Featured The Stephane on Roman Imperial Coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 21, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Post your coins depicting someone wearing the stephane, comments, or anything you feel is relevant!

    Though often referred to in the numismatic literature as a diadem, the a stephane is considered to be a specific subtype of diadem in the form of an upright, tiara-like headdress, standing free from the head.

    In Greek art, and in Roman copies of Greek works, goddesses are frequently depicted wearing the stephane, such as on such famous works as the Diana of Versailles, Ceres Ludovisi and Venus of Capua.

    Musée du Louvre Database Online reference number Ma 589.

    9Ceres Ludovisi 3523.jpg
    http://ancientrome.ru/art/artworken/img.htm?id=3523 Palazzo Altemps reference number 8596.

    9Venus de Capua S10.19Aphrodite.jpg
    http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/S10.19.html Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli reference number Naples 251.

    Archaeologists have found several stephanes dating to early Greek times, primarily in funerary contexts. However, the last known ancient stephanes are from the third century BC. After that, they vanish entirely from the archaeological record in Roman territory, despite the abundance of other types of jewelry that have been recovered, such as earrings, necklaces, and hairpins. This strongly suggests that to the Romans, the stephane served a symbolic function, not as mere jewelry. The stephane in Roman art appears limited to goddesses and royalty and it may never have been worn in the course of ordinary dress.[1] Thus, the stephane had become a symbol that had strong associations with divinity and hereditary kingship. In this aspect, the stephane can be seen as the female equivalent of the laureate or radiate crown.

    This symbolic association of the empress with the goddesses of the pantheon seems to be the main function of the stephane on Roman coins; other possible purposes seem unlikely upon a close examination of the coinage. Several observations can be made:

    • The stephane does not indicate deification, for it is depicted on coins of living and deceased (and deified) women alike.
    • The use of the stephane was not restricted to wives, mothers or one particular kind of relative of the reigning emperor, for it may appear on coins depicting the emperor’s niece or grandmother, as in the case of Matidia or Julia Maesa.
    • The stephane was not restricted to one emperor or dynastic house. From the time of Trajan onwards, the stephane had become a part of the standard repertoire of coin symbolism, judging from the high number of depictions from then on.
    • The stephane was not limited to one denomination; all coins from aureus to as were apparently considered apt surfaces.
    • Lastly, all the women depicted with the stephane have been granted the title of Augusta.

    The first stephane to appear on Roman coins is on goddesses like Roma, Venus, Vesta and personifications like Fortuna and Libertas in the first century BC, and this was continued through the early decades of the empire.

    BMCRR 391/3

    canvas 1.png
    BMCRE p. 307, 71

    Although Roman women appear on coins from the time of Octavia, Roman imperial coinage does not depict any female members of the imperial household wearing a stephane until Marciana, the sister of the emperor Trajan. Charles B. Rose has argued that first century unease with conflating royalty and divinity is the reason the stephane does not appear on named numismatic portraits of imperial women from the mint of Rome until the reign of Trajan.[2]

    Marciana CONSECRATIO denarius.jpg
    Marciana, Augusta, c. AD 105-112/4.
    Roman AR Denarius, 2.72 g, 19 mm.
    Rome Mint, AD 112.
    Obv: DIVA AVGVSTA MARCIANA, diademed and draped bust right.
    Rev: CONSECRATIO, eagle standing left, head right.
    Refs: RIC II 743; BMC 650 (Trajan); Hill 562; RSC 4; RCV 3328.

    The stephane continued to be a feature of many numismatic portraits up through the reign of Aurelian, on coins issued for his wife, Severina. However, not all women of the imperial family were depicted wearing this headgear. For example, Lucilla, Crispina, Manlia Scantilla, Didia Clara, and Plautilla are never portrayed with the stephane. Why this may be is unknown.

    On coins of Faustina II in particular, the stephane appears to be but one of many choices a die engraver could make for any particular reverse type. Faustina may appear bare-headed, or wearing one or more strands of pearls about the head, a veil, or a stephane, such as on these denarii of the IVNO reverse type. Why this occurs for some reverse types and not others or its purpose are numismatic mysteries.

    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.01 g, 19.6 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, AD 161-164.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust of Faustina II, right, wearing stephane.
    Rev: IVNO, Juno standing left, holding patera and scepter; peacock at feet.
    Refs: RIC 688 var. (stephane); BMCRE 109; RSC 120b; RCV 5255 var. (stephane); CRE 189.

    Faustina Jr IVNO denarius pearls Victor Clark.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 2.78 g, 18.2 mm, 11 h.
    Rome, AD 161-164.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust of Faustina II, right, wearing single strand of pearls.
    Rev: IVNO, Juno standing left, holding patera and scepter; peacock at feet.
    Refs: RIC 688; BMCRE 107,108, 111; RSC 120a; RCV 5255; CRE 188.

    But on coins issued for other empresses, the stephane appears to be a fixed feature for any given reverse type. For some empresses, such as Julia Maesa or Julia Domna, the stephane is used on only a few issues. However, Julia Mamaea, with the exception of her first issues, is uniformly depicted wearing the stephane, as are the subsequent empresses Tranquillina, Otacilia Severa, and Herennia Etruscilla.

    Herennia Etruscilla, AD 249-251.
    Roman orichalcum sestertius, 14.04 gm, 28.3 mm.
    Rome, AD 250-251.
    Obv: HERENNIA ETRVSCILLA AVG, diademed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: FECVNDITAS AVG SC, Fecunditas standing left, right hand extended to child standing at her feet; holding cornucopiae.
    Refs: RIC 134a; Sear 9504; Cohen 9; Hunter 12.


    1. Hamelink, Anique. "Symbol or Jewellery? The Stephane and Its Wearer in the Roman World [1st-3rd Centuries AD]." Student Repository, 30 Jan. 2015, studenttheses.universiteitleiden.nl/handle/1887/31709.

    2. Rose, CB, cited in Harvey, Tracene. The Visual Representation of Livia on the Coins of the Roman Empire. Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque Et Archives Canada, 2012.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Herennia Etruscilla sestertius of Viminacium featuring a stephane



    Very interesting topic @Roman Collector. And I must say, some of the stephanes remind me of a high school prom queen crown.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Great writeup, as always.

    Faustina II:

    Faustina II with children - jpg version.jpg

    Sallustia Orbiana

    jpg version Sallustia Orbiana. Augusta, AD 225-227. AR Denarius.jpg

    Julia Mamaea (or: diadem)

    Julia Mamaea AR Denarius.jpg

    Tranquillina (with Gordian III)

    Gordian III - Tranquillina Anchialus (Thrace) - jpg version.jpg

    Otacilia Severa

    Otacilia Severa Antoninianus with Concordia reverse.jpg
    Otacilia Severa hippo COMBINED IMAGE.jpg

    Herennia Etruscilla:

    Herennia Etruscilla jpg.jpg

    And, possibly a stephane worn with a crown, on a Roman Republican coin of Hosidius Geta portraying Diana on the obverse:

    New Hosidius Geta Diane-Boar COMBINED.jpg
  5. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    I’m starting to think that @Roman Collector has a real crush on Roman women... :p

    Interesting post as always, thank you.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Excellent post, thank you! Do you know if the stephane appeared at all after Galeria Valeria?
    stephane galeria valeria.jpg

    I was surprised how few I could find with any sort of detail in my collection. The best detail I could find was on this Severina denarius:
    stephane severina.jpg

    Also a little on this Herennia Etruscilla:
    stephane etruscilla.jpg
    I'd like to see some others with jewels or other details on them...
  7. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

  8. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice writeup, RC. Great info, and cool coin photos. :)


    Otacilia Severa:
    Otacilia Severa Denarius.jpg

    Faustina Junior:
  9. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Have to squeeze in one of Agustus :D

    AE 24, Macedon, Amphipolis, 27 BC - 14 AD
    24 x 21 mm, 7.885 g
    RPC I 1627; SNG Copenhagen 94;

    The reference says "being crowned by male figure", maybe the figure is Divus Julius Caesar. A cowning ofAugustus by Divus Julius can be also seen on RPC I 1650, SNG Cop 283, a coin auctioned at AMCC, Lot 68, Auction 1 (a beauty which I could not win :D, so I got myself this one)

    Ob.: ΑΜ(ΦΙ)ΠO-ΛΕΙΤΩΝ, draped bust of Artemis Tauropolis right wearing stephane, with bow and quiver over shoulder; circle of dots
    Rev.: ΚΑΙΣΑΡ [ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟ]Σ, statue of Augustus in military dress raising arm, standing left on dais decorated with three bucrania, and being crowned by male figure (Divus Julius Caesar?) wearing toga; circle of dots

    upload_2021-3-21_21-55-41.png upload_2021-3-21_21-55-50.png
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Severus Alexander it's your mother Julia Mamaea Ae Sestertius 228 AD Obv bust right draped and wearing stephane right. Rv. Felicitas standing left leaning on column RIC 676 24.86 grms 31 mm Photo by W. Hansen jmamaeas1.jpg Though the sestertii of Severus Alexander are far more numerous and on the whole better executed than those minted during the reign of Septimius Severus, one can see on this coin that they are starting to cut a few corners. You know as I look at this coin she does sort of look like Severus Alexander.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Do people think this is a stephane or a diadem? Or perhaps just a pair of jeweled devil horns?

    Severina (wife of Aurelian), billon Denarius, issue 11, early-Sep 275 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right with diadem (or stephane), SEVERINA AVG / Rev. Venus Felix stdg. left holding apple(?) & sceptre, VENVS FELIX. In exergue: Γ [gamma] (Rome, Officina 3). RIC V-1 6, Cohen 14, Sear RCV III 11709; MER/RIC [Monnaies de l’Empire Romain/Roman Imperial Coinage] 1857 (temp.) (see http://www.ric.mom.fr/en/coin/1857) .19 mm., 2.1 g.

    Severina VENVS FELIX jpg version.jpg
  12. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    • A9F4C745-1B15-4C07-BC93-AC024D1B7DC4.jpeg A5D70DBA-F90C-49AB-A147-D0AD4754F53A.jpeg
    • Reduced weight follis - AD 324 to 325
    • O: Helena diademed? bust right - FL HELENA AVGVSTVA
    • R: Securitas standing left - SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE
    • Killingholme hoard (North Yorkshire)
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I think Sabina has a stephane perched on her head, though it is kind of hard to say since whatever it is, it is in profile.

    It seems to me that whoever was responsible for assembling her head dress must have had a background in engineering.

    D-Camera  Sabina, denarius,  Concordia, , NGC VF, possibly 128 -36 to 37-138 AD 11-13-20.jpg
  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Roman Republic
    C. Hosidius C. f. Geta.
    AR Denarius
    16-17 mm, 3.75 g
    Roma (Rome), 64 BC.
    Obv. III VIR / GETA, draped bust of Diana right, wearing stephane, bow and quiver over shoulder.
    Rev. Calydonian Boar standing right, pierced by spear and harried by hound below; C HOSIDI C F in exergue.
    Craw 407/2.
    Ex: Auctiones
  15. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    It doesn't look like a stephane nor a diadem to me - maybe some sort of hair fashion ornament they had back in those days....
    DonnaML likes this.
  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Great post @Roman Collector , as always. It’s amazing how many details are shown on our coins that we recognize but don’t fully understand until a thread like this comes along. Very neat.

    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  17. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I love the devil's horns idea :hilarious: but that is definitely a stephane. (On viagra, maybe?)
  18. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    The earliest representation of a stephane on a Sestertius in my collection is on the head of Plotina:

  19. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Biblical Kingdoms Supporter

    Interesting article and coins, @Roman Collector — I’ve posted a Nabataean coin on which Queen Shuquailat (right) appears to be wearing a stephane-like headdress.


  20. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Venus wearing stephane and jewellery (earrings and necklace):
    Römische Republik – RRC 382:1b, Denar, C. Naevius Balbus, Victoria in Triga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer C. Naevius Balbus, denarius serratus, 79 BC, Rome mint. Obv: diademed head of Venus right, SC behind. Rev: Victory in triga right, C NAE BALB in exergue; above, CLXXXX. 17mm, 3.72g. Ref: RRC 382/1b.

    Pietas in similar attire:
    Römische Republik – RRC 308:1b, Denar, Herennius, Catanean u. Pietas .png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Herennius, AR denarius, 108–107 BC, Rome mint. Obv: PIETAS; head of Pietas r. Rev: M HERENNI; one of the Catanean brothers Amphinomos and Anapias carrying his father r. 19mm, 3.94g. Ref: RRC 308/1b.

    Pietas with stephane but without jewellery:
    Römische Republik – RRC 374:1, Denar, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, Pietas Elefant.jpg
    Roman Republic, imperatorial issue of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR denarius, 81 BC, Northern Italian mint. Obv: diademed head of Pietas r.; to right, stork standing r. Rev: Q C M P I; elephant standing l., wearing bell around neck. 17mm, 3.55g. Ref: RRC 374/1.

    Concordia with veil and stephane:
    Römische Republik – RRC 494:2a, Denar, Mussius Longus, Concordia und Venus Cloacina.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Mussidius Longus, AR denarius, 42 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Head of Concordia r., wearing veil; behind, CONCORDIA upwards. Rev: Shrine of Venus Cloacina with two statues, inscribed CLOACIN; above, L M[VSSID]IVS LONGVS. 17.5mm, 3.68g. Ref: RRC 494/42a.
  21. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Sabina's triple stephane:

    Sabina VESTA stephane.jpg
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