Mors Inmatura. The Fadienis and their necropolis
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The exhibition presents the outstanding archaeological findings brought to light in the Autumn 2002 in Saint Catherine's estate, by the castle named Verginese, one of Estensi's Delizie (Delights: name given to the castles the Estensi family used as summer residence).
From April 27th 2006 this magnificent "container" exhibits the fascinating Roman necropolis of Fadienis, dating from the I and II century A.D. (Imperial age).
Five steles and more than 200 findings which came out from the two excavations campaigns, witness the process of "Romanisation" of the delta territory that followed the course of the ancient hydrographical net, in which the Gambulaga's finding is included. Thanks to the objects used as burial outfits, the living signs of a whole civilisation come to light with its own usages and habits, where everyday life interweaves with myth and millenarian symbols representing the human longing for immortality.

La stele che L. Fadienus Agilis e Atilia Felicia dedicano al figlio L. Fadienus Actor, morto all'età di 17 anni
The stele that L. Fadienus Agilis, Marci filius, buried together with Atilia Felicia, Cai liberta, dedicates to his son L. Fadienus Actor who died at the age of 17

The funeral steles receive the visitors with the portraits of the Dead, the intense inscriptions and the different symbologies of Myth and offer elements allowing to give a context to the whole of findings. The expository space was designed to achieve most faithfully the impression that would struck the wayfarer travelling along the line traced by the steles almost 2000 years ago, now placed in the display-rooms the very same way they were originally placed on the side of the road, where they were discovered.

Una delle tre sale espositive
Particular of the exhibition

To further help the visitor in finding his way inside the necropolis, the relationships between the steles position and the different graves connected to them, located immediately behind, are shown on a map drawn on the floor. The burial equipments of each grave (12 in all) are exhibited in various show-cases. The tombstones come from Saint Catherine possessions, North East of  Delizia del Verginese, in ancient times lapped by one of the Po river branches: a place, Gambulaga, often mentioned in specialized essays and scientific publications.
The chance discovery of the first three steles in Autumn 2002 was followed by a short and incomplete archaeological investigation, in the process of which not three but four bases placed in a row came to light, moreover a forth tombstone appeared, fallen to earth beside its own base and some tombs. The first one to be lifted up was the stele of Caius Fadienus, Cai filius, and Ambulasia Anucio, Marci filia, than it was the turn of the stele on which epigraph Fadienus Repentius, Cai filius, and Cursoria Secunda, Luci filia mourned the untimely death of Caius Fadienus Vegetus, perished when he was 21.
The monument to  C. Fadienus and Ambulasia Anucio, as for the other tombstones, was obtained from a limestone block of  Aurisina and shows a deliberately irregular chiselled back. A little smaller is the tombstone which was dedicated to C. Fadienus Vegetus by his parents, with the draped busts of the three characters, the adults above and the young man below, framed by two rectangular niches with hollow bottom on the top part.
Third came the stele of Marcus Fadienus Massa, Cai filius, and Valeria Secunda, Quinti filia. In the epigraph surface that separates the niche with the married couple busts from the frame situated below, representing a bas-relief horse in step, a text is written by which Marcus himself addresses the reader and wayfarer:

M(arco) FADIENO C F(ilio) CAM(ilia) MASSAE PATRI VALERIAE Q(uinti) F(iliae) SECVNDAE MATRI M(arcus) C(aius) L(ucius) FILI FECER(unt)
Ave, M(arce)! / Legisti, viator, nomen in titulo meum: / memoria(m) (h)abeto esse hanc mortalem domum
Valete ad superos, vivite vita(m) optima(m) / ego vixsi qua et potui quad modum volui bene / dedi qui volui, non dedi qui nolui / si quis me accusat veniat mecum dis-putet. /
Vale, M(arce)!       ST
The sons Marco, Caio and Lucio had this made to honour their father Marco Fadieno Massa, Caio'son of the Camilia family and their mother Valeria Secunda, daughter of Quinto
Ave Marco! You wayfarer read my name in this inscription: you will remember that this is a mortal place, you that are still living take care of yourself, live an excellent life; I lived as well as I coukd and as I would. I gave to those I wanted to give to, I didn't give to those I wouldn't give to. Should anyone wish to accuse me, he shall come and discuss with me. Take care of yourself Marco!

The epitaph was given a metrical composition that reminds not so much the philosophical ideas belonging to the Epicurean circles, as a common way of conceiving life that, at least after the I century A.D., had influenced most of society. The lines in the end of the text express M. Fadienus Massa's pride to have been consistent with his own principles, recollecting typical self-praise expressions seen on other similar occasions.
The last stele is the one that L. Fadienus Agilis, Marci filius, buried together with Atilia Felicia, Cai liberta, dedicates to his son L. Fadienus Actor who died at the age of 17. The young man holds in his hands a parchment roll and a "pen" and is wearing a ring on the little finger of his left hand. The bust stays in the centre of a clipens (in this case a sort of grooved shell) furrowed by mouldings, on the edge of which lies a crown of leaves, with berries, a central flower on top and fluttering ribbons at the bottom: a symbol hinting to victory over death.
Only during the second excavation campaign the fifth stele was found, the one dedicated by the parents  L. Pompennius Placidus, Caii filius, and Fadiena Tertia, Caii filia, to their son Pompennius Valens, who too met with an untimely death at 23. the family relationships between the characters, as we can understand from the text of the steles, embrace four generations, parents, sons and grand-children. The family doesn't seem stranger to connections with Celtic elements, such as the "cognomen" Massa and the first name Ambulasia, if we may recognize in this latter a suffix of Celtic origin and as a consequence consider these as signs of a substratum emerging only in a few elements in the Po Delta region, one of these having a religious character: the votive offering (statues) to the Iunones in Codigoro, a plurality of goddesses. This was a surely wealthy family for which the life of  M. Fadienus Massa represents a period of economic and social success. Beside his name, the family he belongs to is indicated and his wife's too, the Valeria gens (family).

In addition to the steles, real stars of the exhibition, the burial objects are also to be seen: they represent an outstanding rich source of information to understand more about the Roman Empire first centuries. The exhibited pieces, of great interest, include clay pottery and various coins that allowed to date the necropolis from the Iulius-Claudius age, around the beginning of the second century A.D. A rare collection of finely carved glass pottery (outstanding for its integrity, moreover extremely rare in Ferrara area), some bronze handworks, a horse harness and offerings like dates and figs.

Alcuni dei pregevoli oggetti in vetro rinvenuti nella necropoli
Collection of finely carved glass pottery (outstanding for its integrity, moreover extremely rare in Ferrara area

The exhibition is completed by information panels on the costumes of the age, going from clothes to hair styles; at the bookshop the scientific catalogue is also available, edited by the Superintendence to Archaeological properties of Emilia-Romagna.

La Delizia Estense del Verginese a Gambulaga di Portomaggiore (FE)The Estensi Delizia (Resort) of Verginese
Originally a farm-house, the Verginese was transformed into a Duke's residence in the early 16th century by Alfonso I Este and given as a present to Laura Eustochia Dianti. After the Duke's death the Lady retired there and made of it her own private little court, ordering its restoration to Girolamo da Carpi in primis. He designed the castle as a rectangular plan building on two levels, delimited by four square embattled towers.
On the side of this castle an 18th century little church is connected to the main building by a porch built in the same period. The inside was decorated starting from the XVIII century by stucco works, liberty-style distempered flowers, shells, ceiling roses, volutes and thick frames tracing the outline of the ceiling.
The dove-cot tower nearby is a remainder of the properties originally situated around the Delizia end dates from the XVI century.

Patronized by: Superintendence to Archaeological properties of Emilia-Romagna, Municipality and Pro-loco (Tourist Promotion Office) of Portomaggiore, with the contribution of the Province of Ferrara, of Ferrara Europe Lions Club and the support of Regione Emilia-Romagna
When: From April 27th 2006 (never-ending exhibition)
Opening times (up to 2008, 31st March): Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 12 and from 15 to 17
other days (only more then 15 people) only by booking 0039 0532 323258 for groups and students
Tickets: € 5,00 - € 3,00 for disabled and groups of min. 20 visitors - children up to 12 years: entrance free
Booking: 0532 323258 (from Italy) - 0039 0532 323258 (from abroad)
Place of Exhibition: Delizia Estense del Verginese
Strada Provinciale, località Gambulaga
Portomaggiore (Ferrara)
Information and booking: Portomaggiore Municipality - Culture Centre
Ph. 0039 0532 323258
Fax 0039 0532 320462

Articolo di Carla Conti, informazioni scientifiche di Fede Berti