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Faustina the Younger

I was immediately taken with this early portrait of Faustina II on my latest coin of interest. The details of both jeweled hair on the obverse and Venus' (jeweled?) dress on the reverse were also compelling. It seems unusually nicely engraved (excluding the legends), but that is only the opinion of someone for whom Roman Imperial is only an occasional distraction and not a well studied time period. This is Roman Imperial Coins (RIC) 515a with band of pearls on obverse and "rudder on dove" on reverse. Although the RIC description is "rudder on dove" - looking at a few of these in auction databases it seems more likely that this is intended to be a dolphin.

Faustina II, AR denarius (3.59g, 18mm), Augusta, AD 147-175, Rome, under Antoninus Pius, circa AD December 147 and March 149

Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, draped bust of Faustina II right, hair tied in bun at back of head, single circlet of pearls around

Rev: V-E-NVS, Venus standing facing, head left, holding apple and rudder with dolphin entwined

Ref: RIC 515a; Strack 520; BMC 1067; RSC 261

The Fasti Ostienses, a calendar of Roman magistrates and significant events from 49 BC to AD 175, found at Ostia, records in 901 AUC (147 AD) :

[...]x. K. April. aqua magna fuit pr. K. Dec. Aurelio Caesar.

[ex A]nnia Faustina filia nata est K. Decem. Aurelius Caesar

[trib] pot. iniit et Faustina Aug. cognominata est

"...ten days (or less) before the Kalends of April there was a great flood. The day before the Kalends of December a daughter [Domitia Faustina] was born to Aurelius Caesar by Annia Faustina. The Kalends of December Aurelius Caesar took on tribunician power and Faustina was named Augusta."

The apple on this coin recalling the golden apple of the Judgement of Paris. For information on this coin, I turned to:

Beckmann, M. (2021). Faustina the Younger: Coinage, Portraits, and Public Image. American Numismatic Society, New York, NY.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book available electronically from Beckmann uses die links between aureii to sequence the portraits of Faustina II. The silver coins largely follow the same sequence of portraits as the aureii with some variation. My coin has an early portrait type "Type 1a" seen on many denarii which has three bangs instead of the four that are normal on aureii. These coins were a large second issue, perhaps minted in a show of largess to celebrate the royal birth and elevation of Faustina to Augusta. After an initial and short run of Venus Venetrix, Juno Lucina, and Laetitia Publica in gold of which only Laetitia Publica (Happiness of the People) appears in silver, a large issue of silver followed.

Getting to know the coins of Faustina the Younger, means learning her hairstyles. Beckmann defined 10 different types in his book along with some sub-types. I enjoyed the book for the die link chains and the portrait classification derived from them.

The legend "FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL" translates to "For Faustina, Augusta, daughter of Pius, Augustus". The refers to Faustina as daughter of Antoninus Pius, and also dates the coin before the death of her Father. Faustina, unusually, was Augusta while her husband Marcus Aurelius was still Caesar, as she was the daughter of Antoninus Pius.

The Venus Genetrix issue that precedes this coin, shows an aspect of Venus that was created by Julius Caesar who built and dedicated a temple to his ancestor Venus which was called Venus Genetrix. The temple was built to fulfill a vow made before the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC.

Swindler's 1923 article also references Sullan Venus, bringer of fortune, celebrated in Pompeii as Venus Pompeiana with attributes of Fortuna including a rudder. Sulla conquered Pompeii during the Social Wars and ~80 BC founded a colony in Pompeii for veterans. The name of the colony, Colonia Veneria Cornelia Pompeianorum, celebrates the goddess Venus whom he claimed as a protectress, and his family name, Cornelius.

The coin was issued between the birth of her first child and elevation to Augusta at the end of AD 147, and the birth of her second child in March 149 when both obverses and reverses were changed significantly. I enjoyed Beckmann's book for the die link chains and the portrait classification that he derives from them.


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