Etruscan, South Italian and Roman Dancing.

Etruscan, South Italian and Roman Dancing. Illustrations from the Grotta dei Vasi, the Grotta della Scimia, and the Grotta del Triclinio, Corneto. Funeral Dances from Albanella, Capua, &c. Pompeii and the Baths of Constantino. The Dances of the Etruscans and South Italians. The Roman, Dance of the Salii. The Bellicrepa. The social position of Dancing. The Chorus.

One of the most important nations of antiquity was the Etruscan, inhabiting, according to some authorities, a dominion from Lombardy to the Alps, and from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic.

Etruria gave a dynasty to Rome in Servius Tullius, who originally was Masterna, an Etruscan.

Etruscan dancer. From a painting in the Grotta dei Vasi dipinti--Corneto.

Fig. 20: Etruscan dancer. From a painting in the Grotta dei Vasi dipinti—Corneto.

It is, however, with the dancing that we are dealing. There is little doubt that they were dancers in every sense; there are many ancient sepulchres in Etruria, with dancing painted on their walls. Other description than that of the pictures we do not possess, for as yet the language is a dead letter. There is no doubt, as Gerhardt [1] suggests, that they considered dancing as one of the emblems of joy in a future state, and that the dead were received with dancing and music in their new home. They danced to the music of the pipes, the lyre, the castanets of wood, steel, or brass, as is shown in the illustrations taken from the monuments.

Etruscan dancing and performances. From paintings in the Grotta della Scimia Corneto, about 500 B.C.

Fig. 21: Etruscan dancing and performances. From paintings in the Grotta della Scimia Corneto, about 500 B.C.

That the Phoenicians and Greeks had at certain times immense influence on the Etruscans is evident from their relics which we possess (fig. 20).

A characteristic illustration of the dancer is from a painting in the tomb of the Vasi dipinti, Corneto, which, according to Mr. Dennis, [2] belongs to the archaic period, and is perhaps as early as 600 B.C. It exhibits a stronger Greek influence than some of the paintings. Fig. 21, showing a military dance to pipes, with other sports, comes from the Grotta della Scimia, also at Corneto; these show a more purely Etruscan character.

Etruscan Dancing. From the Grotta del Triclinio.--Corneto.

Fig. 22: Etruscan Dancing. From the Grotta del Triclinio.—Corneto.

The pretty dancing scene from the Grotta del Triclinio at Corneto is taken from a full-sized copy in the British Museum, and is of the greatest interest. It is considered to be of the Greco-Etruscan period, and later than the previous examples (fig. 22).

There is a peculiarity in the attitude of the hands, and of the fingers being kept flat and close together; it is not a little curious that the modern Japanese dance, as exhibited by Mme. Sadi Yacca, has this peculiarity, whether the result of ancient tradition or of modern revival, the writer cannot say.

Almost as interesting as the Etruscan are the illustrations of dancing found in the painted tombs of the Campagna and Southern Italy, once part of "Magna Grecia"; the figure of a funeral dance, with the double pipe accompaniments, from a painted tomb near Albanella (fig. 23) may be as late as 300 B.C., and those in figs. 24, 25 from a tomb near Capua are probably of about the same period. These Samnite dances appear essentially different from the Etruscan; although both Greek and Etruscan influence are very evident, they are more solemn and stately. This may, however, arise from a different national custom.

That the Etruscan, Sabellian, Oscan, Samnite, and other national dances of the country had some influence on the art in Rome is highly probable, but the paucity of early Roman examples renders the evidence difficult.

Funeral dance in the obsequies of a female. From a painted tomb near Albanella.

Fig. 23: Funeral dance in the obsequies of a female. From a painted tomb near Albanella.