Women in Etruscan Tomb Painting
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Previous scholarship on women in Etruscan tomb painting has grounded its conclusion on a number of select, well distinguished tombs that have been used to support or disprove the claim that women held a prominent position in Etruscan society. This research paper aims to expand the literature by compiling an extensive catalogue of tomb paintings at the Etruscan site of Tarquinia, to examine the representation and iconography of women between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. Of the 135 painted tombs known in the Monterozzi necropolis of Tarquinia, there are 62 tombs that contain the depiction of women in various settings, including scenes of dance, athletics, the journey to the afterlife, and most frequently, the banquet. By analyzing the 24 tombs that contain scenes of the banquet where women are present, through their positioning, attire, and iconography, it is evident that the elite women in Etruscan society played an important role in the family. In comparison to scenes of the banquet in Greek art, as well as the accounts from ancient authors who comment on the scandalous actions of Etruscan women, a different picture emerges. The women depicted on the walls of these Etruscan tombs are not entertainers or subordinate companions. They are wives and mothers who, as members of the aristocracy, were essential figures in maintaining the family lineage and as such held greater authority and power. It is within these family tombs that they were honored and respected in this role.