Social significance of communal dining in Etruscan Italy from the seventh to the fourth century BC: an iconographical approach
- Publisher: The University of Edinburgh
banqueting | Etruscan society | banquet iconography
Imagery relating to communal dining or banqueting in ancient Etruria is relatively
abundant and provides a useful source of potential information about the workings of
Etruscan society, not least because of the semantic value of banquet scenes. The
conduct of eating and drinking in company generally reflects patterns of social
behavior, governed by local traditions, rules, ritual, beliefs and ideology embedded in
society. In addition, banqueting or feasting may be closely interwoven with other
social events, while rules of inclusion or exclusion may well come into play, thereby
helping to reinforce or create social hierarchies. The depiction of a convivial scene
alluding to experiences of communal dining is automatically a reference to these
concepts, irrespective of whether an image represents a specific event or not.
This thesis examines the iconography of banqueting in Etruscan Italy from the
seventh to the fourth centuries BC. The analysis takes into account all types of
Etruscan artefacts with banquet iconography. These include tomb paintings, scenes on
vessels, mirrors or plaques once attached to buildings, grave stelae, sarcophagi and
urns as well as sculptural representations made of ivory or bronze. The scenes are
examined by considering a variety of visual elements that help to constitute a banquet.
Theoretical perspectives and the defining elements of banquets are discussed in Part I.
The latter are essential to the study because they were chosen to be included in
representations and were evidently deemed important by the Etruscans themselves.
By approaching the social practice of sharing food and drink through a systematic
formal analysis of local iconography, many interesting questions, such as specific
seating arrangements according to age and gender, can be explored. The ultimate aim
of this thesis is to help us understand what constituted an Etruscan banquet from a
study of its component parts, and what can be learned from banquet representations
about the make-up and workings of Etruscan society.
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