Faustina Friday – Dating the Empress's Obverse Titulature Using a Limited Reverse Type

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Apr 22, 2022.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

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    Yes, Snoop, it's Faustina Friday! TGIFF, everyone!

    I've had this coin for nearly three years now, but I hadn't studied it in depth until recently. It's a variety (left-facing bust) of a middle bronze with a rather unassuming reverse type: VENVS S C, featuring Venus standing right, arranging the drapery on her right shoulder, and holding an apple in her left hand.

    Faustina Jr VENVS S C left bust As.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175/6.
    Roman Æ as, 9.85 g, 26.0 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 148-151.
    Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, Bust of Faustina II, draped, with band of pearls, left.
    Rev: VENVS S C, Venus standing right, arranging drapery on right shoulder, and holding apple in her left hand.
    Refs: RIC 1410b (bust l.); BMCRE 2165; Cohen --; Strack 1304; RCV --.

    Faustina the Younger's obverse titulature is complicated, because over the reign of Antoninus Pius, five obverse legends were used at various times. The standard references agree in the order in which her five obverse inscriptions occur. Where they disagree, however, is in the exact dating of the various phases in which they were used. Mattingly notes it is difficult to assign more than a relative order of inscriptions, stating, "The coinage of Faustina II contains very few references that can in themselves be clearly dated, but, inside the chronological groups above determined by style of coiffure and obverse legend, some probable relations can be established."[1] He recommends the reader consult Strack,[2] but assigns dates, as I discuss below, which differ somewhat from those of Strack. Sear assigns his own dates, stating, "The approximate chronology assigned to the individual types is based on Mattingly's work in BMCRE IV, but incorporates significant modifications of my own."[3] These tend to be later than those noted by Strack and Mattingly, despite their evidence to support an earlier date. I think Sear errs because of this and for this reason, I will not discuss Sear's dating further.

    My coin bears the empress's earliest inscription, which is in the dative case, FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL. This obverse legend is dated to AD 147-about 150 by Mattingly,[4] and to AD 147-149 by Strack.[5] Coins of this reverse type bearing this early dative case inscription were also issued in the quinarius aureus denomination and in the middle bronze denomination with a right-facing bust. Note these coins depict the empress in her earliest hairstyle, Beckmann's type 1 coiffure.[6]

    Faustina Jr VENVS quinarius aureus.png
    AV quinarius aureus, RIC 514. British Museum specimen, BMCRE 1061.

    Faustina Jr VENVS S C as Triton.jpg
    Æ as, RIC 1410a (bust r.). Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Triton X, lot 644, 9 January 2007.

    However, this reverse type was also used in the middle bronze denomination with the longer FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL obverse legend. Both Mattingly and Strack concur that this was Faustina's second obverse legend, which Mattingly dates to c. 150-152 and Strack to 149-152.[7] Note this coin depicts the empress in her second hairstyle, Beckmann's type 2 coiffure,[8] consistent with a later period of production.

    Faustina Jr VENVS S C Bertolami ANTONINI MB.jpg
    Æ as, RIC 1410c. Bertolami Fine Arts, Auction 8, lot 610, 3 February 2014.

    Both Mattingly and Strack then note the subsequent appearance of a third obverse legend, resembling the first but in the nominative case, FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, which Mattingly dates to c. 152-153 and Strack to 152-156. However, subsequent work by our own @curtislclay and by Martin Beckmann have demonstrated that the traditional chronological arrangement of Faustina's obverse legends as reported by Mattingly and by Strack needs to be modified, at least for the silver and gold denominations.

    In the late 1980s, Curtis Clay compared the denarii of Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Faustina and their representation in the Reka Devnia hoard, and elucidated an absolute chronology for the silver issues of Faustina II. In the course of this work, he concluded that the FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL legend was in use for about four or five months beginning about May AD 151, followed by the FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL legend, which was in use for about seven or eight months, from the end of summer AD 151 to about June AD 152, after which it reverted to the FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL legend, which was in use through the end of AD 155.[9]

    Similarly, Beckmann, in his die-linkage study of the aurei of Faustina the Younger, noted a shift from the first dative case legend to a new obverse legend in the nominative case, FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL. This change was not sudden or clear cut but, rather, transpired over a period of extended coin production marked by what Beckmann describes as a "confusing array of different obverse legends, portraits, and reverse types." He further notes that this legend appeared briefly before a new obverse legend was introduced, FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL, which was used for a somewhat longer time before it was switched back to FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL.[10] In contrast to Curtis Clay, Beckmann was not able to establish an absolute chronology for the sequence of obverse inscriptions.

    So, it is clear that for the denarius and aureus denominations, the shorter legend, FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, was in use both before and after the longer legend, FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL.[9] However, the middle bronze issues with the VENVS reverse type featuring Venus standing right, arranging the drapery on her right shoulder, and holding an apple in her left hand demonstrates this was likely not the case with the bronze denominations. There is no variety of the coin with the nominative case legend, FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL. The obverse inscription goes straight from the earliest, dative case legend, FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL to the longer FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL legend, consistent with the traditional chronologies of Mattingly and of Strack, but not consistent with the chronology established for the precious metal denominations by Clay and Beckmann.

    In bronze, the CONCORDIA standing, the CONCORDIA seated, and the VENVS standing holding apple and scepter issues also contain obverse legend varieties and they can be arranged in a manner consistent with Strack and Mattingly. Including the reverse type discussed in detail above, we note the following transitions from one obverse inscription to another.

    FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL --> FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL:
    VENVS standing adjusting drapery on right shoulder and holding apple (RIC 1410a --> 1410c; type 1 & type 2 hairstyles, respectively).

    FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL --> FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL --> FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL:
    CONCORDIA standing raising fold of drapery and holding cornucopiae (Strack 1297 --> RIC 1372b --> RIC 1373; all with the type 2 hairstyle).

    FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL --> FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL:
    CONCORDIA seated l., holding flower, resting elbow on cornucopiae (RIC 1374b --> RIC 1374a; type 2 or type 3 hairstyle).

    FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL --> FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL:
    VENVS standing l., holding apple and scepter (RIC 1387(6) --> RIC 1387(3); type 2 or type 3 hairstyle).

    In conclusion, for the aureus and denarius denominations, the sequence of obverse legends as determined by Clay and Beckmann, each working independently and with different methodologies, appears to have been:

    1. FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG F(IL), AD 147 to May 151.
    2. FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, about May 151 to the end of summer 151.
    3. FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL, end of summer 151 to about June 152.
    4. FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, about June 152 through December 155.
    5. FAVSTINA AVGVSTA AVG PII F[IL], January 156-July 156.
    6. FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / AVGVSTI PII FIL, July 156 to 157.

    For the bronze denominations, there is nothing to suggest a brief period in mid-151 during which the nominative FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL legend was in use, and the relative chronologies established by Strack and by Mattingly hold up, though their absolute chronologies must be modified in light of the work of Clay and of Beckmann. The sequence of obverse legends in bronze appears to have been:

    1. FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG F(IL), AD 147 to the end of summer 151.
    2. FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL, end of summer 151 to about June 152.
    3. FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, about June 152 through December 155.
    4. FAVSTINA AVGVSTA AVG PII F[IL], January 156-July 156.
    5. FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / AVGVSTI PII FIL, July 156 to 157.

    I want to caution the reader that although the relative chronology of these inscriptions is well-established, the absolute chronology is not. The dates given here are approximations, generalizing from studies of the aureus and denarius denominations. The workshops striking bronze coins, though working side by side with those striking gold and silver coins, may not have worked in close parallel and assigning dates to the inscriptions on the bronze coins is somewhat of a leap of faith. Moreover, there were almost certainly periods when the various legends or various hairstyles overlapped and were in simultaneous production, no matter the denomination.

    Please post comments or any coins you feel are relevant!

    ~~~

    Notes


    1. Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol. 4, Antoninus Pius to Commodus. London, 1940, reprinted with alterations 1968, pp. lxxv-lxxvi.

    2. Ibid., p. lxxv, n. 4.

    3. Sear, David R., Roman Coins and their Values, vol. 2, The Accession of Nerva to the Overthrow of the Severan Dynasty, A.D. 96 -A.D. 235. London, 2002, pp. 281 ff.

    4. Mattingly, op. cit., pp. xliv, lxxvi-lxvii; 158 ff for the AV and AR issues; pp. xciii-xciv; 371-382 for the Æ issues.

    5. Strack, Paul L., Untersuchungen zur Römischen Reichsprägung des Zweiten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3, Die Reichsprägung zur Zeit des Antoninus Pius. Stuttgart 1937.

    6. Beckmann, Martin, Faustina the Younger: Coinage, Portraits, and Public Image, A.N.S. Numismatic Studies 43, American Numismatic Society, New York, 2021, pp. 77-79; 89.

    7. Mattingly, op. cit.; Strack, op. cit.

    8. Beckmann, op. cit., pp. 79-80; 89.

    9. Curtis L. Clay, personal communication, 13 September 2021.

    10. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 42.
     
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  3. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    What a beauty! LOVE that patina, her hair is on point aaand it's her earliest inscription:cigar:
    Here's a recent Faustina of mine:
    Screenshot_20211203-093535_Chrome-removebg-preview.png
    Faustina I

    AR Denarius

    After 147 AD, Wife of Antoninus Pius, Rome mint. Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA legend with draped bust right. Rev: AVGVSTA legend with Ceres standing left holding long torch and fold of drapery. 2.41 grams. Very fine; pitting to reverse.

    Provenance
    Found whilst searching with a metal detector in Leicestershire, UK, by Robert Ward.
    RIC 362; BMC 421; RSC 104; Sear 4584. purchased from Timeline Auctions December 2021
     
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I have nothing to post except my appreciation, as always, for your contributions to this forum -- both the coins you show and the way you write about them, and your careful scholarship in particular. I always greatly enjoy reading what you write, even when I don't post a response.
     
  5. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for another Faustina Friday article, @Roman Collector.
    You have a very nice left-facing Faustina coin. :)
     
    Roman Collector likes this.
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