lady, in all her robes, with the mirror in her hand,
and her treasures, her jewels and combs and silver boxes of cosmetics, in
urns or vases ranged alongside. Splendid was the array they went with,
into death.

One of the most important tombs is the tomb of the Tarquins, the family
that gave Etruscan kings to early Rome. You go down a flight of steps,
and into the underworld home of the Tarchne, as the Etruscans wrote it.
In the middle of the great chamber there are two pillars, left from the
rock. The walls of the big living-room of the dead Tarquins, if one may
put it so, are stuccoed, but there are no paintings. Only there are the
writings on the wall, and in the burial niches in the wall above the long
double-tier stone bed; little sentences freely written in red paint or
black, or scratched in the stucco with the finger, slanting with the real
Etruscan carelessness and fullness of life, often running downwards,
written from right to left. We can read these debonair inscriptions, that
look as if someone had just chalked them up yesterday without a thought,
in the archaic Etruscan letters, quite easily. But when we have read them
we don't know what they mean. _Avle--Tarchnas--Larthal--Clan_. That
is plain enough. But what does it mean? Nobody knows precisely. Names,
family names, family connexions, titles of the dead--we may assume so
much. 'Aule, son of Larte Tarchna,' say the scientists, having got so
far. But we cannot read one single sentence. The Etruscan language is a
mystery. Yet in Caesar's day it was the everyday language of the bulk of
the people in central Italy--at least, east-central. And many Romans
spoke Etruscan as we speak French. Yet now the language is entirely lost.
Destiny is a queer thing.

The tomb called the Grotta Bella is interesting because of the low-relief
carvings and stucco reliefs on the pillars and the walls round the burial
niches and above the stone death-bed that goes round the tomb. The things
represented are mostly warriors' arms and insignia: shields, helmets,
corselets, greaves for the legs, swords, spears, shoes, belts, the
necklace of the noble: and then the sacred drinking bowl, the sceptre,
the dog who is man's guardian even on the death journey, the two lions
that stand by the gateway of life or death, the triton, or merman, and
the goose, the bird that swims on the waters and thrusts its head deep
into the flood of the Beginning and the End. All these are represented on
the walls. And all these, no doubt, were laid, the actual objects, or
figures to represent them, in this tomb. But now nothing is left. But
when we remember the great store of treasure that every notable tomb must
have contained: and that every large tumulus covered several tombs: and
that in the necropolis of Cerveteri we can still discover hundreds of
tombs: and that other tombs exist in great numbers on the other side of
the old city, towards the sea; we can have an idea of the vast mass of
wealth this city could afford to bury with its dead, in days when Rome
had very little gold, and even bronze was precious.

The tombs seem so easy and friendly, cut out of rock underground. One
does not feel oppressed, descending into them. It must be partly owing to
the peculiar charm of natural proportion which is in all Etruscan things
of the unspoilt, unromanized centuries. There is a simplicity, combined
with a most peculiar, free-breasted naturalness and spontaneity, in the
shapes and movements of the underworld walls and spaces, that at once
reassures the spirit. The Greeks sought to make an impression, and Gothic
still more seeks to impress the mind. The Etruscans, no. The things they
did, in their easy centuries, are as natural and as easy as breathing.
They leave the breast breathing freely and pleasantly, with a certain
fullness of life. Even the tombs. And that is the true Etruscan quality:
ease, naturalness, and an abundance of life, no need to force the mind or
the soul in any direction.

And death, to the Etruscan, was a pleasant continuance of life, with
jewels and wine and flutes playing for the dance. It was neither an
ecstasy of bliss, a heaven, nor a purgatory of torment. It was just a
natural continuance of the fullness of life. Everything was in terms of
life, of living.

Yet everything Etruscan, save the tombs, has been wiped out. It seems
strange. One goes out again into the April sunshine, into the sunken road
between the soft, grassy-mounded tombs, and as one passes one glances
down the steps at the doorless doorways of tombs. It is so still and
pleasant and cheerful. The place is so soothing.

B., who has just come back from India, is so surprised to see the phallic
stones by the doors of many tombs. Why, it's like the Shiva lingam at
Benares! It's exactly like the lingam stones in the Shiva caves and the
Shiva temples!

And that is another curious thing. One can live one's life, and read all
the books about India or Etruria, and never read a single word about the
thing that impresses one in the very first five minutes, in Benares or in
an Etruscan necropolis: that is, the phallic symbol. Here it is, in
stone, unmistakable, and everywhere, around these tombs. Here it is, big
and little, standing by the doors, or inserted, quite small, into the
rock: the phallic stone! Perhaps some tumuli had a great phallic column
on the summit: some perhaps by the door. There are still small phallic
stones, only seven or eight inches long, inserted in the rock outside the
doors: they always seem to have been outside. And these small lingams
look as if they were part of the rock. But no, B. lifts one out. It is
cut, and is fitted into a socket, previously cemented in. B puts the
phallic stone back into its socket, where it was placed, probably, five
or six hundred years before Christ was born.

The big phallic stones that, it is said, probably stood on top of the
tumuli, are sometimes carved very beautifully, sometimes with
inscriptions. The scientists call them _cippus, cippi_. But surely
the cippus is a truncated column used usually as a gravestone: a column
quite squat, often square, having been cut across, truncated, to
represent maybe a life cut short. Some of the little phallic stones are
like this--truncated. But others are tall, huge and decorated, and with
the double cone that is surely phallic. And little inserted phallic
stones are not cut short.

By the doorway of some tombs there is a carved stone house, or a stone
imitation chest with sloping lids like the two sides of the roof of an
oblong house. The guide-boy, who works on the railway and is no profound
scholar, mutters that every woman's tomb had one of these stone houses or
chests over it--over the doorway, he says--and every man's tomb had one
of the phallic stones, or lingams. But since the great tombs were family
tombs, perhaps they had both.

The stone house, as the boy calls it, suggests the Noah's Ark without the
boat part: the Noah's Ark box we had as children, full of animals. And
that is what it is, the Ark, the _arx_, the womb. The womb of all
the world, that brought forth all the creatures. The womb, the
_arx_, where life retreats in the last refuge. The womb the ark of
the covenant, in which lies the mystery of eternal life, the manna and
the mysteries. There it is, standing displaced outside the doorway of
Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri.

And perhaps in the insistence on these two symbols, in the Etruscan
world, we can see the reason for the utter destruction and annihilation
of the Etruscan consciousness. The new world wanted to rid itself of
these fatal, dominant symbols of the old world, the old physical world.
The Etruscan consciousness was rooted quite blithely in these symbols,
the phallus and the arx. So the whole consciousness, the whole Etruscan
pulse and rhythm, must be wiped out.

Now we see again, under the blue heavens where the larks are singing in
the hot April sky, why the Romans called the Etruscans vicious. Even in
their palmy days the Romans were not exactly saints. But they thought
they ought to be. They hated the phallus and the ark, because they wanted
empire and dominion and, above all, riches: social gain. You cannot dance
gaily to the double flute and at the same time conquer nations or rake in
large sums of money. _Delenda est Cartago_. To the greedy man,
everybody that is in the way of his greed is vice incarnate.

There are many tombs, though not many of the great mounds are left. Most
have been levelled. There are many tombs: some were standing half full of
water; some were in process of being excavated, in a kind of
quarry-place, though the work for the time was silent and abandoned. Many
tombs, many, many, and you must descend to them all, for they are all cut
out below the surface of the earth: and where there was a tumulus it was
piled above them afterwards, loose earth, within the girdle of stone.
Some tumuli have been levelled, yet the whole landscape is lumpy with
them. But the tombs remain, here all more or less alike, though some are
big and some are small, and some are noble and some are rather mean. But
most of them seem to have several chambers, beyond the antechambers. And
all these tombs along the dead highway would seem to have been topped,
once, by the beautiful roundness of tumuli, the great mounds of fruition,
for the dead, with the tall phallic cone rising from the summit.

The necropolis, as far as we are concerned, ends on a waste place of
deserted excavations and flood-water. We turn back, to leave the home of
dead Etruscans. All the tombs are empty. All have been rifled. The Romans
may have respected the dead, for a certain time, while their religion was
sufficiently Etruscan to exert a power over them. But later, when the
Romans started collecting Etruscan antiques--as we collect antiques
today--there must have been a great sacking of the tombs. Even when all
the gold and silver and jewels had been pilfered from the urns--which no
doubt happened very soon after the Roman dominion--still the vases and
the bronze must have remained in their places. Then the rich Romans began
to collect vases, 'Greek' vases with the painted scenes. So these were
stolen from the tombs. Then the little bronze figures, statuettes,
animals, bronze ships, of which the Etruscans put thousands in the tombs,
became the rage with the Roman collectors. Some smart Roman gentry would
have a thousand or two choice little Etruscan bronzes to boast of. Then
Rome fell, and the barbarians pillaged whatever was left. So it went on.

And still some tombs remained virgin, for the earth had washed in and
filled the entrance way, covered the stone bases of the mounds; trees,
bushes grew over the graves; you had only hilly, humpy, bushy waste

Under this the tombs lay silent, either ravaged, or, in a few wonderful
cases, still virgin. And still absolutely virgin lay one of the tombs of
Cerveteri, alone and apart from the necropolis, buried on the other side
of the town, until 1836, when it was discovered: and, of course, denuded.
General Galassi and the arch-priest Regolini unearthed it: so it is
called the Regolini-Galassi tomb.

It is still interesting: a primitive narrow tomb like a passage, with a
partition half-way, and covered with an arched roof, what they call the
false arch, which is made by letting the flat horizontal stones of the
roof jut out step by step, as they pile upwards, till they almost meet.
Then big flat stones are laid as cover, and make the flat top of the
almost Gothic arch: an arch built, probably, in the eighth century before

In the first chamber lay the remains of a warrior, with his bronze
armour, beautiful and sensitive as if it had grown in life for the living
body, sunk on his dust. In the inner chamber beautiful, frail, pale-gold
jewellery lay on the stone bed, earrings where the ears were dust,
bracelets in the dust that once was arms, surely of a noble lady, nearly
three thousand years ago.

Plate 1. Cerveteri. Entrance to the Chamber Tombs.
Plate 2. Cerveteri. Tomb of the Sarcophagi.
Plate 3. Cerveteri. Tomb of the Stuccos, or the Grotta Bella.
Place 4. Cerveteri. Terra-cotta Heads on Sarcophagus now in the Villa
                    Giulia Museum, Rome.
Place 5. Cerveteri. The Regolini-Galassi Tomb.
Plate 6. Tarquinia. Greek Vases with Eye-Pattern and Head of Bacchus.
Plate 7. Tarquinia. Tomb of Hunting and Fishing.
Plate 8. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Leopards.
Plate 9. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Leopards.
Plate 10. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Feast.
Plate 11. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Lionesses.
Plate 12. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Bulls.
Plate 13. Tarquinia. Tomb of the Baron.
Plate 14. Volterra. Porta dell' Arco.
Plate 15. Volterra. Ash-chest showing the Boar-hunt.
Plate 16. Volterra. Ash-chest showing Acteon and the Dogs.

They took away everything. The treasure, so delicate and sensitive and
wistful, is mostly in the Gregorian Museum in the Vatican. On two of the
little silver vases from the Regolini-Galassi tomb is the scratched
inscription--_Mi Larthia_. Almost the first written Etruscan words
we know. And what do they mean, anyhow? 'This is Larthia'--Larthia being
a lady?

Caere, even seven hundred years before Christ, must have been rich and
full of luxury, fond of soft gold and of banquets, dancing, and great
Greek vases. But you will find none of it now. The tombs are bare: what
treasure they yielded up, and even to us Cerveteri has yielded a great
deal, is in the museums. If you go you will see, as I saw, a grey,
forlorn little township in tight walls--perhaps having a thousand
inhabitants--and some empty burying places.

But when you sit in the post-automobile, to be rattled down to the
station, about four o'clock in the sunny afternoon, you will probably see
the bus surrounded by a dozen buxom, handsome women, saying good-bye to
one of their citizenesses. And in the full, dark, handsome, jovial faces
surely you see the lustre still of the life-loving Etruscans! There are
some level Greek eyebrows. But surely there are other vivid, warm faces
still jovial with Etruscan vitality, beautiful with the mystery of the
unrifled ark, ripe with the phallic knowledge and the Etruscan


In Cerveteri there is nowhere to sleep, so the only thing to do is to go
back to Rome, or forwards to Cività Vecchia. The bus landed us at the
station of Palo at about five o'clock: in the midst of nowhere: to meet
the Rome train. But we were going on to Tarquinia, not back to Rome, so
we must wait two hours, till seven.

In the distance we could see the concrete villas and new houses of what
was evidently Ladispoli, a seaside place, some two miles away. So we set
off to walk to Ladispoli, on the flat sea-road. On the left, in the wood
that forms part of the great park, the nightingales had already begun to
whistle, and looking over the wall one could see many little
rose-coloured cyclamens glowing on the earth in the evening light.

We walked on, and the Rome train came surging round the bend. It misses
Ladispoli, whose two miles of branch line runs only in the hot bathing
months. As we neared the first ugly villas on the road the ancient
wagonette drawn by the ancient white horse, both looking sun-bitten
almost to ghostliness, clattered past. It just beat us.

Ladispoli is one of those ugly little places on the Roman coast,
consisting of new concrete villas, new concrete hotels, kiosks and
bathing establishments; bareness and nonexistence for ten months in the
year, seething solid with fleshy bathers in July and August. Now it was
deserted, quite deserted, save for two or three officials and four wild

B. and I lay on the grey-black lava sand, by the flat, low sea, over
which the sky, grey and shapeless, emitted a flat, wan evening light.
Little waves curled green out of the sea's dark greyness, from the
curious low flatness of the water. It is a peculiarly forlorn coast, the
sea peculiarly flat and sunken, lifeless-looking, the land as if it had
given its last gasp, and was now for ever inert.

Yet this is the Tyrrhenian sea of the Etruscans, where their shipping
spread sharp sails, and beat the sea with slave-oars, roving in from
Greece and Sicily, Sicily of the Greek tyrants; from Cumae, the city of
the old Greek colony of Campania, where the province of Naples now is;
and from Elba, where the Etruscans mined their iron ore. The Etruscans
sailed the seas. They are even said to have come by sea, from Lydia in
Asia Minor, at some date far back in the dim mists before the eighth
century B.C. But that a whole people, even a whole host, sailed in the
tiny ships of those days, all at once, to people a sparsely peopled
central Italy, seems hard to imagine. Probably ships did come--even
before Ulysses. Probably men landed on the strange flat coast, and made
camps, and then treated with the natives. Whether the newcomers were
Lydians or Hittites with hair curled in a roll behind, or men from
Mycenae or Crete, who knows. Perhaps men of all these sorts came, in
batches. For in Homeric days a restlessness seems to have possessed the
Mediterranean basin, and ancient races began shaking ships like seeds
over the sea. More people than Greeks, or Hellenes, or Indo-Germanic
groups, were on the move.

But whatever little ships were run ashore on the soft, deep, grey-black
volcanic sand of this coast, three thousand years ago, and earlier, their
mariners certainly did not find those hills inland empty of people. If
the Lydians or Hittites pulled up their long little two-eyed ships on to
the beach, and made a camp behind a bank, in shelter from the wet strong
wind, what natives came down curiously to look at them? For natives there
were, of that we may be certain. Even before the fall of Troy, before
even Athens was dreamed of, there were natives here. And they had huts on
the hills, thatched huts in clumsy groups most probably; with patches of
grain, and flocks of goats and probably cattle. Probably it was like
coming on an old Irish village, or a village in the Scottish Hebrides in
Prince Charlie's day, to come upon a village of these Italian aborigines,
by the Tyrrhenian sea, three thousand years ago. But by the time Etruscan
history starts in Caere, some eight centuries B.C., there was certainly
more than a village on the hill. There was a native city, of that we may
be sure; and a busy spinning of linen and beating of gold, long before
the Regolini-Galassi tomb was built.

However that may be, somebody carne, and somebody was already here: of
that we may be certain: and, in the first place, none of them were Greeks
or Hellenes. It was the days before Rome rose up: probably when the first
corners arrived it was the days even before Homer. The newcomers, whether
they were few or many, seem to have come from the east, Asia Minor or
Crete or Cyprus. They were, we must feel, of an old, primitive
Mediterranean and Asiatic or Aegean stock. The twilight of the beginning
of our history was the nightfall of some previous history, which will
never be written. Pelasgian is but a shadow-word: But Hittite and Minoan,
Lydian, Carian, Etruscan, these words emerge from shadow, and perhaps
from one and the same great shadow come the peoples to whom the names

The Etruscan civilization seems a shoot, perhaps the last, from the
prehistoric Mediterranean world, and the Etruscans, newcomers and
aborigines alike, probably belonged to that ancient world, though they
were of different nations and levels of culture. Later, of course, the
Greeks exerted a great influence. But that is another matter.

Whatever happened, the newcomers in ancient central Italy found many
natives flourishing in possession of the land. These aboriginals, now
ridiculously called Villanovans, were neither wiped out nor suppressed.
Probably they welcomed the strangers, whose pulse was not hostile to
their own. Probably the more highly developed religion of the newcomers
was not hostile to the primitive religion of the aborigines: no doubt the
two religions had the same root. Probably the aborigines formed willingly
a sort of religious aristocracy from the newcomers: the Italians might
almost do the same today. And so the Etruscan world arose. But it took
centuries to arise. Etruria was not a colony, it was a slowly developed

There was never an Etruscan nation: only, in historical times, a great
league of tribes or nations using the Etruscan language and the Etruscan
script--at least officially--and uniting in their religious feeling and
observances. The Etruscan alphabet seems to have been borrowed from the
old Greeks, apparently from the Chalcidians of Cumae--the Greek colony
just north of where Naples now is. But the Etruscan language is not akin
to any of the Greek dialects, nor, apparently, to the Italic. But we
don't know. It is probably to a great extent the language of the old
aboriginals of southern Etruria, just as the religion is in all
probability basically aboriginal, belonging to some vast old religion of
the prehistoric world. From the shadow of the prehistoric world emerge
dying religions that have not yet invented gods or goddesses, but live by
the mystery of the elemental powers in the Universe, the complex
vitalities of what we feebly call Nature. And the Etruscan religion was
certainly one of these. The gods and goddesses don't seem to have emerged
in any sharp definiteness.

But it is not for me to make assertions. Only, that which half emerges
from the dim background of time is strangely stirring; and after having
read all the learned suggestions, most of them contradicting one another;
and then having looked sensitively at the tombs and the Etruscan things
that are left, one must accept one's own resultant feeling.

Ships came along this low, inconspicuous sea, coming up from the Near
East, we should imagine, even in the days of Solomon--even, maybe, in the
days of Abraham. And they kept on coming. As the light of history dawns
and brightens, we see them winging along with their white or scarlet
sails. Then, as the Greeks came crowding into colonies in Italy, and the
Phoenicians began to exploit the western Mediterranean, we begin to hear
of the silent Etruscans, and to see them.

Just north of here Caere founded a port called Pyrgi, and we know that
the Greek vessels flocked in, with vases and stuffs and colonists coming
from Hellas or from Magna Graecia, and that Phoenician ships came rowing
sharply, over from Sardinia, up from Carthage, round from Tyre and Sidon;
while the Etruscans had their own fleets, built of timber from the
mountains, caulked with pitch from northern Volterra, fitted with sails
from Tarquinia, filled with wheat from the bountiful plains, or with the
famous Etruscan articles of bronze and iron, which they carried away to
Corinth or to Athens or to the ports of Asia Minor. We know of the great
and finally disastrous sea-battles with the Phoenicians and the tyrant of
Syracuse. And we know that the Etruscans, all except those of Caere,
became ruthless pirates, almost like the Moors and the Barbary corsairs
later on. This was part of their viciousness, a great annoyance to their
loving and harmless neighbours, the law-abiding Romans--who believed in
the supreme law of conquest.

However, all this is long ago. The very coast has changed since then. The
smitten sea has sunk and fallen back, the weary land has emerged when,
apparently, it didn't want to, and the flowers of the coast-line are
miserable bathing-places such as Ladispoli and seaside Ostia, desecration
put upon desolation, to the triumphant trump of the mosquito.

The wind blew flat and almost chill from the darkening sea, the dead
waves lifted small bits of pure green out of the leaden greyness, under
the leaden sky. We got up from the dark grey but soft sand, and went back
along the road to the station, peered at by the few people and officials
who were holding the place together till the next bathers carne.

At the station there was general desertedness. But our things still lay
untouched in a dark corner of the buffet, and the man gave us a decent
little meal of cold meats and wine and oranges. It was already night. The
train came rushing in, punctually.

It is an hour or more to Cività Vecchia, which is a port of not much
importance, except that from here the regular steamer sails to Sardinia.
We gave our things to a friendly old porter, and told him to take us to
the nearest hotel. It was night, very dark as we emerged from the

And a fellow came furtively shouldering up to me.

'You are foreigners, aren't you?'


'What nationality?'


'You have your permission to reside in Italy--or your passport?'

'My passport I have--what do you want?'

'I want to look at your passport.'

'It's in the valise! And why? Why is this?'

'This is a port, and we must examine the papers of foreigners.

'And why? Genoa is a port, and no one dreams of asking for papers.'

I was furious. He made no answer. I told the porter to go on to the
hotel, and the fellow furtively followed at our side, half-a-pace to the
rear, in the mongrel way these spy-louts have.

In the hotel I asked for a room and registered, and then the fellow asked
again for my passport. I wanted to know why he demanded it, what he meant
by accosting me outside the station as if I was a criminal, what he meant
by insulting us with his requests, when in any other town in Italy one
went unquestioned--and so forth, in considerable rage.

He did not reply, but obstinately looked as though he would be venomous
if he could. He peered at the passport--though I doubt if he could make
head or tail of it--asked where we were going, peered at B.'s passport,
half excused himself in a whining, disgusting sort of fashion, and
disappeared into the night. A real lout.

I was furious. Supposing I had not been carrying my passport--and usually
I don't dream of carrying it--what amount of trouble would that lout have
made me! Probably I should have spent the night in prison, and been
bullied by half a dozen low bullies.

Those poor rats at Ladispoli had seen me and B. go to the sea and sit on
the sand for half-an-hour, then go back to the train. And this was enough
to rouse their suspicions, I imagine, so they telegraphed to Cività
Vecchia. Why are officials always fools? Even when there is no war on?
What could they imagine we were doing?

The hotel manager, propitious, said there was a very interesting museum
in Cività Vecchia, and wouldn't we stay the next day and see it. 'Ah!' I
replied. 'But all it contains is Roman stuff, and we don't want to look
at that.' It was malice on my part, because the present regime considers
itself purely ancient Roman. The man looked at me scared, and I grinned
at him. 'But what do they mean,' I said, 'behaving like this to a simple
traveller, in a country where foreigners are invited to travel!' 'Ah!'
said the porter softly and soothingly. 'It is the Roman province. You
will have no more of it when you leave the Provincia di Roma.' And when
the Italians give the soft answer to turn away wrath, the wrath somehow
turns away.

We walked for an hour in the dull street of Cività Vecchia. There seemed
so much suspicion, one would have thought there were several wars on. The
hotel manager asked if we were staying. We said we were leaving by the
eight-o'clock train in the morning, for Tarquinia.

And, sure enough, we left by the eight-o'clock train. Tarquinia is only
one station from Cività Vecchia--about twenty minutes over the fiat
Maremma country, with the sea on the left, and the green wheat growing
luxuriantly, the asphodel sticking up its spikes.

We soon saw Tarquinia, its towers pricking up like antennae on the side
of a low bluff of a hill, some few miles inland from the sea. And this
was once the metropolis of Etruria, chief city of the great Etruscan
League. But it died like all the other Etruscan cities, and had a more or
less medieval rebirth, with a new name. Dante knew it, as it was known
for centuries, as Corneto--Corgnetum or Cornetium--and forgotten was its
Etruscan past. Then there was a feeble sort of wakening to remembrance a
hundred years ago, and the town got Tarquinia tacked on to its Corneto:
Corneto-Tarquinia. The Fascist regime, however, glorying in the Italian
origins of Italy, has now struck out the Corneto, so the town is once
more, simply, Tarquinia. As you come up in the motor-bus from the station
you see the great black letters, on a white ground, painted on the wall
by the city gateway: _Tarquinia_. So the wheel of revolution turns.
There stands the Etruscan word--Latinized Etruscan--beside the medieval
gate, put up by the Fascist power to name and unname.

But the Fascists, who consider themselves in all things Roman, Roman of
the Caesars, heirs of Empire and world power, are beside the mark
restoring the rags of dignity to Etruscan places. For of all the Italian
people that ever lived, the Etruscans were surely the least Roman. Just
as, of all the people that ever rose up in Italy, the Romans of ancient
Rome were surely the most un-Italian, judging from the natives of today.

Tarquinia is only about three miles from the sea. The omnibus soon runs
one up, charges through the widened gateway, swirls round in the empty
space inside the gateway, and is finished. We descend in the bare place,
which seems to expect nothing. On the left is a beautiful stone
palazzo--on the right is a café, upon the low ramparts above the gate.
The man of the _Dazio_, the town customs, looks to see if anybody
has brought food-stuffs into the town--but it is a mere glance. I ask him
for the hotel. He says: 'Do you mean to sleep?' I say I do. Then he tells
a small boy to carry my bag and takes us to Gentile's.

Nowhere is far off, in these small wall-girdled cities. In the warm April
morning the stony little town seems half asleep. As a matter of fact,
most of the inhabitants are out in the fields, and won't come in through
the gates again till evening. The slight sense of desertedness is
everywhere--even in the inn, when we have climbed up the stairs to it,
for the ground floor does not belong. A little lad in long trousers, who
would seem to be only twelve years old but who has the air of a mature
man, confronts us with his chest out. We ask for rooms. He eyes us, darts
away for the key, and leads us off upstairs another flight, shouting to a
young girl, who acts as chambermaid, to follow on. He shows us two small
rooms, opening off a big, desert sort of general assembly room common in
this kind of inn. 'And you won't be lonely,' he said briskly, 'because
you can talk to one another through the wall. _Toh! Lina!'_ He lifts
his finger and listens. '_Eh!_' comes through the wall, like an
echo, with startling nearness and clearness. '_Fai presto!_' says
Albertino. '_E pronto!_' comes the voice of Lina. '_Ecco!_'
says Albertino to us. 'You hear!' We certainly did. The partition wall
must have been butter-muslin. And Albertino was delighted, having
reassured us we should not feel lonely nor frightened in the night.

He was, in fact, the most manly and fatherly little hotel manager I have
ever known, and he ran the whole place. He was in reality fourteen years
old, but stunted. From five in the morning till ten at night he was on
the go, never ceasing, and with a queer, abrupt, sideways-darting
alacrity that must have wasted a great deal of energy. The father and
mother were in the background--quite young and pleasant. But they didn't
seem to exert themselves. Albertino did it all. How Dickens would have
loved him! But Dickens would not have seen the queer wistfulness, and
trustfulness, and courage in the boy. He was absolutely unsuspicious of
us strangers. People must be rather human and decent in Tarquinia, even
the commercial travellers: who, presumably, are chiefly buyers of
agricultural produce, and sellers of agricultural implements and so

We sallied out, back to the space by the gate, and drank coffee at one of
the tin tables outside. Beyond the wall there were a few new villas--the
land dropped green and quick, to the strip of coast plain and the
indistinct, faintly gleaming sea, which seemed somehow not like a sea at

I was thinking, if this were still an Etruscan city, there would still be
this cleared space just inside the gate. But instead of a rather forlorn
vacant lot it would be a sacred clearing, with a little temple to keep it

Myself, I like to think of the little wooden temples of the early Greeks
and of the Etruscans: small, dainty, fragile, and evanescent as flowers.
We have reached the stage when we are weary of huge stone erections, and
we begin to realize that it is better to keep life fluid and changing
than to try to hold it fast down in heavy monuments. Burdens on the face
of the earth are man's ponderous erections.

The Etruscans made small temples, like little houses with pointed roofs,
entirely of wood. But then, outside, they had friezes and cornices and
crests of terra-cotta, so that the upper part of the temple would seem
almost made of earthenware, terra-cotta plaques fitted neatly, and alive
with freely modelled painted figures in relief, gay dancing creatures,
rows of ducks, round faces like the sun, and faces grinning and putting
out a big tongue, all vivid and fresh and unimposing. The whole thing
small and dainty in proportion, and fresh, somehow charming instead of
impressive. There seems to have been in the Etruscan instinct a real
desire to preserve the natural humour of life. And that is a task surely
more worthy, and even much more difficult in the long run, than
conquering the world or sacrificing the self or saving the immortal soul.

Why has mankind had such a craving to be imposed upon? Why this lust
after imposing creeds, imposing deeds, imposing buildings, imposing
language, imposing works of art? The thing becomes an imposition and a
weariness at last. Give us things that are alive and flexible, which
won't last too long and become an obstruction and a weariness. Even
Michelangelo becomes at last a lump and a burden and a bore. It is so
hard to see past him.

Across the space from the café is the Palazzo Vitelleschi, a charming
building, now a national museum--so the marble slab says. But the heavy
doors are shut. The place opens at ten, a man says. It is nine-thirty. We
wander up the steep but not very long street, to the top.

And the top is a fragment of public garden, and a look-out. Two old men
are sitting in the sun, under a tree. We walk to the parapet, and
suddenly are looking into one of the most delightful landscapes I have
ever seen: as it were, into the very virginity of hilly green country. It
is all wheat--green and soft and swooping, swooping down and up, and
glowing with green newness, and no houses. Down goes the declivity below
us, then swerving the curve and up again, to the neighbouring hill that
faces in all its greenness and long-running immaculateness. Beyond, the
hills ripple away to the mountains, and far in the distance stands a
round peak, that seems to have an enchanted city on its summit.

Such a pure, uprising, unsullied country, in the greenness of wheat on an
April morning!--and the queer complication of hills! There seems nothing
of the modern world here--no houses, no contrivances, only a sort of fair
wonder and stillness, an openness which has not been violated.

The hill opposite is like a distinct companion. The near end is quite
steep and wild, with evergreen oaks and scrub, and specks of
black-and-white cattle on the slopes of common. But the long crest is
green again with wheat, running and drooping to the south. And
immediately one feels: that hill has a soul, it has a meaning.

Lying thus opposite to Tarquinia's long hill, a companion across a suave
little swing of valley, one feels at once that, if this is the hill where
the living Tarquinians had their gay wooden houses, then that is the hill
where the dead lie buried and quick, as seeds, in their painted houses
underground. The two hills are as inseparable as life and death, even
now, on the sunny, green-filled April morning with the breeze blowing in
from the sea. And the land beyond seems as mysterious and fresh as if it
were still the morning of Time.

But B. wants to go back to the Palazzo Vitelleschi: it will be open now.
Down the street we go, and sure enough the big doors are open, several
officials are in the shadowy courtyard entrance. They salute us in the
Fascist manner; _alla romana_! Why don't they discover the Etruscan
salute, and salute us _all'etrusca_! But they are perfectly
courteous and friendly. We go into the courtyard of the palace.

The museum is exceedingly interesting and delightful, to anyone who is
even a bit aware of the Etruscans. It contains a great number of things
found at Tarquinia, and important things.

If only we would realize it, and not tear things from their settings.
Museums anyhow are wrong. But if one must have museums, let them be
small, and above all, let them be local. Splendid as the Etruscan museum
is in Florence, how much happier one is in the museum at Tarquinia, where
all the things are Tarquinian, and at least have some association with
one another, and form some sort of _organic_ whole.

In an entrance room from the cortile lie a few of the long sarcophagi in
which the nobles were buried. It seems as if the primitive inhabitants of
this part of Italy always burned their dead, and then put the ashes in a
jar, sometimes covering the jar with the dead man's helmet, sometimes
with a shallow dish for a lid, and then laid the urn with its ashes in a
little round grave like a little well. This is called the Villanovan way
of burial, in the well-tomb.

The newcomers to the country, however, apparently buried their dead
whole. Here, at Tarquinia, you may still see the hills where the
well-tombs of the aboriginal inhabitants are discovered, with the urns
containing the ashes inside. Then come the graves where the dead were
buried unburned, graves very much like those of today. But tombs of the
same period with cinerary urns are found near to, or in connexion. So
that the new people and the old apparently lived side by side in harmony,
from very early days, and the two modes of burial continued side by side,
for centuries, long before the painted tombs were made.

At Tarquinia, however, the main practice seems to have been, at least
from the seventh century on, that the nobles were buried in the great
sarcophagi, or laid out on biers, and placed in chamber-tombs, while the
slaves apparently were cremated, their ashes laid in urns, and the urns
often placed in the family tomb, where the stone coffins of the masters
rested. The common people, on the other hand, were apparently sometimes
cremated, sometimes buried in graves very much like our graves of today,
though the sides were lined with stone. The mass of the common people was
mixed in race, and the bulk of them were probably serf-peasants, with
many half-free artisans. These must have followed their own desire in the
matter of burial: some had graves, many must have been cremated, their
ashes saved in an urn or jar which takes up little room in a poor man's
burial-place. Probably even the less important members of the noble
families were cremated, and their remains placed in the vases, which
became more beautiful as the connexion with Greece grew more extensive.

It is a relief to think that even the slaves--and the luxurious Etruscans
had many, in historical times--had their remains decently stored in jars
and laid in a sacred place. Apparently the 'vicious Etruscans' had
nothing comparable to the vast dead-pits which lay outside Rome, beside
the great highway, in which the bodies of slaves were promiscuously

It is all a question of sensitiveness. Brute force and overbearing may
make a terrific effect. But in the end, that which lives lives by
delicate sensitiveness. If it were a question of brute force, not a
single human baby would survive for a fortnight. It is the grass of the
field, most frail of all things, that supports all life all the time. But
for the green grass, no empire would rise, no man would eat bread: for
grain is grass; and Hercules or Napoleon or Henry Ford would alike be
denied existence.

Brute force crushes many plants. Yet the plants rise again. The Pyramids
will not last a moment compared with the daisy. And before Buddha or
Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and
Buddha are gone into oblivion the nightingale still will sing. Because it
is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just
singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.

Because a fool kills a nightingale with a stone, is he therefore greater
than the nightingale? Because the Roman took the life out of the
Etruscan, was he therefore greater than the Etruscan? Not he! Rome fell,
and the Roman phenomenon with it. Italy today is far more Etruscan in its
pulse than Roman; and will always be so. The Etruscan element is like the
grass of the field and the sprouting of corn, in Italy: it will always be
so. Why try to revert to the Latin-Roman mechanism and suppression?

In the open room upon the courtyard of the Palazzo Vitelleschi lie a few
sarcophagi of stone, with the effigies carved on top, something as the
dead crusaders in English churches. And here, in Tarquinia, the effigies
are more like crusaders than usual, for some lie flat on their backs, and
have a dog at their feet; whereas usually the carved figure of the dead
rears up as if alive, from the lid of the tomb, resting upon one elbow,
and gazing out proudly, sternly. If it is a man, his body is exposed to
just below the navel, and he holds in his hand the sacred _patera_,
or _mundum_, the round saucer with the raised knob in the centre,
which represents the round germ of heaven and earth. It stands for the
plasm, also, of the living cell, with its nucleus, which is the
indivisible God of the beginning, and which remains alive and unbroken to
the end, the eternal quick of all things, which yet divides and
sub-divides, so that it becomes the sun of the firmament and the lotus of
the waters under the earth, and the rose of all existence upon the earth:
and the sun maintains its own quick, unbroken for ever; and there is a
living quick of the sea, and of all the waters; and every living created
thing has its own unfailing quick. So within each man is the quick of
him, when he is a baby, and when he is old, the same quick; some spark,
some unborn and undying vivid life-electron. And this is what this
symbolized in the _patera_, which may be made to flower like a rose
or like the sun, but which remains the same, the germ central within the
living plasm.

And this _patera_, this symbol, is almost invariably found in the
hand of a dead man. But if the dead is a woman her dress falls in soft
gathers from her throat, she wears splendid jewellery, and she holds in
her hand not the _mundum_, but the mirror, the box of essence, the
pomegranate, some symbols of her reflected nature, or of her woman's
quality. But she, too, is given a proud, haughty look, as is the man: for
she belongs to the sacred families that rule and that read the signs.

These sarcophagi and effigies here all belong to the centuries of the
Etruscan decline, after there had been long intercourse with the Greeks,
and perhaps most of them were made after the conquest of Etruria by the
Romans. So that we do not look for fresh, spontaneous works of art, any
more than we do in modern memorial stones. The funerary arts are always
more or less commercial. The rich man orders his sarcophagus while he is
still alive, and the monument-carver makes the work more or less
elaborate, according to the price. The figure is supposed to be a
portrait of the man who orders it, so we see well enough what the later
Etruscans look like. In the third and second centuries B.C., at the fag
end of their existence as a people, they look very like the Romans of the
same day, whose busts we know so well. And often they are given the
tiresomely haughty air of people who are no longer rulers indeed, only by
virtue of wealth.

Yet, even when the Etruscan art is Romanized and spoilt; there still
flickers in it a certain naturalness and feeling. The Etruscan
_Lucumones_, or prince-magistrates, were in the first place
religious seers, governors in religion, then magistrates, then princes.
They were not aristocrats in the Germanic sense, not even patricians in
the Roman. They were first and foremost leaders in the sacred mysteries,
then magistrates, then men of family and wealth. So there is always a
touch of vital life, of life-significance. And you may look through
modern funerary sculpture in vain for anything so good even as the
Sarcophagus of the Magistrate, with his written scroll spread before him,
his strong, alert old face gazing sternly out, the necklace of office
round his neck, the ring of rank on his finger. So he lies, in the museum
at Tarquinia. His robe leaves him naked to the hip, and his body lies
soft and slack, with the soft effect of relaxed flesh the Etruscan
artists render so well, and which is so difficult. On the sculptured side
of the sarcophagus the two death-dealers wield the hammer of death, the
winged figures wait for the soul, and will not be persuaded away.
Beautiful it is, with the easy simplicity of life. But it is late in
date. Probably this old Etruscan magistrate is already an official under
Roman authority: for he does not hold the sacred _mundum_, the dish,
he has only the written scroll, probably of laws. As if he were no longer
the religious lord or Lucumo. Though possibly, in this case, the dead man
was not one of the Lucumones anyhow.

Upstairs in the museum are many vases, from the ancient crude pottery of
the Villanovans to the early black ware decorated in scratches, or
undecorated, called _bucchero_, and on to the painted bowls and
dishes and amphoras which came from Corinth or Athens, or to those
painted pots made by the Etruscans themselves more or less after the
Greek patterns. These may or may not be interesting: the Etruscans are
not at their best, painting dishes. Yet they must have loved them, in the
early days these great jars and bowls, and smaller mixing bowls, and
drinking cups and pitchers, and flat winecups formed a valuable part of
the household treasure. In very early times the Etruscans must have
sailed their ships to Corinth and to Athens, taking perhaps wheat and
honey, wax and bronze-ware, iron and gold, and coming back with these
precious jars, and stuffs, essences, perfumes, and spice. And jars
brought from overseas for the sake of their painted beauty must have been
household treasures.

But then the Etruscans made pottery of their own, and by the thousand
they imitated the Greek vases. So that there must have been millions of
beautiful jars in Etruria. Already in the first century B.C. there was a
passion among the Romans for collecting Greek and Etruscan painted jars
from the Etruscans, particularly from the Etruscan tombs: jars and the
little bronze votive figures and statuettes, the _sigilla Tyrrhena_
of the Roman luxury. And when the tombs were first robbed, for gold and
silver treasure, hundreds of fine jars must have been thrown over and
smashed. Because even now, when a part-rifled tomb is discovered and
opened, the fragments of smashed vases lie around.

As it is, however, the museums are full of vases. If one looks for the
Greek form of elegance and convention, those elegant still-unravished
brides of quietness', one is disappointed. But get over the strange
desire we have for elegant convention, and the vases and dishes of the
Etruscans, especially many of the black bucchero ware, begin to open out
like strange flowers, black flowers with all the softness and the
rebellion of life against convention, or red-and-black flowers painted
with amusing free, bold designs. It is there nearly always in Etruscan
things, the naturalness verging on the commonplace, but usually missing
it, and often achieving an originality so free and bold, and so fresh,
that we who love convention and things 'reduced to a norm', call it a
bastard art; and commonplace.

It is useless to look in Etruscan things for 'uplift'. If you want
uplift, go to the Greek and the Gothic. If you want mass, go to the
Roman. But if you love the odd spontaneous forms that are never to be
standardized, go to the Etruscans. In the fascinating little Palazzo
Vitelleschi one could spend many an hour, but for the fact that the very
fullness of museums makes one rush through them.


We arranged for the guide to take us to the painted tombs, which are the
real fame of Tarquinia. After lunch we set out, climbing to the top of
the town, and passing through the south-west gate, on the level
hillcrest. Looking back, the wall of the town, medieval, with a bit of
more ancient black wall lower down, stands blank. Just outside the gate
are one or two forlorn new houses, then ahead, the long, running
tableland of the hill, with the white highway dipping and going on to
Viterbo, inland.

'All this hill in front,' said the guide, 'is tombs! All tombs! The city
of the dead.'

So! Then this hill is the necropolis hill! The Etruscans never buried
their dead within the city walls. And the modern cemetery and the first
Etruscan tombs lie almost close up to the present city gate. Therefore,
if the ancient city of Tarquinia lay on this hill, it can have occupied
no more space, hardly, than the present little town of a few thousand

Which seems impossible. Far more probably, the city itself lay on that
opposite hill there, which lies splendid and unsullied, running parallel
to us.

We walk across the wild bit of hilltop, where the stones crop gut, and
the first rock-rose flutters, and the asphodels stick up. This is the
necropolis. Once it had many a tumulus, and streets of tombs. Now there
is no sign of any tombs: no tumulus, nothing but the rough bare
hill-crest, with stones and short grass and flowers, the sea gleaming
away to the right, under the sun, and the soft land inland glowing very
green and pure.

But we see a little bit of wall, built perhaps to cover a water-trough.
Our guide goes straight towards it. He is a fat, good-natured young man,
who doesn't look as if he would be interested in tombs. We are mistaken,
however. He knows a good deal, and has a quick, sensitive interest,
absolutely unobtrusive, and turns out to be as pleasant a companion for
such a visit as one could wish to have.

The bit of wall we see is a little hood of masonry with an iron gate,
covering a little flight of steps leading down into the ground. One comes
upon it all at once, in the rough nothingness of the hillside. The guide
kneels down to light his acetylene lamp, and his old terrier lies down
resignedly in the sun, in the breeze which rushes persistently from the
southwest, over these long, exposed hilltops.

The lamp begins to shine and smell, then to shine without smelling: the
guide opens the iron gate, and we descend the steep steps down into the
tomb. It seems a dark little hole underground: a dark little hole, after
the sun of the upper world! But the guide's lamp begins to flare up, and
we find ourselves in a little chamber in the rock, just a small, bare
little cell of a room that some anchorite might have lived in. It is so
small and bare and familiar, quite unlike the rather splendid spacious
tombs at Cerveteri.

But the lamp flares bright, we get used to the change of light, and see
the paintings on the little walls. It is the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing,
so called from the pictures on the walls, and it is supposed to date from
the sixth century B.C. It is very badly damaged, pieces of the wall have
fallen away, damp has eaten into the colours, nothing seems to be left.
Yet in the dimness we perceive flights of birds flying through the haze,
with the draught of life still in their wings. And as we take heart and
look closer we see the little room is frescoed all round with hazy sky
and sea, with birds flying and fishes leaping, and little men hunting,
fishing, rowing in boats. The lower part of the wall is all a blue-green
of sea with a silhouette surface that ripples all round the room. From
the sea rises a tall rock, off which a naked man, shadowy but still
distinct, is beautifully and cleanly diving into the sea, while a
companion climbs up the rock after him, and on the water a boat waits
with rested oars in it, three men watching the diver, the middle man
standing up naked, holding out his arms. Meanwhile a great dolphin leaps
behind the boat, a flight of birds soars upwards to pass the rock, in the
clear air. Above all, from the bands of colour that border the wall at
the top hang the regular loops of garlands, garlands of flowers and
leaves and buds and berries, garlands which belong to maidens and to
women, and which represent the flowery circle of the female life and sex.
The top border of the wall is formed of horizontal stripes or ribands of
colour that go all round the room, red and black and dull gold and blue
and primrose, and these are the colours that occur invariably. Men are
nearly always painted a darkish red, which is the colour of many Italians
when they go naked in the sun, as the Etruscans went. Women are coloured
paler, because women did not go naked in the sun.

At the end of the room, where there is a recess in the wall, is painted
another rock rising from the sea, and on it a man with a sling is taking
aim at the birds which rise scattering this way and that. A boat with a
big paddle oar is holding off from the rock, a naked man amidships is
giving a queer salute to the slinger, a man kneels over the bows with his
back to the others, and is letting down .a net. The prow of the boat has
a beautifully painted eye, so the vessel shall see where it is going. In
Syracuse you will see many a two-eyed boat today come swimming in to
quay. One dolphin is diving down into the sea, one is leaping out. The
birds fly, and the garlands hang from the border.

It is all small and gay and quick with life, spontaneous as only young
life can be. If only it were not so much damaged, one would be happy,
because here is the real Etruscan liveliness and naturalness. It is not
impressive or grand. But if you are content with just a sense of the
quick ripple of life, then here it is.

The little tomb is empty, save for its shadowy paintings. It had no bed
of rock around it: only a deep niche for holding vases, perhaps vases of
precious things. The sarcophagus on the floor, perhaps under the slinger
on the end wall. And it stood alone, for this is an individual tomb, for
one person only, as is usual in the older tombs of this necropolis.

In the gable triangle of the end wall, above the slinger and the boat,
the space is filled in with one of the frequent Etruscan banqueting
scenes of the dead. The dead man, sadly obliterated, reclines upon his
banqueting couch with his fiat wine-dish in his hand, resting on his
elbow, and beside him, also half risen, reclines a handsome and jewelled
lady in fine robes, apparently resting her left hand upon the naked
breast of the man, and in her right holding up to him the garland--the
garland of the female festive offering. Behind the man stands a naked
slave-boy, perhaps with music, while another naked slave is just filling
a wine-jug from a handsome amphora or wine-jar at the side. On the
woman's side stands a maiden, apparently playing the flute: for a woman
was supposed to play the flute at classic funerals; and beyond sit two
maidens with garlands, one turning round to watch the banqueting pair,
the other with her back to it all. Beyond the maidens in the corner are
more garlands, and two birds, perhaps doves. On the wall behind the head
of the banqueting lady is a problematic object, perhaps a bird-cage.

The scene is natural as life, and yet it has a heavy archaic fullness of
meaning. It is the death-banquet; and at the same time it is the dead man
banqueting in the underworld; for the underworld of the Etruscans was a
gay place. While the living feasted out of doors, at the tomb of the
dead, the dead himself feasted in like manner, with a lady to offer him
garlands and slaves to bring him wine, away in the underworld. For the
life on earth was so good, the life below could but be a continuance of

This profound belief in life, acceptance of life, seems characteristic of
the Etruscans. It is still vivid in the painted tombs. There is a certain
dance and glamour in all the movements, even in those of the naked slave
men. They are by no means downtrodden menials, let later Romans say what
they will. The slaves in the tombs are surging with full life.

We come up the steps into the upper world, the sea-breeze and the sun.
The old dog shambles to his feet, the guide blows out his lamp and locks
the gate, we set off again, the dog trundling apathetic at his master's
heels, the master speaking to him with that soft Italian familiarity
which seems so very different from the spirit of Rome, the strong-willed

The guide steers across the hilltop, in the clear afternoon sun, towards
another little hood of masonry. And one notices there is quite a number
of these little gateways, built by the Government to cover the steps that
lead down to the separate small tombs. It is utterly unlike Cerveteri,
though the two places are not forty miles apart. Here there is no stately
tumulus city, with its highroad between the tombs, and inside, rather
noble, many-roomed houses of the dead, Here the little one-room tombs
seem scattered at random on the hilltop, here and there: though probably,
if excavations were fully carried out, here also we should find a regular
city of the dead, with its streets and crossways. And probably each tomb
had its little tumulus of piled earth, so that even above-ground there
were streets of mounds with tomb entraces. But even so, it would be
different from Cerveteri, from Caere; the mounds would be so small, the
streets surely irregular. Anyhow, today there are scattered little
one-room tombs, and we dive down into them just like rabbits popping down
a hole. The place is a warren.

It is interesting to find it so different from Cerveteri. The Etruscans
carried out perfectly what seems to be the Italian instinct: to have
single, independent cities, with a certain surrounding territory, each
district speaking its own dialect and feeling at home in its own little
capital, yet the whole confederacy of city-states loosely linked together
by a common religion and a more-or-less common interest. Even today Lucca
is very different from Ferrara, and the language is hardly the same. In
ancient Etruria this isolation of cities developing according to their
own idiosyncrasy, within the loose union of a so-called nation, must have
been complete, The contact between the plebs, the mass of the people, of
Caere and Tarquinii must have been almost null. They were, no doubt,
foreigners to one another. Only the Lucumones, the ruling sacred
magistrates of noble family, the priests and the other nobles, and the
merchants, must have kept up an intercommunion, speaking 'correct'
Etruscan, while the people, no doubt, spoke dialects varying so widely as
to be different languages. To get any idea of the pre-Roman past we must
break up the conception of oneness and uniformity, and see an endless
confusion of differences.

We are diving down into another tomb, called, says the guide, the Tomb of
the Leopards. Every tomb has been given a name, to distinguish it from
its neighbours. The Tomb of the Leopards has two spotted leopards in the
triangle of the end wall, between the roof-slopes. Hence its name.

The Tomb of the Leopards is a charming, cosy little room, and the
paintings on the walls have not been so very much damaged. All the tombs
are ruined to some degree by weather and vulgar vandalism, having been
left and neglected like common holes, when they had been broken open
again and rifled to the last gasp.

But still the paintings are fresh and alive: the ochre-reds and blacks
and blues and blue-greens are curiously alive and harmonious on the
creamy yellow walls. Most of the tomb walls have had a thin coat of
stucco, but it is of the same paste as the living rock, which is fine and
yellow, and weathers to a lovely creamy gold, a beautiful colour for a

The walls of this little tomb are a dance of real delight. The room seems
inhabited still by Etruscans of the sixth century before Christ, a vivid,
life-accepting people, who must have lived with real fullness. On come
the dancers and the music-players, moving in a broad frieze towards the
front wall of the tomb, the wall facing us as we enter from the dark
stairs, and where the banquet is going on in all its glory. Above the
banquet, in the gable angle, are the two spotted leopards, heraldically
facing each other across a little tree. And the ceiling of rock has
chequered slopes of red and black and yellow and blue squares, with a
roof-beam painted with coloured circles, dark red and blue and yellow. So
that all is colour, and we do not seem to be underground at all, but in
some gay chamber of the past.

The dancers on the right wall move with a strange, powerful alertness
onwards. The men are dressed only in a loose coloured scarf, or in the
gay handsome chlamys draped as a mantle. The _subulo_ plays the
double flute the Etruscans loved so much, touching the stops with big,
exaggerated hands, the man behind him touches the seven-stringed lyre,
the man in front turns round and signals with his left hand, holding a
big wine-bowl in his right. And so they move on, on their long, sandalled
feet, past the little berried olive-trees, swiftly going with their limbs
full of life, full of life to the tips.

This sense of vigorous, strong-bodied liveliness is characteristic of the
Etruscans, and is somehow beyond art. You cannot think of art, but only
of life itself, as if this were the very life of the Etruscans, dancing
in their coloured wraps with massive yet exuberant naked limbs, ruddy
from the air and the sea-light, dancing and fluting along through the
little olive-trees, out in the fresh day.

The end wall has a splendid banqueting scene. The feasters recline upon a
checked or tartan couch-cover, on the banqueting couch, and in the open
air, for they have little trees behind them. The six feasters are bold
and full of life like the dancers, but they are strong, they keep their
life so beautifully and richly inside themselves, they are not loose,
they don't lose themselves even in their wild moments. They lie in pairs,
man and woman, reclining equally on the couch, curiously friendly. The
two end women are called _hetaerae_, courtesans; chiefly because
they have yellow hair, which seems to have been a favourite feature in a
woman of pleasure. The men are dark and ruddy, and naked to the waist.
The women, sketched in on the creamy rock, are fair, and wear thin gowns,
with rich mantles round their hips. They have a certain free bold look,
and perhaps really are courtesans.

The man at the end is holding up, between thumb and forefinger, an egg,
showing it to the yellow-haired woman who reclines next to him, she who
is putting out her left hand as if to touch his breast. He, in his right
hand, holds a large wine-dish, for the revel.

The next couple, man and fair-haired woman, are looking round and making
the salute with the right hand curved over, in the usual Etruscan
gesture. It seems as if they too are saluting the mysterious egg held up
by the man at the end; who is, no doubt, the man who has died, and whose
feast is being celebrated. But in front of the second couple a naked
slave with a chaplet on his head is brandishing an empty wine-jug, as if
to say he is fetching more wine. Another slave farther down is holding
out a curious thing like a little axe, or fan. The last two feasters are
rather damaged. One of them is holding up a garland to the other, but not
putting it over his head as they still put a garland over your head, in
India, to honour you.

Above the banqueters, in the gable angle, the two great spotted male
leopards hang out their tongues and face each other heraldically, lifting
a paw, on either side of a little tree. They are the leopards or panthers
of the underworld Bacchus, guarding the exits and the entrances of the
passion of life.

There is a mystery and a portentousness in the simple scenes which go
deeper than commonplace life. It seems all so gay and light. Yet there is
a certain weight, or depth of significance that goes beyond aesthetic

If one once starts looking, there is much to see. But if one glances
merely, there is nothing but a pathetic little room with unimposing,
half-obliterated, scratchy little paintings in tempera.

There are many tombs. When we have seen one, up we go, a little
bewildered, into the afternoon sun, across a tract of rough, tormented
hill, and down again to the underground, like rabbits in a warren. The
hilltop is really a warren of tombs. And gradually the underworld of the
Etruscans becomes more real than the above day of the afternoon. One
begins to live with the painted dancers and feasters and mourners, and to
look eagerly for them.

A very lovely dance tomb is the _Tomba del Triclinio_, or _del
Convito_, both of which mean: Tomb of the Feast. In size and shape
this is much the same as the other tombs we have seen. It is a little
chamber about fifteen feet by eleven, six feet high at the walls, about
eight feet at the centre. It is again a tomb for one person, like nearly
all the old painted tombs here. So there is no inner furnishing. Only the
farther half of the rock-floor, the pale yellow-white rock, is raised two
or three inches, and on one side of this raised part are the four holes
where the feet of the sarcophagus stood. For the rest, the tomb has only
its painted walls and ceiling.

And how lovely these have been, and still are I The band of dancing
figures that go round the room still is bright in colour, fresh, the
women in thin spotted dresses of linen muslin and coloured mantles with
fine borders, the men merely in a scarf. Wildly the bacchic woman throws
back her head and curves out her long, strong fingers, wild and yet
contained within herself, while the broad-bodied young man turns round to
her, lifting his dancing hand to hers till the thumbs all but touch. They
are dancing in the open, past little trees, and birds are running, and a
little fox-tailed dog is watching something with the naïve intensity of
the young. Wildly and delightedly dances the next woman, every bit of
her, in her soft boots and her bordered mantle, with jewels on her arms;
till one remembers the old dictum, that every part of the body and of the
_anima_ shall know religion, and be in touch with the gods. Towards
her comes the young man piping on the double flute, and dancing as he
comes. He is clothed only in a fine linen scarf with a border, that hangs
over his arms, and his strong legs dance of themselves, so full of life.
Yet, too, there is a certain solemn intensity in his face, as he turns to
the woman beyond him, who stoops in a bow to him as she vibrates her

She is drawn fair-skinned, as all the women are, and he is of a dark red
colour. That is the convention, in the tombs. But it is more than
convention. In the early days men smeared themselves with scarlet when
they took on their sacred natures. The Red Indians still do it. When they
wish to figure in their sacred and portentous selves they smear their
bodies all over with red. That must be why they are called Red Indians.
In the past, for all serious or solemn occasions, they rubbed red pigment
into their skins. And the same today. And today, when they wish to put
strength into their vision, and to see true, they smear round their eyes
with vermilion, rubbing it into the skin. You may meet them so, in the
streets of the American towns.

It is a very old custom. The American Indian will tell you: 'The red
paint, it is medicine, make you see!' But he means medicine in a
different sense from ours. It is deeper even than magic. Vermilion is the
colour of his sacred or potent or god body. Apparently it was so in all
the ancient world. Man all scarlet was his bodily godly self. We know the
kings of ancient Rome, who were probably Etruscans, appeared in public
with their faces painted vermilion with minium. And Ezekiel says (23: 14,
15): 'She saw men pourtrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans
pourtrayed with vermilion...all of them princes to look to, after the
manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity.'

It is then partly a convention, and partly a symbol, with the Etruscans,
to represent their men red in colour, a strong red. Here in the tombs
everything is in its sacred or inner-significant aspect. But also the red
colour is not so very unnatural. When the Italian today goes almost naked
on the beach he becomes of a lovely dark ruddy colour, dark as any
Indian. And the Etruscans went a good deal naked. The sun painted them
with the sacred minium.

The dancers dance on, the birds run, at the foot of a little tree a
rabbit crouches in a bunch, bunched with life. And on the tree hangs a
narrow, fringed scarf, like a priest's stole; another symbol.

The end wall has a banqueting scene, rather damaged, but still
interesting. We see two separate couches, and a man and a woman on each.
The woman this time is dark-haired, so she need not be a courtesan. The
Etruscans shared the banqueting bench with their wives; which is more
than the Greeks or Romans did, at this period. The classic world thought
it indecent for an honest woman to recline as the men did, even at the
family table. If the woman appeared at all, she must sit up straight, in
a chair.

Here, the women recline calmly with the men, and one shows a bare foot at
the end of the dark couch. In front of the _lecti_, the couches, is
in each case a little low square table bearing delicate dishes of food
for the feasters. But they are not eating. One woman is lifting her hand
to her head in a strange salute to the robed piper at the end, the other
woman seems with the lifted hand to be saying No! to the charming maid,
perhaps a servant, who stands at her side, presumably offering the
_alabastron_, or ointment-jar, while the man at the end apparently
is holding up an egg. Wreaths hang from the ivy-border above, a boy is
bringing a wine-jug, the music goes on, and under the beds a cat is on
the prowl, while an alert cock watches him. The silly partridge, however,
turns his back, stepping innocently along.

This lovely tomb has a pattern of ivy and ivy berries, the ivy of the
underworld Bacchus, along the roof-beam and in a border round the top of
the walls. The roof-slopes are chequered in red and black, white, blue,
brown, and yellow squares. In the gable angle, instead of the heraldic
beasts, two naked men are sitting reaching back to the centre of an
ivy-covered altar, arm outstretched across the ivy. But one man is almost
obliterated. At the foot of the other man, in the tight angle of the
roof, is a pigeon, the bird of the soul that coos out of the unseen.

This tomb has been open since 1830, and is still fresh. It is interesting
to see, in Fritz Weege's book, _Etruskische Malerei_, a reproduction
of an old water-colour drawing of the dancers on the right wall. It is a
good drawing, yet, as one looks closer, it is quite often out, both in
line and position. These Etruscan paintings, not being in our convention,
are very difficult to copy. The picture shows my rabbit all spotted, as
if it were some queer cat. And it shows a squirrel in the little tree in
front of the piper, and flowers, and many details that have now

But it is a good drawing, unlike some that Weege reproduces, which are so
Flaxmanized and Greekified; and n jade according to what our
great-grandfathers thought they _ought_ to be, as to be really
funny, and a warning for ever against thinking how things _ought_ to
be, when already they are quite perfectly what they are.

We climb up to the world, and pass for a few minutes through the open
day. Then down we go again. In the Tomb of the Bacchanti the colours have
almost gone. But still we see, on the end wall, a strange wondering
dancer out of the mists of time carrying his zither, and beyond him,
beyond the little tree, a man of the dim ancient world, a man with a
short beard, strong and mysteriously male, is reaching for a wild archaic
maiden who throws up her hands and turns back to him her excited, subtle
face. It is wonderful, the strength and mystery of old life that comes
out of these faded figures. The Etruscans are still there, upon the wall.

Above the figures, in the gable angle, two spotted deer are prancing
heraldically towards one another, on either side the altar, and behind
them two dark lions, with pale manes and with tongues hanging out, are
putting up a paw to seize them on the haunch. So the old story repeats

From the striped border rude garlands are hanging, and on the roof are
little painted stars, or four-petalled flowers. So much has vanished! Yet
even in the last breath of colour and form, how much life there is!

In the _Tomba del Morto_, the Tomb of the Dead Man, the banqueting
scene is replaced by a scene, apparently, of a dead man on his bed, with
a woman leaning gently over to cover his face. It is almost like a
banquet scene. But it is so badly damaged! In the gable above, two dark
heraldic lions are lifting the paw against two leaping, frightened,
backward-looking birds. This is a new variation. On the broken wall are
the dancing legs of a man, and there is more life in these Etruscan legs,
fragment as they are, than in the whole bodies of men today. Then there
is one really impressive dark figure of a naked man who throws up his
arms so that his great wine-bowl stands vertical, and with spread hand
and closed face gives a strange gesture of finality. He has a chaplet on
his head, and a small pointed beard, and lives there shadowy and

Lovely again is the _Tomba delle Leonesse_, the Tomb of the
Lionesses. In its gable two spotted lionesses swing their bell-like
udders, heraldically facing one another across the altar. Beneath is a
great vase, and a flute-player playing to it on one side, a zither-player
on the other, making music to its sacred contents. Then on either side of
these goes a narrow frieze of dancers, very strong and lively in their
prancing. Under the frieze of dancers is a lotus dado, and below that
again, all round the room, the dolphins are leaping, leaping all
downwards into the rippling sea, while birds fly between the fishes.

On the right wall reclines a very impressive dark red man wearing a
curious cap, or head-dress, that has long tails like long plaits. In his
right hand he holds up an egg, and in his left is the shallow wine-bowl
of the feast. The scarf or stole of his human office hangs from a tree
before him, and the garland of his human delight hangs at his side. He
holds up the egg of resurrection, within which the germ sleeps as the
soul sleeps in the tomb, before it breaks the shell and emerges again.
There is another reclining man, much obliterated, and beside him hangs a
garland or chain like the chains of dandelion-sterns we used to make as
children. And this man has a naked flute-boy, lovely in naked outline,
coming towards him.

The _Tomba della Pulcella_, or Tomb of the Maiden, has faded but
vigorous figures at the banquet, and very ornate couch-covers in squares
and the key-pattern, and very handsome mantles.

The _Tomba dei Vasi Dipinti_, Tomb of the Painted Vases, has great
amphorae painted on the side wall, and springing towards them is a weird
dancer, the ends of his waist-cloth flying. The amphorae, two of them,
have scenes painted on them, which can still be made out. On the end wall
is a gentle little banquet scene, the bearded man softly touching the
woman with him under the chin, a slave-boy standing childishly behind,
and an alert dog under the couch. The _kylix_, or wine-bowl, that
the man holds is surely the biggest on record; exaggerated, no doubt, to
show the very special importance of the feast. Rather gentle and lovely
is the way he touches the woman under the chin, with a delicate caress.
That again is one of the charms of the Etruscan paintings: they really
have the sense of touch; the people and the creatures are all really in
touch. It is one of the rarest qualities, in life as well as in art.
There is plenty of pawing and laying hold, but no real touch. In pictures
especially, the people may be in contact, embracing or laying hands on
one another. But there is no soft flow of touch. The touch does not come
from the middle of the human being. It is merely a contact of surfaces,
and a juxtaposition of objects. This is what makes so many of the great
masters boring, in spite of all their clever composition. Here, in this
faded Etruscan painting, there is a quiet flow of touch that unites the
man and the woman on the couch, the timid boy behind, the dog that lifts
his nose, even the very garlands that hang from the wall.

Above the banquet, in the triangle, instead of lions or leopards, we have
the hippocampus, a favourite animal of the Etruscan imagination. It is a
horse that ends in a long, flowing fish-tail. Here these two hippocampi
face one another prancing their front legs, while their fish-tails flow
away into the narrow angle of the roof. They are a favourite symbol of
the seaboard Etruscans.

In the _Tomba del Vecchio_, the Tomb of the Old Man, a beautiful
woman with her hair dressed backwards into the long cone of the East, so
that her head is like a sloping acorn, offers her elegant, twisted
garland to the white-bearded old man, who is now beyond garlands. He
lifts his left hand up at her, with the rich gestue of these people, that
must mean something each time.

Above them, the prancing spotted deer are being seized in the haunch by
two lions. And the waves of obliteration, wastage of time and damage of
men, are silently passing over all.

So we go on, seeing tomb after tomb, dimness after dimness, divided
between the pleasure of finding so much and the disappointment that so
little remains. One tomb after another, and nearly everything faded or
eaten away, or corroded with alkali, or broken wilfully. Fragments of
people at banquets, limbs that dance without dancers, birds that fly in
nowhere, lions whose devouring heads are devoured away! Once it was all
bright and dancing: the delight of the underworld; honouring the dead
with wine, and flutes playing for a dance, and limbs whirling and
pressing. And it was deep and sincere honour rendered to the dead and to
the mysteries. It is contrary to our ideas; but the ancients had their
own philosophy for it. As the pagan old writer says: 'For no part of us
nor of our bodies shall be, which doth not feel religion: and let there
be no lack of singing for the soul, no lack of leaping and of dancing for
the knees and heart; for all these know the gods.'

Which is very evident in the Etruscan dancers. They know the gods in
their very finger-tips. The wonderful fragments of limbs and bodies that
dance on in a field of obliteration still know the gods, and made it
evident to us.

But we can hardly see any more tombs. The upper air seems pallid and
bodiless, as we emerge once more, white with the light of the sea and the
coming evening. And spent and slow the old dog rises once moe to follow

We decide that the _Tomba delle Iserizioni_, the Tomb of the
Inscriptions, shall be our last for today. It is dim but fascinating, as
the lamp flares up, and we see in front of us the end wall, painted with
a false door studded with pale studs, as if it led to another chamber
beyond; and riding from the left, a trail of shadowy tall horsemen; and
running in from the right, a train of wild shadowy dancers wild as

The horsemen are naked on the four naked horses, and they make gestures
as they come towards the painted door. The horses are alternately red and
black, the red having blue manes and hoofs, the black, red ones, or
white. They are tall archaic horses on slim legs, with necks arched like
a curved knife. And they come pinking daintily and superbly along, with
their long tails, towards the dark red death-door.

From the left, the stream of dancers leaps wildly, playing music,
carrying garlands or wine-jugs, lifting their arms like revellers,
lifting their live knees, and signalling with their long hands. Some have
little inscriptions written near them: their names.

And above the false door in the angle of the gable is a fine design: two
black, wide-mouthed, pale-maned lions seated back to back, their tails
rising like curved stems, between them, as they each one lift a black paw
against the cringing head of a cowering spotted deer, that winces to the
deathblow. Behind each deer is a smaller dark lion, in the acute angle of
the roof, coming up to bite the shrinking deer in the haunch, and so give
the second death-wound. For the wounds of death are in the neck and in the

At the other end of the tomb are wrestlers and gamesters; but so shadowy
now! We cannot see any more, nor look any further in the shadows for the
unconquerable life of the Etruscans, whom the Romans called vicious, but
whose life, in these tombs, is certainly fresh and cleanly vivid.

The upper air is wide and pale, and somehow void. We cannot see either
world any more, the Etruscan underworld nor the common day. Silently,
tired, we walk back in the wind to the town, the old dog padding
stoically behind. And the guide promises to take us to the other tombs

* * *

There is a haunting quality in the Etruscan representations. Those
leopards with their long tongues hanging out: those flowing hippocampi;
those cringing spotted deer, struck in flank and neck; they get into the
imagination, and will not go out, And we see the wavy edge of the sea,
the dolphins curving over, the diver going down clean, the little man
climbing up the rock after him so eagerly. Then the men with beards who
recline on the banqueting beds: how they hold up the mysterious egg! And
the women with the conical head-dress, how strangely they lean forward,
with caresses we no longer know! The naked slaves joyfully stoop to the
wine-jars. Their nakedness is its own clothing, more easy than drapery.
The curves of their limbs show pure pleasure in life, a pleasure that
goes deeper still in the limbs of the dancers, in the big, long hands
thrown out and dancing to the very ends of the fingers, a dance that
surges from within, like a current in the sea. It is as if the current of
some strong different life swept through them, different from our shallow
current today: as if they drew their vitality from different depths that
we are denied.

Yet in a few centuries they lost their vitality. The Romans took the life
out of them. It seems as if the power of resistance to life,
self-assertion, and overbearing, such as the Romans knew: a power which
must needs be moral, or carry morality with it, as a cloak for its inner
ugliness: would always succeed in destroying the natural flowering of
life. And yet there still are a few wild flowers and creatures.

The natural flowering of life! It is not so easy for human beings as it
sounds. Behind all the Etruscan liveliness was a religion of life, which
the chief men were seriously responsible for. Behind all the dancing was
a vision, and even a science of life, a conception of the universe and
man's place in the universe which made men live to the depth of their

To the Etruscan all was alive; the whole universe lived; and the business
of man was himself to live amid it all. He had to draw life into himself,
out of the wandering huge vitalities of the world. The cosmos was alive,
like a vast creature. The whole thing breathed and stirred. Evaporation
went up like breath from the nostrils of a whale, steaming up. The sky
received it in its blue bosom, breathed it in and pondered on it and
transmuted it, before breathing it out again. Inside the earth were fires
like the heat in the hot red liver of a beast. Out of the fissures of the
earth came breaths of other breathing, vapours direct from the living
physical underearth, exhalations carrying inspiration. The whole thing
was alive, and had a great soul, or _anima_: and in spite of one
great soul, there were myriad roving, lesser souls: every man, every
creature and tee and lake and mountain and stream, was animate, had its
own peculiar consciousness. And has it today.

The cosmos was one, and its _anima_ was one; but it was made up of
creatures. And the greatest creature was earth, with its soul of inner
fire. The sun was only a reflection, or off-throw, or brilliant handful,
of the great inner fire. But in juxtaposition to earth lay the sea, the
waters that moved and pondered and held a deep soul of their own. Earth
and waters lay side by side, together, and utterly different.

So it was. The universe, which was a single aliveness with a single soul,
instantly changed, the moment you thought of it, and became a dual
creature with two souls, fiery and watery, for ever mingling and rushing
apart, and held by the great aliveness of the universe in an ultimate
equilibrium. But they rushed together and they rushed apart, and
immediately they became myriad: volcanoes and seas, then streams and
mountains, trees, creatures, men. And everything was dual, or contained
its own duality, for ever mingling and rushing apart.

The old idea of the vitality of the universe was evolved long before
history begins, and elaborated into a vast religion before we get a
glimpse of it. When history does begin, in China or India, Egypt,
Babylonia, even in the Pacific and in aboriginal America, we see evidence
of one underlying religious idea: the conception of the vitality of the
cosmos, the myriad vitalities in wild confusion, which still is held in
some sort of array: and man, amid all the glowing welter, adventuring,
struggling, striving for one thing, life, vitality, more vitality: to get
into himself more and more of the gleaming vitality of the cosmos. That
is the treasure. The active religious idea was that man, by vivid
attention and subtlety and exerting all his strength, could draw more
life into himself, more life, more and more glistening vitality, till he
became shining like the morning, blazing like a god. When he was all
himself he painted himself vermilion like the throat of dawn, and was
god's body, visibly, red and utterly vivid. So he was a prince, a king, a
god, an Etruscan Lucumo; Pharaoh, or Belshazzar, or Ashurbanipal, or
Tarquin; in a feebler _decrescendo_, Alexander, or Caesar, or

This was the idea at the back of all the great old civilizations. It was
even, half-transmuted, at the back of David's mind, and voiced in the
Psalms. But with David the living cosmos became merely a personal god.
With the Egyptians and Babylonians and Etruscans, strictly there were no
personal gods. There were only idols or symbols. It was the living cosmos
itself, dazzlingly and gaspingly complex, which was divine, and which
could be contemplated only by the strongest soul, and only at moments.
And only the peerless soul could draw into itself some last flame from
the quick. Then you had a king-god indeed.

There you have the ancient idea of kings, kings who are gods by
vividness, because they have gathered into themselves core after core of
vital potency from the universe, till they are clothed in scarlet, they
are bodily a piece of the deepest fire. Pharaohs and kings of Nineveh,
kings of the East, and Etruscan Lucumones, they are the living clue to
the pure fire, to the cosmic vitality. They are the vivid key to life,
the vermilion clue to the mystery and the delight of death and life.
They, in their own body, unlock the vast treasure-house of the cosmos for
their people, and bring out life, and show the way into the dark of
death, which is the blue burning of the one fire. They, in their own
bodies, are the life-bringers and the death-guides, leading ahead in the
dark, and coming out in the day with more than sunlight in their bodies.
Can one wonder that such dead are wrapped in gold; or were?

The life-bringers, and the death-guides. But they set guards at the gates
both of life and death. They keep the secrets, and safeguard the way.
Only a few are initiated into the mystery of the bath of life, and the
bath of death: the pool within pool within pool, wherein, when a man is
dipped, he becomes darker than blood, with death, and brighter than fire,
with life; till at last he is scarlet royal as a piece of living life,
pure vermilion.

The people are not initiated into the cosmic ideas, nor into the awakened
throb of more vivid consciousness. Try as you may, you can never make the
mass of men throb with full awakenedness. They _cannot_ be more than
a little aware. So you must give them symbols, ritual and gesture, which
will fill their bodies with life up to their own full measure. Any more
is fatal. And so the actual knowledge must be guarded from them, lest
knowing the formulae, without undergoing at all the experience that
corresponds, they may become insolent and impious, thinking they have the
all, when they have only an empty monkey-chatter. The esoteric knowledge
will always be esoteric, since knowledge is an experience, not a formula.
But it is foolish to hand out the formulae. A little knowledge is indeed
a dangerous thing. No age proves it more than ours. Monkey-chatter is at
last the most disastrous of all things.

The clue to the Etruscan life was the Lucumo, the religious prince.
Beyond him were the priests and warriors. Then came the people and the
slaves. People and warriors and slaves did not think about religion.
There would soon have been no religion left. They felt the symbols and
danced the sacred dances. For they were always kept _in touch_,
physically, with the mysteries. The 'touch' went from the Lucumo down to
the merest slave. The blood-stream was unbroken. But 'knowing' belonged
to the high-born, the pure-bred.

So, in the tombs we find only the simple, uninitiated vision of the
people. There is none of the priest-work of Egypt. The symbols are to the
artist just wonderforms, pregnant with emotion and good for decoration.
It is so all the way through Etruscan art. The artists evidently were of
the people, artisans. Presumably they were of the old Italic stock, and
understood nothing of the religion in its intricate form, as it had come
in from the East: though doubtless the crude principles of the official
religion were the same as those of the primitive religion of the
aborigines. The same crude principles ran through the religions of all
the barbaric world of that time, Druid or Teutonic or Celtic. But the
newcomers in Etruria held secret the science and philosophy of their
religion, and gave the people the symbols and the ritual, leaving the
artists free to use the symbols as they would; which shows that there was
no priest-rule.

Later, when scepticism came over all the civilized world, as it did after
Socrates, the Etruscan religion began to die, Greeks and Greek
rationalism flooded in, and Geek stories more or less took the place of
the old Etruscan symbolic thought. Then again the Etruscan artists,
uneducated, used the Greek stories as they had used the Etruscan symbols,
quite freely, making them over again just to please themselves.

But one radical thing the Etruscan people never forgot, because it was in
their blood as well as in the blood of their masters: and that was the
mystery of the journey out of life, and into death; the death-journey,
and the sojourn in the afterlife. The wonder of their soul continued to
play round the mystery of this journey and this sojourn.

In the tombs we see it; throes of wonder and vivid feeling throbbing over
death. Man moves naked and glowing through the universe. Then comes
death: he dives into the sea, he departs into the underworld.

The sea is that vast primordial creature that has a soul also, whose
inwardness is womb of all things, out of which all things emerged, and
into which they are devoured back. Balancing the sea is the earth of
inner fire, of after-life, and before-life. Beyond the waters and the
ultimate fire lay only that oneness of which the people knew nothing: it
was a secret the Lucumones kept for themselves, as they kept the symbol
of it in their hand.

But the sea the people knew. The dolphin leaps in and out of it suddenly,
as a creature that suddenly exists, out of nowhere, He was not: and to!
there he is! The dolphin which gives up the sea's rainbows only when he
dies. Out he leaps; then, with a head-dive, back again he plunges into
the sea. He is so much alive, he is like the phallus carrying the fiery
spark of procreation down into the wet darkness of the womb. The diver
does the same, carrying like a phallus his small hot spark into the deeps
of death. And the sea will give up her dead like dolphins that leap out
and have the rainbow within them.

But the duck that swims on the water, and lifts his wings, is another
matter: the blue duck, or goose, so often represented by the Etruscans.
He is the same goose that saved Rome, in the night.

The duck does not live down within the waters as the fish does. The fish
is the _anima_, the animate life, the very clue to the vast sea, the
watery element of the first submission. For this reason Jesus was
represented in the first Christian centuries as a fish, in Italy
especially, where the people still thought in the Etruscan symbols. Jesus
was the _anima_ of the vast, moist ever-yielding element which was
the opposite and the counterpart of the red flame the Pharaohs and the
kings of the East had sought to invest themselves with.

But the duck has no such subaqueous nature as the fish. It swims upon the
waters, and is hot-blooded, belonging to the red flame, of the animal
body of life. But it dives under water, and preens itself upon the flood.
So it became, to man, the symbol of that part of himself which delights
in the waters, and dives in, and rises up and shakes its wings. It is the
symbol of a man's own phallus and phallic life. So you see a man holding
on his hand the hot, soft, alert duck, offering it to the maiden. So
today the Red Indian makes a secret gift to the maiden of a hollow,
earthenware duck, in which is a little fire and incense. It is that part
of his body and his fiery life that a man can offer to a maid. And it is
that awareness or alertness in him, that other consciousness, that wakes
in the night and rouses the city.

But the maid offers the man a garland, the rim of flowers from the edge
of the 'pool', which can be placed over the man's head and laid on his
shoulders, in symbol that he is invested with the power of the maiden's
mystery and different strength, the female power. For whatever is laid
over the shoulders is a sign of power added.

Birds fly portentously on the walls of the tombs. The artist must often
have seen these priests, the augurs, with their crooked, bird-headed
staffs in their hand, out on a high place watching the flight of larks or
pigeons across the quarters of the sky. They were reading the signs and
the portents, looking for an indication, how they should direct the
course of some serious affair. To us it may seem foolish. To them,
hot-blooded birds flew through the living universe as feelings and
premonitions fly through the breast of a man, or as thoughts fly through
the mind. In their flight the suddenly roused birds, or the steady,
far-coming birds, moved wrapped in a deeper consciousness, in the complex
destiny of all things. And since all things corresponded in the ancient
world, and man's bosom mirrored itself in the bosom of the sky, or
_vice versa_, the birds were flying to a portentous goal, in the
man's breast who watched, as well as flying their own way in the bosom of
the sky. If the augur could see the birds flying _in his heart_,
then he would know which way destiny too was flying for him.

The science of augury certainly was no exact science. But it was as exact
as our sciences of psychology or political economy. And the augurs were
as clever as our politicians, who also must practise divination, if ever
they are to do anything worth the name. There is no other way when you
are dealing with life. And if you live by the cosmos, you look in the
cosmos for your clue. If you live by a personal god, you pray to him. If
you are rational, you think things over. But it all amounts to the same
thing in the end. Prayer, or thought, or studying the stars, or watching
the flight of birds,-or studying the entrails of the sacrifice, it is all
the same process, ultimately: of divination. All it depends on is the
amount of _true_, sincere, religious concentration you can bring to
bear on your object. An act of pure attention, if you are capable of it,
will bring its own answer. And you choose that object to concentrate upon
which will best focus your consciousness. Every real discovery made,
every serious and significant decision ever reached, was reached and made
by divination. The soul stirs, and makes an act of pure attention, and
that is a discovery.

The science of the augur and the haruspex was not so foolish as our
modern science of political economy. If the hot liver of the victim
cleared the soul of the haruspex, and made him capable of that ultimate
inward attention which alone tells us the last thing we need to know,
then why quarrel with the haruspex? To him, the universe was alive, and
in quivering _rapport_. To him, the blood was conscious: he thought
with his heart. To him, the blood was the red and shining stream of
consciousness itself. Hence, to him, the liver, that great organ where
the blood struggles and 'overcomes death', was an object of profound
mystery and significance. It stirred his soul and purified his
consciousness; for it was also his victim. So he gazed into the hot
liver, that was mapped out in fields and regions like the sky of stars,
but these fields and regions were those of the red, shining consciousness
that runs through the whole animal creation. And therefore it must
contain the answer to his own blood's question.

It is the same with the study of stars, or the sky of stars. Whatever
object will bring the consciousness into a state of pure attention, in a
time of perplexity, will also give back an answer to the perplexity. But
it is truly a question of _divination_. As soon as there is any
pretence of infallibility, and pure scientific calculation, the whole
thing becomes a fraud and a jugglery. But the same is true not only of
augury and astrology, but also of prayer and of pure reason, and even of
the discoveries of the great laws and principles of science. Men juggle
with prayer today as once they juggled with augury; and in the same way
they are juggling with science. Every great discovery or decision comes
by an act of divination. Facts are fitted round afterwards. But all
attempt at divination, even prayer and reason and research itself, lapses
into jugglery when the heart loses its purity. In the impurity of his
heart, Socrates often juggled logic unpleasantly. And no doubt, when
scepticism came over the ancient world, the haruspex and the augur became
jugglers and pretenders. But for centuries they held real sway. It is
amazing to see, in Livy, what a big share they must have had in the
building up of the great Rome of the Republic.

Turning from birds to animals, we find in the tombs the continual
repetition of lion against deer. As soon as the world was created,
according to the ancient idea, it took on duality. All things became
dual, not only in the duality of sex, but in the polarity of action. This
is the 'impious pagan duality'. It did not, however, contain the later
pious duality of good and evil.

The leopard and the deer, the lion and the bull, the cat and the dove, or
the partridge, these are part of the great duality, or polarity of the
animal kingdom. But they do not represent good action and evil action. On
the contrary, they represent the polarized activity of the divine cosmos,
in its animal creation.

The treasure of treasures is the soul, which, in every creature, in every
tree or pool, means that mysterious conscious point of balance or
equilibrium between the two halves of the duality, the fiery and the
watery. This mysterious point clothes itself in vividness after vividness
from the right hand, and vividness after vividness from the left. And in
death it does not disappear, but is stored in the egg, or in the jar, or
even in the tree which brings forth again.

But the soul itself, the conscious spark of every creature, is not dual;
and being the immortal, it is also the altar on which our mortality and
our duality is at last sacrificed.

So as the key-picture in the tombs, we have over and over again the
heraldic beasts facing one another across the altar, or the tree, or the
vase; and the lion is smiting the deer in the hip and the throat. The
deer is spotted, for day and night, the lion is dark and light the same.

The deer or lamb or goat or cow is the gentle creature with udder of
overflowing milk and fertility; or it is the stag or ram or bull, the
great father of the herd, with horns of power set obvious on the brow,
and indicating the dangerous aspect of the beasts of fertility. These are
the creatures of prolific, boundless procreation, the beasts of peace and
increase. So even Jesus is the lamb. And the endless, endless gendering
of then:' creatures will fill all the earth with cattle till herds rub
flanks over all the world, and hardly a tree can rise between.

But this must not be so, since they are only half, even of the animal
creation. Balance must be kept. And this is the altar we are all
sacrificed upon: it is even death; just as it is our soul and purest

So, on the other hand from the deer, we have lionesses and leopards.
These, too, are male and female. These, too, have udders of milk and
nourish young; as the wolf nourished the first Romans: prophetically, as
the destroyers of many deer, including the Etruscan. So these fierce ones
guard the treasure and the gateway, which the prolific ones would
squander or close up with too much gendering. They bite the deer in neck
and haunch, where the great blood-streams run.

So the symbolism goes all through the Etruscan tombs. It is very much the
symbolism of all the ancient world. But here it is not exact and
scientific, as in Egypt. It is simple and rudimentary, and the artist
plays with it as a child with fairy stories. Nevertheless, it is the
symbolic element which rouses the deeper emotion, and gives the
peculiarly satisfying quality to the dancing figures and the creatures. A
painter like Sargent, for example, is so clever. But in the end he is
utterly uninteresting, a bore. He never has an inkling of his own
triviality and silliness. One Etruscan leopard, even one little quail, is
worth all the miles of him.


We sit at the tin tables of the café above the gate watching the peasants
coming in the evening from the fields, with their implements and their
asses. As they drift in through the gate the man of the Dazio, the town
customs, watches them, asks them questions if they carry bundles, prods
the pack on the ass, and when a load of brushwood rolls up keeps it
halted while he pierces the load with a long steel rod, carefully
thrusting to see if he can feel hidden barrels of wine or demijohns of
oil, bales of oranges or any other foodstuffs. Because all foodstuffs
that come into an Italian town--many other things too, besides
comestibles--must pay a duty, in some instances a heavy one.

Probably in Etruscan days the peasants came in very much the same, at
evening, to the town. The Etruscans were instinctively citizens. Even the
peasants dwelt within walls. And in those days, no doubt, the peasants
were serfs very much as they are today in Italy, working the land for no
wages, but for a portion of the produce; and working the land intensely,
with that careful, almost passionate attention the Italian still gives to
the soil; and living in the city, or village, but having straw huts out
in the fields, for summer.

But in those days, on a fine evening like this, the men would come in
naked, darkly ruddy-coloured from the sun and wind, with strong,
insouciant bodies; and the women would drift in, wearing the loose,
becoming smock of white or blue linen; and somebody, surely, would be
playing on the pipes; and somebody, surely, would be singing, because the
Etruscans had a passion for music, and an inner carelessness the modern
Italians have lost. The peasants would enter the clear, clean, sacred
space inside the gates, and salute the gay-coloured little temple as they
passed along the street that rose uphill towards the arx, between rows of
low houses with gay-coloured fronts painted or hung with bright
terra-cottas. One can almost hear them still, calling, shouting, piping,
singing, driving in the mixed flocks of sheep and goats, that go so
silently, and leading the slow, white, ghostlike oxen with the yokes
still on their necks.

And surely, in those days, young nobles would come splashing in on
horseback, riding with naked limbs on an almost naked horse, carrying
probably a spear, and cantering ostentatiously through the throng of
red-brown, full-limbed, smooth-skinned peasants. A Lucumo, even, sitting
very noble in his chariot driven by an erect charioteer, might be driving
in at sundown, halting before the temple to perform the brief ritual of
entry into the city. And the crowding populace would wait; for the Lucumo
of the old days, glowing ruddy in flesh, his beard stiffly trimmed in the
Oriental style, the torque of gold round his neck, and the mantle or wrap
bordered with scarlet falling in full folds, leaving the breast bare, he
was divine, sitting on the chair in his chariot in the stillness of
power. The people drew strength even from looking at him.

The chariot drew a little forward, from the temple: the Lucumo, sitting
erect on his chair in the chariot, and bare-shouldered and bare-breasted,
waits for the people. Then the peasants would shrink back in fear. But
perhaps some citizen in a white tunic would lift up his arms in salute,
and come forward to state his difficulty, or to plead for justice. And
the Lucumo, seated silent within another world of power, disciplined to
his own responsibility of knowledge for the people, would listen till the
end. Then a few words--and the chariot of gilt bronze swirls off up the
hill to the house of the chief, the citizens drift on to their houses,
the music sounds in the dark streets, torches flicker, the whole place is
eating, feasting, and as far as possible having a gay time.

It is different now. The drab peasants, muffled in ugly clothing,
straggle in across the waste bit of space, and trail home, songless and
meaningless. We have lost the art of living; and in the most important
science of all, the science of daily life, the science of behaviour, we
are complete ignoramuses. We have psychology instead. Today in Italy, in
the hot Italian summer, if a navvy working in the street takes off his
shirt to work with free, naked torso, a policeman rushes to him and
commands him insultingly into his shirt again. One would think a human
being was such a foul indecency altogether that life was feasible only
when the indecent thing was as far as possible blotted out. The very
exposure of female arms and legs in the street is only done as an insult
to the whole human body. 'Look at that! It doesn't matter!'

Neither does it! But then, why did the torso of the workman matter?

At the hotel, in the dark emptiness of the place, there are three
Japanese staying: little yellow men. They have come to inspect the salt
works down on the coast below Tarquinia, so we are told, and they have a
Government permit. The salt works, the extracting of salt from the pools
shut off from the low sea, are sort of prisons, worked by convict labour.
One wonders why Japanese men should want to inspect such places,
officially. But we are told that these salt works are 'very important'.

Albertino is having a very good time with the three Japanese, and seems
to be very deep in their confidence, bending over their table, his young
brown head among the three black ones, absorbed and on the _qui
vive_. He rushes off for their food--then rushes to us to see what we
want to eat.

'What is there?'

'_Er--c'è_--' He always begins with wonderful deliberation, as if
there was a menu fit for the Tsar. Then he breaks off suddenly, says:
'I'll ask the mamma!'--darts away--returns, and says exactly what we knew
he'd say, in a bright voice, as if announcing the New Jerusalem: 'There
are eggs--er--and beefsteak--et and there are some little potatoes.' We
know the eggs and beefsteak well! However, I decide to have beefsteak
once more, with the little potatoes--left over by good fortune from
lunch--fried. Off darts Albertino, only to dart back and announce that
the potatoes and beefsteak are finished ('by the Chinese,' he whispers),
'but there are frogs.' 'There are what?' '_Le rane_, the frogs!'
What sort of frogs?' 'I'll show you!' Off he darts again, returns with a
plate containing eight or nine pairs of frogs' naked hind-legs. B. looks
the other way and I accept frogs--they look quite good. In the joy of
getting the frogs safely to port, Albertino skips, and darts off: to
return in a moment with a bottle of beer, and whisper to us all the
information about the Chinese, as he calls them. They can't speak a word
of Italian. When they want a word they take the little book, French and
Italian. _Bread_?--eh? They want bread. Er!--Albertino gives little
grunts, like commas and semicolons, which I write as er! Bread they want,
eh?--er!--they take the little book--here he takes an imaginary
little book, lays it on the tablecloth, wets his finger and turns
over the imaginary leaves--_bread!_--er!--p--you look under
'p'--er!--_ecco! pane!--pane!--si capisce!_--bread! they want bread.
Then wine! er! take the little book (he turns over imaginary little
leaves with fervour)--er! here you are, _vino!--pane, e vino!_ So
they do! Every word! They looked out name! Er! you! Er! I tell him,
_Albertino_. And so the boy continues, till I ask what about _le
rane_? Ah! Er! _Le rane!_ Off he darts, and swirls back with a
plate of fried frogs' legs, in pairs.

He is an amusing and vivacious boy, yet underneath a bit sad and wistful,
with all his responsibility. The following day he darted to show us a
book of views of Venice, left behind by the Chinese, as he persists in
calling them, and asks if I want it. I don't. Then he shows us two
Japanese postage stamps, and the address of one of the Japanese
gentlemen, written on a bit of paper. The Japanese gentleman and
Albertino are to exchange picture postcards. I insist that the Japanese
are not Chinese. 'Er!' says Albertino. 'But the Japanese are also
Chinese!' I insist that they are not, that they live in a different
country. He darts off, and returns with a school atlas. 'Er! China is in
Asia! Asia! Asia!'--he turns the leaves. He is really an intelligent boy,
and ought to be going to school instead of running an hotel at the tender
age of fourteen.

The guide to the tombs, having had to keep watch at the museum all night,
wants to get a sleep after dawn, so we are not to start till ten. The
town is already empty, the people gone out to the fields. A few men stand
about with nothing doing. The city gates are wide open. At night they are
closed, so that the _Dazio_ man can sleep: and you can neither get
in nor out of the town. We drink still another coffee--Albertino's
morning dose was a very poor show.

Then we see the guide, talking to a pale young fellow in old corduroy
velveteen knee-breeches and an old hat and thick boots: most obviously
German. We go over, make proper salutes, nod to the German boy, who looks
as if he'd had vinegar for breakfast--and set off. This morning we are
going out a couple miles, to the farthest end of the necropolis. We have
still a dozen tombs to look at. In all, there are either twenty-five or
twenty-seven painted tombs one can visit.

This morning there is a stiff breeze from the south-west. But it is
blowing fresh and clear, not behaving in the ugly way the _libeccio_
can behave. We march briskly along the highway, the old dog trundling
behind. He loves spending a morning among the tombs. The sea gives off a
certain clearness, that makes the atmosphere doubly brilliant and
exhilarating, as if we were on a mountain-top. The omnibus rolls by, from
Viterbo. In the fields the peasants are working, and the guide
occasionally greets the women, who give him a sally back again. The young
German tramps firmly on: but his spirit is not as firm as his tread. One
doesn't know what to say to him, he vouchsafes nothing, seems as if he
didn't want to be spoken to, and yet is probably offended that we don't
talk to him. The guide chatters to him in unfailing cheerfulness, in
Italian: but after a while drops back with evident relief to the milder
company of B., leaving me to the young German, who has certainly
swallowed vinegar some time or other.

But I feel with him as with most of the young people of today: he has
been sinned against more than he sins. The vinegar was given him to
drink. Breaking reluctantly into German, since Italian seems foolish, and
he won't corne out in English, I find, within the first half-mile, that
he is twenty-three (he looks nineteen), has finished his university
course, is going to be an archaeologist, is travelling doing archaeology,
has been in Sicily and Tunis, whence he has just returned; didn't think
much of either place--_mehr Schrei wie Wert_, he jerks out, speaking
as if he were throwing his words away like a cigarette-end he was sick
of; doesn't think much of any place; doesn't think much of the
Etruscans--_nicht viel wert_; doesn't, apparently, think much of me;
knows a professor or two whom I have met; knows the tombs of Tarquinia
very well, having been here, and stayed here, twice before; doesn't think
much of them; is going to Greece; doesn't expect to think much of it; is
staying in the other hotel, not Gentile's, because it is still cheaper:
is probably staying a fortnight, going to photograph all the tombs, with
a big photographic apparatus--has the Government authority, like the
Japs--apparently has very little money indeed, marvellously doing
everything on nothing--expects to be a famous professor in a science he
doesn't think much of--and I wonder if he always has enough to eat.

He certainly is a fretful and peevish, even if in some ways silent and
stoical, young man. _Nicht viel wert!_--not much worth--doesn't
amount to anything--seems to be his favourite phrase, as it is the
favourite phrase of almost all young people today. Nothings amounts to
anything, for the young.

Well, I feel it's not my fault, and try to bear up. But though it is bad
enough to have been of the war generation, it must be worse to have grown
up just after the war. One can't blame the young, that they don't find
that anything amounts to anything. The war cancelled most meanings

And my young man is not really so bad: he would even rather like to be
_made_ to believe in something. There is a yearning pathos in him

We have passed the modern cemetery, with its white marble headstones, and
the arches of a medieval aqueduct mysteriously spanning a dip, and left
the highroad, following a path along the long hill-crest, through the
green wheat that flutters and ripples in the sea-wind like fine feathers,
in the wonderful brilliance of morning. Here and there are tassels of
mauve anemones, bits of verbena, many daisies, tufts of camomile. On a
rocky mound, which was once a tumulus, the asphodels have the advantage,
and send up their spikes on the bright, fresh air, like soldiers
clustered on the mount. And we go along this vivid green headland of
wheat--which still is rough and uneven, because it was once all
tumuli--with our faces to the breeze, the sea-brightness filling the air
with exhilaration, and all the country still and silent, and we talk
German in the wary way of two dogs sniffing at one another.

Till suddenly we turn off to an almost hidden tomb--the German boy knows
the way perfectly. The guide hurries up and lights the acetylene lamp,
the dog slowly finds himself a place out of the wind, and flings himself
down: and we sink slowly again into the Etruscan world, out of the
present world, as we descend underground.

One of the most famous tombs at this far-off end of the necropolis is the
Tomb of the Bulls. It contains what the guide calls: _un po' di
pornografico!_--but a very little. The German boy shrugs his shoulders
as usual: but he informs us that this is one of the oldest tombs of all,
and I believe him, for it looks so to me.

It is a little wider than some tombs, the roof has not much pitch, there
is a stone bed for sarcophagi along the side walls, and in the end wall
are two doorways, cut out of the rock of the end and opening into a
second chamber, which seems darker and more dismal. The German boy says
this second chamber was cut out later, from the first one. It has no
paintings of any importance.

We return to the first chamber, the old one. It is called the Tomb of the
Bulls from the two bulls above the doorways of the end wall, one a
man-faced hull charging at the '_po' di pornografico_', the other
lying down serenely and looking with mysterious eyes into the room, his
back turned calmly to the second bit of a picture which the guide says is
not '_pornografico_'--'because it is a woman.' The young German
smiles with his sour-water expression.

Everything in this tomb suggests the old East: Cyprus, or the Hittites,
or the culture of Minos of Crete. Between the doorways of the end wall is
a charming painting of a naked horseman with a spear, on a naked horse,
moving towards a charming little palm-tree and a well-head or
fountain-head, on which repose two sculptured, black-faced beasts, lions
with queer black faces. From the mouth of the one near the palm-tree
water pours down into a sort of altar-bowl, while on the far side a
warrior advances, wearing a bronze helmet and shin-greaves, and
apparently menacing the horseman with a sword which he brandishes in his
left hand, as he steps up on to the base of the well-head. Both warrior
and horseman wear the long, pointed boots of the East: and the palm-tree
is not very Italian.

This picture has a curious charm, and is evidently symbolical. I said to
the German: 'What do you think it means?' 'Ach, nothing! The man on the
horse has come to the drinking-trough to water his horse: no more!' 'And
the man with the sword?' 'Oh, he is perhaps his enemy.' 'And the
black-faced lions ?' 'Ach nothing! Decorations of the fountain.' Below
the picture are trees on which hang a garland and a neck-band. The border
pattern, instead of the egg and dart, has the sign of Venus, so called,
between the darts: a ball surmounted by a little cross. 'And that, is
that a symbol?' I asked the German. 'Here no!' he replied abruptly.
'Merely a decoration!'--which is perhaps true. But that the Etruscan
artist had no more feeling for it, as a symbol, than a modern
house-decorator would have, that we cannot believe.

I gave up for the moment. Above the picture is a sentence lightly
written, almost scribbled, in Etruscan. 'Can you read it?' I said to the
German boy. He read it off quickly--myself, I should have had to go
letter by letter. 'Do you know what it means ?' I asked him. He shrugged
his shoulders. 'Nobody knows.'

In the shallow angle of the roof the heraldic beasts are curious. The
squat centre-piece, the so-called altar, has four rams' heads at the
corners. On the right a pale bodied man with a dark face is galloping up
with loose rein, on a black horse, followed by a galloping bull. On the
left is a bigger figure, a queer galloping lion with his tongue out. But
from the lion's shoulders, instead of wings, rises the second neck of a
dark-faced, bearded goat: so that the complex animal has a second,
backward-leaning neck and head, of a goat, as well as the first maned
neck and menacing head of a lion. The tail of the lion ends in a
serpent's head. So this is the proper Chimaera. And galloping after the
end of the lion's tail comes a winged female sphinx.

'What is the meaning of this lion with the second head and neck?' I asked
the German. He shrugged his shoulders, and said: 'Nothing!' It meant
nothing to him, because nothing except the ABC of facts means anything to
him. He is a scientist, and when he doesn't want a thing to have a
meaning it is, _ipso facto_, meaningless.

But the lion with the goat's head springing backwards from its shoulders
must mean something, because there it is, very vivid, in the famous
bronze Chimaera of Arezzo, which is in the Florence museum, and which
Benvenuto Cellini restored, and which is one of the most fascinating
bronzes in the world. There, the bearded goat's head springs twisting
backwards from the lion's shoulders, while the right horn of the goat is
seized in the mouth of the serpent, which is the tail of the lion whipped
forward over his back.

Though this is the correct Chimaera, with the wounds of Bellerophon in
hip and neck, still it is not merely a big toy. It has, and was intended
to have, an exact esoteric meaning. In fact, Greek myths are only gross
representations of certain very clear and very ancient esoteric
conceptions, that are much older than the myths: or the Greeks. Myths,
and personal gods, are only the decadence of a previous cosmic religion.

The strange potency and beauty of these Etruscan things arise, it seems
to me, from the profundity of the symbolic meaning the artist was more or
less aware of. The Etruscan religion, surely, was never anthropomorphic:
that is, whatever gods it contained were not _beings_, but symbols
of elemental powers, just symbols: as was the case earlier in Egypt. The
undivided Godhead, if we can call it such, was symbolized by the
_mundum_, the plasm-cell with its nucleus: that which is the very
beginning; instead of, as with us, by a personal god, a person being the
very end of all creation or evolution. So it is all the way through: the
Etruscan religion is concerned with all those physical and creative
powers and forces which go to the building up and the destroying of the
soul: the soul, the personality, being that which gradually is produced
out of chaos, like a flower, only to disappear again into chaos, or the
underworld. We, on the contrary, say: In the beginning was the Word!--and
deny the physical universe true existence. We exist only in the Word,
which is beaten out thin to cover, gild, and hide all things.

The human being, to the Etruscan, was a bull or a ram, a lion or a deer,
according to his different aspects and potencies. The human being had in
his veins the blood of the wings of birds and the venom of serpents. All
things emerged from the blood-stream, and the blood-relation, however
complex and contradictory it might become, was never interrupted or
forgotten. There were different currents in the blood-stream, and some
always clashed: bird and serpent, lion and deer, leopard and lamb. Yet
the very clash was a form of unison, as we see in the lion which also has
a goat's head.

But the young German will have nothing of this. He is a modern, and the
obvious alone has true existence for him. A lion with a goat's head as
well as its own head is unthinkable. That which is unthinkable is
non-existent, is nothing. So, all the Etruscan symbols are to him
non-existent and mere crude incapacity to think. He wastes not a thought
on them: they are spawn of mental impotence, hence negligible.

But perhaps also he doesn't want to give himself away, or divulge any
secret that is going to make him a famous archaeologist later on. Though
I don't think that was it. He was very nice, showing me details, with his
flashlight, that I should have overlooked. The white horse, for example,
has had its drawing most plainly altered: you can see the old outline of
the horse's back legs and breast, and of the foot of the rider, and you
can see how considerably the artist changed the drawing, sometimes more
than once. He seems to have drawn the whole thing complete, each time,
then changed the position, changed the direction, to please his feeling.
And as there was no indiarubber to rub out the first attempts, there they
are, from at least six hundred years before Christ: the delicate mistakes
of an Etruscan who had the instinct of a pure artist in him, as well as
the blithe insouciance which makes him leave his alterations for anyone
to spy out, if they want to.

The Etruscan artists either drew with the brush or scratched, perhaps,
with a nail, the whole outline of their figures on the soft stucco, and
then applied their colour _al fresco_. So they had to work quickly.
Some of the paintings seemed to me tempera, and in one tomb, I think the
Francesco Giustiniani, the painting seemed to be done on the naked,
creamy rock. In that case, the blue colour of the man's scarf is
marvellously vivid.

The subtlety of Etruscan painting, as of Chinese and Hindu, lies in the
wonderfully suggestive _edge_ of the figures. It is not outlined. It
is not what we call 'drawing'. It is the flowing contour where the body
suddenly leaves off, upon the atmosphere. The Etruscan artist seems to
have seen living things surging from their own centre to their own
surface. And the curving and contour of the silhouette-edge suggests the
whole movement of the modelling within. There is actually no modelling.
The figures are painted in the fiat. Yet they seem of a full, almost
turgid muscularity. It is only when we come to the late Tomb of Typhon
that we have the figure _modelled_, Pompeian style, with light and

It must have been a wonderful world, that old world where everything
appeared alive and shining in the dusk of contact with all things, not
merely as an isolated individual thing played upon by daylight; where
each thing had a clear outline, visually, but in its very clarity was
related emotionally or vitally to strange other things, one thing
springing from another, things mentally contradictory fusing together
emotionally, so that a lion could be at the same moment also a goat, and
not a goat. In those days, a man riding on a red horse was not just Jack
Smith on his brown nag; it was a suave-skinned creature, with death or
life in its face, surging along on a surge of animal power that burned
with travel, with the passionate movement of the blood, and which was
swirling along on a mysterious course, to some unknown goal, swirling
with a weight of its own. Then also, a bull was not merely a stud animal
worth so much, due to go to the butcher in a little while. It was a vast
wonder-beast, a wellhead of the great, furnace-like passion that makes
the worlds roll and the sun surge up, and makes a man surge with
procreative force; the bull, the herd-lord, the father of calves and
heifers, of cows; the father of milk; he who has the horns of power on
his forehead, symbolizing the warlike aspect of the horn of fertility;
the bellowing master of force, jealous, horned, charging against
opposition. The goat was in the same line, father of milk, but instead of
huge force he had cunning, the cunning _consciousness_ and
self-consciousness of the jealous, hard-headed father of procreation.
Whereas the lion was most terrible, yellow and roaring with a
blood-drinking energy, again like the sun, but the sun asserting himself
in drinking up the life of the earth. For the sun can warm the worlds,
like a yellow hen sitting on her eggs.

Or the sun can lick up the life of the world with a hot tongue. The goat
says: let me breed for ever, till the world is one reeking goat. But then
the lion roars from the other bloodstream, which is also in man, and he
lifts his paw to strike, in the passion of the other wisdom.

So all creatures are potential in their own way, a myriad manifold
consciousness storming with contradictions and oppositions that are
eternal, beyond all mental reconciliation. We can know the living world
only symbolically. Yet every consciousness, the rage of the lion, and the
venom of the snake, _is_, and therefore is divine. All emerges out
of the unbroken circle with its nucleus, the germ, the One, the god, if
you like to call it so. And man, with his soul and his personality,
emerges in eternal connexion with all the rest. The blood-stream is one,
and unbroken, yet storming with oppositions and contradictions.

The ancients saw, consciously, as children now see unconsciously, the
everlasting _wonder_ in things. In the ancient world the three
compelling emotions must have been emotions of wonder, fear, and
admiration: admiration in the Latin sense of the word, as well as our
sense; and fear in its largest meaning, including repulsion, dread, and
hate: then arose the last, individual emotion of pride. Love is only a
subsidiary factor in wonder and admiration.

But it was by seeing all things alert in the throb of interrelated
passional significance that the ancients kept the wonder and the delight
in life, as well as the dread and the repugnance. They were like
children: but they had the force, the power and the sensual
_knowledge_ of true adults. They had a world of valuable knowledge,
which is utterly lost to us. Where they were true adults, we are
children; and vice versa.

Even the two bits of '_pornografico_' in the Tomb of the Bull are
not two little dirty drawings. Far from it. The German boy felt this, as
we did. The drawings have the same naïve wonder in them as the rest, the
same archaic innocence, accepting life, knowing all about it, and
_feeling_ the meaning, which is like a stone fallen into
consciousness, sending its rings ebbing out and out, to the extremes. The
two little pictures have a symbolic meaning, quite distinct from a
_moral_ meaning--or an immoral. The words moral and immoral have no
force. Some acts--what Dennis would call flagrant obscenity--the
man-faced bull accepts calmly lying down; against other acts he charges
with lowered horns. It is not judgement. It is the sway of passional
action and reaction: the action and reaction of the father of milk.

There are beautiful tombs, in this far-off wheat-covered hill. The Tomb
of the Augurs is very impressive. On the end wall is painted a doorway to
a tomb, and on either side of it is a man making what is probably the
mourning gesture, strange and momentous, one hand to the brow. The two
men are mourning at the door of the tomb.

'No!' says the German. The painted door does not represent the door to
the tomb, with mourners on either side. It is merely the painted door
which later they intended to cut out, to make a second chamber to the
tomb. And the men are not mourning.'

'Then what are they doing?'


In the triangle above the painted door two lions, a white-faced one and a
dark-faced, have seized a goat or an antelope: the dark-faced lion turns
over and bites the side of the goat's neck, the white-faced bites the
haunch. Here we have again the two heraldic beasts: but instead of their
roaring at the altar, or the tree, they are biting the goat, the father
of milk-giving life, in throat and hip.

On the side walls are very fine frescoes of nude wrestlers, and then of a
scene which has started a lot of talk about Etruscan cruelty. A man with
his head in a sack, wearing only a skin-girdle, is being bitten in the
thigh by a fierce dog which is held, by another man, on a string attached
to what is apparently a wooden leash, this wooden handle being fastened
to the dog's collar. The man who holds the string wears a peculiar high
conical hat, and he stands, big-limbed and excited, striding behind the
man with his head in the sack. This victim is by now getting entangled in
the string, the long, long cord which holds the dog; but with his left
hand he seems to be getting hold of the cord to drag the dog off from his
thigh, while in his right hand he holds a huge club, with which to strike
the dog when he can get it into striking range.

This picture is supposed to reveal the barbarously cruel sports of the
Etruscans. But since the tomb contains an augur, with his curved sceptre,
tensely lifting his hand to the dark bird that flies by: and the
wrestlers are wrestling over a curious pile of three great bowls; and on
the other side of the tomb the man in the conical pointed hat, he who
holds the string in the first picture, is now dancing with a peculiar
delight, as if rejoicing in victory or liberation: we must surely
consider this picture as symbolic, along with all the rest: the fight of
the blindfolded man with some raging, attacking element. If it were sport
there would be onlookers, as there are at the sports in the Tomb of the
Chariots; and here there are none.

However, the scenes portrayed in the tomb are all so real, that it seems
they must have taken place in actual life. Perhaps there was some form of
test or trial which gave a man a great club, tied his head in a sack, and
left him to fight a fierce dog which attacked him, but which was held on
a string, and which even had a wooden grip-handle attached to its collar,
by which the man might seize it and hold it firm, while he knocked it on
the head. The man in the sack has very good chances against the dog. And
even granted the thing was done for sport, and not as some sort of trial
or test, the cruelty is not excessive, for the man has a very good chance
of knocking the dog on the head quite early. Compared with Roman
gladiatorial shows, this is almost 'fair play'.

But it must be more than sport. The dancing of the man who held the
string is too splendid. And the tomb is, somehow, too intense, too
meaningful. And the dog--or wolf or lion--that bites the thigh of the man
is too old a symbol. We have it very plainly on the top of the
Sarcophagus of the Painted Amazons, in the Florence museum. This
sarcophagus comes from Tarquinia--and the end of the lid has a carved
naked man, with legs apart, a dog on each side biting him in the thigh.
They are the dogs of disease and death, biting at the great arteries of
the thigh, where the elementary life surges in a man. The motive is
common in ancient symbolism. And the esoteric idea of malevolent
influences attacking the great arteries of the thighs was turned in
Greece into the myth of Actaeon and his dogs.

Another very fine tomb is the Tomb of the Baron, with its frieze of
single figures, dark on a light background going round the walls. There
are horses and men, all in dark silhouette, and very fascinating in
drawing. These archaic horses are so perfectly satisfying _as_
horses: so far more horselike, to the soul, than those of Rosa Bonheur or
Rubens or even Velazquez, though he comes nearer to these: so that one
asks oneself, what, after all, is the horsiness of a horse? What is it
that man sees, when he looks at a horse?--what is it that will never be
put into words? For a man who sees, sees not as a camera does when it
takes a snapshot, not even as a cinema-camera, taking its succession of
instantaneous snaps; but in a curious rolling flood of vision, in which
the image itself seethes and rolls; and only the mind _picks out_
certain factors which _shall_ represent the image seen. That is why
a camera is so unsatisfactory: its eye is flat, it is related only to a
negative thing inside the box: whereas inside our living box there is a
decided positive.

We go from tomb to tomb, down into the dark, up again into the wind and
brilliance; and the day rolls by. But we are moving, tomb by tomb,
gradually nearer the city. The new cemetery draws near. We have passed
the aqueduct, which crosses the dip, then takes an underground channel
towards the town. Near the cemetery we descend into a big tomb, the
biggest we have yet seen--a great underground cavern with great wide beds
for sarcophagi and biers, and in the centre a massive square pillar or
shaft on which is painted a Typhon--the seaman with coiled snake-legs,
and wings behind his arms, his hands holding up the roof; two Typhons,
another on the opposite face of the pillar, almost identical with the

In this place, almost at once, the Etruscan charm seems to vanish. The
tomb is big, crude, somehow ugly like a cavern. The Typhon, with his
reddish flesh and light-and-shade modelling, is clever, and might be
modern, done for effect, He is rather Pompeian--and a little like Blake.
But he is done from quite a new consciousness, external; the old
inwardness has gone. Dennis, who saw him eighty years ago, thinks him far
more marvellous than the archaic dancers. But we do not.

There are some curly-wig dolphins sporting over a curly border which, but
for experience, we should not know was the sea. And there is a border of
'roses'. really the sacred symbol of the 'one' with its central germ,
here for the first time vulgarly used. There is also a fragment of a
procession to Hades, which must have been rather fine in the Greco-Roman
style. But the true archaic charm is utterly gone. The dancing Etruscan
spirit is dead.

This is one of the very latest tombs: said to be of the second century
B.C., when the Romans had long been masters of Tarquinia. Veii, the first
great Etruscan city to be captured by Rome, was taken about 388 B.C., and
completely destroyed. From then on, Etruria gradually weakened and sank,
till the peace of 280 B.C., when we may say the military conquest of
Etruria was complete.

So that the tombs suddenly change. Those supposed to be of the fifth
century, like the Tomb of the Baron, with the frieze of horses and men,
or the Tomb of the Leopards, are still perfectly Etruscan, no matter what
touch of the Orient they may have, and perfectly charming. Then suddenly
we come to the Tomb of Orcus, or Hell, which is given the fourth century
as a date, and here the whole thing utterly changes. You get a great
gloomy, clumsy, rambling sort of underworld, damp and horrid, with large
but much-damaged pictures on the walls.

These paintings, though they are interesting in their way, and have
scribbled Etruscan inscriptions, have suddenly lost all Etruscan charm.
They still have a bit of Etruscan freedom, but on the whole they are
Greco-Roman, half suggesting Pompeian, half suggesting Roman things. They
are more free than the paintings of the little old tombs; at the same
time, all the motion is gone; the figures are stuck there without any
vital flow between them. There is no touch.

Instead of the wonderful old silhouette forms we have modern 'drawing',
often quite good. But to me it is an intense disappointment.

When the Roman took the power from the hands of the Etruscan
Lucumones--in the fourth century B.C.--and made them merely Roman
magistrates, at the best, the mystery of Etruria died almost at once. In
the ancient world of king-gods, governing according to a religious
conception, the deposition of the chiefs and the leading priests leaves
the country at once voiceless and mindless. So it was in Egypt and
Babylonia, in Assyria, in the Aztec and Maya lordships of America. The
people are governed by the flower of the race. Pluck the flower and the
race is helpless.

The Etruscans were not destroyed. But they lost their being. They had
lived, ultimately, by the _subjective_ control of the great natural
powers. Their subjective power fell before the objective power of the
Romans. And almost at once the true race-consciousness finished. The
Etruscan knowledge became mere superstition. The Etruscan princes became
fat and inert Romans. The Etruscan people became expressionless and
meaningless. It happened amazingly quickly, in the third and second
centuries B.C.

Yet the Etruscan _blood_ continued to beat And Giotto and the early
sculptors seem to have been a flowering again of the Etruscan blood,
which is always putting forth a flower, and always being trodden down
again by some superior 'force'. It is a struggle between the endless
patience of life and the endless triumph of force.

There is one other huge late tomb, the Tomb of the Shields, said to be of
the third century. It contains many fragmentary paintings. There is a
banqueting scene, with a man on the banqueting bench taking the egg from
the woman, and she is touching his shoulder. But they might as well be
two chairs from a 'suite'. There is nothing between them. And they have
those 'important' sort of faces--all on the outside, nothing inside--that
are so boring. Yet they are interesting. They might almost be done today,
by an ultramodern artist bent on being absolutely childlike and naïve and
archaic. But after the real archaic paintings, these are empty. The air
is empty. The egg is still held up. But it means no more to that man and
woman than the chocolate Easter egg does to us. It has gone cold.

In the Tomb of Orcus begins that representation of the grisly underworld,
hell and its horrors, which surely was reflected on to the Etruscans from
the grisly Romans. The lovely little tombs of just one small chamber, or
perhaps two chambers, of the earlier centuries give way to these great
sinister caverns underground, and hell is fitly introduced.

The old religion of the profound attempt of man to harmonize himself with
nature, and hold his own and come to flower in the great seething of
life, changed with the Greeks and Romans into a desire to resist nature,
to produce a mental cunning and a mechanical force that would outwit
Nature and chain her down completely, completely, till at last there
should be nothing free in nature at all, all should be controlled,
domesticated, put to man's meaner uses. Curiously enough, with the idea
of the triumph over nature arose the idea of a gloomy Hades, a hell and
purgatory. To the peoples of the great natural religions the after-life
was a continuing of the wonder-journey of life. To the peoples of the
Idea the afterlife is hell, or purgatory, or nothingness, and paradise is
an inadequate fiction. But, naturally enough, historians seized on these
essentially non-Etruscan evidences, in the Etruscan late tombs, to build
up a picture of a gloomy, hellish, serpent-writhing, vicious Etruscan
people who were quite rightly stamped out by the noble Romans. This myth
is still not dead. Men _never_ want to believe the evidence of their
senses. They would far rather go on elaborating some 'classical' author.
The whole science of history seems to be the picking of old fables and
old lies into fine threads, and weaving them up again. Theopompus
collected some scandalous tales, and that is quite enough for historians.
It is written down, so that's enough. The evidence of fifty million gay
little tombs wouldn't weigh a straw. In the beginning was the Word,
indeed! Even the word of a Theopompus!

Perhaps the favourite painting for representing the beauties of the
Etruscan tombs is the well-known head of a woman, seen in profile with
wheat-ears for a head-wreath, or fillet. This head comes from the Tomb of
Orcus, and is chosen because it is far more Greek-Roman than
it is Etruscan. As a matter of fact, it is rather stupid and
self-conscious--and modern. But it belongs to the classic Convention, and
men can only see according to a Convention. We haven't exactly plucked
our eyes out, but we've plucked out three-fourths of their vision.

After the Tomb of the Typhon one has had enough. There is nothing really
Etruscan left. It is better to abandon the necropolis altogether, and to
remember that almost everything we know of the Etruscans from the classic
authors is comparable to the paintings in the late tombs. It refers only
to the fallen, Romanized Etruscans of the decadence.

* * *

It is very pleasant to go down from the hill on which the present
Tarquinia stands, down into the valley and up to the opposite hill, on
which the Etruscan Tarquinii surely stood. There are many flowers, the
blue grape-hyacinth and the white, the mauve tassel anemone, and, in a
corner of a field of wheat, the big purple anemone, then a patch of the
big pale pink anemone with the red, sore centre--the big-petalled sort.
It is curious how the anemone varies. Only in this one place in Tarquinia
have I found the whity-pink kind, with the dark, sore-red centre. But
probably that is just chance.

The town ends really with the wall. At the foot of the wall is wild
hillside, and down the slope is only one little farm, with another little
house made of straw. The country is clear of houses. The peasants live in
the city.

Probably in Etruscan days it was much the same, but there must have been
far more people on the land, and probably there were many little straw
huts, little temporary houses, among the green corn: and fine roads, such
as the Etruscans taught the Romans to build, went between the hills: and
the high black walls, with towers, wound along the hill-crest.

The Etruscans, though they grew rich as traders and metal-workers, seem
to have lived chiefly by the land. The intense culture of the land by the
Italian peasant of today seems like the remains of the Etruscan system.
On the other hand, it was Roman, and not Etruscan, to have large villas
in the country, with the great compound or factory' for the slaves, who
were shut in at night, and in gangs taken out to labour during the day.
The huge farms of Sicily and Lombardy and other parts of Italy must be a
remains of this Roman system: the big _fattorie_. But one imagines
the Etruscans had a different system: that the peasants were serfs rather
than slaves: that they had their own small portions of land, which they
worked to full pitch, from father to son, giving a portion of the produce
to the masters, keeping a portion for themselves. So they were half-free,
at least, and had a true life of their own, stimulated by the religious
life of their masters.

The Romans changed it all. They did not like the country. In palmy days
they built great villas with barracks for slaves, out in the country.
But, even so, it was easier to get rich by commerce or conquest. So the
Romans gradually abandoned the land, which fell into neglect and prepared
the way for the Dark Ages.

The wind blows stiffer and stiffer from the south-west. There are no
trees: but even the bushes bend away from it. And when we get to the
crown of the long, lonely hill on which stood the Etruscan Tarquinii we
are almost blown from our feet, and have to sit down behind a thicket of
bushes, for a moment's shelter: to watch the great black-and-white cattle
stepping slowly down to the drinking-place, the young bulls curving and
playing. All along the hilltop the green wheat ruffles like soft hair.
Away inland the green land looks empty, save for a far-off town perched
on a hill-top, like a vision. On the next hill, towards the sea,
Tarquinia holds up her square towers, in vain.

And we are sitting on what would be the arx of the vanished city.
Somewhere here the augurs held up their curved staffs, and watched the
birds move across the quarters of the city. We can do so much even today.
But of the city I cannot find even one stone. It is so lonely and open.

One can go back up a different road, and in through another gate of the
city of today. We drop quickly down, in the fierce wind, down to calm.
The road winds up slowly from the little valley, but we are in shelter
from the wind. So, we pass the first wall, through the first medieval
gateway. The road winds inside the wall, past the Dazio, but there are no
houses. A bunch of men are excitedly playing morra, and the shouts of the
numbers come up like explosions, with wild excitement. The men glance at
us apprehensively, but laugh as we laugh.

So we pass on through a second frowning gateway, inside the second circle
of walls. And still we are not in the town. There is still a third wall,
and a third massive gate. And then we are in the old part of the town,
where the graceful little palazzos of the Middle Ages are turned into
stables and barns, and into houses for poor peasants. In front of the
lower storey of one little old palace, now a blacksmith's shop, the smith
is shoeing a refractory mule, which kicks and plunges, and brings loud
shouts from the inevitable little group of onlookers.

Queer and lonely and slummy the waste corners and narrow streets seem,
forlorn, as if belonging to another age. On a beautiful stone balcony a
bit of poor washing is drying. The houses seem dark and furtive, people
lurking like rats. And then again rises another tall, sharp-edged tower,
blank and blind. They have a queer effect on a town, these sharp, rigid,
blind, meaningless towers, soaring away with their sharp edges into the
sky, for no reason, beyond the house-roofs; and from the far distance,
when one sees the little city down far off, suggesting the factory
chimneys of a modern town.

They are the towers which in the first place were built for retreat and
defence, when this coast was ravaged by sea-rovers, Norman adventurers,
or Barbary pirates that were such a scourge to the Mediterranean. Later,
however, the medieval nobles built towers just for pure swank, to see who
should have the tallest, till a town like Bologna must have bristled like
a porcupine in a rage, or like Pittsburg with chimney-stacks--square
ones. Then the law forbade towers--and towers, after having scraped the
heavens, began to come down. There are some still, however, in Tarquinia,
where age overlaps age.


Ancient Etruria consisted of a league, or loose religious Confederacy of
twelve cities, each city embracing some miles of country all around, so
that we may say there were twelve states, twelve city-states, the famous
_dodecapolis_ of the ancient world, the Latin _duodecim populi
Etruriae_. Of these twelve city-states, Tarquinii was supposed to be
the oldest, and the chief. Caere is another city: and not far off, to the
north, Vulci.

Vulci is now called Voici--though there is no city, only a hunting ground
for treasure in Etruscan tombs. The Etruscan city fell into decay in the
decline of the Roman Empire, and either lapsed owing to the malaria which
came to fill this region with death, or else was finally wiped out, as
Ducati says, by the Saracens. Anyhow there is no life there now.

I asked the German boy about the Etruscan places along the coast: Voici,
Vetulonia, Populonia. His answer was always the same: 'Nothing! Nothing!
There is nothing there!'

However, we determined to look at Volci. It lies only about a dozen miles
north of Tarquinia. We took the train, one station only, to Montalto di
Castro, and were rattled up to the little town on the hill, not far
inland. The morning was still fairly early--and Saturday. But the town,
or village, on the hill was very quiet and dead-alive. We got down from
the bus in a sort of nowhere-seeming little piazza: the town had no
centre of life. But there was a café, so in we went, asked for coffee,
and where could we get a carriage to take us to Voici.

The man in the little café was yellow and slow, with the slow smile of
the peasants. He seemed to have no energy at all: and eyed us
lethargically. Probably he had malaria--though the fevers were not
troubling him at the time. But it had eaten into his life.

He said, did we want to go to the bridge--the Ponte? I said yes, the
_Ponte dell'Abbadia_: because I knew that Voici was near to this
famous old bridge of the monastery. I asked him if we could get a light
cart to drive us out. He said it would be difficult. I said, then we
could walk: it was only five miles, eight kilometres. Eight kilometres!'
he said, in the slow, laconic malarial fashion, looking at me with a
glint of ridicule in his black eyes. 'It is at least twelve!'

The book says eight! I insisted stoutly. They always want to make
distances twice as long, if you are to hire a carriage. But he watched me
slowly, and shook his head. 'Twelve!' he said. Then we must have a
carriage,' said I. 'You wouldn't find your way anyhow,' said the man. 'Is
there a carriage?' He didn't know. There was one, but it had gone off
somewhere this morning, and wouldn't be back till two or three in the
afternoon. The usual story.

I insisted, was there no little cart, no _barrocino_, no
_carretto?_ He slowly shook his head. But I continued to insist,
gazing at him fixedly, as if a carriage must be produced. So at last he
went out, to look. He came back, after a time, shaking his head. Then he
had a colloquy with his wife. Then he went out again, and was gone ten

A dusty little baker, a small man very full of energy, as little Italians
often are, came in and asked for a drink. He sat down a minute and drank
his drink, eyeing us from his floury face. Then he got up and left the
shop again. In a moment the cafe man returned, and said that perhaps
there was a _carretto_. I asked where it was. He said the man was

The drive to the Ponte was apparently two hours--then the trip would be
six hours. We should have to take a little food with us--there was
nothing there.

A small-faced, weedy sort of youth appeared in the doorway: also malaria!
We could have the _carretto_. 'For how much ?' 'Seventy liras!' 'Too
much!' said I. 'Far too much! Fifty, or nothing. Take it or leave it,
fifty!' The youth in the doorway looked blank. The café man, always with
his faint little sardonic smile, told the youth to go and ask. The youth
went. We waited. Then the youth came back, to say all right! So! 'How
long?' '_Subito!_' _Subito_ means immediately, but it is as
well to be definite. 'Ten minutes?' said I. 'Perhaps twenty' said the
youth. 'Better say twenty' said the café man: who was an honest man,
really, and rather pleasant in his silent way.

We went out to buy a little food, and the café man went with us. The
shops in the place were just holes. We went to the baker. Outside stood a
cart being loaded with bread, by the youth and the small, quicksilver,
baker. Inside the shop, we bought a long loaf, and a few bits of sliced
sausage, and asked-for cheese. There was no cheese--but they would get us
some. We waited an infinite while. I said to the café man, who waited
alongside, full of interest: 'Won't the _carretto_ be ready?' He
turned round and pointed to the tall, randy mare between the shafts of
the bread-cart outside. 'That's the horse that will take you. When the
bread is delivered, they will hitch her into the _carretto_, and the
youth will drive you.' There was nothing for it but patience, for the
baker's mare and the baker's youth were our only hope. The cheese came at
last. We wandered out to look for oranges. There was a woman selling them
on a low bench beside the road, but B., who was getting impatient, didn't
like the look of them. So we went across to a little hole of a shop where
another woman had oranges. They were tiny ones, and B. was rejecting them
with impatient scorn. But the woman insisted they were sweet, sweet as
apples, and full of juice. We bought four and I bought a _finocchio_
for a salad. But she was right. The oranges were exquisite, when we came
to eat them, and we wished we had ten.

On the whole, I think the people in Montalto are honest and rather
attractive, but most of them slow and silent. It must be the malaria
every time.

The café man asked if we would stay the night. We said, was there an inn?
He said: 'Oh yes, several!' I asked where, and he pointed up the street.
'But,' said I, 'what do you want with several hotels here?' 'For the
agents who come to buy agricultural produce,' he said. 'Montalto is the
centre of a great agricultural industry, and many agents come, many!'
However, I decided that, if we could, we would leave in the evening.
There was nothing in Montalto to keep us.

At last the _carretto_ was ready; a roomy, two-wheeled gig hung
rather low. We got in, behind the dark, mulberry mare, and the baker's
youth, who certainly hadn't washed his face for some days, started us on
the trip. He was in an agony of shyness, stupefied.

The town is left behind at once. The green land, squares of leaden-dark
olives planted in rows slopes down to the railway line, which runs along
the coast parallel with the ancient Via Aurelia. Beyond the railway is
the flatness of the coastal strip, and the whitish emptiness of the sea's
edge. It gives a great sense of nothingness, the sea down there.

The mulberry mare, lean and spare, reaches out and makes a good pace. But
very soon we leave the road and are on a wide, wide trail of pinkish
clayey earth, made up entirely of ruts. In parts the mud is still deep,
water stands in the fathomless mud-holes. But fortunately, for a week it
hasn't rained, so the road is passable; most of the ruts are dry, and the
wide trail, wide as a desert road which has no confines, is not
difficult, only jolty. We run the risk of having our necks jerked out of
their sockets by the impatient, long-striding mare.

The boy is getting over his shyness, now he is warmed up to driving, and
proves outspoken and straightforward. I said to him: 'What a good thing
the road is dry I' 'If it had been fifteen days ago,' he said, 'you
couldn't have passed.' But in the late afternoon, when we were returning
on the same road and I said: 'In bad wet weather we should have to come
through here on horseback,' he replied: 'Even with the _carretto_
you can get through.' 'Always ?' said I. 'Always' said he.

And that was how he was. Possibility or impossibility was just a frame of
mind with him.

We were on the Maremma, that fiat, wide plain of the coast that has been
water-logged for centuries, and one of the most abandoned, wildest parts
of Italy. Under the Etruscans; apparently, it was an intensely
fertile plain. But the Etruscans seem to have been very clever
drainage-engineers; they drained the land so that it was a waving bed of
wheat, with their methods of intensive peasant culture. Under the Romans,
however, the elaborate system of canals and levels of water fell into
decay, and gradually the streams threw their mud along the coast and
choked themselves, then soaked into the land and made marshes and vast
stagnant shallow pools where the mosquitoes bred like fiends, millions
hatching on a warm May day; and with the mosquitoes came the malaria,
called the marsh fever in the old days. Already in late Roman times this
evil had fallen on the Etruscan plains and on the Campagna of Rome. Then,
apparently, the land rose in level, the sea-strip was wider but even more
hollow than before, the marshes became deadly, and human life departed or
was destroyed, or lingered on here and there.

In Etruscan days, no doubt, large tracts of this coast were covered with
pine-forest, as are the slopes of the mountains that rise a few miles
inland, and stretches of the coast, still farther north. The pleasant
_pineta_, or open, sparse forest of umbrella-pines, once spread on
and on, with tall arbutus and heather covering the earth from which the
reddish trunks rose singly, as from an endless moor, and tufts of arbutus
and broom making thickets. The pine-woods farther north are still
delightful, so silent and bosky, with the umbrella roofs.

But the pine will not bear being soaked. So, as the great pools and
marshes spread, the trees of Etruscan days fell for ever, and great
treeless tracts appeared, covered with an almost impenetrable low jungle
of bush and scrub and reeds, spreading for miles, and quite manless. The
arbutus, that is always glossy green, and the myrtle, the mastic-tree,
heaths, broom, and other spiny, gummy, coarse moorland plants rose up in
dense luxuriance, to have their tops bent and whipped off by the
ever-whipping winds from the sea, so that there was a low, dark jungle of
scrub, less than man-high, stretching in places from the mountains almost
to the sea. And here the wild boar roamed in herds; foxes and wolves
hunted the rabbits, the hares, the roebuck; the innumerable wild-fowl and
the flamingoes walked the sickly, stricken shores of the great pools and
the sea.

So the Maremma country lay for centuries, with cleared tracts between,
and districts a little elevated, and therefore rich in produce, but for
the most part a wilderness, where the herdsmen pastured sheep, if
possible, and the buffaloes roamed unherded. In 1828, however, the
Grand-duke Leopold of Tuscany signed the decree for the reclaiming of the
Maremma, and lately the Italian Government has achieved splendid
results--great tracts of farmland added on to the country's resources,
and new farms stuck up.

But still there are large tracts of moorland. We bowled along the grassy
ruts, towards the distant mountains, and first all was wheat: then it was
moorland, with great, grey-headed carrion-crows floating around in the
bareness; then a little thicket of ilex-oak; then another patch of wheat;
and then a desolate sort of farmhouse, that somehow reminded one of
America, a rather dismal farm on the naked prairie, all alone.

The youth told me he had been for two years _guardiano_, or
herdsman, at this place. The large cattle were lingering around the naked
house, within the wire enclosure. But there was a notice that the place
was shut off, because of foot-and-mouth disease. The driver saluted a
dismal woman and two children as he drove by.

We made a good pace. The driver, Luigi, told me his father had been also
a _guardiano_, a herdsman, in this district, his five sons following
him. The youth would look round, into the distance, with that keen,
far-off look of men who have always lived wild and apart, and who are in
their own country. He knew every sign. And he was so glad to get out
again, out of Montalto.

The father, however, had died, a brother had married and lived in the
family house, and Luigi had gone to help the baker in Montalto. But he
was not happy: caged. He revived and became alert once more out in the
Maremma spaces. He had lived more or less alone all his life--he was only
eighteen--and loneliness, space, was precious to him, as it is to a
moorland bird.

The great hooded crows floated round, and many big meadow-larks rose up
from the moor. Save for this, everything to us was silent. Luigi said
that now the hunting season was closed: but still, if he had a gun, he
could take a shot at those hooded crows. It was obvious he was accustomed
to have a gun in his hand when he was out in the long, hot, malarial
days, mounted on a pony, watching the herds of cattle roving on the
Maremma. Cattle do not take malaria.

I asked him about game. He said there was much in the foothills there.
And he pointed away ahead, to where the mountains began to rise, six or
eight miles away. Now so much of the Maremma itself is drained and
cleared, the game is in the hills. His father used to accompany the
hunters in winter: they still arrive in winter-time, the hunters in their
hunting outfit, with dogs, and a great deal of fuss and paraphernalia,
from Rome or from Florence. And still they catch the wild boar, the fox,
the capriolo: which I suppose means the roedeer rather than the wild
goat. But the boar is the _pièce de resistance_. You may see his
bristling carcass in the market-place in Florence, now and again, in
winter. But, like every other wild thing on earth, he is becoming scarcer
and scarcer. Soon the only animals left will be tame ones: man the tamest
and most swarming. Adieu even to Maremma.

There 1' said the boy. There is the bridge of the monastery 1' We looked
into the shallow hollow of green land, and could just see a little, black
sort of tower by some bushes, in the empty landscape. There was a long,
straight ditch or canal, and digging evidently going on. It was the
Government irrigation works.

We left the road and went bowling over rough grass, by tracts of
poor-looking oats. Luigi said they would cut these oats for fodder. There
was a scrap of a herdsman's house, and new wire fences along the
embankment of the big irrigation canal. This was new to Luigi. He turned
the mare uphill again, towards the house, and asked the urchin where he
was to get through the wire fence. The urchin explained--Luigi had it in
a moment. He was intelligent as a wild thing, out here in his own spaces.

'Five years ago,' he said, 'there was none of this'--and he pointed
around. 'No canal, no fences, no oats, no wheat. It was all
_maremma_, moorland, with no life save the hooded crows, the cattle
and the herdsmen. Now the cattle are all going--the herds are only
remnants. And the ranch-houses are being abandoned.' He pointed away to a
large house some miles off, on the nearest hill-foot. 'There, there are
no more cattle, no more herdsmen. The steam-plough comes and ploughs the
earth, the machinery sows and reaps the wheat and oats, the people of the
Maremma, instead of being more, are fewer. The wheat grows by machinery.'

We were on a sort of trail again, bowling down a slight incline towards a
bushy hollow and a black old ruin with a tower. Soon we saw that in the
hollow was a tree-filled ravine, quite deep. And over the ravine a queer
bridge, curving up like a rainbow, and narrow and steep and
fortified-seeming. It soared over the ravine in one high curve, the stony
path nipped in like a gutter between its broken walls, and charging
straight at the black lava front of the ruin opposite, which was once a
castle of the frontier. The little river in the gully, the Fiora, formed
the boundary between the Papal States and Tuscany, so the castle guarded
the bridge.

We wanted to get down, but Luigi made us wait, while he ran ahead to
negotiate. He came back, climbed in, and drove up between the walls of
the bridge. It was just wide enough for the cart: just. The walls of the
bridge seemed to touch us. It was like climbing up a sort of gutter. Far
below, way down in a thicket of bushes, the river rushed: the Fiora, a
mere torrent or rainstream.

We drove over the bridge, and at the far end the lava wall of the
monastery seemed to shut us back, the mare's nose almost touched it. The
road, however, turned to the left under an arched gateway. Luigi edged
the mare round cleverly. There was just room to get her round with the
_carretto_, out of the mouth of the bridge and under the archway,
scraping the wall of the castle.

So! We were through. We drove a few yards past the ruin, and got down on
a grassy place over the ravine. It was a wonderfully romantic spot. The
ancient bridge, built in the first place by the Etruscans of Vulci, of
blocks of black _tufo_, goes up in the air like a black bubble, so
round and strange. The little river is in the bushy cleft, a hundred feet
below. The bridge is in the sky, like a black bubble, most strange and
lonely, with the poignancy of perfect things long forgotten. It has of
course, been restored in Roman and medieval days. But essentially it is
Etruscan, a beautiful Etruscan movement.

Pressing on to it, on this side, is the black building of the castle,
mostly in ruins, with grass growing from the tops of the walls and from
the black tower. Like the bridge, it is built of blocks of reddish black,
spongy lava-stone, but its blocks are much squarer.

And all around is a peculiar emptiness. The castle is not entirely
ruined. It is a sort of peasant farmstead. Luigi knows the people who
live there. And across the stream there are patches of oats, and two or
three cattle feeding, and two children. But all on this side, towards the
mountains, is heathy, waste moorland, over which the trail goes towards
the hills, and towards a great house among trees which we had seen from
the distance. That is the _Badia_, or monastery, which gave the name
to the bridge. But it has long been turned into a villa. The whole of
this property belonged to Lucien Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, brother of
Napoleon. He lived here after the death of his brother, as an Italian
prince. In 1828 some oxen ploughing the land near the castle suddenly
went through the surface of the earth, and sank into a tomb, in which
were broken vases. This at once led to excavations. It was the time when
the 'Grecian urn' was most popular. Lucien Bonaparte had no interest in
vases. He hired an overseer to superintend the excavating, giving orders
that every painted fragment must be saved, but that coarse ware must be
smashed, to prevent the cheapening of the market. So that the work went
savagely on, vases and basketfuls of broken pieces were harvested, the
coarse, rough black Etruscan ware was smashed to pieces, as it was
discovered, the overseer guarding the workmen with his gun over his
knees. Dennis saw this still happening in 1846, when Lucien was dead. But
the work was still going on, under the Princess's charge. And vainly
Dennis asked the overseer to spare him some of the rough black ware. Not
one! Smash they went to earth, while the overseer sat with his gun over
his knees ready to shoot. But the bits of painted pottery were most
skilfully fitted together, by the Princess's expert workmen, and she
would sell some _patera_ or _amphora_ for a thousand crowns,
which had been a handful of potsherds. The tombs were opened, rifled, and
then filled in with earth again. All the landed proprietors with property
in the neighbourhood carried on excavations, and endless treasure was
exhumed. Within two months of the time when he started excavating, Lucien
Bonaparte had got more than two thousand Etruscan objects out of tombs
occupying a few acres of ground. That the Etruscans should have left
fortunes to the Bonapartes seems an irony; but so it was. Vulci had mines
indeed: but mostly of painted vases, those 'brides of quietness' which
had been only too much ravished. The tombs have little to show now.

We ate our food, the mare cropping the grass. And I wondered, seeing
youths on bicycles, four or five, come swooping down the trail across the
stream, out of emptiness, dismount and climb the high curve of the
bridge, then disappear into the castle. From the mountains a man came
riding on an ass: a pleasant young man in corduroy velveteens. Be was
riding without a saddle. He had a word with Luigi, in the low, secretive
tones of the country, and went on towards the bridge. Then across, two
men on mules came trotting down to the bridge: and a peasant drove in two
bullocks, whose horns pricked the sky from the tall poise of the bridge.

The place seemed very populous for so lonely a spot. And still, all the
air was heavy with isolation, suspicion, guardedness. It was like being
in the Middle Ages. I asked Luigi to go to the house for some wine. He
said he didn't know if he could get it: but he went off, with the
semi-barbaric reluctance and fear of approaching a strange place.

After a while he came back, to say the _dispensa_ was shut, and he
couldn't get any. 'Then,' said I, 'let us go to the tombs! Do you know
where they are?' Ile pointed vaguely into the distance of the moorland,
and said they were there, but that we should want candles. The tombs were
dark, and no one was there. 'Then let us get candles from the peasants,'
I said. He answered again, the _dispensa_ was shut, and we couldn't
get candles. He seemed uneasy and depressed, as the people always are
when there is a little difficulty. They are so afraid and mistrustful of
one another.

We walked back to the black ruin, through a dark gateway that had been
portcullised, into a half-ruined black courtyard, curiously gloomy. And
here seven or eight men were squatting or standing about, their shiny
bicycles leaning against the ruined walls. They were queer-looking men,
youngish fellows, smallish, unshaven, dirty; not peasants, but workmen of
some sort, who looked as if they had been swept together among the
rubbish. Luigi was evidently nervous of them: not that they were
villains, merely he didn't know them, And he had one friend among them: a
queer young fellow of about twenty, in a close-fitting blue jersey, a
black, black beard on his rather delicate but _gamin_ face, and an
odd sort of smile. This young fellow came roving round us, with a queer,
uneasy, half-smiling curiosity. The men all seemed like that, uneasy and
as it were outcast, but with an unknown quality too. They were, in
reality, the queer, poorest sort of natives of this part of the Maremma.

The courtyard of the castle was black and sinister, yet very interesting
in its ruined condition, There were a few forlorn rat-like signs of
peasant farming. And an outside staircase, once rather grand, went up to
what was now apparently the inhabited quarter, two or three rooms facing
the bridge.

The feeling of suspicion and almost of opposition, negative rather than
active, was still so strong we went out again and on to the bridge.
Luigi, in a dilemma, talked mutteringly to his black-bearded young friend
with the bright eyes: all the men seemed to have queer, bright black
eyes, with a glint on them such as a mouse's eyes have.

At last I asked him, flatly: 'Who are all those men?' He muttered that
they were the workmen and navvies. I was puzzled to know _what_
workmen and navvies, in this loneliness. Then he explained they were
working on the irrigation works, and had come in to the _dispensa_
for their wages and to buy things--it was Saturday afternoon--but that
the overseer, who kept the _dispensa_, and who sold wine and
necessaries to the workmen, hadn't come yet to open the place, so we
couldn't get anything.

At least, Luigi didn't explain all this. But when he said these were the
workmen from the irrigation diggings, I understood it all.

By this time, we and our desire for candles had become a feature in the
landscape. I said to Luigi, why didn't he ask the _peasants_. He
said they hadn't any. Fortunately at that moment an unwashed woman
appeared at an upper window in the black wall. I asked her if she
couldn't sell us a candle. She retired to think about it--then came back
to say, surlily, it would be sixty centimes. I threw her a lira, and she
dropped a candle. So!

Then the black-bearded young fellow glintingly said we should want more
than one candle. So I asked the woman for another, and threw her fifty
centimes--as she was contemplating giving me the change for the lira. She
dropped another candle.

B. and I moved towards the _carretto_, with Luigi. But I could see
he was still unhappy. 'Do you know where the tombs are?' I asked him.
Again he waved vaguely: 'Over there' But he was unhappy. 'Would it be
better to take one of those men for a guide?' I said to him. And I got
the inevitable answer: 'It is as you think.' 'If _you_ don't know
the tombs well,' I said to him, 'then find a man to come with us.' He
still hesitated, with that dumb uncertainty of these people. 'Find a man
anyhow,' I said, and off he went, feebly.

He came back in relief with the peasant, a short but strong
_maremmano_ of about forty, unshaven but not unclean. His name was
Marco, and he had put on his best jacket to accompany us. He was quiet
and determined-seeming--a brownish blond, not one of the queer black
natives with the queer round soft contours. His boy of about thirteen
came with him, and they two climbed on to the back of the

Marco gave directions, and we bowled down the trail, then away over a
slight track, on to the heathy strong moorland. After us came a little
black-eyed fellow on a bicycle. We passed on the left a small encampment
of temporary huts made of' planks, with women coming out to look. By the
trail were huge sacks of charcoal, and the black charcoal-burners, just
down from the mountains, for the week-end, stood aside to look at us. The
asses and mules stood drooping.

This was the winter camp of the charcoal-burners. In a week or so, Marco
told me, they would abandon this camp and go up into the mountains, out
of reach of the fevers which begin in May. Certainly they looked a
vigorous bunch, if a little wild. I asked Marco if there was much
fever--meaning malaria. He said: 'Not much,' I asked him if he had had
any attacks. He said: 'No, never.' It is true he looked broad and
healthy, with a queer, subdued, explosive sort of energy. Yet there was a
certain motionless, rather worn look in his face, a certain endurance and
sallowness, which seemed like malaria to me. I asked Luigi, our driver,
if he had had any fever. At first he too said no. Then he admitted he had
had a touch now and then. Which was evident, for his face was small, and
yellowish, evidently the thing had eaten into him. Yet he too, like
Marco, had a strong, _manly_ energy, more than the ordinary
Italians. It is evidently the thing, in these parts, to deny that the
malaria has ever touched you.

To the left, out of the heath, rose great flattish mounds, great tumuli,
bigger than those of Cerveteri. I asked Marco were those the tombs? He
said those were the tumuli, Coccumella and Coccumelletta--but that we
would go first to the river tombs.

We were descending a rocky slope towards the brink of the ravine, which
was full of trees, as ever. Far away, apparently, behind us to the right,
stood the lonely black tower of the castle, across the moorland whence we
had come. Across the ravine was a long, low hill, grassy and moorland:
and farther down the stream were the irrigation works. The country was
all empty and abandoned-seeming, yet with that peculiar, almost ominous,
poignancy of places where life has once been intense. Where do they say
the city of Vulci was?' I asked Marco. He pointed across stream, to the
long, low elevation along the opposite side of the ravine. I guessed it
had been there--since the tombs were on this side. But it looked very low
and undefended, for an Etruscan site: so open to the world! I supposed it
had depended upon its walls, seawards, and the ravine inland. I asked
Marco if anything was there; some sign of where the walls had gone round.
He said: 'Nothing' It has evidently not been a very large city, like
Caere and Tarquinia. But it was one of the cities of the League, and very
rich indeed, judging from the thousands of painted vases which have been
found in the tombs here.

The rocky descent was too uneven. We got out of the cart, and went on
foot. Luigi left the mare, and Marco led us on, down to a barb-wire
fence. We should never, never have found the place ourselves. Marco
expertly held the wire apart, and we scrambled through on to the bushy,
rocky side of the ravine. The trees rose from the riverside, some leaves
bright green. And we descended a rough path, past the entrance-passage to
a tomb most carefully locked with an iron gate, and defended with barbed
wire, like a hermit's cave with the rank vegetation growing up to choke
it again.

Winding among rank vegetation and fallen rocks of the face of the ravine,
we came to the openings of the tombs, which were cut into the face of the
rock, and must have been a fine row once, like a row of rock-houses with
a pleasant road outside, along the ravine. But now they are gloomy holes
down which one must clamber through the excavated earth. Once inside,
with the three candles--for the black-faced youth on the bicycle had
brought a stump too--we were in gloomy wolves' dens of places, with large
chambers opening off one another as at Cerveteri, damp beds of rock for
the coffins, and huge grisly stone coffins, seven feet long, lying in
disorder, among fallen rocks and rubble, in some of them the bones and
man-dust still lying dismally. There was nothing to see but these black,
damp chambers, sometimes cleared, sometimes with coarse great sarcophagi
and broken rubbish and excavation-rubble left behind in the damp-grisly

Sometimes we had to wriggle into the tombs on our bellies, over the
mounds of rubble, going down into holes like rats, while the bats flew
blindly in our faces. Once inside, we clambered in the faint darkness
over huge pieces of rock and broken stone, from dark chamber to chamber,
four or five or even more chambers to a tomb, all cut out of the rock and
made to look like houses, with the sloping roof-tilts and the central
roof-beam. From these roofs hung clusters of pale brown furry bats, in
bunches, like bunches of huge furry hops. One could hardly believe they
were alive, till I saw the squat little fellow of the bicycle holding his
candle up to one of the bunches, singeing the bats' hair, burning the
torpid creatures, so the skinny wings began to flutter, and
half-stupefied, half-dead bats fell from the clusters of the roof, then
groped on the wing and began to fly low, staggering towards the outlet.
The dark little fellow took pleasure in burning them. But I stopped him
at it, and he was afraid, and left them alone.

He was a queer fellow--quite short, with the fat, soft, round curves, and
black hair and sallow face and black bats' eyes of a certain type of this
district. He was perhaps twenty years old, and like a queer burrowing
dumb animal. He would creep into holes in the queerest way, with his
queer, soft, round hind-quarters jutting behind: just like some uncanny
animal. And I noticed the backs of his ears were all scaly and raw with
sores; whether from dirt or some queer disease, who can say. He seemed
healthy and alive enough, otherwise. And he seemed quite unconscious of
his sore ears, with an animal unconsciousness.

Marco, who was a much higher type, knew his way about, and led us groping
and wriggling and clambering from tomb to tomb, among the darkness and
brokenness and bats and damp, then out among the fennel and bushes of the
ravine top, then in again into some hole. He showed us a tomb whence only
last year they had taken a big stone statue--he showed me where it had
stood, there, in the innermost chamber, with its back to the wall. And he
told me of all the vases, mostly broken pieces, that he too had lifted
from the dirt, on the stone beds.

But now there is nothing, and I was tired of climbing into these gruesome
holes, one after another, full of damp and great fallen rocks. Nothing
living or beautiful is left behind--nothing. I was glad when we came to
the end of the excavated tombs, and saw beyond only the ravine bank grown
over with bushes and fennel and great weeds. Probably many a vase and
many a stone coffin still lie hidden there--but let them lie.

We went back along the path the way we had come, to climb back to the
upper level. As we came to the gangway leading to the locked tomb Marco
told me that in here were paintings and some things left behind. Probably
it was the famous François tomb with the paintings that are copied in the
Vatican museum. It was opened by the excavator François in 1857, and is
one of the very, very few painted tombs found at Vulci.

We tried in vain to get in. Short of smashing the Iock, it was
impossible. Of course, in these expeditions, one should arm oneself with
official permits. But it means having officials hanging round.

So we climbed up to the open world, and Luigi made us get into the
_carretto_. The mare pulled us jolting across towards the great
tumuli, which we wanted to see. They are huge grassy-bushy mounds, like
round, low hills. The band of stonework round the base, if it be there,
is buried.

Marco led us inside the dense passage of brambles and bushes which leads
to the opening into the tumulus. Already this passage is almost blocked
up, overgrown. One has to crawl under the scratching brambles, like a

And at last one is in the plain doorway of the tumulus itself. Here, even
in 1829, two weird stone sphinxes guarded the entrance. Now there is
nothing. And inside the passage or at the angles were lions and griffins
on guard. What now shall we find as, we follow the candlelight in the
narrow, winding passage? It is like being in a mine, narrow passages
winding on and on, from nowhere to nowhere. We had not any great length
of candle left: four stumps. Marco left one stump burning at the junction
of the passages as a signpost, and on and on we went, from nowhere to
nowhere, stooping a little, our hats brushing the clusters of bats that
hung from the ceiling as we went on, one after the other, pinned all the
time in the narrow stone corridors that never led anywhere or did
anything. Sometimes there was a niche in the wall--that was all.

There must, surely, be a central burial chamber, to which the passages
finally lead. But we didn't find it. And Marco said there was no such
thing--the tumulus was all passages and nothing but passages. But Dennis
says that when the tumulus was opened in 1829 there were two small
chambers in the heart of the mound, and rising from these, two shafts of
masonry which passed up to the apex of the mound, and probably these
supported great monuments, probably the phallic cippi. On the floor of
the chamber were fragments of bronze and frail gold. But now there is
nothing; the centre of the tumulus is no doubt collapsed.

It was like being burrowing inside some ancient pyramid. This was quite
unlike any other Etruscan tomb we had seen: and if this tumulus was a
tomb, then it must have been a very important person whose coffin formed
the nut inside all this shell--a person important as a Pharaoh, surely.
The Etruscans were queer people, and this tumulus, with no peripheral
tombs, only endless winding passages, must be either a reminiscence of
prehistoric days or of Egyptian pyramids.

When we had had enough of running along passages in nowhere we got out,
scrambled through the bramble tangle, and were thankful to see clear
heaven again. We all piled into the _carretto_, and the mare nobly
hauled us up to the trail. The little dark fellow sailed ahead silently,
on his bicycle, to open the gate for us. We looked round once more at the
vast mound of the Coccumella, which strange dead hands piled in soft
earth over two tiny death-chambers, so long ago: and even now it is
weirdly conspicuous across the flat Maremma. A strange, strange nut
indeed, with a kernel of perpetual mystery! And once it rose suave as a
great breast, tipped with the budded monuments of the cippi! It is too
problematic. We turn our back on it all as the _carretto_ jolts over
the tomb-rifled earth. There is something gloomy, if rather wonderful,
about Vulci.

The charcoal-burners were preparing to wash their faces for Sunday, in
the little camp. The woman stood smiling as we drove by on the moor. 'Oh,
how fat thou hast got' Luigi shouted to one plump and smiling woman.
'_You_ haven't though!' she shouted back at him. '_Tu pure

At the bridge we said good-bye to Marco and his boy, then we pulled over
the arch once more. But on the other side Luigi wanted to drink. So he
and I scrambled down to the spring, the old, thin-trickling spring, and
drank cool water. The river rushed below: the bridge arched its black,
soaring rainbow above, and we heard the shouts of mule-drivers driving
the mules over the arch.

Once this old bridge carried an aqueduct, and it is curious to see the
great stalactitic mass that hangs like a beard down the side facing the
mountains. But the aqueduct is gone, the muddy stalactitic mass itself is
crumbling. Everything passes!

So we climbed up and into the _carretto_, and away went the mare at
a spanking pace. We passed the young man in velveteens, on the donkey--a
peasant from the hills, Luigi said he was. And we met horsemen riding
towards us, towards the hills, away from Montalto. It was Saturday
afternoon, with a bright sea-wind blowing strong over the Maremma, and
men travelling away from work, on horseback, on mules, or on asses. And
some drove laden donkeys out to the hills.

'It would be a good life,' I said to Luigi, to live here, and have a
house on the hills, and a horse to ride, and space: except for the

Then, having previously confessed to me that the malaria was still pretty
bad, though children often escaped it, but grown people rarely; the fever
inevitably came to shake them sometimes; that Montalto was more stricken
than the open country; and that in the time of rains the roads were
impassable--one was cut off--now Luigi changed his tune: said there was
almost no fever any more; the roads were always passable; in Montalto
people came at bathing season to bathe in the sea, having little cane
huts on the coast: the roads were always easily passable, easily! and
that you never got fever at all if you were properly fed, and had a bit
of meat now and then, and a decent glass of wine. He wanted me so much to
come and have some abandoned house in the foothills; and he would look
after my horses, and we would go hunting together--even out of season,
for there was no one to catch you.

B. dozed lightly while we drove joltingly on. It was a dream too. I would
like it well enough--if I were convinced about that malaria. And I would
certainly have Luigi to look after the horses. He hasn't a grand
appearance, but he is solitary and courageous and surely honest,
solitary, and far more manly than the townsmen or the grubbing peasants.

So, we have seen all we could see of Vulci. If we want to see what the
Etruscans buried there we must go to the Vatican, or to the Florence
museum, or to the British Museum in London, and see vases and statues,
bronzes, sarcophagi and jewels. In the British Museum lie the contents,
for the most part, of the famous Tomb of Isis, where lay buried a lady
whom Dennis thought was surely Egyptian, judging from her statue, that is
stiff and straight, and from the statuette of 'Isis', the six ostrich
eggs and other imported things that went to the grave with her: for in
death she must be what she was in life, as exactly as possible. This was
the Etruscan creed. How the Egyptian lady came to Vulci, and how she came
to be buried there along with a lady of ancient Etruria, down in that bit
of the Vulci necropolis now called Polledrara, who knows? But all that is
left of her is now in the British Museum. Vulci has nothing. Anyhow she
was surely not Egyptian at all. Anything of the archaic east
Mediterranean seemed to Dennis Egyptian.

So it is. The site of Vulci was lost from Roman times till 1828. Once
found, however, the tombs were rapidly gutted by the owners, everything
precious was taken away, then the tombs were either closed again or
abandoned. All the thousands of vases that the Etruscans gathered so
lovingly and laid by their dead, where are they? Many are still in
existence. But they are everywhere except at Vulci.


Volterra is the most northerly of the great Etruscan cities of the west.
It lies back some thirty miles from the sea, on a towering great bluff of
rock that gets all the winds and sees all the world, looking out down the
valley of the Cecina to the sea, south over vale and high land to the
tips of Elba, north to the imminent mountains of Carrara, inward over the
wide hills of the Pre-Apennines, to the heart of Tuscany.

You leave the Rome-Pisa train at Cecina, and slowly wind up the valley
of the stream of that name, a green, romantic, forgotten sort of valley,
in spite of all the come-and-go of ancient Etruscans and Romans,
medieval Volterrans and Pisans, and modern traffic. But the traffic is
not heavy. Volterra is a sort of inland island, still curiously isolated,
and grim.

The small, forlorn little train comes to a stop at the Saline de
Volterra, the famous old salt works now belonging to the State, where
brine is pumped out of deep wells. What passengers remain in the train
are transferred to one old little coach across the platform, and at
length this coach starts to creep like a beetle up the slope, up a
cog-and-ratchet line, shoved by a small engine behind. Up the steep but
round slope among the vineyards and olives you pass almost at
walking-pace, and there is not a flower to be seen, only the beans make a
whiff of perfume now and then, on the chill air, as you rise and rise,
above the valley below, corning level with the high hills to south, and
the bluff of rock with its two or' three towers, ahead.

After a certain amount of backing and changing, the fragment of a train
eases up at a bit of a cold wayside station, and is finished. The world
lies below. You get out, transfer yourself to a small ancient
motor-omnibus and are rattled up to the final level of the city, into a
cold and gloomy little square, where the hotel is.

The hotel is simple and somewhat rough, but quite friendly, pleasant in
its haphazard way. And what is more, it has central heating, and the heat
is on, this cold, almost icy, April afternoon. Volterra lies only 1800
feet above the sea, but it is right in the wind, and cold as any Alp.

The day was Sunday, and there was a sense of excitement and fussing, and
a bustling in and out of temporarily important persons, and altogether a
smell of politics in the air. The waiter brought us tea, of a sort, and I
asked him what was doing. He replied that a great banquet was to be given
this evening to the new _podestà_ who had come from Florence to
govern the city, under the new regime. And evidently he felt that this
was such a hugely important party' occasion we poor outsiders were of no

It was a cold, grey afternoon, with winds round the hard dark corners of
the hard, narrow medieval town, and crowds of black-dressed, rather squat
little men and pseudo-elegant young women pushing and loitering in the
streets, and altogether that sense of furtive grinning and jeering and
threatening which always accompanies a public occasion--a political one
especially--in Italy, in the more out-of-the-way centres. It is as if the
people, alabaster-workers and a few peasants, were not sure which side
they wanted to be on, and therefore were all the more ready to
exterminate anyone who was on the other side. This fundamental
uneasiness, indecision, is most curious in the Italian soul. It is as if
the people could never be wholeheartedly anything: because they can't
trust anything. And this inability to trust is at the root of the
political extravagance and frenzy. They don't trust themselves, so how
can they trust their 'leaders' or their party'?

Volterra, standing sombre and chilly alone on her rock, has always, from
Etruscan days on, been grimly jealous of her own independence. Especially
she has struggled against the Florentine yoke. So what her actual
feelings are, about this new-old sort of village tyrant, the
_podestà_, whom she is banqueting this evening, it would be hard,
probably, even for the Volterrans themselves to say. Anyhow the cheeky
girls salute one with the 'Roman' salute, out of sheer effrontery: a
salute which has nothing to do with me, so I don't return it. Politics of
all sorts are anathema. But in an Etruscan city which held out so long
against Rome I consider the Roman salute unbecoming, and the Roman
imperium unmentionable.

It is amusing to see on the walls, too, chalked fiercely up: _Morte a
Lenin!_ though that poor gentleman has been long enough dead, surely
even for a Volterran to have heard of it. And more amusing still is the
legend permanently painted: _Mussolini ha sempre ragione!_ Some are
born infallible, some achieve infallibility, and some have it thrust upon

But it is not for me to put even my little finger in any political pie. I
am sure every post-war country has hard enough work to get itself
governed, without outsiders interfering or commenting. Let those rule who
can rule.

We wander on, a little dismally, looking at the stony stoniness of the
medieval town. Perhaps on a warm sunny day it might be pleasant, when
shadow was attractive and a breeze welcome. But on a cold, grey, windy
afternoon of April, Sunday, always especially dismal, with all the people
in the streets, bored and uneasy, and the stone buildings peculiarly
sombre and hard and resistant, it is no fun. I don't care about the bleak
but truly medieval piazza: I don't care if the Palazzo Pubblico has all
sorts of amusing coats of arms on it: I don't care about the cold
cathedral, though it is rather nice really, with a glow of dusky candles
and a smell of Sunday incense: I am disappointed in the wooden sculpture
of the taking down of Jesus, and the bas-reliefs don't interest me. In
short, I am hard to please.

The modern town is not very large. We went down a long, stony street, and
out of the Porta dell'Arco, the famous old Etruscan gate. It is a deep
old gateway, almost a tunnel, with the outer arch facing the desolate
country on the skew, built at an angle to the old road, to catch the
approaching enemy on his right side, where the shield did not cover him.
Up handsome and round goes the arch, at a good height, and with that
peculiar weighty richness of ancient things; and three dark heads, now
worn featureless, reach out curiously and inquiringly, one from the
keystone of the arch, one from each of the arch bases, to gaze from the
city and into the steep hollow of the world beyond.

Strange, dark old Etruscan heads of the city gate, even now they are
featureless they still have a peculiar, out-reaching life of their own.
Ducati says they represented the heads of slain enemies hung at the city
gate. But they don't hang. They stretch with curious eagerness forward.
Nonsense about dead heads. They were city deities of some sort.

And the archaeologists say that only the doorposts of the outer arch, and
the inner walls, are Etruscan work. The Romans restored the arch, and set
the heads back in their old positions. (Unlike the Romans to set anything
back in its old position!) While the wall above the arch is merely

But we'll call it Etruscan still. The roots of the gate, and the dark
heads, these they cannot take away from the Etruscans. And the heads are
still on the watch.

The land falls away steeply, across the road in front of the arch. The
road itself turns east, under the walls of the modern city, above the
world: and the sides of the road, as usual outside the gates, are
dump-heaps, dump-heaps of plaster and rubble, dump-heaps of the white
powder from the alabaster works, the waste edge of the town.

The path turns away from under the city wall, and dips down along the
brow of the hill. To the right we can see the tower of the church of
Santa Chiara, standing on a little platform of the irregularly-dropping
hill. And we are going there. So we dip downwards above a Dantesque,
desolate world, down to Santa Chiara, and beyond. Here the path follows
the top of what remains of the old Etruscan wall. On the right are little
olive-gardens and bits of wheat. Away beyond is the dismal sort of crest
of modern Volterra. We walk along, past the few flowers and the thick
ivy, and the bushes of broom and marjoram, on what was once the Etruscan
wall, far out from the present city wall. On the left the land drops
steeply, in uneven and unhappy descents.

The great hilltop or headland on which Etruscan 'Volterra', _Velathri,
Vlathri_, once stood spreads out jaggedly, with deep-cleft valleys in
between, more or less in view, spreading two or three miles away. It is
something like a hand, the bluff steep of the palm sweeping in a great
curve on the east and south, to seawards, the peninsulas of fingers
running jaggedly inland. And the great wall of the Etruscan city swept
round the south and eastern bluff, on the crest of steeps and cliffs,
turned north and crossed the first finger, or peninsula, then started up
hill and down dale over the fingers and into the declivities, a wild and
fierce sort of way, hemming in the great crest. The modern town occupies
merely the highest bit of the Etruscan city site.

The walls themselves are not much to look at, when you climb down. They
are only fragments, now, huge fragments of embankment, rather than wall,
built of uncemented square masonry, in the grim, sad sort of stone. One
only feels, for some reason, depressed. And it is pleasant to look at the
lover and his lass going along the top of the ramparts, which are now
olive-orchards, away from the town. At least they are alive and cheerful
and quick.

On from Santa Chiara the road takes us through the grim and depressing
little suburb-hamlet of San Giusto, a black street that emerges upon the
waste open place where the church of San Giusto rises like a huge and
astonishing barn. It is so tall, the interior should be impressive. But
no! It is merely nothing. The architects have achieved nothing, with all
that tallness. The children play around with loud yells and ferocity. It
is Sunday evening, near sundown, and cold.

Beyond this monument of Christian dreariness we come to the Etruscan
walls again, and what was evidently once an Etruscan gate: a dip in the
wall-bank, with the groove of an old road running to it.

Here we sit on the ancient heaps of masonry and look into weird yawning
gulfs, like vast quarries. The swallows, turning their blue backs, skim
away from the ancient lips and over the really dizzy depths, in the
yellow light of evening, catching the upward gusts of wind, and
flickering aside like lost fragments of life, truly frightening above
those ghastly hollows. The lower depths are dark grey, ashy in colour,
and in part wet, and the whole things looks new, as if it were some
enormous quarry all slipping down.

This place is called _Le Balze_--the cliffs. Apparently the waters
which fall on the heights of Volterra collect in part underneath the deep
hill and wear away at some places the lower strata, so that the earth
falls in immense collapses. Across the gulf, away from the town, stands a
big, old, picturesque, isolated building, the _Badia_ or Monastery
of the Camaldolesi, sad-looking, destined at last to be devoured by _Le
Balze_, its old walls already splitting and yielding.

From time to time, going up to the town homewards, we come to the edge of
the walls and look out into the vast glow of gold, which is sunset,
marvellous, the steep ravines sinking in darkness, the farther valley
silently, greenly gold, with hills breathing luminously up, passing out
into the pure, sheer gold gleams of the far-off sea, in which a shadow,
perhaps an island, moves like a mote of life. And like great guardians
the Carrara mountains jut forward, naked in the pure light like flesh,
with their crests portentous: so that they seem to be advancing on us:
while all the vast concavity of the west roars with gold liquescency, as
if the last hour had come, and the gods were smelting us all back into
yellow transmuted oneness.

But nothing is being transmuted. We turn our faces, a little frightened,
from the vast blaze of gold, and in the dark, hard streets the town band
is just chirping up, brassily out of tune as usual, and the populace,
with some maidens in white, are streaming in crowds towards the piazza.
And, like the band, the populace also is out of tune, buzzing with the
inevitable suppressed jeering. But they are going to form a procession.

When we come to the square in front of the hotel, and look out from the
edge into the hollow world of the west, the light is sunk red, redness
gleams up from the far-off sea below, pure and fierce, and the hollow
places in between are dark. Over all the world is a low red glint. But
only the town, with its narrow streets and electric light, is impervious.

The banquet, apparently, was not till nine o'clock, and all was hubbub.
B. and I dined alone soon after seven, like two orphans whom the waiters
managed to remember in between whiles. They were so thrilled getting all
the glasses and goblets and decanters, hundreds of them, it seemed, out
of the big chiffonnier-cupboard that occupied the back of the
dining-room, and whirling them away, stacks of glittering glass, to the
banquet-room: while out-of-work young men would poke their heads in
through the doorway, black hats on, overcoats hung over one shoulder, and
gaze with bright inquiry through the room, as though they expected to see
Lazarus risen, and not seeing him, would depart again to the nowhere
whence they came. A banquet is a banquet, even if it is given to the
devil himself; and the _podestà_ may be an angel of light.

Outside was cold and dark. In the distance the town band tooted
spasmodically, as if it were short-winded this chilly Sunday evening. And
we, not bidden to the feast, went to bed. To be awakened occasionally by
sudden and roaring noises--perhaps applause--and the loud and
unmistakable howling of a child, well after midnight.

Morning was cold and grey again, with a chilly and forbidding country
yawning and gaping and lapsing away beneath us. The sea was invisible. We
walked the narrow cold streets, whose high, cold, dark stone walls seemed
almost to press together, and we looked in at the alabaster workshops,
where workmen, in Monday-morning gloom and half awakedness, were turning
the soft alabaster, or cutting it out, or polishing it.

Everybody knows Volterra marble--so called--nowadays, because of the
translucent bowls of it which hang under the electric lights, as shades,
in half the hotels of the world. It is nearly as transparent as alum, and
nearly as soft. They peel it ti down as if it were soap, and tint it pink
or amber or blue, and turn it into all those things one does not want:
tinted alabaster lampshades, light-bowls, statues, tinted or untinted,
vases, bowls with doves on the rim, or vine-leaves, and similar curios.
The trade seems to be going strong. Perhaps it is the electric-light
demand: perhaps there is a revival of interest in 'statuary'. Anyhow
there is no love lost between a Volterran alabaster worker and the lump
of pale Volterran earth he turns into marketable form. Alas for the
goddess of sculptured form, she has gone from here also.

But it is the old alabaster jars we want to see, not the new. As we hurry
down the stony street the rain, icy cold, begins to fall. We flee through
the glass doors of the museum, which has just opened, and which seems as
if the alabaster inside had to be kept at a low temperature, for the
place is dead-cold as a refrigerator.

Cold, silent, empty, unhappy the museum seems. But at last an old and
dazed man arrives, in uniform, and asks quite scared what we want. 'Why,
to see the museum!' '_Ah! Ah! Ah si--si!_' It just dawns upon him
that the museum is there to be looked at. '_Ah si, si, Signori!_'

We pay our tickets, and start in. It is really a very attractive and
pleasant museum, but we had struck such a bitter cold April morning, with
icy rain falling in the courtyard, that I felt as near to being in the
tomb as I have ever done. Yet very soon, in the rooms with all those
hundreds of little sarcophagi, ash-coffins, or urns, as they are called,
the strength of the old life began to warm one up.

Urn is not a good word, because it suggests, to me at least, a vase, an
amphora, a round and shapely jar: perhaps through association with Keats'
_Ode to a Grecian Urn_--which vessel no doubt wasn't an urn at all,
but a wine-jar--and with the 'tea-urn' of children's parties. These
Volterran urns, though correctly enough used for storing the ashes of the
dead, are not round, they are not jars, they are small alabaster
sarcophagi. And they are a peculiarity of Volterra. Probably because the
Volterrans had the alabaster to hand.

Anyhow here you have them in hundreds, and they are curiously alive and
attractive. They are not considered very highly as 'art'. One of the
latest Italian writers on Etruscan things, Ducati, says: 'If they have
small interest from the artistic point of view, they are extremely
valuable for the scenes they represent, either mythological or relative
to the beliefs in the after-life.'

George Dennis, however, though he too does not find much 'art' in
Etruscan things, says of the Volterran ash-chests: 'The touches of Nature
on these Etruscan urns, so simply but eloquently expressed, must appeal
to the sympathies of all--they are chords to which every heart must
respond; and I envy not the man who can walk through this museum unmoved,
without feeling a tear rise in his eye'

_And recognizing ever and anon
The breeze of Nature stirring in his soul._

The breeze of Nature no longer shakes dewdrops from our eves, at least so
readily, but Dennis is more alive than Ducati to that which is alive.
What men mean nowadays by 'art' it would be hard to say. Even Dennis said
that the Etruscans never approached the pure, the sublime, the perfect
beauty which Flaxman reached. Today, this makes us laugh: the Greekified
illustrator of Pope's _Homer_! But the same instinct lies at the
back of our idea of 'art' still. Art is still to us something which has
been well cooked--like a plate of spaghetti. An ear of wheat is not yet
'art'. Wait, wait till it has been turned into pure, into perfect

For me, I get more real pleasure out of these Volterran ash-chests than
out of--I had almost said, the Parthenon frieze. One wearies of the
aesthetic quality--a quality which takes the edge off everything, and
makes it seem 'boiled down'. A great deal of pure Greek beauty has this
boiled-down effect. It is too much cooked in the artistic consciousness.

In Dennis's day a broken Greek or Greekish amphora would fetch thousands
of crowns in the market, if it was the right 'period', etc. These
Volterran urns fetched hardly anything. Which is a mercy, or they would
be scattered to the ends of the earth.

As it is, they are fascinating, like an open book of life, and one has no
sense of weariness with them, though there are so many. They warm one up,
like being in the midst of life.

The downstairs rooms of ash-chests contain those urns representing
'Etruscan' subjects: those of sea-monsters, the seaman with fish-tail,
and with wings, the sea-woman the same: or the man with serpent-legs, and
wings, or the woman the same. It was Etruscan to give these creatures
wings, not Greek.

If we remember that in the old world the centre of all power was at the
depths of the earth, and at the depths of the sea, while the sun was only
a moving subsidiary body: and that the serpent represented the vivid
powers of the inner earth, not only such powers as volcanic and
earthquake, but the quick powers that run up the roots of plants and
establish the great body of the tree, the tree of life, and run up the
feet and legs of man, to establish the heart: while the fish was the
symbol of the depths of the waters, whence even light is born: we shall
see the ancient power these symbols had over the imagination of the
Volterrans. They were a people faced with the sea, and living in a
volcanic country.

Then the powers of the earth and the powers of the sea take life as they
give life. They have their terrific as well as their prolific aspect.

Someone says the wings of the water-deities represent evaporation towards
the sun, and the curving tails of the dolphin represent torrents. This is
part of the great and controlling ancient idea of the come-and-go of the
life-powers, the surging up, in a flutter of leaves and a radiation of
wings, and the surging back, in torrents and waves and the eternal
downpour of death.

Other common symbolic animals' in Volterra are the beaked griffins, the
creatures of the powers that tear asunder and, at the same time, are
guardians of the treasure. They are lion and eagle combined, of the sky
and of the earth with caverns. They do not allow the treasure of life,
the gold, which we should perhaps translate as consciousness, to be
stolen by thieves of life. They are guardians of the treasure: and then,
they are the tearers asunder of those who must depart from life.

It is these creatures, creatures of the elements, which carry men away
into death, over the border between the elements. So is the dolphin,
sometimes; and so the hippicampus, the sea-horse; and so the centaur.

The horse is always the symbol of the strong animal life of man: and
sometimes he rises, a sea-horse, from the ocean: and sometimes he is a
land creature, and half-man. And so he occurs on the tombs, as the
passion in man returning into the sea, the soul retreating into the
death-world at the depths of the waters: or sometimes he is a centaur,
sometimes a female centaur, sometimes clothed in a lion-skin, to show his
dread aspect, bearing the soul back, away, off into the other-world.

It would be very interesting to know if there were a definite connexion
between the scene on the ash-chest and the dead whose ashes it contained.
When the fishtailed sea-god entangles a man to bear him off, does it mean
drowning at sea? And when a man is caught in the writhing serpent-legs of
the Medusa, or of the winged snake-power, does it mean a fall to earth; a
death from the earth, in some manner; as a fall, or the dropping of a
rock, or the bite of a snake? And the soul carried off by a winged
centaur: is it a man dead of some passion that carried him away?

But more interesting even than the symbolic scenes are those scenes from
actual life, such as boar-hunts, circus-games, processions, departures in
covered wagons, ships sailing away, city gates being stormed, sacrifice
being performed, girls with open scrolls, as if reading at school; many
banquets with man and woman on the banqueting couch, and slaves playing
music, and children around: then so many really tender farewell scenes,
the dead saying good-bye to his wife, as he goes on the journey, or as
the chariot bears him off, or the horse waits; then the soul alone, with
the death-dealing spirits standing by with their hammers that gave the
blow. It is as Dennis says, the breeze of Nature stirs one's soul. I
asked the gentle old man if he knew anything about the urns. But no! no!
He knew nothing at all. He had only just come. He counted for nothing. So
he protested. He was one of those gentle, shy Italians too diffident even
to look at the chests he was guarding. But when I told him what I thought
some of the scenes meant he was fascinated like a child, full of wonder,
almost breathless. And I thought again, how much more Etruscan than Roman
the Italian of today is: sensitive, diffident, craving really for symbols
and mysteries, able to be delighted with true delight over small things,
violent in spasms, and altogether without sternness or natural
will-topower. The will-to-power is a secondary thing in an Italian,
reflected on to him from the Germanic races that have almost engulfed

The boar-hunt is still a favourite Italian sport, the grandest sport of
Italy. And the Etruscans must have loved it, for they represent it again
and again, on the tombs. It is difficult to know what exactly the boar
symbolized to them. He occupies often the centre of the scene, where the
one who dies should be: and where the bull of sacrifice is. And often he
is attacked, not by men, but by young winged boys, or by spirits. The
dogs climb in the trees around him, the double axe is swinging to come
down on him, he lifts up his tusks in a fierce wild pathos. The
archaeologists say that it is Meleager and the boar of Calydon, or
Hercules and the fierce brute of Erymanthus. But this is not enough. It
is a symbolic scene: and it seems as if the boar were himself the victim
this time, the wild, fierce fatherly life hunted down by dogs and
adversaries. For it is obviously the boar who must die: he is not, like
the lions and griffins, the attacker. He is the father of life running
free in the forest, and he must die. They say too he represents winter:
when the feasts for the dead were held. But on the very oldest archaic
vases the lion and the boar are facing each other, again and again, in
symbolic opposition.

Fascinating are the scenes of departures, journeyings in covered wagons
drawn by two or more horses, accompanied by driver on foot and friend on
horseback, and dogs, and met by other horsemen coming down the road.
Under the arched tarpaulin tilt of the wagon reclines a man, or a woman,
or a whole family: and all moves forward along the highway with wonderful
slow surge. And the wagon, as far as I saw, is always drawn by horses,
not by oxen.

This is surely the journey of the soul. It is said to represent even the
funeral procession, the ash-chest being borne away to the cemetery, to be
laid in the tomb. But the _memory_ in the scene seems much deeper
than that. It gives so strongly the feeling of a people who have trekked
in wagons, like the Boers, or the Mormons, from one land to another.

They say these covered-wagon journeys are peculiar to Volterra, found
represented in no other Etruscan places. Altogether the feeling of the
Volterran scenes is peculiar. There is a great sense of
_journeying:_ as of a people which remembers its migrations, by sea
as well as land. And there is a curious restlessness, unlike the dancing
surety of southern Etruria: a touch of the Gothic.

In the upstairs rooms there are many more ash-chests, but mostly
representing Greek subjects: so called. Helen and the Dioscuri, Pelops,
Minotaur, Jason, Medea fleeing from Corinth, Oedipus, and the Sphinx,
Ulysses and the Sirens, Eteocles and Polynices, Centaurs and Lapithae,
the Sacrifice of Iphigenia--all are there, just recognizable. There are
so many Greek subjects that one archaeologist suggested that these urns
must have been made by a Greek colony planted there in Volterra after the
Roman conquest.

One might almost as well say that _Timon of Athens_ was written by a
Greek colonist planted in England after the overthrow of the Catholic
Church. These 'Greek' ash-chests are about as Grecian as _Timon of
Athens_ is. The Greeks would have done them so much better'.

No, the 'Greek' scenes are innumerable, but it is only just recognizable
what they mean. Whoever carved these chests knew very little of the
fables they were handling: and fables they were, to the Etruscan
artificers of that day, as they would be to the Italians of this. The
story was just used as a peg upon which the native Volterran hung his
fancy, as the Elizabethans used Greek stories for their poems. Perhaps
also the alabaster cutters were working from old models, or the memory of
them. Anyhow, the scenes show nothing of Hellas.

Most curious these 'classic' subjects: so unclassic! To me they hint at
the Gothic which lay unborn in the future, far more than at the
Hellenistic past of the Volterran Etruscan. For, of course, all these
alabaster urns are considered late in period, after the fourth century
B.C. The Christian sarcophagi of the fifth century A.D. seem much more
nearly kin to these ash-chests of Volterra than do contemporary Roman
chests: as if Christianity really rose, in Italy, out of Etruscan soil,
rather than out of Greco-Roman. And the first glimmering of that early,
glad sort of Christian art, the free touch of Gothic within the classic,
seems evident in the Etruscan scenes. The Greek and Roman 'boiled' sort
of form gives way to a raggedness of edge and a certain wildness of light
and shade which promises the later Gothic, but which is still held down
by the heavy mysticism from the East.

Very early Volterran urns were probably plain stone or terra-cotta. But
no doubt Volterra was a city long before the Etruscans penetrated into
it, and probably it never changed character profoundly. To the end, the
Volterrans burned their dead: there are practically no long sarcophagi of
Lucumones. And here most of all one feels that the _people_ of
Volterra, or Velathri, were not Oriental, not the same as those who made
most show at Tarquinii. This was surely another tribe, wilder, cruder,
and far less influenced by the old Aegean influences. In Caere and
Tarquinii the aborigines were deeply overlaid by incoming influences from
the East. Here not! Here the wild and untamable Ligurian was neighbour,
and perhaps kin, and the town of wind and stone kept, and still keeps,
its northern quality.

So there the ash-chests are, an open book for anyone to read who will,
according to his own fancy. They are not more than two feet long, or
thereabouts, so the figure on the lid is queer and stunted. The classic
Greek or Asiatic could not have borne that. It is a sign of barbarism in
itself. Here the northern spirit was too strong for the Hellenic or
Oriental or ancient Mediterranean instinct. The Lucumo and his lady had
to submit to being stunted, in their death-effigy. The head is nearly
life-size. The body is squashed small.

But there it is, a portrait-effigy. Very often, the lid and the chest
don't seem to belong together at all. It is suggested that the lid was
made during the lifetime of the subject, with an attempt at real
portraiture: while the chest was bought ready-made, and apart. It may be
so. Perhaps in Etruscan days there were the alabaster workshops as there
are today, only with rows of ash-chests portraying all the vivid scenes
we still can see: and perhaps you chose the one you wished your ashes to
lie in. But more probably, the workshops were there, the carved
ash-chests were there, but you did not select your own chest, since you
did not know what death you would die. Probably you only had your
portrait carved on the lid, and left the rest to the survivors.

So maybe, and most probably, the mourning relatives hurriedly
_ordered_ the lid with the portrait-bust, after the death of the
near one, and then chose the most appropriate ash-chest. Be it as it may,
the two parts are often oddly assorted: and so they were found with the
ashes inside them.

But we must believe that the figure on the lid, grotesquely shortened, is
an attempt at a portrait. There is none of the distinction of the
southern Etruscan figures. The heads are given the 'imperious' tilt of
the Lucumones, but here it becomes almost grotesque. The dead nobleman
may be wearing the necklace of office and holding the sacred patera or
libation-dish in his hand; but he will not, in the southern way, be
represented ritualistically as naked to below the navel; his shirt will
come to his neck: and he may just as well be holding the tippling
wine-cup in his hand as the sacred patera; he may even have a wine-jug in
his other hand, in full carousal. Altogether the peculiar 'sacredness',
the inveterate symbolism of the southern Etruscans, is here gone. The
religious power is broken.

It is very evident in the ladies: and so many of the figures are ladies.
They are decked up in all their splendour, but the mystical formality is
lacking. They hold in their hands wine-cups or fans or mirrors,
pomegranates or perfume-boxes, or the queer little books which perhaps
were the wax tablets for writing upon. They may even have the old sexual
and death symbol of the pine-cone. But the _power_ of the symbol has
almost vanished. The Gothic actuality and idealism begins to supplant the
profound _physical_ religion of the southern Etruscans, the true
ancient world.

In the museum there are jars and bits of bronze, and the pateras with the
hollow knob in the middle. You may put your two middle fingers in the
patera, and hold it ready to make the last libation of life, the first
libation of death, in the correct Etruscan fashion. But you will not, as
so many of the men on these ash-chests do, hold the symbolic dish upside
down, with the two fingers thrust into the mundus'. The torch upside down
means the flame has gone below, to the underworld. But the patera upside
down is somehow shocking. One feels the Volterrans, or men of Velathri,
were slack in the ancient mysteries.

At last the rain stopped crashing down icily in the silent inner
courtyard; at last there was a ray of sun. And we had seen all we could
look at for one day. So we went out, to try to get warmed by a kinder

There are one or two tombs still open, especially two outside the Porta a
Selci. But I believe, not having seen them, they are of small importance.
Nearly all the tombs that have been opened in Volterra, their contents
removed, have been filled in again, so as not to lose two yards of the
precious cultivable land of the peasants. There were many tumuli: but
most of them are levelled. And under some were curious round tombs built
of unsquared stones, unlike anything in southern Etruria. But then,
Volterra is altogether unlike southern Etruria.

One tomb has been removed bodily to the garden of the archaeological
museum in Florence: at least its contents have. There it is built up
again as it was when discovered in Volterra in 1861, and all the
ash-chests are said to be replaced as they stood originally. It is called
the Inghirami Tomb, from the famous Volterran archaeologist Inghirami.

A few steps lead down into the one circular chamber of the tomb, which is
supported in the centre by a square pillar, apparently supposed to be
left in the rock. On the low stone bed that encircles the tomb stand the
ash-chests, a double row of them, in a great ring encircling the shadow.

The tomb belongs all to one family, and there must be sixty ash-chests,
of alabaster, carved with the well-known scenes. So that if this tomb is
really arranged as it was originally, and the ash-chests progress from
the oldest to the latest counter-clockwise, as is said, one ought to be
able to see certainly a century or two of development in the Volterran

But one is filled with doubt and misgiving. Why, oh why, wasn't the tomb
left intact as it was found, where it was found? The garden of the
Florence museum is vastly instructive, if you want object-lessons about
the Etruscans. But who wants object-lessons about vanished races? What
one wants is a contact. The Etruscans are not a theory or a thesis. If
they are anything, they are an _experience_.

And the experience is always spoilt. Museums, museums, museums,
object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of
archaeologists, crazy attempts to coordinate and get into a fixed order
that which has no fixed order and will not be coordinated! It is
sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? Why must even the
vanished Etruscans be reduced to a system? They never will be. You break
all the eggs, and produce an omelette which is neither Etruscan nor Roman
not Italic nor Hittite, nor anything else, but just a systematized mess.
Why can't incompatible things be left incompatible? If you make an
omelette out of a hen's egg, a plover's, and an ostrich's, you won't have
a grand amalgam or unification of hen and plover and ostrich into
something we may call K oviparity'. You'll have that formless object, an

So it is here. If you try to make a grand amalgam of Cerveteri and
Tarquinia, Vulci, Vetulonia, Volterra, Chiusi, Veii, then you won't get
the essential _Etruscan_ as a result, but a cooked-up mess which has
no life-meaning at all. A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an
illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch. I
don't want to be 'instructed'; nor do many other people.

They could take the more homeless objects for the museums, and still
leave those that _have_ a place in their own place: the Inghirami
Tomb here at Volterra.

But it is useless. We walk up the hill and out of the Florence gate, into
the shelter under the walls of the huge medieval castle which is now a
State prison. There is a promenade below the ponderous walls, and a scrap
of sun, and shelter from the biting wind. A few citizens are promenading
even now. And beyond, the bare green country rises up in waves and sharp
points, but it is like looking at the choppy sea from the brow of a tall
ship; here in Volterra we ride above all.

And behind us, in the bleak fortress, are the prisoners. There is a man,
an old man now, who has written an opera inside those walls. He had a
passion for the piano: and for thirty years his wife nagged him when he
played. So one day he silently and suddenly killed her. So, the nagging
of thirty years silenced, he got thirty years of prison, and _still_
is not allowed to play the piano. It is curious.

There were also two men who escaped. Silently and secretly they carved
marvellous likenesses of themselves out of the huge loaves of hard bread
the prisoners get. Hair and all, they made their own effigies lifelike.
Then they laid them in the bed, so that when the warder's light flashed
on them he should say to himself: 'There they lie sleeping, the dogs!'

And so they worked, and they got away. It cost the governor, who loved
his household of malefactors, his job. He was kicked out. It is curious.
He should have been rewarded, for having such clever children, sculptors
in bread.


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