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A Research Paper On The Origins Of Tages And Etruscan Culture

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A Research Paper On The Origins Of Tages And Etruscan Culture
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   A Research Paper On The Origins Of Tages And Etruscan Culture By Trevor Foust This paper focuses on a question most commonly asked about the Etruscans and how it helped form their theology and modes of living. The main question being, what was the purpose of the egg prevalently used in funerary frescoes/sarcophagi during much of the archaic and classical periods of their history. However to fully understand why, you need to infer what types of ideals they held and how their religion and art of soothsaying was revealed to them. Acording to the  Etrusca  Disciplina , various religious rites were created to show how the Gods offer a perpetual flow of symbolic signs in the phenomena of everyday life. Gaining intuition into these symbolic signs was, in a way, how they governed various aspects of their lives. The texts, most specifically the  Libri Tagetici , was essentially an embodiment of that same concept giving stories full of philosophical embellishments a deeper meaning to those who were a part of the culture. In my opinion, this was a way as to maintain a purity of sanction when surrounding cultures already viewed them in a negatively barbaric way (similar to the Dionysian Mystery culture that maintained secrecy for many marginalized people in Greek society). The story of Tages that was  later told by Cicero in “The Nature of the Gods, Divination, Fate, The Republic, Laws, And On Standing For The Consulship” states the srcin of Tages started from the laborious efforts of a man who, while  ploughing a field in Tarquinium one day, made a deeper furrow than expected upon which a young Tages sprung from the ground. When the field worker got a better view at what the earth had provided to him, he noticed the young Tages “possessed the visage  of a child, but the  prudence of a sage” [1] soon afterwards letting out a cry of astonishment upon which a crowd slowly grouped around him. Eventually all of the Etruscan people arrived at the spot where Tages sprang up and eventually committed all his words into written texts which later became the foundation of the soothsayers and essentially Etruscan culture …  along with Vegoia, the Sybil. Despite the massive following from this cultural story, Cicero still prudently questions the legitimacy of the account stating that it was pointless to refute such a fable where a God was ploughed up out of the earth [2] . So then, why was the story so important and crucial to their way of living? When  put into a literal context it may sound profoundly absurd but after some further research into other cultures and how they constructed their own theology, the srcin story would show that there’s actually some allegorical themes that should be pointed out. One aspect of religion in multiple cultures is to personify their deities (or other various spirits) through the plant kingdom such as the Mayans with the Tonsured Maiz God, the Greeks with Daphne turning into a laurel tree and the Tupi of South America with a child’s spirit being embodied in the revered guarana plant. Thus with a culture as agriculturally sophisticated as the Etruscans it’s presumed that they would have done the same with one plant in particular that was used for divinatory  purposes in Europe and surrounding areas for centuries. When the Etruscans stated that Tages was a wise young sage who came from the ground and divulged divinatory practices to their people, they were talking about the mandrake root which was common to the Mediterranean region, although it would be difficult to deduce what species they were talking about specifically (most likely Mandragora Autumnalis). Although there is plenty of speculation to this theory I  feel that the amount of supportive evidence with the srcin of Tages, the localized area of multiple species of mandrakes as well as the  purported effects that point to a “Bacchic” style of living points to the assumption that the srcin of the egg is almost certain to be the fruit of the mandrake plant. With that deduced, I feel that their culture’s lifestyle was more closely related to the Dionysian Mysteries than  previously thought and that if any proof were to be found for this theory it would be in the pigmentation of the ochres used in the “eggs” on various frescos which should consist of a gold ochre made from a hydrated iron oxide rather than an aged white pigment that eventually turned yellow over time. Although this is just a theory and further research is needed, I’m hoping that this paper could shed some light on an otherwise enigmatic culture as well as giving a possible meaning to the Etruscan’s otherwise ordinary e gg.
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