Ever heard of Fufluns? Until recently I hadn’t either, but he’s quite the legend. The Etruscan god of happiness, wine, health and growth, he was the early Tuscan version of the Ancient Greek Dionysus (though less terrifying) and later would be absorbed by the Romans for their representation of Liber, or Bacchus.
Fufluns showed up in my life via a second-century BCE life-sized bronze model of a sheep’s liver that is on display at the Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza’s Municipal Museum. The organ is thought to represent the Etruscan view of the Sun, the Moon and the Earth, and on it are marked the 16 heavenly bodies, of which Fufluns is named as one. The model liver, a reference guide for learner soothsayers, depicts a celestial map to help trainees read the entrails of a sacrificed sheep and understand the desires of the gods. The physical home of those deities, the Etruscans’ Mount Olympus, was in southern Tuscany, a couple of hours drive south of Florence, on Monte Amiata. Italy’s second highest volcano after Etna, it is dormant, not having erupted in over 180,000 years.