Featured Faustina Friday -- A CERES of Mistakes in Old References

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jan 29, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    None of the coins of Faustina II issued under Marcus Aureus cause more confusion than those featuring the goddess Ceres holding a torch (Ceres Taedifera, "Ceres the torch-bearer.") Ceres holding a torch appears on three reverse types:
    1. Ceres standing holding corn-ears and long torch; empress' intermediate hairstyle.
    2. Ceres seated holding corn-ears (sometimes also with a poppy) and short transverse torch; empress' intermediate hairstyle.
    3. Ceres seated holding corn-ears and long vertical torch; empress' late hairstyle.
    This new acquisition falls into the third category.

    Faustina Jr CERES S C sestertius Artemide.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman orichalcum sestertius, 24.67 g, 31.0 mm, 11 h.
    Rome, c. AD 170-175.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: CERES S C, Ceres seated left, holding corn ears and long, vertical torch.
    Refs: RIC 1621; BMCRE 894; Cohen 36; Sear 5271; Banti 25; MIR 3-6/10c.
    Notes: RIC incorrectly cites Cohen 37.

    Cohen and Mattiningly (RIC) make a series of errors in their catalog descriptions. Here are the listings in Cohen and RIC for the various coins of this type.


    Capture 1.JPG
    Capture 2.JPG


    Capture 3.JPG Capture.JPG

    The first error these venerable references make is that each fails to distinguish between the second and third types in silver, which I have previously discussed, even though they are clearly different issues, issued years apart. Both of these coins are listed as RIC 669 and Cohen 35. I think this is because Mattingly simply cited Cohen, without verification; in his later work, BMCRE4, he notes the two different varieties in the British Museum collection (BMCRE 82 and 79).

    Faustina Jr CERES denarius type 1.jpg
    Short, transverse scepter type with Faustina's intermediate hairstyle, AD 161-c. 165.

    Faustina Jr CERES denarius type 2.jpg
    Long, vertical scepter type with Faustina's late hairstyle, c. AD 170-175.

    Cohen, however, does note there are two reverse types on his description of the bronze issues. Note his description for nos. 36, 37, and 38. He uses two different words for "torch": flambeau for no. 36 and torche for nos. 37 and 38.

    It's clear that Cohen uses flambeau to refer to a long torch; for the CERES standing variety (Cohen 33 and 34, the denarius and middle bronze, respectively) he uses the term flambeau. These scarce coins depict a long torch:

    Cohen 33 Ceres with flambeau, BMCRE 78. RIC 668 describes this simply as "torch."

    canvas 1.png
    Cohen 34, Ceres with flambeau allumé, BMCRE 966. RIC 1619 as "lighted torch."

    So, Cohen must mean a short torch when he uses the term torche. We also know this because he uses this term to refer to a middle bronze depicting Ceres seated with a short transverse torch, no. 38 (RIC 1622, BMCRE 967), which was not issued with the long vertical torch reverse design. We see that Cohen is absolutely consistent in his use of flambeau to refer to a long torch and torche to refer to a short torch.

    It's clear that my new sestertius is RIC 1621, for it depicts Ceres with a "long torch." But RIC 1621 cites Cohen 37, which is the variety for which Cohen uses torche, by which he means "short torch."

    Therefore, RIC 1620 refers to this coin, for it depicts Ceres with a "torch." RIC 1620 cites Cohen 36, which Cohen describes with the word flambeau, by which he means "long torch."

    canvas 2.png

    Therefore, the second error is that RIC is vague and in error in translating Cohen’s descriptions.

    Unfortunately, even a new reference, Szaivert (MIR), is likewise confused about the various Ceres types and mismatches the descriptions and the references, perhaps reflecting the confusion provoked by RIC’s errors.

    In conclusion:

    There are TWO varieties of this coin in the denarius and sestertius denominations, an earlier one depicting Faustina's intermediate hairstyle coupled with Ceres holding a short transverse torch, and a later one depicting Faustina's late hairstyle coupled with Ceres holding a long, vertical torch. (The type depicting Ceres holding a poppy in addition to grain ears -- RIC 1623, Cohen 39 -- always has a short transverse torch and is probably best considered a minor variant of that type).

    There is ONE variety of this coin in the middle bronze denomination; it depicts Faustina with her intermediate coiffure and Ceres with a short, transverse torch.

    Mattingly errs in RIC when he cites Cohen in his description of the two sestertii with the Ceres seated reverse design.

    Let's see your CERES reverse types, Faustina sestertii, examples of erroneous RIC listings, or whatever you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
    Factor, 7Calbrey, eparch and 17 others like this.
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  3. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Another great Faustina Friday, RC. You ought to write a book.

    If I am reading this correctly, I believe I have RIC 1620, sestertius. Short torch.

    Faustina II - Sestertius Ceres seated Mar 2020 (1).jpg

    Faustina II Æ Sestertius
    (161- 176 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right / CER[ES] S-C, Ceres seated left on cista, holding two corn-ears and (short) lighted torch.
    RIC 1620; Cohen 36.
    (24.87 grams / 30 x 27 mm)
  4. shanxi

    shanxi Well-Known Member

    Faustina_II_47.jpg Faustina_II_62.jpg Faustina_II_R798_fac.jpg Interesting read:

    I have both Denarii with Ceres seated and the one with Ceres standing, and thanks to your post I learned something about them:
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
  5. shanxi

    shanxi Well-Known Member

    The same difference in the hairstyle you find for RIC 715 Salus:

    RIC 715, CRE 216

    RIC 715, CRE 214
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Nice! I still don't have an example of that one in my collection.

    That's the correct RIC number, but it's actually Cohen 37.
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

  8. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Nice coins everyone.

    I suspect that you have been looking forward to using this play of words, RC:) Funny.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  9. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Great writeup, RC. It is an enjoyable read. Got to take a second look at my coins after work today...
    Roman Collector likes this.
  10. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Lovely coins RC! I have this to contribute to the war effort
    Faustina I Sestertius RIC Rome 1128.JPG
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