Obverse: DIVA FAVSTINA; Draped Bust of the Empress Facing Right
Reverse: CERES; Ceres Standing to the Left, Holding Grain Ears and a Torch
Faustina the Elder was loved very much by her husband, Emperor Antoninus Pius. They lived happily together during one of the most peaceful and prosperous periods of Roman history. Under the rule of Trajan, the empire had reached its greatest extent but Hadrian was willing to sacrifice size for security, surrendering all territory across the Danube in exchange for a strong, defensible frontier. Thus Anoninus Pius and Faustina inherited an empire reveling in the economic prosperity that flourishes under a powerful and stable government. Numismatic evidence suggests that Faustina the Elder concerned herself with charitable work and the betterment of the lives of Rome’s poor populace. One coin, on the reverse, commemorates the PVELLAE FAVSTINIANAE (Faustina's Girls). This refers to a fund Faustina had established to pay for the education of girls from poor Roman families. When Faustina the Elder died in A. D. 141, she was deeply mourned by her husband. Antoninus Pius had his wife consecrated and had commemorative coins, such as this splendid example, struck bearing her portrait.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This ancient coin is a memorial to an emperor’s departed wife passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation that still appears as vibrant today as the day it was struck.