Faustina Friday -- Antefixae Edition

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 12, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    We know that Faustina II died sometime during the winter of 175-176, at Halala, a small town in the Taurus Mountains of Cappadocia, where Marcus Aurelius had been campaigning following the revolt of Avidius Cassius. Szaivert (p. 235) dates her death to sometime in November, AD 175 because medallions issued in her name to celebrate New Years, AD 176, already used posthumous titulature for her and they would have been minted some time in December in advance of New Years day. Szaivert reasonably assumes it would have taken some weeks for the news to reach Rome from Cappacocia, therefore placing her death in November.

    Following the empress' death, a series of posthumous coins were issued to commemorate her deification and consecration, about which I have previously written. Four obverse legends are used on these issues. In likely chronological order, they read:


    Among these bearing the final posthumous inscription, DIVA FAVSTINA PIA, are a denarius and a sestertius bearing the inscription CONSECRATIO and featuring a rectangular altar enclosure with closed doors and ornaments at the corners of the roof, which have puzzled the authors of the various major references.

    Faustina Jr CONSECRATIO altar denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.36 g, 17.1 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, 4th posthumous issue, AD 176 or later.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA PIA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: CONSECRATIO, altar-enclosure, with door in front and antefixae on corners above.
    Refs: RIC 746; BMCRE 725-27; Cohen 75; RCV 5217; MIR 61-4/10; CRE 158.

    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman orichalcum Sestertius, 19.75 g, 30.0 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, 4th posthumous issue, AD 176 or later.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA PIA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: CONSECRATIO S C, altar-enclosure, with door in front and antefixae on corners above.
    Refs: RIC 1706; BMCRE 1579-81; Cohen 76; RCV 5230; MIR 60-6/10.

    As I noted above, the nature of the ornaments at the corners of the roof of the altar-enclosure have puzzled numismatists over the years.

    Cohen notes the altar is "sometimes ornamented with two palmettes."

    Mattingly and Seydenham (RIC 3, pp. 273, 349), following Cohen, describe the reverse as "Altar (sometimes decorated with palms)."

    Later, writing in BMCRE4 (p. 491) Mattingly describes the reverse as "rectangular altar, with horns l. and r., and door in front."

    Sear (p. 338) similarly describes the reverse as "altar-enclosure with doors in front and horns visible above."

    These ornaments are more prominent on some coins than others, depending on the die engraver. See, for example, this sestertius. This must have been what Cohen had in mind when he called them "palmettes."

    Faustina Jr CONSECRATIO S C altar with palmettes sestertius.jpg
    Roman orichalcum Sestertius, 19.75 g, 30.0 mm, 1 h.

    Palmettes? Horns? What are those things? They are most likely antefixae, ornaments placed at the eaves of a classical building to conceal the ends of the joint tiles of the roof. The Wikipedia article on antefixae illustrates many antefixae from a variety of cultures in antiquity, such as these Etruscan and Roman examples.


    For a fascinating article about ancient roofing styles and construction, see here.

    Do you have any coins that illustrate roofs with antefixae??? Let's see them! Post anything you feel is relevant!
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  3. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    As always, great coins and enlightening write up RC!
    I learn something new everytime you make a post:bookworm::)
    I was happy to add this hefty honey to my collection a couple months ago:
    Diva Faustina Junior. Died AD 175/6. Æ Sestertius (29,4mm, 18.28 g, 12h). Consecration issue. Rome mint. Struck under Marcus Aurelius, circa AD 175-176. Draped bust right / Altar with closed doors. RIC III 1706 (Aurelius); Unearthed Marne 2020
  4. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Another nice writeup, RC. I remember reading about these architectural decorations. Maybe some travel guidebooks on Greek temples.

    Great to see examples in photos, and their representations on coins. :)
  5. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    I'm doubtful of Szaivert's argument that Faustina II probably died c. Nov. 175 rather than early in 176.

    How does he know that her earliest medallions as Diva were of 1 Jan. 176 rather than 1 Jan. 177?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2021
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I think he is suggesting 1 January 176 as the date of the medallions, indicating she died late in 175.
  7. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    Yes, he is saying "If medallions were already struck for Diva Faustina for distribution on 1 January 176, then she presumably died c. Nov. 175." But we don't in fact know whether or not any medallions of Diva Faustina were distributed on 1 Jan. 176.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  8. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi All,

    I've posted some of these before. The first two are Roman monuments depicted on Alexandrian coins. Both show antefixea, which I take to be a common architectural roof ornament in Greek and Roman architecture.



    These next two are purely Alexandrian.



    From BMC Alexandria: "The extraordinary type of an Altar of great size, assuming the character of an edifice, the determination of which I owe to my colleague Mr. Murray, is peculuar to the Alexandrian series. It is represented as hexastyle, except in one type (Pl. xxix. 1204), which is tetrastyle, no doubt on account of the statue. The horns are like aplustria, and at the corners beneath each is a dolphin (see esp. 882, 1200). Upon the roof is in the centre a mass of fuel from which a flame rises, strangely varied in one case (1204). One type shows the edifice hung with garlands (1255). In some there is a statue before an altar of Egyptian form: the statue cannot be determined from the museum specimens (1200, 1201). In most there is between each column a curule chair, with in some cases a wreath, usually upright but at least once flat (882, 1204, 1255). It seems probable that the altar is that of the Emperor, and that the curule chairs were intended for him and the other imperial personages, the wreaths standing for them in their absence. If this attribution be correct, no doubt the altar was part of the Kaisareion, or Caesareum."

    - Broucheion
  9. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Do the thingies on the side of this altar count as antefixae?
    Claudius II Milan RIC 261 (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).JPG
  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ...i always lQQk 4ward to RC's Faustina fridays...:)
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  11. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Faustina II, sestertius
  12. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    The style of the ornaments on the denarius is most curious. I know it's idiosyncratic, but it almost looks like the top section is a small rowing boat with a prow and stern.
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