Researching Tarquinia

To Improve my Fictional Writing

His opinion meant little to me, but I was ashamed, knowing Velthr’s faith in me deserved better effort. Velthr called me a second Tages, a boy born to speak with the gods. For him I focused mind and soul on the ceremony, and the gods rewarded me with temporary peace, melting me within the chant as I played golden Aplu’s invocation on my lyre. Sethre blew the double-flute, its low-pitched hum punctuated with bright, chirping staccatos.

Excerpt from Gates the Hours Keep

In my dark fantasy novel Gates the Hours Keep, Leures Vethna grows up admiring his friend and mentor Velthr, the head priest of the fictional Etruscan city Thesl. Although Velthr’s character is only present in a few scenes, his influence lasts throughout Leures’ story, and it was critical to make the strength of their relationship clear.

I did a tremendous amount of research to make Thesl come alive as a character in its own right. You can see a little of this reflected in this scene with the religious ceremony involving playing musical instruments such as a lyre and a double flute–instruments portrayed in Etruscan tombs.

If you would like to learn more about ancient Etruscan tombs in Tarquinia, you should check out Lucy Hornberger’s blog Travels with Fortuna. Her blog is fantastic! It’s very informative and has a lot of great pictures . . . better than the ones I took when I was there. (Motion blur from the excited trembling hands, maybe.) Otherwise, you can take a look at an older blog of mine entitled, Tarquinia: An Amazing Vacation for more information on my experience there.

One of Lucy Hornberger’s photographs is of a funerary art scene depicting an Etruscan male playing a double flute, much like the one I described in Gates the Hours Keep’s religious ceremony. What other insights can you gleam from this well preserved depictions of ancient life?

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