ETRUSCANS & RELIGION
Etruscans believed theirs to be a revealed religion, communicated to them by the gods of the sky, earth, and the underworld. These forces spoke to mortals through nature and its events: the flight of birds, the sound of thunder, the strikes of lightning bolts, and the entrails of sacrificed animals.
The many modes of learning the gods messages brought forth different kinds of prophets. Augurs, for example, read the flight of birds. Haruspices scrutinized the livers of sacrificed sheep for signs of divine disapproval. Etruscans were famous for the way they carried out this rite: unlike their contemporaries, they removed the liver from the slaughtered animal before they examined it. After the divination, the animals remains were divided among gods, priests, and people, and consumed.
At Etruscan sanctuaries, grateful worshippers heaped offerings on altars or in special pits. An offering might be a piece of jewelry or other prized possession, but it might also be a special kind of object made for votive use. Bronze or terracotta figurines or models were common: images of gods or goddesses, of suppliants, perhaps of a wished-for baby. Most common of all were terracotta models of the body parts for which healing was sought.
The Etruscans knew many kinds of gods, from spirits of nature and the underworld and invisible sky gods to deities who took on human form. Some of the Etruscan gods who were seen and depicted in human form were shared with Romans and Greeks.