Aeternitas

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jan 15, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Aeternitas was the Roman personification of eternity and stability. As such, she is often depicted with the immortal phoenix as an attribute, as well as other symbols of steadfastness and stability, such as the hasta pura or globe.

    Coins issued under Antoninus Pius for his deceased wife, Faustina I, use the motif of Aeternitas to signify the empress resides eternally in the celestial realm. Beckmann* makes an argument, based on die-linkage studies of Faustina's aurei, that a massive issue of coins in all denominations bearing the reverse legend AETERNITAS took place in AD 150/151 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the empress's death. These coins bear the obverse legend, DIVA FAVSTINA. While most of the coins have newly designed reverse types, some represent reissues of types used a decade previously which bore the obverse legend DIVA AVG FAVSTINA. Even though these coins share a common reverse inscription (AETERNITAS), they depict a variety of goddesses and personifications: Aeternitas, Fortuna, Providentia, Ceres, Juno, Venus, Vesta, and Pietas, each identifiable on the basis of their attributes (Ceres holding corn ears and torch, for example).

    Here are a few coins of Faustina I from this 10-year death anniversary issue which depict Aeternitas, distinguished from the pantheon of alternatives listed above by the presence of the phoenix as one of her attributes.

    Let's see your coins depicting Aeternitas!

    *Beckmann, Martin. Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces. American Numismatic Society, 2012, pp. 63-69.

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Aeternitas standing denarius.jpg
    Denarius, RIC 387

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Aeternitas standing sestertius.jpg
    Sestertius, RIC 1105a.

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Aeternitas seated sestertius.jpg
    Sestertius, RIC 1103Aa

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Aeternitas seated dupondius.jpg
    Dupondius or as, RIC 1156a
     
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter μεγάλος βασιλιάς

    Gordian III AR antoninianus...

    aeternitas.jpg
     
  4. lrbguy

    lrbguy Well-Known Member

    Nice examples, RC. My collection is limited to denarii, but there were quite a few AETERNITAS reverses showing various aspects of that deity among the others.

    First to show, however, is the cosmic version with star:

    Faustina I (veiled) BMC 293 (RIC III 355)
    faus101-au257-sm.jpg


    You mentioned that your first example had an equivalent in the earlier DIVA AVG FAVSTINA series. I have one like yours, with the goddess holding a phoenix, for the DIVA FAVSTINA series, but for the earlier series I show one where the goddess is holding an orb (perhaps with a zodiac equator?) and staff/scepter:

    Faustina I (veiled) - BMC 291 (RIC III 350a)
    2-FaustinaI-diva3-sm.jpg


    Next up is a DIVA FAV - STINA obverse break pattern with a reverse in which the goddess holds an orb and rudder:

    Faustina I (veiled) BMC 366 (RIC III 348)
    Faus101-he40-sm.jpg


    This next example is shown here veiled, from the late DIVA FAVSTINA series, in which the goddess appears to be waving or simply extending her right hand, while holding a staff/scepter slightly up in the air with her left. I also have this type without veil on the obverse.

    Faustina I (veiled) BMC 353 (RIC III 345)
    faus101-sv52-sm.jpg

    I have a few other varieties of the obverse and/or reverse types if others do not show them.
     
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  5. Aestimare

    Aestimare Active Member

     
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  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Denarii, regular and barbarous:
    rc2200bb1848.jpg rc2205fd3432.jpg
     
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  7. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Some notes on Aeternitas

    To write about personifications is always a bit bloodless because the mythological background is missing.

    The coin
    Hadrian, AD 117-138
    AR - denarius, 3.33g, 17mm, 135°
    Rome, 119-121
    obv. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG
    so-called heroic bust, slightly draped on l. shoulder, laureate, r.
    rev. P M TR P - COS III
    Aeternitas, in long garment and mantle, stg. frontal, head l., holding in raised hands r. head of Sol and l. head of Luna.
    ref. RIC II, 812; C. 1114; BMCR 162
    EF, nice Details
    hadrian_81.jpg

    Aeternitas is the Roman personification of eternity. Her attributs are the globe, the Phoenix, who permanently is resurrecting out of the fire, the snake, suggested as immortal because of its regular skinnning, depicted as biting itself in the tail and so forming an eternal circle, the elephant suggested as long-living animal, and astral bodies like stars or - like on this coin - sun and moon.

    Usually coins with Aeternitas were struck at the death of the emperor referring to his consecration. Naturally it was not meant that the emperor himself has an eternal life. That idea was not corresponding to the Roman religious belief. As stellar bodies Sol and Luna have a more cosmic universal meaning. They refer to the eternity of the (Roman) ordo and the Roman Empire. It's the matter of Aeternitas imperii. A connection with the emperor comes from the East. As pignus imperii, pledge of the Empire, the emperor himself has to be aeternus, eternal. This idea starts under Tiberius, reserved in the first time. But under Nero it was already possible to sacrifice pro aeternitate imperii or directly to Aeternitas imperii. That was not possible under Augustus. Indeed Aeternitas was worshipped as divine and under Augustus a coin was known with the legend AETERNITAS AVGVSTI but no temples or altars could be found.

    Curiously enough the term aeternus initially occurs in the Roman law before it obtained its cultic denotation. But gods themselves rarely were called aeternus, most frequently gods which could be identified with the Syrian Ba'alim (like Zeus, Sol or Apollon). A deus Aeternus in inscriptions from the 2nd-3rd c.AD seems to be of Syrian origin (Pauly). This deity was found most often in Dacia probably brought their by Roman soldiers.

    Many of the above listed attributs are taken from the East where we know from an old cult of eternity. Originally the Greek Aion means something like 'long space of time, or era'. The Aion-Cult in the East is based on the philosophical extension of this term to 'eternity'. In Hellenenistic Alexandria the idea of Roma Aeterna was already anticipated. And we find the separation of an everlasting, static, so to speek fixed eternity and chronos, the ongoing, moving time. Mathematical interested people are reminded of the two different conceptions of infinity: here the actual infinity and on the other side the potential infinity.

    The roots of Aion are manifold - Phoenicians and Zoroaster played an important role - and could infiltrate other religions too (e.g. the cult of Mithras).

    On the other side the dynastic reference of this coin is obvious: Sol and Luna can be taken as symbols for the emperor and his wife. And that stands naturally for the continuity of the dynasty, in one sense private-personally by the continued existance of the imperial family over the generations, but then too official-generally by the provided political stability. In this sense we see a close connection to Providentia who comes into play always if a heir to the throne was born. The heir to the throne ensures the continuity of the imperial family and - moreover - the continuity of Rome and the entire Roman Empire. This all in accordance with a cosmic-universal 'providence'. And with that we are back to sun and moon.

    At the end of a principate - as we know - always a struggle for the succession was menacing. This could be prevented only if the princeps has already arranged his succession before his death. Only so riot and a civil war could be avoided. This connection of Aeternitas with Providentia occurs already on coins of Tiberius. The Adoptive Emperors didn't know a dynastic successor. Therefore the term Providentia Deorum was used, the providence of the gods. By the clever election of a successor the gods have ensured the stability of the Empire. This aspect of Aeternitas later was expressed by the astral symbolism of the 7 planets.

    Sources:
    (1) Der Kleine Pauly
    (2) Wilhelm Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (online)
    (3) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon (online)
    (4) Hildegard Temporini, Die Frauen am Hofe Trajans, 1978

    Best regards
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2019
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