Skip to content
Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 5, 2016

Thunder versus Lightning in Etruria

Nancy T. de Grummond
From the journal Etruscan Studies

Abstract

Recent scholarship on the Etruscans has produced important new insights into their practices of divination of the future by means of thunder and lightning. Not much attention has yet been given to how radically different these two natural phenomena were from the point of view of the systems that framed them and accordingly how different the appropriate rituals were. There was a highly complex system of interpreting lightning, based on the idea that there were nine Etruscan gods who could cast a bolt, and that even when one god wanted to do so, it often involved negotiations with others. It was very important for a diviner to know from which section of the sky the lightning originated and to have a full knowledge of its physical details and meanings. Thunder, on the other hand, was only a sound, and it was difficult to tell where it might have originated. Because it did not cause damage, it was seemingly not as dire as lightning. There does not seem to be a specific statement on which Etruscan deities might cause thunder, and so the diviner did not address the issue of which gods needed to be appeased. Instead, as far as we now know, thunder was judged by the day on which it was heard, and divination was thus carried out through calendrical reference, which did not require the kind of detailed training implied by the surviving texts on lightning. Since lightning is a visible phenomenon, it is not surprising that there are numerous depictions of it recognized in Etruscan mythological art. But while such examples may be duly noted, it is here argued that some images previously interpreted as lightning bolts are actually representations of thunder. A close look shows that, like the disciplines, the depictions of lightning and thunder are quite different from one another.

Acknowledgements

The content of this article was presented as part of the Third Annual Mario Del Chiaro Lecture at The University of California, Berkeley, March 5, 2014. The author wishes to express most sincere thanks to Lisa Pieraccini for the invitation to speak and for the warm hospitality, and to take this additional opportunity to offer a salute on the pages of Etruscan Studies to Mario Del Chiaro, a great pioneer in Etruscan studies and a lifelong friend. Mario Iozzo and Frank Hildebrandt kindly assisted with the images in Figs. 4 and 5.

Bibliography

Adembri, B. 1982. “Schede.” In Pittura etrusca a Orvieto, 75–103. Rome: Edizioni Kappa.Search in Google Scholar

Bagnasco Gianni, G. 2011. “Lettere e immagini: Esempi etruschi di parola ispirata.” In Corollari, Scritti di antichità etrusche e italiche in omaggio all’opera di Giovanni Colonna, edited by D. F. Maras, 185–192. Studia Erudita 14. Pisa and Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore.Search in Google Scholar

Benelli, Enrico. 1994. Le iscrizioni bilingui etrusco-latine. Florence: Leo S. Olschki editore.Search in Google Scholar

Camporeale, G. 1997. “Zeus/Tinia,” LIMC 8: 400–21.Search in Google Scholar

Capdeville, G. 1989 “Les dieux fulgurants dans la doctrine étrusque.” In Atti di Secondo Congresso Internazionale Etrusco 3, 1171–90. Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider. Search in Google Scholar

Cherici, L. 1989. “Keraunia.” ArchCl 41: 329–76. Search in Google Scholar

Cianferoni, G.C. 2014. “The Amphiaraus Chariot.” In Castellina in Chianti, Archaeological Museum of the Sienese Chianti, edited by M. Firmati, 78–81. Milan: Silvana Editoriale. Search in Google Scholar

Colonna, G. 1991–92. “Altari e sacelli. L’area sud di Pyrgi dopo otto anni di ricerche.” RendPontAcc 64: 63–115. Search in Google Scholar

Colonna, G. 2009 (2012). Ancora su Śur/Śuri. 1. L’epiteto *EISTA (“Il DIO”) 2. L’attributo del fulmine. ” StEtr 75: 9–32. Search in Google Scholar

de Grummond, N.T. 1982. “Some Landscape Conventions in Etruscan Art.” AntK 25.1: 3–14. Search in Google Scholar

de Grummond, N.T. 2000. “Mirrors, Marriage and Mysteries.” JRA Supplement 47: 63–85.Search in Google Scholar

de Grummond, N.T. 2006. Etruscan Myth, Sacred History and Legend. Philadelphia: University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. Search in Google Scholar

de Grummond, N.T. 2011. “A Barbarian Myth? The Case of the Talking Head.” In The Barbarians of Ancient Europe: Realities and Interactions, edited by L. Bonfante, 313–45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

de Grummond, N.T. 2013. “Haruspicy and Augury: Sources and Procedures.” In The Etruscan World, edited by Jean MacIntosh Turfa, 539–56. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Gehlken, E. 2012. Weather Omens of Enūma Anu Enlil : Thunderstorms, Wind and Rain (Tablets 44–49). Leiden: Brill. Search in Google Scholar

Maggiani, A. 2005. “La divinazione in Etruria.” In Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum III, 52–78. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum. Search in Google Scholar

Massa Pairault, F.-H. 1986. “Mito e miti nel territorio volsiniese.” AnnFaina 6, 77–108. Search in Google Scholar

Milani, L.A. 1905. ‘Montecalvario-Ipogeo paleoetrusco di Montecalvario presso Castellina in Chianti.” NSc, 223–42. Search in Google Scholar

Moretti Sgubini, A.M., and L. Ricciardi. 2006. “Vulci: materiali architettonici di vecchi e nuovi scavi.” In Deliciae Fictiles 3, Architectural Terracottas in Ancient Italy, edited by I. Edlund-Berry, G. Greco, and J. Kenfield, 103–15. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Search in Google Scholar

Neri, L. 2002. Gli specchi etruschi. Materiali del Museo Archeologico di Tarquinia 14. Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider. Search in Google Scholar

Pfiffig, A. 1975. Religio etrusca. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt.Search in Google Scholar

Tamburini, P. 1991. “Pietra ovoide con fulmine in rilievo.” In Gens antiquissima Italiae: Antichità dell’Umbria a New York, edited by L. Bonfante and F. Roncalli, 273–76. Milan: Electa. Search in Google Scholar

Thulin, C.O. 1968. Die etruskische Disciplin. Reprint of I.) Die Blitzlehre (1905); II.) Die Haruspicin (1906); III.) Die Ritualbücher und zur Geschichte und Organisation der Haruspices (1909). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.Search in Google Scholar

Turfa, J.M. 2012. Divining the Etruscan World: The Brontoscopic Calendar and Religious Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

van der Meer, L.B. 1987. The Bronze Liver of Piacenza, Analysis of a Polytheistic Structure. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.Search in Google Scholar

Verger, S. 2013. “Some Observations regarding Greaves in Tomb 90 of the Casabianda Necropolis at Aléria (Corsica).” Etruscan News 15: 20. Search in Google Scholar

Weinstock, S. 1951. “Libri fulgurales.” PBSR 19: 122–53. Search in Google Scholar

Wildfang, R.L. 2000. “Fulgura et Fulmina; Or What It Portends When a Family Tomb Is Struck by a fulmen quod decussit.” In Divination and Portents in the Roman World, edited by R.L. Wildfang and J. Isager, 67–78. Odense: Odense University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-11-5
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston