Document Type

Research Paper


Classical Studies




The Etruscans did not leave behind a written philosophy on the self, but their funerary culture communicates a value placed on identity in their society. In the Orientalizing period of North Etruria, elites conveyed their status with idealized representation of themselves on cinerary urns. Due to limited outside influences, their emphasis on personhood must originate from an indigenous relationship between status and physicality that began in the Villanovan period. While the reasoning behind why they elevated their individualism with proto-portraiture is uncertain, the attention to individualization coincides with a simultaneous need for the visibility of the elite self. In the decentralized and tumultuous region of North Etruria, elites asserted their power in aristocratic networks through the recognition of their physical person, which informed their self-worth. As a result, the elite self’s singularity became philosophically good and desirable in North Etruria, and their cinerary urns like the Female Canopic Urn (Fig. 1) and the Lid of a Cinerary Urn (Fig. 2) reflect the self-worth critical to their life that they wished to perpetuate in death.