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Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, Italy, early 1st century B.C.E., bronze, 67 inches high (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence),  image (shadow eliminated):corneliagraco (CC BY 2.0)
The image, status, and stature of the magistrate in the course of performing the duties of his office commands respect—and no pose is more riveting than that of the orator.
L’Arringatore (“The Orator”) is a hollow-cast bronze statue that was recovered from Lake Trasimeno in 1566. The statue is an important example of bronze sculpture in later first millennium B.C.E. Italy and indicates the gradual Romanization of Etruscan art.

The statue

The life-size statue depicts a draped adult male, standing with his right arm outstretched. The figure adopts a frontal pose with a slight contrapposto stance (contrapposto refers to the figure shifting his weight onto his right leg). Based on the inscription on the statue, the figure is identified as Aulus Metellus (or Aule Metele in Etruscan). He is clearly a magistrate and his posture seems to be that of the orator who is in the process of addressing the crowd. He wears a tunic over which is draped a toga—the formal attire of the magistrate. The toga is wrapped around the body, leaving the right arm free. On his feet are the high boots that were commonly worn by Roman senators. His expression and slightly opened mouth make him a compelling figure. The statue was originally erected by the community in honor of Aulus Metellus.

The inscription

Inscription (detail), Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, Italy, early 1st century B.C.E., bronze, 67 inches high (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence), image: corneliagraco (CC BY 2.0)
The lower hem of the short toga carries an Etruscan inscription: “auleśi meteliś ve[luś] vesial clenśi / cen flereś tece sanśl tenine / tu θineś χisvlicś” which can be interpreted as reading, “To (or from) Auli Meteli, the son of Vel and Vesi, Tenine (?) set up this statue as a votive offering to Sans, by deliberation of the people” (TLE 651; CIE 4196).


The statue of Aulus Metellus offers us a glimpse of the changing socio-political landscape of the Italian peninsula during the latter first millennium B.C.E.—a period in which sweeping change brought on by the hegemonic fortunes of Rome and its booming population, signalled profound and lasting change for other Italic peoples, including the Etruscans. As Rome’s territory expanded during the fifth through first centuries B.C.E., her neighbors were gradually absorbed into the sphere of Roman cultural, economic, and political influence. Some groups, of course, resisted in one way or another, while others gladly “joined up” through political and military treaties and through adopting a Roman lifestyle. This process of acculturation–or Romanization, to use a term that is considered outmoded by some scholars—means that cultural heterogeneity becomes less visible in the archaeological record, replaced instead by a more homogeneous cultural model. These were the fortunes of the Etruscans—as the autonomy of the various Etruscan states eroded, the Etruscans themselves elected to adopt the trappings of a Roman culture that was, in turn, indicative of wider, pan-Mediterranean dynamics. Etruscan art, politics, and even language gradually slipped away.
Thus L’Arringatore is one of our latest surviving examples of a sculptural masterwork that still demonstrates the traits of an Etruscan workshop, all the while packaged for an increasingly Roman world. The statue clearly wears the short toga exigua (a kind of narrow toga) and senatorial boots that come from the Roman sphere. He is posed as an orator—highlighting his political career as both Etruscan and Roman aristocrats did. His haircut is in keeping with those of Roman aristocrats and his face may betray some evidence of the verism (truthfulness) popular among Roman elites of the late Republic. The statue still carries an inscription in Etruscan, though, and the working of the bronze is in keeping with the tendencies of Etruscan craftsmanship. Surely the historical Aulus Metellus witnessed a world that was changing rapidly and this statue that carries his inscribed name still bears silent witness to the patterns and dynamics of socio-cultural change in the Roman Mediterranean.
Essay by Dr. Jeffrey A. Becker
Additional resources:
L. Bonfante, Etruscan Dress (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975).
G. Bonfante and L. Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction, revised Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002). p. 183 no. 66.
O. J. Brendel, Etruscan Art, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).
A. Corbeill, “The Republican Body,” in A Companion to the Roman Republic, edited by N. Rosenstein and R. Morstein-Marx, 439-456. (Malden MA: Blackwell, 2006).
T. Dohrn, Der Arringatore: Bronzestatue im Museo archeologico von Florenz (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1968).
S. Haynes, Etruscan Civilization: a Cultural History (Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications, 2000).
J. M. Turfa, ed., The Etruscan World (London: Routledge, 2013).

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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Anthony Natoli
    Are the first and second images of the statue reversed (mirror images)? After the third paragraph, the second image entitled "Inscription (detail), Aule Metele (Arringatore) ..." with the lettering from right to left AND the letters are backwards, such as backwards L in Aulesi and the backwards C in Cen". Is the image reversed, or is Etruscan written right to left with backwards letters? This would also suggest that the first image entitled "Aule Metele (Arringatore) ..." next to the first and second paragraphs is also reversed, since the reversed inscription is on the same side of the toga as in the second image, and so the statue actually has his LEFT arm outstretched, contrary to what the third paragraph says: "standing with his right arm outstretched".
    (5 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user Jeffrey A. Becker
      Etruscan is often written in a retrograde fashion, that is it reads from right to left. The figure stands with his right arm outstretched and his left held closely to the side of his body. The inscription runs along the hem of his garment. I highly recommend G. Bonfante and L. Bonfante (2002) if you should want to explore this topic further.
      (12 votes)
  • leaf orange style avatar for user Jeff Kelman
    Right in the opening portion of this essay the author states: "L’Arringatore (“The Orator”) is a hollow-cast bronze statue that was recovered from Lake Trasimeno in 1566."

    How is it that Bronze is able to prevent corrosion for centuries? I would have thought that a statue under water for such a long period of time would have withered away into nothingness...
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user Jeffrey A. Becker
      The conservation of archaeological bronzes is technically challenging, and the conservation techniques applied to such objects have changed a good deal over time. The bronze object deposited in an aquatic environment develops an encrustation based on corrosive cycles, as Dr. Zucker states above. Once the object is removed from that environment, it must be stabilized at first before it can be assessed and then cleaned and consolidated. The cleaning of the corrosion and the following consolidation employ various techniques from chemical solutions to manual or mechanical abrasion. The consolidation process usually involves steps to inhibit further corrosion and then a clear coating / wax layer to protect the consolidated object. Archaeological bronzes in other environments (soil, waterlogged deposits, etc.) require a similar process of evaluation, cleaning, consolidation. In all cases the actions taken immediately following the removal of the object from its archaeological context will profoundly affect the outcomes of the conservation process.
      (8 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Jean Marceau
    You take this statue as an example of the progressive influence of Rome on etruscan culture and of a process of romanization. On seeing this "arringatore", it seems to me that, except through the use of etruscan writting, all stylistic points of this work, such as for instance the stance of the figure that reveals a certain way of thinking the organisation of the society by the roman politic power, witness of a deep integration to Rome at this time. Thus, I would be curious to know, what remained specifically etruscan, about that society in that period of the last first millenium B.C.E. When we observe this statue, we can guess that the romanization had been finalized since a while, but how many decades or centuries before, and according to what evolutions of aesthetic forms ? How did scholars establish (or not) such an analysis, maybe following a verificable progressive changing in stylistic forms, on the basis of art works or other archaelological materials ? What are the best books or works about this issue ?
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Marcos Protheroe
    Instead of junking the term Romanization, wouldn't it be better to use the concept along with the phenomenon of anti-Romanization? We can talk of L’Arringatore as reflecting overall Roman themes, but the Etruscan inscription and bronze details clearly express underlying anti-Roman sentiments.
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf orange style avatar for user Jake Suzuki
      Does it though? Where is that evident? This Etruscan statue has Etruscan writing on it, whilst using Roman cultural imagery.
      If you want to make an argument for the underlying tension between the Etruscans and the culturally dominating Romans as is evident by the keeping of their mother tongue, that's fine, but the term "anti-Romanisation" probably won't help you there.

      Acculturalisation has a lot more leeway in it, rather than a narrative of Roman cultural imperialism, and their dominance, it is instead a term that allows cultural cross pollination, cultural appropriation, and the gradual, and conscious use of another culture's gestures and mores.

      I'd say that acculturalisation is a lot easier to use in academic terms, rather than "romanisation" as it challenges established narratives of Roman domination, and thus superiority. Or in other words, if you wanted to write a paper on late Etruscan code-switching between their own culture and that of the Romans', it would be easier to use "acculturalisation", inasmuch as the eventual cultural hegemony of the Romans is not inherently implied in the very language of your paper.

      And further, acculturalisation encompasses "anti-romanisation" as well as romanisation, as the Socio-political victory of the Romans isn't assumed, nor is there an implied cultural/militaristic imperialism to the term either, and thus the necessity for a term that describes the resistance to said imperialism.

      Ergo, the term romanticisation is a bit outmoded, though possibly useful to the historian, however, I'd rather use acculturalisation, as it gives you a lot more room to flex your muscles as it were.
      (1 vote)
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user linlim
    is there any reason why the artist imprint a script on the sculpture hem particularly?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user JayJay Fuller
    Are there any contemporary models for the kind of acculturation that allowed the Etruscans to be absorbed by a more prevailing power?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Most of the aboriginal peoples who inhabited the flatlands of Taiwan were absorbed into the culture and prevailing power of the invading Han people from China starting 500 years ago. Those invaders are now known as the Taiwanese. But when a defeated government and its own army from China invaded Taiwan in the years immediately following the second world war, another similar acculturation was attempted. The Taiwanese and all other peoples previously resident on Taiwan were subjected to a vigorous project to make everyone "Chinese". This has largely been stopped now, 70 years later, but those decades had their effect. Taiwanese AND the descendants of the people who arrived in Taiwan in the 1940s and 50s now generally resist Chinese acculturation.
      (1 vote)