Stop and read, wayfarer

Stories of Regium Lepidi in the Portico dei Marmi

By Civic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Welcome to Regium Lepidi

We are in the Portico dei Marmi of the Civic Museums of Reggio Emilia: here are the inscriptions of Regium Lepidi, a small Roman town in northern Italy. The city was located along the road “Aemilia”, a road that crosses the entire Po Valley, built by the ancient Romans during the conquest of Italy. Just outside the city limits, along the great road, there was the necropolis (the cemetery): rows of tombs, some large and majestic, told the story of the city's inhabitants.

The funeral monuments reflected the most important aspects of the lives of Romans, starting with relationships: spouses in love, children to be proud of, slaves and freedmen considered part of the “gens”, comrades, colleagues. A network of relationships that were well beyond the blood family and that qualified the role of each individual in society.

The grave

The burial area was consecrated through very ancient religious rites and placed under the protection of the spirits of the deads (known as Manes), the ancestors of the family. Violating the tomb was a serious act: sometimes the measures of the area were engraved on the gravestones, to avoid trespassing, or were written threats of a fine or curses, or even formulas forbidding the burial of other family members. The size of the tomb reflected the wealth of the families.

The traditional Roman burial rite was divided into stages. After death, the relatives of the deceased pronounced his name, washed the body and performed ritual lamentations. The body was then carried outside the city, to the necropolis. A coin was left on the corpse to pay Charon the ferryman of souls and than the corpse would be cremated or buried.
Sometimes engraved on the funerary monuments there is a torch turned to the ground, symbol of the ended life.

Mothers and daughters

On either side of the statue of Gaetano Chierici, who founded the museum, there are two funerary altars found close together which tell the story of a mother and a daughter, Hermione and Iulia Graphis. The two women were slaves of the Iulia family and were very much loved by their masters. Although slaves by law were property and not people, in the great Roman families they were also acknowledged for their affections and family ties. Little Graphis is allowed to remember Hermione as her mother.

Funerary stone of Quintus Iiulius Callinicus and his slave Ermione (fine I sec. d. C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Quintus Iulius Callinicus and his slave Hermione are buried together. They are remembered by Quintus Iulius Alexander and little Graphis, the slave daughter of Hermione. Callinicus was a sevir, a member of a college of six public custodians who worshipped the emperor.

Funerary altar of young freedwoman Giulia Grafide (I sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Giulia Graphis died at the age of 15.
On the top of the monument are carved two pine cones with a rose between them, perhaps a symbol of a life ended during the blossoming of the adolescence. In her tomb were also found 14 small lead objects: a miniature table service, symbolizing the games she used as a child to prepare to be a wife. If only death hadn't taken her too young...

Iulia Graphis' toys (crepundia) (Roman age) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

These small objects were found near the tomb of Iulia Graphis. They were part of the grave goods and had a symbolic meaning. In Roman age, little girls used to donate their toys to the gods once they reached the right age to get married. Iulia had not been able to do so, because she had died prematurely.
These toys, perhaps crafted specifically to be placed in the grave with her, expressed the sadness of the relatives for a future as wife and mother that has been been denied to her.

Family and the "gens"

The gens was a group of families with a common ancestor. The men and women born in a gens shared a common name that is similar to our last name. On the tombstone in the middle are commemorated some members of the gens of the Audaei: Titus, who pays the burial ground and the monument, his brother and his mother. Later was added the name of Munatia, a woman from another family. Date: Ist-IInd century a.D.

Funerary slab of two spouses Caio Nevio Dromone and Nevia Filumina, freedmen (I sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

This inscription commemorates two spouses, both freed by a woman of the gens Naevia: their happy marriage lasted 55 years. At the end of the text the couple included a formula to prevent the tomb from being inherited by someone or to forbid anyone to be buried among them, disturbing their privacy

Funerary stone (cippus) of Quinto Vennonio Felice seviro (judge) and his freedman Abile (fine I sec. d. C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Social status

This stele belonged to Vennonius Felix and Habilis, his freedman. Vennonius chosed to tell only about his role of sevir. The seviri had functions halfway between sacerdotal and public offices, connected to the imperial cult. It was a prestigious office: for the rich freedmen it was an important occasion of social advancement, because former slaves were forbidden to enter other public offices.

Herennius Ianuarius dedicated this stele to his friend and colleague Titus Atilius, a custodians of the cult of Emperor Claudius. The inscription, therefore, suggests the existence also at Regium Lepidi of places destined to the cult of Emperor Claudius, to whom the city was particularly grateful. The custodians of worship organized games, parties and rites.
Date: Ist century a.D.

Funerary stone of Caius Fundanius Eucaristus (II metà I sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

The tomb belongs to Caius Fundanius Eucharistus and highlights that he had been a custodian of emperor Claudius worship.
The acronym V.F. indicates that Eucharistus had the tomb built while he was still alive, probably to let all the wayfarers who passed in front of the necropolis read the public charge he had obtained.
On the sides is carved a winged putto with a torch pointed down, a symbol of life that has died.

The tribe

The tribes were originally a sort of "constituency". All Roman citizens with full civil rights had to be enrolled in one of the 35 tribes. The citizens of Regium Lepidi were registered in the Pollia tribe, those of Brixellum (Brescello) in the Arnensis tribe. At the beginning of the Roman conquest adding the name of the tribe showed that they were Roman citizens and not indigenous. Gradually during the Roman empire the Roman citizenship was acknowledged to more indigenous populations and and only those who died far from home still mentioned the tribe, to remember their native land. The inscription in the center of the picture belongs to Publius Attiedius and Salia, perhaps his wife. This plate is one of the oldest of Regium Lepidi and is particular because it names the tribe Pollia ("POL").  Date: Ist century b.C.

Ara (altar) of Metellia family (II sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Military life

The funerary ara of the Metelli family has a bas-relief depicting an armed soldier. The ara is dedicated by brothers Florus and Florentinus to the deceased family members. Among them, both their father and brother Florinus had been soldiers in Rome: their father had become a veteran, while Florinus had died too early, at the age of 23. He was an "urbanicianus", a soldier belonging to a corps that had the task of ensuring security within the city of Rome.

In the sixteenth century the funerary ara of the Metelli family was found in a field owned by the noble family of the Erasmi and transported to the city to be walled up into the facade of their palace. On that occasion this commemorative inscription was added on one side.

Slaves

In ancient Rome slaves could be considered as "talking instruments" or, otherwise, loved and treated as family. Their living conditions varied from one family to another.  It was possible to be enslaved for the impossibility of paying a debt, because caught in war or from birth. The one in the middle is the inscription of Agathyrsus, "servus publicus" of the city of Regium Lepidi, posed by his partner, the freedwoman Catia Ianuaria. Public slaves helped the magistrates and priests in their functions and did other errands for the community. Date: end of the Ist century b.C.

Slaves were used for many tasks, they could be sold and even killed, but sometimes they were much loved by their masters.
The slaves, subjected to the unlimited authority of the "pater familias" (the head of the family), were often freed, in gratitude for their work, and became part of the family as freedmen.
This is the stele of Celius Eperastus, an ex-slave who included in his tomb all his own freedmen and freedwomen.
Date: second half of the Ist century a.D.

Funerary stone of Cornelia Melapio (fine I sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

Women

Women situations in the Roman world changed a lot throughout history. Even though they were always subject to a patriarchal system and excluded from public offices, over time the women obtained greater rights, including the right to own and inherit property, including slaves, and to free themself from the protection of a man: that is to say, to be totally master of themselves. This funerary monument was erected for a freedwoman of gens Cornelia: the inverted C indicates that she was freed by a woman. Her slave name was Melapio, "apple cheek".

Funerary slab with inscription to Quinta Nonia Rufa (I sec. d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

This inscription reminds two women, Quincta Nonia Rufa and Nonia Quinctula, daughter of Quinctus.
Their names contain clues to understand their family ties. Quincta Nonia Rufa is perhaps a freedwoman and, if this was true, her master's name would be Quinctus Nonius. It is possible that Quinctus Nonius freed Rufa, married her legally and then they had a daughter, Quinctula, born free (not in slavery).

Romans had several names. All those born free had a "nomen" (we call it surname) common to the whole gens (the family). Males also had a "praenomen" and a third name, the "cognomen", similar to our nickname. Women, on the other hand, only had the "nomen" of the gens to which they belonged, and sometimes they also received a "cognomen", to distinguish between sisters and relatives.
The freedmen acquired the master's "nomen" and as "cognomen" they kept the single personal name they had as slaves.

Funerary stele of gens Pettia (I d.C.) by unknownCivic Museums of Reggio Emilia

The freedwoman Pettia Ge had this inscription written for herself while she was still alive and for her patron Caius Pettius Pilad and for the freedman Caius Clodius Antiochus, perhaps her husband.
Some time later Pettia Sperata and Pettia Sige, perhaps freedwomen of Pettia Ge, were added.
The first three buried individuals were perhaps of Greek origin, after their names.
In the lower part of the monument are carved the working tools of Antiochus, who was a "marmorarius" (stone crafter): chisel, hammers, archipendulum, plumb bob, set square.

In the central part of Pettia's monument are carved in bas-relief a man and a woman holding each other's right hand. Unfortunately the details of their faces have been lost.
Clothes, objects and their posture are representative of the Roman citizenship and the legitimate marriage.
With this particularly prestigious funeral monument, Pettia Ge, a freedwomen, wanted to demonstrate her level of well-being and social status.

This is by far the most poetic tombstone on the entire lapidarium. It belongs to Tinuleia Musa, freedwoman of Sesto, who addresses us directly by saying: "If those who have left the light rejoice at the voice of the living, this tomb reveals that I pleased my patron. After an impressive funeral, with his usual goodness, he laid me down into the grave. In this way he made everyone say that I am a happy deceased because my patron liked me".
Date: Ist-IInd century a.D.

AVE ATQUE VALE
Now that you have met some of the inhabitants of Regium Lepidi through the words they wrote in stone, come to the Museum to meet them, we are all waiting for you to tell you more stories.

Credits: Story

Musei Civici di Reggio Emilia wish to thank:

Google Cultural Institute

Annalisa Rabitti, ass. alla Cultura

Massimo Magnani, dir. Area Competitività e innovazione sociale


Project curated by:

Georgia Cantoni, curatorship

Texts: Georgia Cantoni, Chiara Ferretti, Valentina Uglietti

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
International Museum Day 2020
From iconic art to cutting-edge fashion, get a better appreciation and understanding of culture from around the world
View theme
Google apps