FORTVNAE MVLIEBRI -- to womanly Fortune

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Faustina Jr FORTVNAE MVLIEBRI denarius.jpg
    Faustina Junior, AD 161-175
    Roman AR denarius, 2.82 g, 17.7 mm, 2 h
    Rome, AD 161-175
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right
    Rev: FORTVNAE MVLIEBRI, Fortuna Muliebris enthroned left, holding rudder and cornucopiae
    Refs: RIC 683; BMCRE 96; Cohen 107; RCV 5253; CRE 181.

    Fortuna Muliebris (Womanly Fortune) is an aspect of the Roman goddess of luck and fate who cared for the well-being and luck of women, especially married women. According to a legend recorded by Plutarch (De fortuna Romanorum 5.7), worship of Fortuna Muliebris was instituted at a time when Rome was under attack in the 5th century BC by Cnaeus Marcius Coriolanus, a descendant of Ancus Marcius, an early king. Once a hero of Rome, he later led an army of Volscians against the city, and refused all the pleadings of the senators and the priests to stop the attack. Until, that is, the matrons of Rome came out to plead with him, including his own mother, Veturia, with his wife and their two young children. They managed to convince him to call it off, and on the spot where Veturia talked him out of it he dedicated a temple to Fortuna Muliebris in honor of them.

    This temple was at the fourth milestone of the Via Latina, one of the main roads out of Rome. Tradition has is that the temple was founded prior to the mid-4th century BC on the 6th day of July, which became its festival day. Her statue there could only be touched by matrons who had been married once, and was credited with being able to speak. After its consecration, Plutarch (ibid) reports the statue pronounced, "Women of the City, you have dedicated me by the holy law of Rome."

    It is likely that Fortuna was a goddess of women and childbirth from earliest times; her oldest cult-center at Praeneste was dedicated to Fortuna Primigenia (First-born Fortune), whose epithet not only referenced her ancient nature but her connection with children and birth, and the site of her oracle in a small cave connects her to the mother goddess of the earth. So, though the epithet of Muliebris may not be her oldest one, the idea of Fortuna as concerned with the fates of women is very ancient. As childbirth was a very risky undertaking in ancient times, Fortuna may have been invoked to preserve the health of the mother and newborn baby, and bring a quick, easy and (relatively) painless delivery.

    As the empress bears the braided hairstyle characteristic of the posthumous issues honoring her, this coin was likely issued in the final years of her reign, after Faustina Junior had delivered thirteen children in ten or eleven pregnancies (two or three sets of twins). It’s not hard to imagine that this coin may have been issued as a prayer of thanks for the health of the empress during the course of her reproductive years.

    Like most depictions of Fortuna, the figure of Fortuna Muliebris on this denarius of Faustina Junior is rendered as a female figure seated, which represents a wish for the stability of good fortune. She steers a rudder in her right hand, symbolizing Fate who guides, and holds a cornucopiae in her left, symbolizing the abundance that chance may bring.

    Faustina Junior certainly owed a great debt to this divinity, for fortune was hers; she was daughter of an emperor, married to an emperor, and survived multiple childbirths in an age when more than one out of ten births resulted in the death of the mother.

    As always, post anything you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Interesting coin. Congratulations.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Every coin has a story to tell. That's what's so fun about ancient numismatics!
    dougsmit and Severus Alexander like this.
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Your are correct of course, but some tell better stories, eh?
    Roman Collector likes this.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    What a great reverse type, much more interesting than (though related to?) my dull old Salus:
    Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 1.01.17 PM.jpg
    dlhill132, randygeki, TIF and 4 others like this.
  7. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    That’s an interesting Fortuna type and new to me. Thanks for the writeup!

    Here’s a FORTVNAE MANENTI ('Abiding Fortune'), a reverse type unique to Commodus. Instead of her usual rudder, she can be seen here holding a bridled horse... I don’t recall reading a solid theory explaining the iconography.

    AR Denarius
    2.33g, 18.7mm
    Rome mint, AD 186-189
    RIC 191A (scarce); Sear 5642
    O: M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT, laureate head right.
    R: FORTVNAE MANENTI, Fortuna seated left, holding horse by bridle in right hand and corncucopiae in left; C V P P in exergue.
  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    What an interesting type! Thanks for showing and telling.

    If I had that coin I would put it on my "unique" page of reverses that are unique to a particular person.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  9. TIF

    TIF Well that didn't last long :D Supporter

    How interesting! Thanks for the story, RC. I was unfamiliar with the type.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  10. TIF

    TIF Well that didn't last long :D Supporter

    Why are you limiting that page to coins you own? It's a wonderful page-- I'd like to see more such coins without having to wait for you to acquire them :D
    Severus Alexander likes this.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I agree with you both. I like that page and would like to see you add other coins but I did all my pages with a rule that I only used coins I photographed. There were a few that belonged to others when I photographed them but I had to photograph them. That way there was no question of copyright ownership. That explains the lack of gold. This is the only aureus I ever photographed and that was in the 1980's when I shot it for a friend. I since have lost the print I copied to make this little file and did not even save a larger JPG.
  12. lrbguy

    lrbguy Well-Known Member

    Excellent writeup, RC. I hope you won't mind if I tag along. My example of this reverse type has a slightly different spin on the obverse hairstyle insofar as the parting of the hair is concerned. More importantly perhaps, your coin has an unmistakable rudder on the reverse, but mine does not show the full emblem of Fortuna. The image on my coin might be mistaken for a scepter were it not for the inscription.

    I managed to get the coin in December, but still haven't photoed it. Here's the seller's pic: L806-3572970l-r142.jpg
  13. Aleph

    Aleph Active Member

    I wonder if there is a tie in with the Carmentalia, a Roman festival dedicated to childbirth and celebrated in January?
  14. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Nope! I don't mind at all! I encourage it! That's a lovely example. You can see on your coin that the empress is wearing a palla, which, along with her hairstyle, is another similarity between coins of this issue and those issued posthumously in her honor. On the majority of Faustina's posthumous issues, she wears a palla, a woven rectangle made of wool that a Roman matron wore over her stola when she went outside. The garment was draped over the shoulders and around the body or over the head and was fastened by brooches, which were worn lower on the body than would be depicted on coinage. The garment was the feminine version of the pallium that a man would wear.

    Faustina Jr CONSECRATIO Pietas denarius 1.jpg
    Faustina Junior, AD 161-175
    Roman AR denarius, 2.75 gm 19.1 mm, 11 h
    Rome, AD 175-180
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA PIA, bare-headed and draped bust, right
    Rev: CONSECRATIO, Pietas (or Vesta), veiled and draped, standing facing, head left, sacrificing over lighted altar from patera in left hand and holding vertical scepter in right hand.
    Refs: RIC 741; BMCRE 711; RSC 66c; RCV 5214; CRE 204.

    Yes, it does make one wonder. There are no coins in the Roman imperial series that directly reference the Carmentalia or Carmenta or her epithets, Postvorta and Antevorta. We don't know much about the festival, and there is some evidence that Carmenta worship was indeed associated with childbirth, but there is little evidence that the festival itself was to celebrate birth per se. Her epithets, Postvorta (looking backward) and Antevorta (looking forward), reference her power of looking back into the past and forward into the future. Thus, Carmenta may better be seen as a female version of Janus. Here is a very good and scholarly discussion of what it known about the festival.

    However, if the festival celebrated childbirth in some way--and it may well have--it makes one wonder if perhaps some of the Fecunditas issues of the various empresses were issued as part of the Carmentalia celebrations.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
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