Faustina Friday – Aeternitas Seated on the Celestial Sphere

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 26, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    TGIFF!! Yes, it's Faustina Friday!! :joyful:

    This coin is a new addition to my Numophylacium Faustinae. It was likely part of the large issue that commenced in AD 150 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Faustina's death and deification. This reverse type was issued only in the middle bronze denomination.

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS S C Aeternitas seated on globe MB.jpg
    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman Æ as, 10.36 g, 28.05 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, AD 150 or later.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: AETERNITAS S C, Aeternitas, seated left on starry globe, extending right hand and holding transverse sceptre in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 1159a; BMCRE 1551-54; Cohen 22; Strack 1266; RCV 4639.

    The coin depicts Aeternitas, the personification of eternity and stability. She is seated on a globe representing the celestial sphere. As such, the coin symbolizes the deified empress – Divine Faustina – residing in "the timeless sphere in which the gods dwell."[1] This is parallel to the symbolism on other coins issued for this empress depicting Aeternitas standing, holding a globe and a starry mantle representing the heavens, which billows above her head, and which I have discussed previously.

    Many Roman coins depict globes. Often, however, it's not the Earth that's depicted, but a sphere, or orb, symbolizing the Cosmos.

    Michael Molnar explains in an interesting article[2] in The Celator:

    The evidence that the orb depicted on so many coins was the cosmos and not the Earth is revealed first of all by stars and astronomical markings. Close inspection of the orbs sometimes shows not a smooth ball, but bands or hatch marks. On small orbs there appears a letter "X," but on larger orbs, it is recognized as crossed bands that represent the intersection of the all-important zodiac[3] and the celestial equator. The system of circles that the Greeks marked on the celestial sphere is described in the Phaenomena of Aratus, Pliny's Natural History, and Manilius' Astronomica. The "X" is called the equinoctial cross which represents the spring and autumnal equinoxes (where the Sun crosses the celestial equator). It signified the belief in cosmic cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. (The Timaeus of Plato referred to this symbol as a celestial Greek letter "chi.").​

    Although the stars are visible on my coin in hand, they don't photograph well, and I wish my coin better depicted the celestial sphere on which Aeternitas sits. This example in the British Museum clearly depicts the stars, the ecliptic, and celestial equator on its reverse.

    canvas 1.png

    The similarity of the reverse figure is very similar to that of Italia on coins of Antoninus Pius, such as this sestertius in the British Museum.

    canvas 2.png

    On this coin, the depiction of "Italia presiding on the cosmic orb signifies the greatness and immensity of her power."[4] Similar symbolism is seen on coins on which the celestial sphere is offered by Sol or Jupiter to the emperor, emphasizing his role as cosmocrator[5] – the ruler of the universe – such as on this billon follis of Constantine illustrated in an informative article by Reid Goldsborough.[6]


    Post your coins depicting a celestial globe, Aeternitas, comments, or anything you feel is relevant!



    1. Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol. IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus. Introduction, indexes and plates. London, BMP, 1968, p. lxii.

    2. Molnar, Michael R. "Symbolism of the Sphere." The Celator, vol. 12, no. 6, June 1998, pp. 6–8. Molnar may have learned this information from his first work cited: Otto J. Brendel Symbolism of the Sphere Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977.

    3. Technically, it's the intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator. The zodiac is a zone or belt about 16° in width containing the constellations of the zodiac and through which the orbits of the planets (except Pluto) pass. In the middle of this zone is an imaginary line called the ecliptic. The celestial equator is also known as the equinoctial.

    4. Molnar, op. cit., p. 6.

    5. Ibid.

    6. Goldsborough, Reid. "An Exercise in Grading Constantine the Great Sol Bronzes." Constantine the Great Sol Bronzes, rg.ancients.info/constantine/Sol_other.html.
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  4. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for showing the British Museum example, RC.
    Mine doesn't show much details on the globe as well.
    Good to know what a full design looks like...

    Diva Faustina I. Æ As.
    Rome, AD 146-161.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, draped bust to right
    Rev: Aeternitas seated to left on globe, extending hand & holding sceptre
    RIC III 1159 (Pius); C. 22; BMCRE 1551. 10.51g, 29mm
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's a lovely example, with a better-preserved reverse than my humble specimen.
    happy_collector likes this.
  6. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Great coin RC... though I don't envy the continent underneath Aeternitas when she has to pass gas....
    Anyway, here is Victory atop a globe on the reverse of a MSC
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    LOL! Lovely coin, @Ryro! I think I can see a hint of the celestial equator on the globe on your specimen. Is it there when you look at the coin in-hand?
    Alegandron likes this.
  8. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    LOL... TRUE, Bubba, ...TRUE!
    ominus1, Ryro and Roman Collector like this.
  9. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Marcus Aurelius - Victory on globe
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I just picked up this one from Marc Breitsprecher. I saw that veiled bust and had to have it, despite the big ol' flan chip. And you can see the stars on the globe!

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS S C Aeternitas seated on globe MB veiled bust.jpg

    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman Æ as, 7.67 g, 24.2 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, AD 150 or later.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, veiled and draped bust, right.
    Rev: AETERNITAS S C, Aeternitas, seated left on starry globe, extending right hand and holding transverse sceptre in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 1159b; BMCRE 1555-56; Cohen 23; Strack 1266; RCV 4639 var.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
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