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Etruscan Architecture

arch, stones, remains, found, feet, buildings, similar and ruins

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ETRUSCAN ARCHITECTURE. The method of build ing practised by the ancient inhabitants of Etruria ; from which it is supposed many of the peculiarities of Roman architecture took their rise, and the Tuscan order was bor rowed. The origin and history of this people is involved in obscurity, as is also, to a great extent, filch. architecture. They seem to have been a mixed race, composed of Siculi or Vntbri, of Pelasgi, and of a third race. of l.i dian extraction, and to have attained to considerable eminence in the scale of nations, both in power and civilization. Although they had brought the al ts to a great degree of perfection, we had, until recently, but little evidence of the fact ; and, as regards their architecture, examples are still so scanty, as to afford its no precise notion of its character. We have no remains of temples, or other buildings of the kind ; all such informa tion is to lie derived solely from their hypoglei or sepulchres, and the representation of' buildings, to be found on the va•i ous utensils discovered therein. The remains abate ground zonsist almost solely of ruins of walls surrounding the lifterent cities, which remind its of the Gyeloptcan erections Tiry•us and Myeente, consisting, as they do, of lofty heaps stones of enormous size, fitted together in a compact form, but without either cramps or cement. Ruins of this nature exist at Cortona, Volterra, Fiesol. ke., in the first of which are some stones more than twenty-two Roman feet in length, and about five or six feet in height. The walls of Volterra are if a similar description. In the earliest examples. the stones are of an irregular polygonal shape, and in building were so laid as to have all their sides in close contact with the sul•rounding stones; remains of this kind of work are to be found at Cora near Velletri. Generally speaking, the stones were of rectangular form, anti of various sizes, disposed in horizontal courses. There is at Volterra a gateway, called the Gate of I Terenles, which has a fine arch composed of nineteen large stones. This leads us to that the origin of the arch is very generally ascribed to Etruria, from whence it is said to have 'found its way into Rome. Be this as it may, the Etrm•ians were certainly aware of its princi ples, specimens of true arches and vaulting having been found in the remains, some of which are probably or early date. In a tomb at Cerretri is a wall carried Up alter the shape of a Gothic arch gradually converging towards the top, but not meeting at the apex. a square channel being left between the two sides- of the arch, which is coveted ovet with a block of nenf•o. This, however, is not a trite arch

but is similar to those to be limnd in Egypt and Greece, the building to which it belongs is on all hands allowed to be of very great antiquity.

From the description of Etruscan temples given us by Vitru vies, we learn that they were of an oblong form, the length being occupied by three chapels, of w hi•h the one the principal. The Iii9ades were similar to those Greece, adorned with columns, peditneuts, &c., and the latter with seulptm•es in terra cotta. From the same ant hi ir we likewise learn, that their private houses were buildings or some im portance, having external porticos and vestibule's like of Ronne; indeed, it is supposed that the atrium was borrowed front them by the Romans. Amongst the structures fat' which the Etrurians were eminent, are their tunnels, canals, and sewers, for the purposes of drainage and irrigation ; roads, fortifications, and other works of an equally useful character. Remains of at cloaca have been discovered at Ta•quinii, ilr the arch is employed, and which is altogether sitnilyr to that at Home; and at Volaterra are the ruins of :t snbter ranean reservoir, 24 IZoman feet high, .56 long, and 29 bread.

We have now only to notice the sepulchral buildings ; which form by far the principal portion of the remains, and are found in great numbers, fresh ones being constantly opened at the present day. They seem to have been equally as numerous as the cities. and it would appear to have been an universal rule, that each city should have a place of burial for its dead in its immediate vicinity. To such an extent is this the case, that a modern writer lays it down as an axiom, that wherever there stood an ancient town, there y on will find a cemetery • and wherever you find a cemetery, there will have standfikeWiSe an ancient city. These septibln—s are, however, not all alike, their forms and situation vary ing according to the geographical, geological, and other charac teristics of the site ; in some eases they are cut out of elitts below the city wall ; at others out of more yielding soil, in eases where requisite, lined with masonry on the inside. Besides these excavated sepulchres, we have some of a primitive and less imposing character, being nothing better than ;rat as sunk a few feet hehm• the surface. and with nnhewn masses of stone. They are very similar to the Druidical cromlechs ; which fact would intimate some con nection between the Celts and Etruscans. Again, we find tumuli, another form of sepulchral monument, which is com mon to all parts of the world.

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