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Monday, October 22, 2012

The François Tomb; a Discovery Like No Other



An introduction into the Tomb:

The massive and magnificent François Tomb was discovered by and then named after the great archaeologist Alessandro François in 1857.  Located in the ancient city of Vulci, upon looking into the tomb, it becomes clear that this was a tomb built for a very influential and wealthy family,  the Saties.  When discovered, François found a plethora of Etruscan pots, burial goods, and frescos lining the walls.  Believed to have been constructed around the end of the fourth century BCE, the works of art were a phenomenal find and were a basic looking glass for archaeologists worldwide, into the unknown culture of the Etruscans.  The finds also supply the public with an unsurpassed view into the hidden Etruscan/Roman culture during the earliest days of Rome.  Containing both Roman and Etruscan characters, this tomb helps demonstrate interrelation between the two peoples.

Combat between Etruscans and Romans: Caelius Vibenna and Mastarna

Caelius Vibenna      Mastarna (Servius)
This fresco, covering one of the walls of the François Tomb, depicts the Etruscan war lord, Caelius Vibenna, and the Roman hero Mastarna.  "Mastarna" was believed to be a Etruscan cognomen for the great Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, who may have actually fought under Vibenna in his early life.  This belief is solidified by Emperor Claudius, who referenced this event in his ancient Lugdunum tablet.  In the fresco, Mastarna, a comrade to Vibenna, is freeing the Etruscan from his bonds, captive in an enemy prison.  Having led a group of soldiers into the enemy camp, the combined Etruscan/Roman military attacked the enemy by surprise, and now Mastarna is shown cutting his fellow king's bonds with a dagger.  In fact, it is believed that the name Mastarna relates back to the Latin word magister, or master, of the Romans or maybe even to his prior position.  While under Caelius, Servius was most likely a magister equitum or magister populi, basically a general of the cavalry or the entire army.  The name seems to follow him when king, a sign of respect and reverence for the "master" of the Romans.  This fresco is important because it strengthens Claudius's historical claims and demonstrates a deep camaraderie between the two peoples, giving further insight into this cultural mystery.

Works Cited:
Rosenstein, Nathan S. and Morstein-Marx, Robert, A Companion to the Roman Republic, Blackwell                         Pub., Malden, MA, 2006

The François Vase


The François Vase
   This vase, besides the frescoes, is         undisputedly the greatest discovery in the tomb.  Imported from Athens to Etruria, the vase is a sort of biography for the Greek hero, Achilles.  Painted onto the vase are the names of the Athenian potter, Ergotimos, and the painter, Kletias.  It was not uncommon that Athenian art, the finest of the time, would be exported to areas with less expertise in the fields of art, like Etruria.  However, the particular type of vase, an Attic volute-crater, a large vase used to mix wine and water, who's handles look like a "volute" of a capital, are extremely rare.  A very important note on this piece is that it is in what we know as black figure.  A simple but vital term for comprehension of classical art, the name simply discribes the color of the characters, the alternative being red (but in modern days looking more like a hue of brown).
   Another fascinating note about this vase is the fine craftsmanship and themes put into the friezes, or horizontal lines which contain different depictions.  Each frieze has its own story, describing the life of Achilles.  For example, in the first frieze frieze, we see the Caledonian Boar hunt playing out.  In the scene, Achilles' father,
 Peleus, along with every other famous character of the time, like Atalanta, the Dioskouroi, and Meleager, and excluding Heracles, slay the fearsome beast.  The second frieze then depicts scene from the funeral games of Patroclus.  Patroclus was a close friend, sometimes thought to be the lover, to Achilles.  The frieze is pretty obvious, the game is a chariot race.  These friezes all continue with the same theme, and follow down showing the marriage scene of the hero's parents; Peleus and Thetis, a boat with Athenian dancers, and various other stories which relate directly to the life of this character.
    The fact that the François vase is still around today, considering that the vase was found in the tomb in pieces and underwent various dangers, is a miracle.  While several fragments were missing, the vase was soon reconstructed and remained in tact until the turn of the 20th century.  At this time, a frustrated museum worker threw a stool at the glass covering, and the vase was shattered once more.  Finally reconstructed in 1904, the vase remains a looking glass into the history of the Etruscans, who valued the great works of their Greek brothers.


Works Cited:

www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Arts/Francois.htm
http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/tools/pottery/painters/keypieces/blackfigure/francois.htm

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