History Travels with Nancy Padgett: Seeing History
The Etruscans: Warfare 
Etruscan bronze military-shield-twoeyes-vatican
 Military shield. Etruscan. Bronze. Gregorian  Etruscan Vatican Museum, Rome.

Etruscans excelled at adorning their shields with a convincingly ferocious-looking god. It was used to signal to the opponent that the gods were on the side of the Etruscans. Perhaps the God-On-Shield also served as psychological reinforcement for themselves.

Etruscan Military and Society

Ancient Italy's tribal warfare does not leave much for historians to ponder. You can spread out a map of Italy and track when the peoples of one area crossed over into another's area. Then set fires to crops and villages and killed or enslaved whoever they found. That's about it.
The Etruscans, however, were

-more organized and resource-rich.

-adopted Greek military tactics and weapons.

-then improved on them.

Their outburst of energy lasted several centuries. Bit by bit they conquered others to the north, in the middle, and to the south.


Etruscan Society and Violence

In addition to finding joy in extreme luxury, the Etruscans also found it in extreme violence.

Etruscan funeral rites sometimes included human sacrifice of the owners' slaves. Some slaves had to engage in ritualistic battle until death. These may have been the first "gladiators" of the ancient world.

Etruscan chariot racing drew a ban from the Greek Olympics.
The Etruscan charioteer, unlike the Greek, was sometimes strapped to his chariot with strong leather belts, with the reins tied behind his back. The chariot became a  virtual prison for the driver. Racecourses had steep dips, bumpy hills, and hair-raising curves; fatal accidents were numerous, and probably expected.
  Etruscan chariot racing, tomb fresco. Tarquinia, Italy
Chariot racing. Etruscan. Fresco, wall painting. Tomb in Tarquinia, Italy.

The Etruscans and Bronze: Military Gear

Many early Italian tribes and communities fought in only leather gear. Those who had bronze equipment gained a considerable comparative advantage militarily.

The Etruscans controlled the raw material that bronze is made of--copper and tin

Just as important, the Etruscans were known technically skilled metal workers. They could turn the raw material into the finished product without having to depend upon another community.

What followed was a gush of bronze of top quality and significant quantity. In addition to bronze helmets, the Etruscans added bronze protection for the heart area, shields, spears and daggers, breastplates for the horses, and even musical instruments for its military musicians.

  Etruscan bronze militaryhelmet. Berlin Altes Museum
Helmet. Bronze. Berlin, Altes Museum. To the basic Greek design, the Etruscans added bronze neck and throat guards.

 Etruscan soldier's military gear illustration.  Berlin Altes Museum
Modern drawing of a warrior's gear.
Etruscan, 8th c BC. Drawing. The surviving artifacts are shown in red. Altes Museum, Berlin
This is the actual bronze shield pictured in the drawing above.

On the reverse side of the shield are rattles, presumably to scare the enemy as the warriors approached for combat.
  Etruscan bronze military shield, Tarquinia, now in Berlin
Military shield, as depicted above in drawing. Etruscan.  8th c BCE. Bronze. Altes Museum (SMB), Berlin

Etruscan Military Tactics

The Etruscans' power base lay between the Arno River (present-day Florence) and the Tiber (Rome). From there, they expanded for over 250 years.

To the north, they defeated Gallic tribes that had crossed the Alps.

In the middle and south of Italy, they defeated other Italic tribes. At its high point, over 12 important cities and many smaller communities were part of the Etruscan polis.

The Etruscans never conquered Rome.
  My Map of Etruscans, 750 BCE  to 500 BCE
Map of Etruscan expansion to 500 BC
The Etruscans (probably) adopted the  hoplite infantry and its tactical formation, the phalanx, from the Greeks.

No doubt this was effective, but how this disciplined approach fused with the more typical "warrior-band-rushes-headlong-forward"
mentality isn't known.

  Etruscan warfareon horseback against the Gauls, tomb fresco. Bologna
Etruscan on horseback against Gallic tribesman. Tomb. Bologna, Italy. Courtesy Livius.org

Etruscan Sea Power

The Etruscans recognized the control of the Tyrrhenian Sea was a must-have to protect their north-south trade routes. They succeeded with ships equipped with either single or double banks of oars, and enough manpower to work the oars.

Although the  great Athenian naval invention, the trireme, with its three banks of oars, was known at the time, it was not adopted. It was probably too expensive.
  Etruscan ship, tomb fresco. Tarquinia, Italy
Etruscan ship. Tomb fresco. Tarquinia, Italy.

Etruscan Military Defeat and the End of Etruscan Culture

Little by little, the Etruscans lost ground.

The Gauls attacked from across the Alps, sweeping southward.

Control of the sea went to the Greeks of Syracuse at the Battle of Cumae in the Bay of Naples in 474 BC.

Etruscan power slipped from this point on--their trade threatened, coastal ports vulnerable.

One hundred years later, the Etruscans were much weaker, and in 396 BC, the Etruscans lost on land to the Romans. The Etruscan city of Veii, only 12 miles from Rome and on the other side of the all-important Tiber, had battled Rome for over a hundred years. Whoever dominated would control the river and thus central Italy. The end came when the Roman Army prevailed in a protracted siege of Veii.

Even in the darkest hour of Veii, the other numerous Etruscan city-states  would not or could not come to their aid. The Romans triumphed. Abandoning their usual policy of incorporating the defeated, they enslaved or slaughtered the people of Veii, looted the enormously wealthy city dry, and gave their property to Roman citizens.

The sophisticated Greeks had prevailed at sea, and the upstart and unforgiving Romans on land.

The Etruscans failed to keep what they won. After 250 years of success, Etruscan military power faded slowly away like a specter.
  Etruscans defeated by Romans at Veii, fresco of 16th C. Florence
Triumph of Roman commander Camillus over the (Etruscan) Veii in 396 BC. Detail. Fresco by Francesco Salviato. 16th c. Florence, Palazzo Vecchio. Renaissance.

The defeated Etruscans are represented by the enslaved men in the lower left. Camillus, the Roman general who led the siege of Veii, is riding in a triumphal chariot drawn by four white horses.
You may contact me, Nancy Padgett, at NJPadgett@gmail.com