Tuesday, 17 May 2011



Rome, why Rome? Why did Rome rise to such great heights in ancient times? Much of the credit must go to the Etruscans in fact, much of what we think of as Roman is, in reality Etruscan…

The Etruscans fled Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) around 1000 B.C. They were part of the Mycenaean culture of the eastern Mediterranean. This Mycenaean civilization was thoroughly disrupted as primitive Greek bands came pouring in from the north around 1000 B.C., and so, one element of the Mycenaean, the Etruscans, fled eastwards across the Mediterranean, eventually landing in Italy.

In essay 33, of the Global African Presence Home Page, “Minoan Crete African Forerunner of European Civilizations,” Master teacher Runoko Rashidi describes the pivotal role of Crete in European history. Crete was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Thera around 1400 B.C. This cataclysm badly damaged every city in the western Mediterranean, and was also felt as far as Egypt. It took centuries for the region to get back on its feet, and when it did, the new culture that developed has come to be called Mycenaean. The Etruscans, living in Lydia in Asia Minor, were a key Mycenaean element. Their statues show them to be dark complexioned and resembling the Cretans, who were related to their forebears. 

At any rate, the Etruscans migrated to Italy, in the face of the invasion of primitive Greeks around 1000 B.C. (Note the Greek “Classical Era” would not arrive for 600 years.) the area where the Etruscans settled, immediately to the north of Rome, came to be known as Etruria, sometimes called Tuscany, both derivatives of the word “Etruscan.”

Note that Etruria is on the western, or far, side of the Italian peninsula, when approaching from the east. It is also Italy’s most fertile quarter. This indicates that the Etruscans doubtless probed the peninsula before picking out the most desirable area. Etruscan technology was far in advance of the natives they encountered. They easily conquered them, conscripted them and then used them to further their conquests (Howe, 301).

The area immediately to the south of Etruria, across the Tibet River, was called Latium. Its inhabitants were called Latins. Around 600 B.C the Etruscans conquered Rome and an Etruscan king ruled the city. Rome emerged as the pre-eminent city in Latium precisely because it was closest to Etruria. Here a series of direct quotes from, Albert Rever’s 1939, History of Ancient Civilization, taken from pages 22 and 23, Volume II, The Roman World, published by Harcourt, brace and Company. He was a “mainstream,” conservative historian, and what he says is supported any number of writers, and can be found today in standard encyclopedia entries on the Etruscans and the early history of Rome:

“Since the Etruscans brought with them from the orient, an advanced culture, they may truthfully be called the civilizers of early Italy and Rome an urban civilization where before had been only scattered, agricultural villages. They transformed Rome from a loose group of farm villages to a powerful, populous city (urbs), gave the city its name, Roma, and started it on its later carrier of expansion and power in Italy…. The judicial, ceremonial, religious ritual and much in the Roman festivals and shows, were Etruscan before they were Roman.
“The Greek alphabet came to Rome probably through the medium of the Etruscans, early in the seventh century, as did many other of Rome’s loans from Greece. In religion, also, Rome owed much to the Etruscans. Her Capitoline tradition of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, hr use of augury and diviation… (And also), her gladitorial contests.”

“One of the greatest debts of Italy and Rome to the Etruscans was in building, for from them they learned to build permanently with hewn stone, and to undertake great public works such as temples, fortifications, bridges, dikes and sewers…. It was under Etruscan influence in the sixth century that Rome was first fortified by a wall. The fruitful principle of the arch was introduced into Italy by the Etruscan immigrants.” (Trever, pp. 22, 23).

So we see that much of what we call Roman today was, in fact, Etruscan. We must also note that they were trading partners and allies of African Carthage. And there is evidence that they shared the same divinities as the Carthaginians (Davies, p. 154) Five centuries after fleeing the Greeks, the Etruscans again encountered them Italy. “In opposition to the Hellenic (Greek) colonial expansion in the west which tended to encircle them, they were allied with Carthage against the Greeks in the Battle of Alalia in 538 B.C.” (Trever, p. 18)

What eventually happened to the Etruscans?  It is an old story. Their pupils, the Romans eventually conquered, and incorporated them. The Etruscans had a league of 12 cities, but it appears to have been mainly a religious confederation. As Rome grew in size and power, she attacked and conquered the Etruscan cities one-by-one. They failed to unite, and retake Rome, and so were thus swallowed by their offspring.

Davies, Norman. 1996. Europe: A History. Harper Collins: New York
Howe, Herbert. “The Etruscans,” World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: 1975.
Rashidi, Runoko. “Minoan Crete – African Forerunner of European Civilizations,” Global African Presence Home Page, #33
Trever, Albert A. 1939.  History of Ancient Civilization, Volume II, The Roman World. Harcourt, Brace: New York.


By Yvonne Clark 

In 218 B.C., Hannibal began the most daring military move in history, that of invading Rome by way of the Alps. But why did this military genius decide to war against Rome?

Before Hannibal’s birth, the Romans ruled Italy, and the Carthaginians ruled Carthage in North Africa. The Carthaginians also ruled the Mediterranean Islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Syracuse (now known as Sicily). The Carthaginians were content as things were but the Romans were military expansionists. So the Romans broke their treaty with the Carthaginians by expanding their empire into Sicily, and the First Punic War began (264 B.C.).

In 247 B.C., Hamilcar Barca took command of the Carthaginian army and his son Hannibal was born. Hannibal was born to one of the distinguished families in Carthage—the Barcas.
After losing a decisive sea battle, the Carthaginians recalled Hamilcar Barca and sued for peace. Rome, however, demanded not only Sicily, but Corsica, Sardinia, and all the islands between Sicily and Africa. In addition the Carthaginians were compelled to pay a large tribute. In order to recoup their losses, the Carthaginians rebuilt their empire in Spain. In 237 B.C., Hmilcar and Hannibal left for Spain. It took nine years for Hamilcar to conquer or win over the native tribes of Spain. These tribes were no match for the Carthaginian’s training in disciplined warfare. As a result, all the land south of the Ebro River in Spain became new Carthage. In 230 B.C., Hamilcar was killed in battle, and command of the army was left to his son-in-law, Hasdrubal. 

During all Hannibal’s years in Spain, first under his father and then under his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal, he was taught the world of a soldier. When Hasdrubal was murdered in 221 B.C., there was never a doubt to his successor. It was inevitable that upon the death of Hasdrubal, Hannibal would succeed him. At the age of twenty-six, he was chosen by the army as their new commander. 

Saguntum was a province of New Carthage inhabited by the Greeks. After the Greeks attacked some of the tribes in New Carthage, the Romans sided with them and declared them selves protectorates of Saguntum. Knowing that the long term goal of the Romans was to gain control of new cathage, Hannibal decided to make the first move. He attacked Saguntum, beginning the Second Punic War (218 B.C.). The Romans prepared to invade new Carthage, but Hannibal was not preparing a defense strategy.

With thirty-seven elephants, Hannibal’s army climbed through the Pyrenees, across the Rhone, over the Alps and into Italy. The Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio tried unsuccessfully to check Hannibal’s advances into Italy. Attempting another strategy, he attacked Carthage but was defeated and killed. For the next sixteen years, Hannibal successfully waged war against every Roman legion sent to defeat him. He left a path of destroyed cities and bridges and a huge Roman death toll. 

Rome had lost half a million men in battle, when Publius Cornelius Scipio’s son, called Scipio the younger, took command. Scipio the younger decided to take the risk of striking at Carthage. In 294 B.C., Scipio and an army of 25,000 men landed in Carthage. Hearing of the invasion, Hannibal headed back to North Africa. On the plain of Zama, Scipio and Hannibal aligned their armies for battle. Hannibal’s soldiers fought a courageous fight but they were outflanked and defeated by the powerful Roman legions. Hannibal then sent word to Carthage, “We have lost not only battle but war. Accept the terms of peace offered.”

After the ratification of a peace treaty, Hannibal became the chief magistrate of Carthage. Hannibal increased the stability and prosperity of Carthage so well that Carthage soon regained its place as the commercial capital of the western Mediterranean. The Romans were not only nervous about a quick recovery for Carthage, but were afraid that Hannibal would wage another war. In 195 B.C., the Romans demanded his arrest. Hannibal fled Carthage beginning a life of wandering and exile. In 182 B.C., to avoid capture by the Romans, Hannibal committed suicide by drinking a vial of poison. 

An interesting fact: the Roman General, Scipio the Younger, became forever known as Scipio Africanus, honoring his defeat of the Great African General Hannibal.

Source: Rome in Africa, by Suzan Raven