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UNTIL the Hellenistic period the radiance of Greece in the Mediterranean world prevented men from perceiving the civilizations which were growing up or disappearing round about her. The nation she knew best and of which she spoke most favorably was Persia, because it was the power she had to combat. The old peoples had hardly more than one means of intermingling with and comprehending one another, which was war. Now, military conquest was repugnant to the Greeks. The colonies which they had sown on all the shores of Asia, the Euxine, North Africa, southern Italy, and Sicily constituted a network of stations in their vast maritime system which was pretty closely reserved for the nation, and beyond which everything, for them, was legends, semidarkness, and confusion. Trade scarcely got beyond the coasts of the happy seas. The interior of the lands, the mountains of the horizon, the unknown forests, withheld their secret from Greece, since they escaped her influence.

Hellenism has left only furtive traces outside of the Greek world, properly so-called. There was, perhaps, only one agricultural and nonmaritime people that was strongly influenced by Greece, through the cities of Magna Graecia and through the sea routes. The country that lies between the Arno, the Tiber, the Apennines, and the sea was probably the only one of the old world to accept, without resistance, and from the heroic period onward, the supremacy of the Greek spirit. The Etruscans, like the Greeks, were doubtless descended from the old Pelasgians, and recognized in the products brought them by the ships—vases especially, which they bought in large quantities—the encouragement of an effort related to their own. In fact the most original manifestations of their art always owe something to Greece and, certainly by intermediation of the latter, to Assyria and to Egypt.

In time, undoubtedly, if Rome had not come to crush the germ of Etruscan genius, the latter would have profited by the decline of Greece, for the realization of itself through contact with its soil. It is a rugged land of torrents, forests, and mountains, well drawn and well defined. But the Etruscan peasant, bent over his furrow, in his landscape where the eye is constantly arrested by the hills, did not have the free horizon that opened before the man of Greece trafficking among the bays and islands, or tending his sheep on the heights. Hence, there is in Etruscan art something funereal, violent, and bitter. The priest reigns. Forms are inclosed in tombs. In the sculpture of the sarcophagi we frequently find two strange figures leaning on their elbows with the stiffness and the mechanical expression known to all archaisms—the lower part of their bodies unconnected with the secret and smiling upper part; the frescos of the funerary chambers tell a tale of sacrifices and killings; the whole art is fanatical, superstitious, and agitated. The myth and the technique often come from the Greeks. But we seem to have something here which resembles more the hell which the Pisan primitives are to paint, twenty centuries later, on the walls of the Campo Santo, than it does the harmonies of Zeuxis. Tuscan genius is already piercing through, underneath these bizarre, over-elongated, and somewhat sickly forms, wherein the vigor and elegance of the race fail to overcome the enervated mysticism. None the less a strange force, a mysterious life wells up in them. These somber frescos look like the shadows which one might trace on a wall. An all-powerful decorative genius reveals itself in them, an equilibrium constantly pursued and given style to by the visible symmetry of the ritual gestures, of the flight of birds, of the branches, the leaves, and the flowers. It seems a kind of dance, caught in the instant of its most fleeting rhythm.

Etruria, as the educator of Rome, was the intermediary step of civilization on its march from the East to the West. The material remains of the Roman Republic teach us, perhaps, more about the genius of the Etruscans than about that of the founders of the city. The vault, which the Pelasgians brought from Asia, and which their Aegean descendants gave to primitive Greece, is transmitted to Rome by their Italic descendants in Italy. The Roman arch of triumph is only a modified Etruscan gate. Rome had the "Cloaca Maxima" built by architects from Etruria, and it forms the intestines of the city, the vital organ around which its profound materialism is to install itself, to grow little by little and extend its arms of stone over the whole of the ancient world. The Etruscan, from the sixth century onward, not only brings to Rome his religion and his science of augury, he digs the sewers, builds the temples, erects the first statues; he forges the arms by which Rome is to reduce him to subjection. He casts bronze, and his bronzes, in which he reveals his genius for uncompromising expression, have a bitter force that is as rugged and hard as the oak clumps of the Apennines. The symbol of Rome, the rough she-wolf of the Capitol, was made by an old Tuscan bronze worker.

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