January 26, 2014 at 3pm The Dr. George G. Hackman Memorial Lecture
Dr. Larissa Bonfante Etruscan Influence in Ancient Europe
The metal-rich, wealthy Etruscans in the center of Italy, with their great harbors and aristocratic society, were the goal of the Greeks who went to the unknown lands of the west in the eighth and seventh centuries BC. There they found a people more like the luxury-loving, laid-back Phaeacians of the Odyssey than the man-eating Cyclops. At the same time, a path of classical influence into northern Europe by way of Italy, acted as a funnel for innovations from the Mediterranean. The Alps were more of a bridge than a barrier: through its passes went the Amber Route leading south to Baltic, while northward travelled the Germanic runes, based on a north Etruscan script. In this lectures we will look at the way the peoples of the northeast Alpine area and the Gauls adopted and transformed artistic motifs, the custom of drinking wine at the symposium used by the feudal lords to entertain their chieftains, and the luxurious imports of dress, furnishings and table ware with which the lords were honored in their graves. Such aspects of classical civilization, along with the Greek myth and the alphabet enthusiastically but selectively adopted by the Etruscans and other peoples of Italy and Europe, were regularly transformed and used to express local ideas, customs and beliefs.
Larissa Bonfante is Professor Emerita of Classics at New York University, where she curated and published the Department’s collection of antiquities. She has published articles or books on a number of subjects, including Roman triumphs, the Etruscan language, ancient dress and nudity. She was a Visiting Member of the Institute of Advanced Study, is currently a member of the American Philosophical Society and the German Archaeological Institute, and founded the US Section of the Istituto di Studi Etruschi and of its Bulletin, Etruscan News. In 2007 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement of the Archaeological Institute of America.