Etruscan Sea Power and Mediterranean Commerce

The areas of engineering and metallurgy were not the only areas in which the Etruscans were technologically more advanced than their Italian neighbors They were also an active seafaring civilization with a powerful and organized commercial presence in the Mediterranean. The people who became the Etruscans may have already been experienced mariners when they settled in Etruria. The popular author Michael Grant proposes that they may have come in ships from Asia Minor in which they landed on the western Italian beaches north of the Tiber and subsequently built fortified towns on the hilltops. He estimates these events to have taken place between 700 and 675 B. C. The Etruscans traded with and competed head to head with the Pnoenecians, Carthagenians, and Greeks. In 536 B. C., an alliance of Etruscans and Carthagenians drove the Greeks from the island of Corsica, leaving the Etruscans a free hand in the Tyrrhenian Sea and the whole west coast of Italy.

The end of Etruscan sea power was just as dramatic and rapid as its rise. In 574, Hieron I of Syracuse destroyed the Etruscan fleet off Cumae, a city of Magna Graecia Cumae had offered help to Italian cities in Latium who wanted to revolt against Etruscan rule, and the Etruscans sent their fleet against Cumae. Hieron of Syracuse allied himself with Cumae and Etruscan sea power proved no match for the powerful Syracusan navy.

Sinngien and Boak Commerce with Greece and beginnings of Etruscan coinage p. 25, Hieron destroys Etruscan fleet off Cumae, p. 24, p. 28


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