A Personal Note from the Author: There is very little that survives today of Etruscan writings. Other than a small handful of documents that have been uncovered, most Etruscan writings that we know of take the form of names and dates inscribed on the walls of tombs. Because of this, much of our current understanding of the Etruscans comes from secondhand accounts provided by ancient historians that proceeded the fall of the Etruscan Empire.
Most of the accounts presented here are based on the histories written down by the Roman historian Herodotus and therefore may not represent an accurate depiction of the Etruscan way of life. Also many of the beliefs regarding the afterlife are far less certain than they appear in this article. Nevertheless, the author trusts that his readers can overlook these issues, and will still find this article cool enough to run an exciting campaign under the d20 System.
In a vast, subtropical region of rolling hills and rocky, ocean shores, a great civilization rose to the heights of one of the greatest empires. It is a civilization where the dead live alongside the living, where merchants travel seas plagued by pirates and mercenaries, and where the countryside teems with monstrous creatures. These are the lands of Etruria, home to the Etruscans, whose tale is inspiring in its epic focus and its grandeur. It is one that tells of terrible trials, great heroes and the greatest of gods. To venture into these lands is to find adventure around every corner. So grab your sword, and don your armor, for you are about to travel into the forgotten world of Etruria.
The History of the Etruscans
Long ago, in the lands of Resen, the people of Atruria long plagued by death and famine at the hands of an angry god called Nergal. Weakened and unable to defend themselves, the people of Atruria were slowly failing until one day, the king’s son, Tarchon, decided to lead half of the city’s population on a grand journey across the ocean, where his people could be free from the threat of disease. After months at sea, Tarchon eventually discovered a land which he named Etruria, and it is here that the history of the Etruscans begins.
The First City and the Coming of Tages
In accordance with the ceremony used for establishing all Resenan cities, Tarchon took up a golden plough and began marking out the boundaries of a new city he would later call Tarquina. As his people watched him, from the furrow of Tarchon’s plough rose a figure with the body of a child and the head of an old man. This was Tages, the son of Tinia, spirit of the earth and all wisdom. He had been sent to bless the peoples of Tarchon, and to give them a set of laws, a religion, sciences, and art.
Tarchon was delighted. As the old spirit of the earth spoke, he had the teachings written down into three books; the Libri Fatales, the Libri Tagetici, and the Sacra Acherontica. Today, these books still exist and are the template for all of what is considered the Etruscan way of life.
A Dark Omen.
When Tages had finished with his teachings, he spoke to Tarchon alone. “The fate of your peoples is not yet safe from the threat of Nergal and his servants,” he told Tarchon. “Nergal has cursed your people, your souls doomed to eternal torment in the underworld. Tinia has taken pity on you and has sent the goddess Alpan and her lassa to protect you. However, your spirits must forever remain on the Material Plane.
“Build homes for your dead,” Tages told Tarchon, “homes of stone like the homes you build of wood in life. There, you will be able to exist in the afterlife free from Nergal’s curse and the tortures of his demonic servants.”
With that, the figure of Tages returned to the earth from whence he came. Awed, Tarchon’s people bowed before their ruler and vowed never to forget what they had seen on that day.
Today, the people of Etruria are a peaceful and prosperous civilization with an empire that spans for hundreds of miles. Thanks in large part to their successes at sea trade, they are an exceedingly wealthy people, exporting fine pottery, jewelry, wine, olives, minerals, and art.