Till suddenly we turn off to an almost hidden tomb–the German boy knows the way perfectly. The guide hurries up and lights the acetylene lamp, the dog slowly finds himself a place out of the wind, and flings himself down: and we sink slowly again into the Etruscan world, out of the present world, as we descend underground.
One of the most famous tombs at this far-off end of the necropolis is the Tomb of the Bulls. It contains what the guide calls: un po’ di pornografico!–but a very little. The German boy shrugs his shoulders as usual: but he informs us that this is one of the oldest tombs of all, and I believe him, for it looks so to me.
It is a little wider than some tombs, the roof has not much pitch, there is a stone bed for sarcophagi along the side walls, and in the end wall are two doorways, cut out of the rock of the end and opening into a second chamber, which seems darker and more dismal. The German boy says this second chamber was cut out later, from the first one. It has no paintings of any importance.
We return to the first chamber, the old one. It is called the Tomb of the Bulls from the two bulls above the doorways of the end wall, one a man-faced hull charging at the ‘po’ di pornografico’, the other lying down serenely and looking with mysterious eyes into the room, his back turned calmly to the second bit of a picture which the guide says is not ‘pornografico’–‘because it is a woman.’ The young German smiles with his sour-water expression.
Everything in this tomb suggests the old East: Cyprus, or the Hittites, or the culture of Minos of Crete. Between the doorways of the end wall is a charming painting of a naked horseman with a spear, on a naked horse, moving towards a charming little palm-tree and a well-head or fountain-head, on which repose two sculptured, black-faced beasts, lions with queer black faces. From the mouth of the one near the palm-tree water pours down into a sort of altar-bowl, while on the far side a warrior advances, wearing a bronze helmet and shin-greaves, and apparently menacing the horseman with a sword which he brandishes in his left hand, as he steps up on to the base of the well-head. Both warrior and horseman wear the long, pointed boots of the East: and the palm-tree is not very Italian.
This picture has a curious charm, and is evidently symbolical. I said to the German: ‘What do you think it means?’ ‘Ach, nothing! The man on the horse has come to the drinking-trough to water his horse: no more!’ ‘And the man with the sword?’ ‘Oh, he is perhaps his enemy.’ ‘And the black-faced lions ?’ ‘Ach nothing! Decorations of the fountain.’ Below the picture are trees on which hang a garland and a neck-band. The border pattern, instead of the egg and dart, has the sign of Venus, so called, between the darts: a ball surmounted by a little cross. ‘And that, is that a symbol?’ I asked the German. ‘Here no!’ he replied abruptly. ‘Merely a decoration!’–which is perhaps true. But that the Etruscan artist had no more feeling for it, as a symbol, than a modern house-decorator would have, that we cannot believe.Share It