Faustina I Sestertius, posthumous issue, struck after
141 AD, Rome.
OBVERSE: DIVA FAVSTINA, draped bust right.
REVERSE: AVGVSTA around, S-C across fields, Ceres
holding corn-ears downwards in right hand and short
torch in left.
RIC 1117; BMC 1512-1513; Sear
Faustina Senior Denarius
Obverse: DIVA FAVSTINA, draped bust right
Reverse: AVGVSTA, scepter resting against throne of
RIC 377, RSC 131, BMC 454
Annia Galeria Faustina, sometimes referred to as Faustina I (Latin: Faustina
Major; born on February 16 around 100 AD; died in October or November of
140 AD), was a Roman empress and wife of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius.
She died early in the principate of Antoninus Pius, but continued to be
prominently commemorated as a diva, posthumously playing a prominent symbolic
role in Antoninus Pius' régime.
Faustina was the only known daughter of consul and prefect Marcus Annius
Verus and Rupilia Faustina. Her brothers were consul Marcus Annius
Libo and praetor Marcus Annius Verus. Her maternal aunts were Roman
Empress Vibia Sabina and Matidia Minor. Her paternal grandfather
was named Marcus Annius Verus, like her father, while her maternal grandparents
were Salonia Matidia (niece of Roman Emperor Trajan) and suffect consul
Lucius Scribonius Libo Rupilius Frugi Bonus. Faustina was born and raised
As a private citizen, she married Antoninus Pius between 110 and 115 CE.
Faustina and Antoninus had a very happy marriage. Faustina bore Antoninus
four children, two sons and two daughters. These were:
- Marcus Aurelius
Fulvius Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been
found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome.
- Marcus Galerius
Aurelius Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been
found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome. He is commemorated by
a high-quality series of bronze coins, possibly struck at Rome, though
their language is Greek.
- Aurelia Fadilla
(died in 135); she married Aelius Lamia Silvanus or Syllanus. She appears
to have had no children with her husband and her sepulchral inscription
has been found in Italy.
- Annia Galeria Faustina
Minor or Faustina the Younger (between 125-130 to 175), a future Roman
Empress; she married her maternal cousin, future Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
She was the only child who survived to see Antoninus and Faustina elevated
to the imperial rank.
According to the Historia Augusta, there were rumours while Antoninus was
proconsul of Asia that Faustina comported herself with "excessive frankness
On July 10, 138, her uncle, the emperor Hadrian, died and her husband became
the new emperor, as Antoninus was Hadrian's adopted son and heir.
Faustina became Roman Empress and the Senate accorded her the title of
Augusta. As empress, Faustina was well respected and was renowned
for her beauty and wisdom. Throughout her life, as a private citizen
and as empress, Faustina was involved in assisting charities for the poor
and sponsoring and assisting in the education of Roman children, particularly
girls. A letter between Fronto and Antoninus Pius has sometimes been
taken as an index of the latter's devotion to her.
After Antoninus Pius' accession to the principate, the couple never left
Italy; instead, they divided their time between Rome, Antoninus' favourite
estate at Lorium, and other properties at Lanuvium, Tusculum, and Signia.
Faustina's personal style was evidently much admired and emulated.
Her distinctive hairstyle, consisting of braids pulled back in a bun behind
or on top of her head, was imitated for two or three generations in the
Several provincial groups chose to honour her while she was empress: a
company of couriers in Ephesus named themselves after her, while a company
of clapper-players in Puteoli dedicated an altar to her in her own lifetime.
Death and legacy:
Faustina died near Rome in 140, perhaps at Antoninus Pius' estate at Lorium.
Antoninus was devastated at Faustina's death and took several steps to
honor her memory. He had the Senate deify her (her apotheosis was
portrayed on an honorary column) and dedicate the Temple of Faustina to
her in the Roman Forum. The Senate authorized gold and silver statues
of her, including an image to appear in the circus where it might be displayed
in a carpentum (a kind of covered waggon) or currus elephantorum (a cart
drawn by elephants). He also ordered various coins with her portrait
struck, inscribed DIVA FAVSTINA ("Divine Faustina") and elaborately decorated.
Antoninus also established a charity called Puellae Faustinianae ("Girls
of Faustina") to assist orphaned Roman girls and created a new alimenta
(see Grain supply to the city of Rome). Her remains were interred
in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Certain cities struck coin issues in
honour of the "divine Faustina" the most notable such cities were Delphi,
Alexandria, Bostra, and Nicopolis. Martin Beckmann suggests that
the coins of Nicopolis might have been minted at Rome and given out as
imperial largesse at the Actian Games. The coins issued in the wake
of Faustina's funeral illustrate her elaborate funeral pyre, which may
have influenced the design of later private mausolea; the deities Pietas
and Aeternitas, among others; and an eagle (or less often a winged genius)
bearing a figure aloft, with the legend CONSECRATIO (i.e. Faustina's ascension
into heaven). Coins of Faustina were sometimes incorporated into
jewellery and worn as amulets.
The posthumous cult of Faustina was exceptionally widespread, and Faustina's
image continued to be omnipresent throughout Antoninus Pius' principate.
A colossal marble head, believed to be that of Faustina and discovered
in 2008, figured as one of several monumental imperial statues at the ancient
site of Sagalassos in today's Turkey. In Olympia, Herodes Atticus
dedicated a nymphaeum that displayed statues of Faustina and other Antonines
as well as his own ancestors. Faustina also appears on the Parthian
Monument at Ephesus commemorating members of the imperial family.
Bergmann and Watson have characterized the commemoration of Faustina as
central to Antoninus Pius' political persona. One larger-than-life
statue has been discovered in situ near the Termini railway station at
Rome; it appears to depict Faustina as Concordia, with a patera and cornucopia,
and would have been displayed alongside statues of Diana Lucifera and Apollo-Sol
in baths privately owned but available to the public.
Antoninus and Faustina were officially held up as such exemplars of conjugal
harmony that newlyweds were directed to pray at an altar of Antoninus and
Faustina that they might live up to their example. This was evidently
the case in Ostia, and probably so in Rome.
The Temple of Faustina is thought to have been dedicated in 144 CE.
It is a grand hexastyle structure with Corinthian columns, possibly designed
originally to be a temple of Ceres. Depictions on coins appear to
show a cult image of Faustina seated on a throne and holding a tall staff
in her left hand. Faustina's portrait on coins from this period is
often crowned as well as veiled, which may also recall a feature of Faustina's
cult image from the temple.
The deified Faustina was associated particularly closely with Ceres, who
featured prominently on coins of Faustina; for some years, the torch-bearing
Ceres was the dominant motif in her gold coinage. Herodes Atticus
venerated Faustina as the “new Demeter” (the Greek equivalent of Ceres)
at a private sanctuary he established outside Rome, now the church of Sant'Urbano.
In addition to Ceres, Vesta and Juno feature prominently in Faustina's
coinage. She was also associated with Magna Mater and at Cyrene with
Isis; at Sardis she was worshipped conjointly with Artemis.
Ten years after Faustina's death, a new commemorative coinage was introduced,
featuring the legend Aeternitas ('eternity'); such coins may have been
introduced to be distributed at a public ceremony in her memory.
After Antoninus Pius' death, his adoptive sons and successors Marcus Aurelius
and Lucius Verus erected the Column of Antoninus Pius, which dramatically
depicted Antoninus and Faustina being elevated heavenward together on the
back of a winged figure.
Faustina continued to be commemorated in certain Renaissance depictions
as a “model wife”.
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