Featured Faustina Friday – An Enigmatic Middle Bronze of Faustina the Elder

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jan 14, 2022.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member


    TGIFF, everyone! I've posted a lot of articles recently about Faustina the Younger, many of which are jam-packed with information. We're going to shift focus today to a coin of Faustina the Elder, and instead of providing a lot of answers, we're going to raise a lot of questions because not much is known about the coin.


    There are a couple of reasons we have a lot of questions. The first is that the coin was issued in the middle bronze denomination only and thus falls outside of the scope of Beckmann's die-linkage study of the posthumous aurei and sestertii of Faustina the Elder and its date or purpose of issue has not been established with precision.[1] Secondly, the identity of the divine figure depicted on the coin's reverse is ambiguous, and has been variously interpreted as Aeternitas, Diana, or the clever hybrid, Aeternitas-Diana.

    The coin in my collection.

    Faustina Sr AVGVSTA S C Aeternitas-Diana MB.jpg
    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman Æ as or dupondius, 9.30 g, 25.6 mm, 11 h.
    Rome, AD 150.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: AVGVSTA S C, Aeternitas-Diana with crescent on head, advancing left, with right hand holding starry veil which billows around head, and lighted torch in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 1183; BMCRE 1587; Cohen —; RCV 4650; Strack 1284; Hunter 112.

    Varieties of the coin.

    Faustina Sr AVGVSTA S C Aeternitas-Diana MB no torch Peuss.jpg
    Reverse type featuring a similar figure holding her veil with both hands and not carrying a torch. RIC 1182; BMCRE –; Cohen 77; Strack 1284. Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, E-Auction 10, lot 359 18 January, 2020.

    Faustina Sr AVGVSTA S C Aeternitas-Diana MB mirror image BMC.png
    Reverse type depicting the mirror image of my coin, with the figure advancing right and holding the torch in her right hand and the veil in her left. RIC —; BMCRE 1586; Cohen —; Strack —.

    Who is the figure on the reverse?

    Surprisingly, the identity of the reverse figure is a matter of some debate. Cohen[3] identifies the figure on the similar coin in the French national collection (without the torch, illustrated above by the Peuss example) as Diana. Mattingly and Sydenham (RIC)[4] and Mattingly later writing alone (BMC)[5] identify her as Aeternitas. However, Mattingly uses a question mark in parentheses to mark the uncertainty with which the reverse figure is to be identified in his description of BMCRE 1586 (the figure advancing right) and remarks in a footnote about the version without the torch that Cohen "names the figure on rev. Diana, and may well be correct."[6] Strack considers the figure to be a hybrid of Aeternitas and Diana and uses "Aeternitas-Diana" in his description of the reverse type and its varieties.[7]

    The reason it is difficult to identify the reverse figures in the AVGVSTA series is that the figures are not explicitly named; rather, they must be determined by their attributes. Confusion arises because there is some overlap in attributes between one deity and another in the series. Paul Dinsdale has done a comprehensive study of the coins of Faustina the Elder herself, and when necessary, supplemented by those of Antoninus Pius, to determine which attribute is primary to a certain deity and which are only secondary. The greatest weight is to be given to the primary attributes when assigning an identity to the figure on the reverses of coins in Faustina the Elder's AETERNITAS, AVGVSTA, CONSECRATIO, and anepigraphic series.[8]

    As thorough as Dinsdale's study may be, it unfortunately does not include an exploration of the attributes of Diana and this coin falls outside of its purview. But the reverse figure on the coin does indeed feature an important primary attribute of Diana in her avatar as Lucifera -- a crescent moon on her head. Moreover, this is accompanied by an important secondary attribute of Diana Lucifera, her torch.

    Diana Lucifera Franklin's World.JPG
    Claire Franklin, "Franklin's World," Coins Weekly, 13 February, 2020.

    But complicating the matter is that she also has a starry mantle billowing around her head, which is a primary attribute of Aeternitas.[9] With two primary attributes of two different goddesses, I think that Strack is correct in identifying the figure as a composite of Aeternitas and Diana.

    The dating and purpose of the issue

    The obverse inscription DIVA FAVSTINA first appears on coins issued for Faustina the Elder issued to commemorate her daughter's marriage to Marcus Aurelius in AD 145.[10] The inscription continued for many years thereafter possibly up to the death of Antoninus Pius in AD 161. As a type issued in the middle bronze denomination, a date for this coin cannot be established with precision by means of Beckmann's die-linkage study of the empress' aurei and sestertii. Dinsdale assigns it to a large number of reverse types commencing in AD 150.[11]

    There were a series of coins in the middle bronze denominations issued by Antoninus Pius for exclusive use in Britain, known as "coins of British Association," from a hoard discovered in Bath. These coins have been dated by Walker[12] and Moorhead[13] to AD 153-155. Our own @curtislclay has dated these British association issues to AD 154-155.[14] Since this coin was issued only in the middle bronze denomination, one might postulate it too was one of Antoninus Pius' issues for use in Britain dating to this period. Sadly, this type is not one found in the hoard at Bath and its date cannot be determined based on this hoard.

    Although we cannot pin down a date for the issue by objective means apart from sometime between AD 150 and 161, I believe it can be dated based on iconography to AD 150, the tenth anniversary of the empress' death. As discussed above, the figure on the reverse is to be taken as a composite of two goddesses who play a role in the consecration and apotheosis of deceased Roman empresses: Aeternitas and Diana Lucifera. A large series of Aeternitas reverse types were issued in AD 150 to commemorate the anniversary of Faustina's deification, and this is likely one among them. Moreover, the figure of Diana Lucifera later appears on the posthumous coinage of Faustina the Younger with the SIDERIBVS RECEPTA reverse legend. This legend is translated "received by the stars" and symbolizes that the deified empress resides in the celestial realm. This indicates a general association during the Antonine period of Diana Lucifera and deification. A coin depicting a composite of Aeternitas and Diana Lucifera is very much befitting the celebration of Faustina's tenth death anniversary and does not fit well elsewhere in the timeline. I have therefore assigned a date of AD 150 for this coin while acknowledging the lack of hard data for this assignation.



    1. Beckmann, Martin. Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces. American Numismatic Society, 2012.

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

    3. Cohen, Henry. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Tome II: de Nerva à Antonin (96 à 161 après J.-C.). Paris, 1882, no. 77, pp. 419-420.

    4. Mattingly, Harold and Edward A. Sydenham. The Roman Imperial Coinage. III, Spink, 1930, nos. 1182-1183, p. 168.

    5. Mattingly, Harold, BMCRE op. cit., nos. 1586-87, p. 253.

    6. Ibid., 1587n., p. 253.

    7. Strack, Paul L., Untersuchungen zur Römischen Reichsprägung des Zweiten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3, Die Reichsprägung zur Zeit des Antoninus Pius. Stuttgart 1937, no. 1284.

    8. Dinsdale, Paul H. Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius Caesar AD 138-161; Second Revised Edition. Leeds, Paul H Dinsdale, 2021, p. 234.

    9. Ibid.

    10. Beckmann, op. cit., pp. 55 ff.

    11. Dinsdale, op. cit., p. 233.

    12. Walker, D. R. Roman Coins from the Sacred Spring at Bath. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, Fascicle 2 of Monograph No. 16, Oxford, 1988, pp. 294-95.

    13. Moorhead, Sam. "'Coins of British Association,' after David Walker and David Shotter, with Additions by Sam Moorhead." Academia.edu, 26 May 2015, https://www.academia.edu/12608461/C..._David_Shotter_with_additions_by_Sam_Moorhead.

    14. Clay, Curtis L. "The Supply of Bronze Coins to Britain in the Second Century." Numismatic Chronicle, vol. 149, 1989, pp. 213-1
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2022
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your write up Roman Collector.
    2 x Aeternitas junior & senior

    Faustina Aeternitas best.jpg P1180315xAetertnitas (2).JPG
  4. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status

    Great write up and fun chocolaty coin! I also dig the Aeternitas strut on the reverse...

    Here's my silver Aeternitas:
  5. Bronwen

    Bronwen Member

    Strack considers the figure to be a hybrid of Aeternitas and Diana and uses "Diana-Artemis" in his description of the reverse type and its varieties.[7]

    Is this bit correct?
    Spaniard likes this.
  6. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for another interesting Faustina Friday article, @Roman Collector

    Poor Aeternitas. Had to cover Diana's tasks, in addition to her own. Maybe Diana "called in for a day off"? :hilarious:

    Here is my Aeternitas sitting on a globe. Taking a break after a long day. Can't blame her, since it is Friday today!! :hilarious:

    Marsyas Mike, Bing, ambr0zie and 5 others like this.
  7. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    What about an AETERNITAS reverse.... with Providentia?

    DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA, bust of Faustina I, veiled, right / AETERNITAS S C, Providentia, draped, standing left, holding globe on extended right hand and vertical sceptre in left
    RIC III Antoninus Pius 1163Ab (as)

    A coin identified with help from @Roman Collector
    I remember I was completely confused as I failed to recognize deities after certain attributes - but when a legend mentioned a deity, I was expecting the character to match it :|
    Just noticed now there was a topic about this, I missed it then.

    My AETERNITAS denarius is a type I always admired

    Diva Faustina I AD 140-141. Rome. Denarius AR. 18 mm, 2,74 g
    AD 141
    DIVA FAVSTINA, bust of Faustina I, draped, right, hair elaborately waved in several loops round head and drawn up and coiled on top / AETERNITAS, throne, draped and ornamented, against which rests transverse sceptre, pointing up right: in front, peacock standing right
    RIC III Antoninus Pius 353a; RSC 61; BMC 384
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    I erred; it should read "Aeternitas-Diana." Thank you for pointing out my typographical error.

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
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