The sacred books of disciplina

The ancients called the books sacred to the discipline thus the set of several books, consisting of various religious treatises, of which no original text in the language Etruscan did not reach us. We only know of them through the Latin authors, and we only know what they said about them, which nevertheless allows us to be certain that they existed.

The first two deal with the art of divination, both through the examination of the viscera of sacrificed animals and of thunderbolts. The third concerned the rule of cults for the foundation of cities and the consecration of sanctuaries, the fourth of the world beyond the grave, and the last of fate and the limits of life.

sacred books of disciplina

Discipline of Lightning; Fulgurales Libri

Attributed to Vegoia, known to us from Seneca and Pliny. The thunderbolt doctrine laid out the meaning of thunderclaps for each day of the year. A lightning also derived its meaning according to the part of the sky from which it originated and where it fell. The sky, divided into sixteen sections, therefore constituted a virtual language, itself constituted by the meteorological phenomena which occurred there. Eleven types of lightning were listed, wielded by different gods.

So the message was different each time and it was up to the specialists who were the haruspices to interpret them. We can see there analogies with the Chaldean doctrine and perceive an influence of the Meteorologica of pseudo-Aristotle. The fundamental schema is however archaic and is based on the macrocosm / microcosm binomial.

Discipline of the rite; Libri rituales

Several areas of action that are decisive for social organization and town planning:

  • the foundation of towns, the cadastre, property lines
  • hydraulic techniques for the location of water tables, those of artesian wells, irrigation canals, sewers.
  • the consecration of temples,
  • inviolability of the ramparts, laws relating to the gates, division into tribes, curiae and centuriae,
  • organization of armies, practices relating to war and peace.

divided into several other books:

  • libri fatales, the division of the moments of life or book of fate
  • libri Acherontici, on the afterlife and the passage from life to death and the tombs.
  • Ostentaria, offerings to the divinities according to the acts of life.
  • libri exercituales, reduced form of libri for the haruspice accompanying the armies on the ground of their exploits.

According to these "Books of Destiny", human life unfolds in twelve stages. After the twelfth, men, according to Varro, "go out of their minds" and no longer receive any sign from the gods. Likewise, peoples and nations have a term fixed by the Cosmos. This belief in a cosmic as well as existential determinism, which is found in many traditional societies, is a very old conception.

DIsciplina of the Hereafter; Libri Acheruntici

attributed to Tames, this treaty, for the few fragments that we have, hardly allows the comparison with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. According to Arnobe (Adversus Nationes, II, 62), Christian author of the 4th century, “in his Libri Acherontici, Etruria promises that, through the blood of certain animals offered to certain deities, souls will become divine and will escape mortality ”.

According to information reported by Servius (ad Aen. III 168), following certain sacrifices souls are transformed into gods who are designated as animal to recall their origin. The "divinization of souls" thus appears to us to be attested, giving an eschatological dimension to the religion of the Etruscans.

If the essence of their religious thought escapes us, one can however deduce certain elements from it: in the case of a deification of the soul following bloody rituals, this refers either to a very archaic ritual and well prior to the Etruscan civilization, that is, what is much more probable, with a sacrifice-sacrament comparable to the inititaion in the Mysteries of Mithras.

Discipline of Haruspices; Libri haruspicini

Attributed to Tagès and completed by the Libri Fatali. The theory of Haruspices or Haruspucine, or Haruspicia according to others, that is to say the reading of the entrails of the sacrificed victims, presupposes the correspondence between three different levels: the divine, the cosmic and the human.

Each portion of the organ examined indicates a divine decision predicting an impending historical event. There is a bronze model of a sheep's liver, discovered at Plaisance in 1977, serving as a model comprising the names of some forty gods and dating from the 3rd or 2nd century BC and representing the structure of the world and the distribution of the pantheon.