Faustina Friday – An Interesting Representation of Cybele

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Apr 9, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This interesting article, "The Phrygian Background of Kybele" by Birgitte Bøgh (Numen Vol. 54, No. 3 (2007), pp. 304-339), describes the way the original Phrygian goddess known as Cybele originally bore the simple name Matar (mother) and how her attributes and iconography changed as Phrygia came under the influence of Greece and Rome, particularly as she became incorporated into the Roman pantheon as Magna Mater after she was invoked as a protector goddess during the Punic Wars.

    She was originally always depicted standing and with a polos draped with a veil. She was not always depicted as accompanied by lions – though she could be – but often with birds. In contrast, on Roman coins and statuary, she is typically portrayed enthroned, wearing Greco-Roman dress, and accompanied by lions.

    This little provincial bronze of the city of Docimeum in Phrygia illustrates a more traditionally Phrygian depiction of the goddess: standing, wearing a veil-draped polos and flanked by lions on either side.

    Faustina Jr Docimeum Cybele and lions.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman provincial Æ 18 mm, 4.40 g, 6 h.
    Phrygia, Docimeum, c. AD 150-154.
    Obv: ΦΑVСΤЄΙΝΑ СЄΒΑС, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: ΔΟΚΙ-ΜЄΩΝ, cultus-statue of Cybele standing facing, flanked by lions.
    Refs: RPC IV.2 1976 (temp); BMC 25.187,23; SNG Copenhagen 358; SNG von Aulock 3550.

    Note that the goddess is portrayed in a garment featuring multiple ovoid objects on it. Compare this statue of Cybele found in Pergamon from Hellenistic times now in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna.

    Cybele Pergamon Vienna Ephesos Museum.jpg

    In contrast, this is how she is portrayed in her usual Greco-Roman iconography: wearing a polos, stola and palla, enthroned, with a tympanum, and accompanied by one or more lions.

    Severus Anchialos.jpg
    Septimius Severus, AD 193-211.
    Roman provincial Æ 27.2 mm, 10.7 gm, 8 h.
    Thrace, Anchialus, AD 193-211.
    Obv: ΑV Κ Λ CЄΠ CЄVΗΡΟC, laureate and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: ΟVΛΠΙΑΝΩΝ ΑΓΧΙΑΛΕΩΝ, Cybele enthroned left, wearing polos, holding patera, resting left arm on drum, a lion reclines at each side of throne.
    Refs: Moushmov 2817; AMNG III 469; Varbanov 213 var. (bust type).

    Faustina II, AD 147-175/6.
    Roman copper alloy as or dupondius, 12.24 g, 26.1 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, AD ca. 174-176.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: MATRI MAGNAE S C, Cybele seated right, holding drum in left hand on left knee; to left and right of throne, lions, seated right.
    Refs: RIC 1664, BMCRE 990; Cohen 170; RCV 5301; MIR 25.

    Let's see your coins with Cybele, coins of Docimeum, or whatever you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
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  3. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting post and coin! Is it just me or does Kybele on your coin look strikingly similar to the Artemis of Ephesus?

    Here is a Roman Republican Kybele:
    Römische Republik – RRC 322:1b, Denar, C. Fabius, Kybele und Victoria.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Fabius [Hadrianus?], AR denarius, 102 BC, Rome mint. Obv: EX·A·PV; bust of Cybele r., wearing turreted crown and veil. Rev: .FA BI.C.F; Victory in biga r., holding reins in 1. hand and goad in r. hand; below, bird (flamingo?) and control mark V. 19mm, 3.82g. Ref: RRC 322/1b.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Lovely coin, @Orielensis!
    It's not just you. Were it not for the lions at her side, better seen on this specimen of the coin (Nomos 20, lot 330, 10/07/2020), she might be confused for Ephesian Artemis.

    Faustina Jr Docimeum Cybele and lions Nomos.jpg

    That's because Artemis of Ephesus was the product of syncretism between aspects of Artemis and of Cybele and was therefore worshiped as a goddess of fertility, not as the virginal Greek goddess of hunting. I have discussed this previously.

    In fact, art historians differ on their interpretation of this statue in the Vatican Museum, with some identifying the goddess as Ephesian Artemis and others as Cybele! Without the lions of Cybele or the stags of Artemis, her identity is anyone's guess!

    Cybele cult statue Vatican.JPG
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  5. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting and informative FF as always, RC.

    Here is my Cybele (with lion) denarius of Faustina II:

    Faustina II - Den. MATRI MAG Jan 2021 lith (0).jpg

    Faustina II Denarius
    n.d. (c. 170-175 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed draped bust right / MATRI MAGNAE, Cybele seated left holding branch in right hand, resting left arm on drum; at her side, lion.
    RIC 706; BMCRE 134; C192.
    (2.44 grams / 17 mm)

    Notes: "Mattingly (BMCRE4, p. cxliv) believes this reverse type honors Faustina "as an earthly likeness of the 'great mother', Cybele." Mattingly assigns coins of this type (along with other reverses) to her "last issue" (ibid), and even postulates that they may have been issued posthumously (op. cit., n. 2)."
    Roman Collector, Coin Talk
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  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    A great post, as always, with beautiful coins.

    Here are a couple of coins with Cybele that I haven't shown too recently:

    Roman Republic, Aulus Plautius, AR Denarius, 55 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Turreted head of Cybele right, A. PLAVTIVS before, AE[D CVR S C] behind [portion in brackets off flan] / Rev. “Bacchius the Jew” [ = Aristobulus II of Judaea?],* in attitude of supplication, kneeling beside saddled camel standing right, extending olive-branch with right hand and holding camel’s bridle with left hand, his cape flowing behind him; BACCHIVS in exergue, IVDAEVS on right. RSC I Plautia 13, Crawford 431/1, Sydenham 932, Sear RCV I 395 (ill.), Harlan, RRM II Ch. 18 at pp. 145-149, BMCRR 3916. 18x20 mm., 4.25 g. (Purchased from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., 211th Buy or Bid Sale, May 2020, Lot 183.) SB Binder 8 RRC 431/1 (85, 88, 89, 92)

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel).jpg

    * See Sear RCV I at p. 148: “Aulus Plautius strikes as curule aedile. The problematic interpretation of the reverse type appears to have been most successfully resolved by [Michael] Harlan in RRM [see Roman Republican Moneyers and Their Coins 63 BCE-49 BCE (2nd Revised Edition 2015), Ch. 18 at pp. 146-148] . . . who identifies the kneeling figure as Aristobulus [= Judah Aristobulus II of the Hasmonean Dynasty, d. ca. 49 BCE], the Jewish high priest, then held captive by Pompey in Rome.”

    Faustina II (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AR Denarius, ca. 170-176 AD[?], Rome mint. Obv. Draped bust right, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Turreted Cybele seated left, holding olive branch with right hand extended, left elbow resting on drum, lion at her side next to throne, MATRI MAGNAE. RIC III MA 706, RSC II 172, Sear RCV II 5159 (ill.) (dated 161-175), BMCRE MA 134*, Dinsdale 005550 [Dinsdale, Paul H., The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus, Ch. 4, Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Marcus/04 - Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (med_res).pdf) at p. 56; photo at p. 62]. 18 mm., 3.05 g.

    Faustina II -Marti Magnae (Cybele left with lion under throne).jpg
    *Mattingly (BMCRE4, p. cxliv) believes this reverse type honors Faustina "as an earthly likeness of the 'great mother', Cybele." Mattingly assigns coins of this type (along with other reverses) to her "last issue" (ibid), and even postulates that they may have been issued posthumously (op. cit., n. 2).

    (It's a bit difficult to see the turret on top of Cybele's head on the reverse, but I promise it's there!)
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