Faustina the Elder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Roman imperial dynasties
Antonine Dynasty
Faustina Major
Bust of Faustina Major in the Altes Museum (Berlin).
Antoninus Pius
   Natural - Faustina the Younger, also one other daughter and two sons, all died before 138
   Adoptive - Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus
Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus
Marcus Aurelius alone
   Natural - 13, including Commodus and Lucilla
Posthumously issued denarius bearing the legend DIVA FAVSTINA ‘the divine Faustina’

Annia Galeria Faustina, more familiarly referred to as Faustina I (Latin: Faustina Major; born on September 21 around 100 CE; died in October or November of 140 CE[1]), was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.

Early life[edit]

Faustina was the only known daughter of consul and prefect Marcus Annius Verus and Rupilia Faustina.[2] 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 Salonina Matidia (niece of Roman Emperor Trajan) and suffect consul Lucius Scribonius Libo Rupilius Frugi Bonus. Faustina was born and raised in Rome.

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.[3] These were:

  • Marcus Aurelius Fulvius Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome.[2][4]
  • Marcus Galerius Aurelius Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome. His name appears on a Greek Imperial coin.[2][4]
  • 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.[2][4]
  • 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 adulthood.[2][4]


Bust of Faustina in the Musei Capitolini (side view; note the distinctive hairstyle)

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.[2] As empress, Faustina was well respected and was renowned for her beauty and wisdom. The Historia Augusta criticized her as having "excessive frankness" and "levity".[5] 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.

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 Roman world.[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

A denarius struck in honour of Faustina Major, depicting her temple with the abbreviated legend AED DIV FAVSTINAE (‘temple of the divine Faustina’)

When Faustina died in 140, Antoninus was devastated and took several steps to honor her memory. He deified her (her apotheosis was portrayed on an honorary column) and had the Temple of Faustina built in the Roman Forum.[2] 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).[7] Certain cities, such as Delphi and Alexandria, struck coin issues in honour of the "divine Faustina" (Ancient Greek: ΘΕΑ ΦΑΥϹΤΕΙΝΑ).[8]

The posthumous cult of Faustina was exceptionally widespread, and Faustina's image continued to be omnipresent throughout Antoninus Pius' principate.[9] A colossal marble head, believed to be that of Faustina and discovered in 2008,[10] figured as one of several monumental imperial statues at the ancient site of Sagalassos in Turkey. In Olympia, Herodes Atticus dedicated a nymphaeum that displayed statues of Faustina and other Antonines as well as his own ancestors.[11] Bergmann and Watson have characterized the commemoration of Faustina as central to Antoninus Pius' political persona.[12]

Antoninus and Faustina were officially held up as such exemplars of conjugal harmony that newlyweds were directed to pray at an altar of Faustina that they might live up to their example.[13]

Herodes Atticus venerated Faustina as the “new Demeter” at a private sanctuary he established outside Rome,[14] and Ceres (the Roman equivalent of Demeter) featured prominently on many of Faustina's coins. She was also associated with Magna Mater and at Cyrene with Isis; at Sardis she was worshipped conjointly with Artemis.[14] Her coins were sometimes incorporated into jewellery and worn as amulets.[15]

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.[16]

Faustina continued to be commemorated in certain Renaissance depictions as a “model wife”.[17]

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]


  1. ^ Birley, Anthony. Marcus Aurelius, Routledge, p. 243. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-17125-3
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Faustina I". Livius.org. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  3. ^ K.L.M. (1996). "Draped bust of Faustina the Elder (aureus of Antoninus Pius)". Bearers of Meaning: The Ottilia Buerger Collection of Ancient and Byzantine Coins at Lawrence University. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Faustina Senior". FORVM ANCIENT COINS. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  5. ^ The Historia Augusta’s reliability as a historical source is considered to be patchy; see the caveats in, for example The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Volume 2, Latin Literature, Part 5, The Later Principate, E. J. Kenney, Wendell Vernon Clausen, pp. 43, 45, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0521273714; or at Jona Lendering. "Historia Augusta". Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  6. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), pp. 10, 16.
  7. ^ Richard D. Weigel. "Antoninus Pius". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  8. ^ "Faustina I (138–141, and later deification coins)". Roman Provincial Coinage Online. 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  9. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), p. 6.
  10. ^ "Head of Roman empress unearthed". BBC News. 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  11. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), p. 11.
  12. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), pp. 6, 11: “Antoninus’s ideological program was based upon his pietas (loyalty to family, state, and the gos) and the most concerted expression of Antoninus’s piety was Faustina’s consecration.”
  13. ^ Freisenbruch (2010), p. 209.
  14. ^ a b Bergmann & Watson (1999), p. 14.
  15. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), pp. 17-18.
  16. ^ Freisenbruch (2010), p. 210.
  17. ^ Bergmann & Watson (1999), pp. 12-13.


  • Beckmann, Martin (2012). Diva Faustina: coinage and cult in Rome and the provinces. New York: American Numismatic Society. 
  • Bergmann, Bettina; Watson, Wendy M. (1999). The Moon and the Stars: Afterlife of a Roman Empress. South Hadley, Massachusetts: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. 
  • Freisenbruch, Annelise (2010). The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars. London: Jonathan Cape. 
  • Levick, Barbara (2014). Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537941-9. 
  • Lendering, Jona (2015) [2007]. "Faustina I". Livius.org. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  • Weigel, Richard D. (1998). "Antoninus Pius". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
Royal titles
Preceded by
Vibia Sabina
Empress of Rome
Succeeded by
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor