Faustina I denarius -- scarce AETERNITAS type

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jun 10, 2018.


Which deity is depicted on this coin's reverse?

  1. Aeternitas

    2 vote(s)
  2. Juno

    1 vote(s)
  3. Pudicitia

    0 vote(s)
  4. Venus

    2 vote(s)
  5. Some sort of syncretism between various female deities

    0 vote(s)
  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This is the latest addition to my Faustina I collection, courtesy of @Ken Dorney .

    Several different deities are represented on the reverses of this empress, all bearing the inscription AETERNITAS: Aeternitas, Fortuna, Providentia, Ceres, Juno, Venus, Vesta, and Pietas, each identifiable on the basis of their attributes (Ceres holding corn ears and torch, for example). However, the figure portrayed on the reverse of this coin is enigmatic, with Aeternitas, Juno, Pudicitia and Venus all contenders. BMC 4 (p. 42) states, "The sceptre suggests Juno here, but the gesture with the veil might seem more appropriate to Venus perhaps, while the stars on the body directly suggest Aeternitas." Elsewhere (p. 54), the authors suggest Juno or Pudicitia. Temeryazev and Makerenko (p. 54) identify Venus as the reverse type.

    Whoever is depicted on the reverse, this coin is found with three different obverse inscriptions:

    1. DIVA FAVSTINA (RIC 346a; BMC * p. 54; RSC 40; Sear --); my coin is this variety.
    2. DIVA AVG FAVSTINA (RIC 346b; BMC 280; RSC 41; Sear --); this appears to be the most common of the three varieties.
    3. DIVAE FAVSTINAE (RIC --; BMC 487; RSC 40a; Sear --); this is apparently rare.

    Obverse type 1 DIVA FAVSTINA (my coin):

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Venus denarius.jpg
    Diva Faustina Senior, died AD 140/1.
    Roman AR Denarius, 3.47 g, 18.1 mm, 6 h.
    Rome mint, under Antoninus Pius, AD 147-161.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, diademed and draped bust right.
    Rev: AETER-NITAS, Goddess standing front, head right, right hand drawing back fold of veil and holding transverse scepter in left; the middle of her body is seen bare, sown with stars.
    Refs: RIC 346a; BMCRE * p. 54; RSC 40; RCV --; CRE 144.

    I was able to find two other examples online. This one is Freeman & Sear Manhattan Sale I, lot 292, Jan 5, 2010:

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Venus denarius FREEMAN SEAR.jpg

    This one is the example at Wildwinds:

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Venus denarius Wildwinds.jpg

    The three coins were produced with three different reverse dies. My coin MAY be an obverse die-match with the Wildwinds example.

    Obverse type 2, DIVA AVG FAVSTINA (British Museum collection):

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Venus denarius DIVA AVG FAVSTINA BMC.jpg

    There are a handful of examples of this issue at acsearchinfo.

    Obverse type 3 DIVAE FAVSTINAE (British Museum collection):

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS Venus denarius DIVAE FAVSTINAE BMC.jpg

    I was able to find only one other example of this coin from a 2003 Rauch auction.

    Please post anything you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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  3. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Nice pick up RC, I wonder about the inscription under my Faustina temple sestertius, what god or deity Aeternitas refers to. 2015-01-07 01.07.50-18.jpg
    Ajax, galba68, Deacon Ray and 8 others like this.
  4. lrbguy

    lrbguy Well-Known Member

    Initially I did not have anything of this exact type to contribute to the discussion, but that has now changed. My second most recent purchase is one of your three types.

    Given the wide range of figures on her denarii that appear with the AETERNITAS legend, as well as an AVGVSTA legend, and the fact that most of her mintage was posthumous, I am dubious of the assumption that the inscription refers to the figure on the reverse at all. I am more inclined to associate this inscription with the deceased and lamented Faustina herself who has entered Aeternitas (i.e. the ageless, endless state).

    The footnote by Mattingly in BMC IV catalogue p. 42 at * follows somewhat the same train of thought: "Probably in all these cases it is the spirit of Aeternitas or Faustina I in eternity that is shown in different aspects. We differentiate them according to the characteristic attributes:
    scepter => Juno
    veil gesture => Venus [or I might suggest, Pudicitia]
    stars on body => Aeternitas directly
    Then he notes: All our attributions are to be taken as subject to this general reserve.

    I'd also like to tweak your ordering of the inscription types. What you are calling Obverse type 2, DIVA AVG FAVSTINA, is listed in BMC as the earliest/first of the three (#280). It is from issue 1 (c141 and immediately later) and has the earliest form of obverse legend. This is the one in which the description mentions the bare middle "sown with stars." I agree that it is the easiest to acquire, and that is what I just added. On my example the stars appear as just a couple of small dots on the midsection:


    Number 2 on the BMC list is DIVA FAVSTINA which Mattingly assigns as * after 353 with the note: "C.40 (rev. Aeternitas or Pudicitia): one might also think of Venus. This type is apparently the same as on No. 280."

    The 3rd type, with the dative obverse, he assigns to a special place at the end of her listings, classes it as "Exceptional Obverse," and assigns it #487.

    I had not realized this was such an involved little design.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    @lrbguy -- wow! Thank you for your insightful and detailed thoughts on this coin and for sharing a photo of the version in your own collection.

    Completely agree, though I doubt Pudicitia would ever be portrayed with a bare midriff, à la a young Britney Spears. That's why I postulated a syncretism of sorts between several goddesses.

    Yes, arranging by chronological order, as in BMCRE, makes more sense. I had arranged them by RIC number.

    Yes, it's amazing what a bit of in-depth study will reveal! Often, it raises more questions than it answers.

    Again, thanks so much for your thought-provoking response to my inquiry.
    galba68 likes this.
  6. lrbguy

    lrbguy Well-Known Member

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  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Salus standing, facing, perhaps?

    1243 Salus.jpg
  8. lrbguy

    lrbguy Well-Known Member

    Uh, oh...Looks like Eve got into the tree again!
    Roman Collector likes this.
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