How much do you know about the Etruscans? Many people, even those who are fascinated by ancient history, are less familiar with this intriguing culture than with the history of Greece and Rome - but the story of the Etruscans is equally captivating and far more important than you may have known. This ancient civilization prospered in the region of modern-day Tuscany, maintaining extensive trade networks, building impressive fortified cities, making exquisite art, and creating a culture that, while deeply connected to the Greeks and Romans, had striking contrasts.The Etruscans were the original inhabitants of central Italy. Centuries before Rome's rise, they built cities such as Pompeii, Capua, and Orvieto along fortified hilltops. They developed a system of roads and invented what we call the Roman arch. While they had their own system of government, their own myths and legends, and their own cultural attributes, the Etruscans imported and repurposed much from the Greeks - and, in turn, gave much to the Romans. You might be surprised to find out how much of Roman civilization - from togas to bronze military armor to Rome itself - actually has Etruscan origins. The Etruscans are largely responsible for:transmitting the alphabet to the Romans and other ancient societies as far away as the Nordic regionsgranting Rome much of its celebrated architecture and infrastructure, from the Cloaca Maxima water-control system to the storied archdeveloping exquisite works of bronze and terra-cotta, as well as mesmerizing tomb paintingscreating well-known symbols of republican government, imagery that still lives on in US government buildings like the Lincoln MemorialWithout the Etruscans, much of what we associate with the Roman world, and thus the foundations of Western civilization, would largely disappear.