The servile class
The popular quarters were inhabited by the servile class: these were free men and women, who enjoyed civil rights such as property, but who did not play a part in the political leadership of the country. Today we can identify them in funeral inscriptions as their names do not contain any mention of the family group they belong to, as was the case of the noble classes. The servile class, from the 4th century BC, was at the origin of social tumult, with the aim of obtaining political rights, claims that at times had violent epilogues with the intervention of the Romans to restore the established order.

The materials used to build the homes of the popular class did not differ greatly from those used for the dwellings of the noble classes, namely stone foundations with clay or unbaked brick walls, supported by a wooden framework. The houses were built side by side and grouped together; the rooms were small and buildings low. According to religious precepts, the streets should have intersected at right angles. In actual fact, as the cities were often built on rises, this was impossible and the inhabited areas took shape adapting themselves to the characteristics of the location, giving rise to an entanglement of narrow winding alleys.

The slaves
Like all ancient civilizations, the Etruscans also used slaves for their labour force, and they provided low cost manpower that could nevertheless also be highly specialized. The slaves were men and women who had no civil or political rights but were considered objects of property. The commonest occupations in the cities for them were as domestic workers in the homes of the aristocratic class, or they worked in the craft workshops; in the country, they worked in agriculture or in the mines, extracting metals. The main sources of slaves were wars and raids in enemy territory. The slaves were not usually ill-treated as they were considered valuable goods and the death of a slave was seen as a serious economic loss.

The workshops of the craftsmen, bustling with productive and trading activities, lined the streets and alleys of the cities. Terracotta recipients and vases of all shapes and sizes, inspired by Greek taste, bronze objects and tools, refined jewels made of gold and other precious metals, were all made in the workshops. These products were bought on the spot or shipped for sale to far-off peoples.
The craftsmen working in the Etruscan cities included, in addition to local inhabitants, people belonging to other populations, especially Italics and Greeks whose skills were highly appreciated. In the largest workshops there were also specialized slaves; many mass-produced objects have in fact been found which suggest that production was organized almost on a proto-industrial level. The most typical ceramics of the vast Etruscan production was the bucchero ware. These vases were characterized by the shiny black colour of their surface, due to the techniques of production and firing.

In the most ancient period, the production of bucchero ware, typical of the city of Caere, was characterized in particular by the fine walls of the vases. Subsequently, alongside the fine bucchero ware came the heavy bucchero ware, with thick walls and relief or applied decorations. Mirrors, found in hundreds in the necropolises, deserve particular attention for the exquisiteness of their workmanship. The commonest model of mirror was round with a handle. The back of the bronze surface was engraved or worked in relief, usually with mythological subjects from Greek art, or it was covered with inscriptions.

The production of gold jewellery and objects, in which the Etruscans showed a high degree of technical elaboration, capable of exploiting the expressive possibilities of the metal, was extremely rich and deservedly famous. The most flourishing period was between the mid-7th century and the end of the 6th century BC, in Vetulonia and Vulci. The taste for the excessive and emphatic effects also triumphed in jewellery, both in the use of ornamental, floral, figurative and geometric motives, and in the use of various techniques of workmanship, often combined together. These techniques included engraving, repoussage, fusion, filigree and, above all, granulation, which consisted of applying tiny grains of gold soldered to one another to the surface of the metal, thus multiplying the effect of the play of the light.


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