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Faustina Friday – Pace Mattingly, but I Think Cohen was Right! That’s a Statuette of Spes!

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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! I hope you have a great weekend!

Just call me Flyspeck Billy …


Flyspeck Billy Trading Post, Custer SD, 1976. Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society, South Dakota Digital Archives 2008-02-26-039[1] Used by permission.[2]

… because we're going to do some serious flyspecking today! I apologize for the length of today’s installment. I did a lot of research on this coin. So, buckle up, empty your bladder, and put on your reading glasses, because we're going to get to work!

Meme Creator - Funny Let's get TO work Meme Generator at MemeCreator.org!

Specifically, we are going to examine the statuette in the right hand of the seated goddess on the reverse of this middle bronze of Faustina the Elder.


Faustina I, AD 138-140.
Roman Æ as or dupondius, 10.39 g, 26.5 mm, 7 h.
Rome, AD 145-147.
Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: AVGVSTA S C, female figure (Concordia?) seated left, holding statuette of Spes and scepter.
Refs: RIC 1184; BMCRE 1585 corr.; Cohen 121; Strack 1296 corr.; RCV –.
Notes: RIC 1184=RIC 1181 corr. Ex- Wayne C. Phillips.

The identity of the figure on the reverse of this coin is a matter of controversy among the authors of the standard references. Her identity hinges on the nature of the statuette she holds in her right hand. If it is a Palladium, the goddess on the reverse is to be identified as Vesta; if it is a statuette of Spes walking left, holding a flower and raising her stola, the goddess might be identified as Concordia. The problem is that the statuette is very small and often, it is not well-preserved or even well-rendered by the die engraver in the first place. A flyspeck indeed! Compounding the problem is that the coin was issued only in the middle bronze denomination and we don't have a sestertius version of the coin which might have been large enough for the die-engraver to express clearly what was intended.


Discursio: The Depictions of the Palladium and of Spes on Antonine Coinage

In order to properly distinguish between the palladium and Spes on the coin in question, we must first examine the features of each as portrayed on the coins of the Antonine period struck at the mint in Rome. Whenever possible, I will illustrate them with coins of Faustina the Elder in particular, so as to be most relevant to the coin at hand.

The Palladium

The palladium was a small figure of Pallas Athena holding a spear and shield that was displayed in the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Thus, the palladium is a primary attribute of the goddess Vesta. Often, but certainly not always, the palladium appears to have a long, spiked base. It has been suggested that this base was driven into the floor of the temple, thus holding the palladium upright and securely in place. I have
written about the palladium previously elsewhere
. Here are coins of Faustina the Elder in my collection which depict Vesta holding a palladium.

Vesta standing left, holding palladium and torch:


Middle bronze, RIC 1178.

Vesta standing left, holding torch and palladium:


Sestertius, RIC 1125.


Sestertius, RIC 1151.


Middle bronze, RIC 1196.

Vesta standing left, holding palladium and scepter:




Sestertius, RIC 1124.




Middle bronze, RIC 1179a.


Middle bronze, RIC 1179a var.


Denarius, RIC 400.

Vesta seated left, holding palladium and scepter:


Denarius, Cohen 285. Gemini Auction II, lot 441, 11 January 2006.

Vesta standing left, holding patera and palladium:


Denarius, RIC 330.


Sestertius, RIC 1126.

Vesta standing left, holding simpulum and palladium:


Denarius, RIC 368.

General characteristics of the palladium on coins of Faustina the Elder:

Pallas Athena's shield is always held high, toward her shoulder, and never depicted at her feet. The shield may either face the viewer, in which case it is circular in appearance, or may be seen from the side, in which case it is lenticular in appearance. Pallas may be depicted with a spear, but often just her arm is raised as if holding a spear. A recognizable palladium does appear, held in the open hand of Vesta seated, on the lifetime denarius illustrated above.


Spes was the Roman version of the Greek Elpis, the personification of hope. On coins, Spes typically appears as a young woman, standing facing, or walking left, holding in her right hand a flower and with her left hand, lifting the hem of her stola. I have
previously written elsewhere about this goddess.

Even though Spes may be depicted standing facing, head left, I shall illustrate only the coins on which she is depicted walking left, holding a flower and raising the hem of her stola because this particular iconography is that which may be depicted in the statuette held by the seated goddess on the coin in question. There are few coins of the Antonine period that depict Spes in such a way, but I illustrate coins of my own collection that do so.


Sestertius of Aelius, RIC 1055.



As of Antoninus Pius, RIC 730.

A statuette of Spes set on a column or base may also appear in conjunction with Concordia, beside Concordia’s throne on which she rests her elbow.


Denarius of Sabina, RIC 398.


Middle bronze of Sabina, RIC 1021.

General characteristics of Spes advancing left on Hadrian-Antonine coins:

Note that Spes appears in profile, with her right arm held upward in front of her to hold a flower, which may or not be rendered on the coin. Her left arm is slightly bent at the elbow and reaches down to grip her stola, which is pulled up like a sail. Note the folds of the drapery are engraved going up and to the right toward the goddess’s left hand.


Now we are equipped to identify the figure depicted in the statuette in the goddess's hand on the reverse of the coin in question. Let us first examine what opinions have been rendered by various numismatists in the past.

I have reviewed the literature to find the earliest reference to the coin. The figure on the reverse is identified as Vesta holding a Paladium in Sulzer's catalog of 1777 (no. 1342).[3] Wiczay owned a specimen of this coin, no. 1366 in his Latin language catalog of 1814, but his description sheds no light on the identity of the reverse figure or the statuette she holds in her hand. Wiczay simply describes the goddess as a mulier (woman) holding an incuncula (little figure) in her right hand.[4]

Cohen, writing in 1882, seems to be the first to suggest the figure on the coin's reverse may be Concordia, describing her as "La Concorde? assise à gauche, tenant une statuette de l’Espérance et un sceptre" (Concordia? seated left, holding a statuette of Spes and scepter).[5]

Mattingly and Sydenham, however, writing in 1930, identify the statuette in the goddess's hand as a palladium, and therefore the goddess as Vesta, when describing the specimen in the British Museum (RIC 1181), while simultaneously acknowledging the existence of a type in the French national collection (and citing Cohen 121) with "Concordia (?) seated l., holding statuette of Spes and sceptre."[6]

Strack, writing in 1937, disagrees with Cohen's identification of the goddess on the reverse as Concordia, but acknowledges the possibility of two interpretations of the statuette in the goddess's hand. Strack describes the specimens in Berlin, Paris, and Vienna as "Vesta sitzend (nach links), mit Palladium (Spes?) und langer fackel" (Vesta seated left, with Palladium (Spes?) and long torch).[7]

Mattingly, writing alone in 1968, continues to identify the reverse figure on the British Museum specimen as Vesta holding a palladium and scepter. Of note, contrary to his opinion in RIC, he says nothing about the existence of a variety with a statuette of Spes or the possible interpretation of the seated goddess as Concordia.[8]

Sear provides no opinion; the coin does not appear in his 2002 catalog of Roman coins.[9] Lastly, Paul Dinsdale, writing in 2020 and using methodology virtually identical to my own, is of the opinion that the reverse figure is Vesta, but that the engravers sometimes rendered her as holding a statuette of Spes and at other times a palladium as a "curiosity of execution, rather than a separate type."[10] I will discuss Dinsdale's interpretation again later.

To explore the issue further and to render my own opinion on the matter, I compiled an inventory of known specimens and have performed a die study of the examples illustrated online and in Strack. I have identified a total of nineteen specimens in the literature and online databases, of which I have been able to find sixteen which are illustrated. Three specimens illustrated are not sufficiently preserved to allow a die study or to come to any conclusion about the identity of the figure held in the goddess's right hand on the reverse. This leaves thirteen coins, which were struck with a total of eleven different reverse dies.[11] These are illustrated in the next post, below.

More follows.


Edited by Roman Collector
Correct information about Sulzer's collection and update a coin photo
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Faustina Friday – Pace Mattingly, but I Think Cohen was Right! That’s a Statuette of Spes! (continued)

Reverse Dies with S C in the Exergue

Die 1:


Bertolami Fine Arts (E-Auction 59), 20.5.2018, lot 716.

Die 2:


CGB.fr (MONNAIES 18), 19.6.2003, lot 381 (top); Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger (Auction 287), 7.2.2013, lot 2315 (bottom).

Die 3:


Roma Numismatics Limited (E-Sale 38), 29.7.2017, lot 586.

Reverse Dies with S C in the fields

Die 4:


British Museum collection, BMCRE 1585.

Die 5:


CGB.fr, Web Shop, lot brm_167032.

Die 6:


Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (Electronic Auction 182), 20.2.2008, lot 347.

Die 7:


Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger (Auction 309), 7.5.2015, lot 515.

Die 8:


iNumis (Mail Bid Sale 8), 20.3.2009, lot 196 (top); Leipziger Münzhandlung und Auktion Heidrun Höhn (e-Live Auction 5), 12.1.2016, lot 344 (bottom).

Die 9:


The coin in my collection; Marc Breitsprecher, 4.9.2022.

Die 10:


Münz Zentrum Rheinland (Auction 189), 11.9.2019, lot 425; this is the specimen sold at Ars Classica - Naville & Cie, Geneva (Auction 2, Vautier & Collignon), 12.6.1922, pl. 31, 881 and illustrated by Strack. Same coin as Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger (Auction 371), 24.4.2002, lot 407.

Die 11:


Tauler & Fau Subastas (Auction 24), 19.2.2019, lot 2452.

An analysis of the figures in the goddess's hand on the various dies

I believe the figure of Spes is clearly represented on coins struck with dies 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11. The figure is unclear on coins struck with dies 1, 3, 4, and 9. There are no coins that unequivocally depict the palladium in a style consistent with other coins of Faustina the Elder featuring Vesta with a palladium. I am firmly of the opinion that the statuette in the goddess's hand was intended to be Spes and not the palladium. Pace Mattingly, but I think that his interpretation was incorrect, probably because the British Museum specimen is admittedly unclear. Strack equivocates about the identity of the figurine on this coin, opining that it is the palladium but allowing for the possibility it is Spes. Perhaps this is because the specimens he cited in Berlin, Paris, and Vienna may not be well-preserved or clear (Note Strack misidentifies the scepter as a long torch); I am unable to find photos of these specimens to decide myself. However, the specimen he chose to illustrate the issue is the exact same coin as that illustrated as Die 10, above, which clearly depicts Spes – and a scepter, not a long torch – in my opinion.

Interestingly, Strack – contra Gnecchi, who calls it a palladium – identifies the figure on this anepigraphic medallion with a nearly identical design as Spes. Perhaps this is because the coin is larger, and the figure is more clearly rendered. I concur with Strack that the statuette in the goddess's hand on this medallion is Spes.


Unique medallion, 43 g, 37 mm (Madrid). Gnecchi II p.25, 13 and pl. 57, 7; Strack 694.

OK. I concede the figurine is Spes. So, who is that seated goddess, then?

That's a question without an unequivocal answer. With the palladium no longer under consideration, the figure no longer must be Vesta. I disagree with Dinsdale in that I don't believe Vesta was intended; if that were the case, the die-engravers would have depicted her with a palladium as rendered on numerous other issues of Faustina the Elder. It's another goddess. Vesta certainly does not have a monopoly on statuette holding. Many gods are depicted holding statuettes of Victory. Annona holds a statuette of Concordia on a sestertius of Commodus (BMCRE 523). Venus Felix may hold a statuette of Cupid (Hadrian BMCRE 750), or of Victory or of the Three Graces.

Be that as it may, in all of Roman numismatics, there are no other coins where a goddess is depicted holding a statuette of Spes. We have nothing to compare it with. The reverse legend, AVGVSTA, is no help; it is merely the deified empress's title.

Cohen postulated the figure is Concordia, but he equivocates, placing a question mark after this identification in his catalog listing. Concordia is, after all, the only figure to appear in association with a statuette of Spes. However, Concordia is always elsewhere depicted resting her elbow on a statuette of Spes, and never as holding the statuette of Spes in her hand.[12]

I suspect the seated figure on the reverse is intended to be Concordia, for she is the only goddess associated with statuettes of Spes, and there is no other goddess that better fits the bill. Nonetheless, her identity is not established with certainty. I have to be intellectually honest with myself and admit that I don't know any more than Cohen did when he described the coin's reverse as "
La Concorde? assise à gauche, tenant une statuette de l’Espérance et un sceptre." I therefore call her, "female figure (Concordia?) seated left,"

Please post anything you feel is relevant!



1. "Flyspeck Billy Trading Post, Custer SD, Custer County." CONTENTdm, SD State Historical Society - Archives Department,

2. "Conditions for Use of Photographic Reproductions from the South Dakota State Historical Society-State Archives." South Dakota State Historical Society - Photo Resources, SD State Historical Society - Archives Department,

Sulzer, Johann Caspar, and Jacob Sulzer. Numophylacium Sulzerianum numos antiquos Graecos et Romanos aureos argenteos aereos sis tens olim Iacobi Sulzeri. Ettinger, 1777, p. 159. Available online here.

4. Wiczay, Michael A. and Felice Caronni. Musei Hedervarii in Hungaria numos antiquos graecos et latinos descripsit. Vol. 2, Caronni, Vienna 1814, p. 264. Available online

5. Cohen, Henry. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Tome II: de Nerva à Antonin (96 à 161 après J.-C.). Paris, 1882, p. 422. Available online here.

6. Mattingly, Harold and Edward A. Sydenham (RIC). The Roman Imperial Coinage. III, Spink, 1930, p. 168.

7. Strack, Paul L., Untersuchungen zur Römischen Reichsprägung des Zweiten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3, Die Reichsprägung zur Zeit des Antoninus Pius. Stuttgart 1937.

8. Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol. IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus. Introduction, indexes and plates. London, BMP, 1968, p. 253.

9. Sear, David R., Roman Coins and their Values, vol. 2, The Accession of Nerva to the Overthrow of the Severan Dynasty, A.D. 96 -A.D. 235. London, 2002.

10. Dinsdale, Paul H. The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus. Leeds, Paul H Dinsdale, 2020, p. 285.

11. The three specimens for which I could not find suitable illustrations are the specimens in Berlin, Paris, and Vienna as cited by Strack. The three specimens in poor condition and omitted from the study are as follows:
Savoca, 8th Blue Auction, lot 1033, 14 July 2018; A specimen in the U. of Würzburg collection; and one in the Freiburg Technical University collection. For coins sold at auction more than once, the clearest dealer photo has been chosen to illustrate the type.

12. As pointed out to me by Paul Dinsdale, personal communication, 5 September 2022.

Edited by Roman Collector
add all the photos
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Outstanding work this Faustina Friday! I love reading the history of the different interpretations based on the various examples cataloged. Your die catalog is great. Very convincingly shows that the statuette is Spes. And very interesting question: Who is holding dear little Spes?? (I don't imagine it was Pandora...) 

Not sure if I have any Faustinian Spes' (none photographed anyway), but I'll share a favorite Spes and Elpis.... 

First one is the Elpis (Greek doppelganger of Spes).

Only known specimen of its type, though there's a rare matching Year 7 Tetradrachm of Julia Mamaea. Before Savio-Dattari (1999: DS 12335 = 9892bis) and Emmett's (2001: 3101.7) Alexandrian Coins, it was thought that Severus Alexander's Elpis coinage didn't start until Year 10.

Since no one's written about it, I have a few hypotheses of my own about why Severus Alexander might've wanted a "Hopeful" coin message in Alexandria in Year 7. The very very short version... Trouble at home: with Rome (Epagathus’ uprising, murder of Ulpian, and rioting in Rome); and with Orbiana (Sev. Alex's wife), who had just been exiled to Libya, for supposedly plotting to overthrow him. So it makes sense that they would want to put Elpis on Alexandrian coins, including one of Mamaea, replacing Orbiana's prior coinage, and suggest a new "hope" for the future and the royal family:


Roman Provincial. Egypt, Alexandria. Severus Alexander Billon Tetradrachm (24mm, 12.44g, 12h). Regnal Year 7 = 227/8 CE.
Obverse: Α ΚΑΙ ΜΑΡ ΑΥ ϹƐΥ ΑΛƐΞΑΝΔΡΟϹ. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: L – Z (date). Elpis standing left, holding flower in her right hand, raising skirt with her left.
Published: Dattari-Savio (1999, 2007) 12335 / 9892bis (this coin illustrated) = RPC VI Temp 10362 (this coin illustrated online) = Emmet 3101 (7), pp. 153 & 254 (this coin cited).
Provenance: Ex-Giovanni Dattari (1858-1923) Collection; Ex-Harlan J. Berk w/ ticket & inventory no. (cc33653, no date); Ex-Unknown Dealer with tag, incl. price & inventory nos. (779 - HZHQANUSB, no date); ex-CNG e-Auction 505 (1 Dec 2021), Lot 361 (erroneously described as 2nd known, after Dattari); ex-Rocky Mountain Collection of Alexandrian Coins.


Here's my Claudius Sestertius ("branch mint" according to NGC, usually described as imitative, probably British, possibly Spanish) with NCAPR countermark:


Roman Imperial. Claudius (Augustus, 41-54 CE) AE Sestertius (35mm, 21.84g, 6h). Contemporary imitation or Western “Branch Mint” [NGC], c. 41/2 CE or later. Countermarked under Nero or Vespasian.
Obv: TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP. Laureate head right.
Rev: SPES AVGVSTA S C. Spes, draped, advancing left, holding flower in right hand and raising skirt with left.
Ref: RIC (I) 99. Pangerl 60.
Prov: Ex-Richard Baker Countermark Collection, CNG EA 439 (6 Mar 2019), Lot 224CNG EA 483 (6 Jan 2021), Lot 408 (unnamed Al Kowsky consignment; CT Thread 334702); NGC Ancients, 2101304-007.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Excellent work! You indeed are the world's foremost Faustina follower!!


(Actual footage of RC writing a Faustina Friday)

And you've made it pretty clear that's gotta be Spes.

Here's a couple of her. I cannot find my attribution on the bronze, to tell if it's with Spes Concordia:


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17 minutes ago, Ryro said:

Excellent work! You indeed are the world's foremost Faustina follower!!


(Actual footage of RC writing a Faustina Friday)

And you've made it pretty clear that's gotta be Spes.

Here's a couple of her. I cannot find my attribution on the bronze, to tell if it's with Spes Concordia:


Thank you for the kind words and for sharing a couple of Faustina coins! Awesome!


Ceres seated and standing:



Edited by Roman Collector
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Great work, @Roman Collector. Nice to see the coins comparison. 

I don't have coins with Spes. My closest "holding something" in the reverse design is this Venus holding Victory. 🙂


Faustina Junior (Augusta, 147-175) Sestertius 
Obv: Draped bust r.
Rev: Venus seated l., holding Victory and sceptre.
31mm, 23.36g, 6h
RIC III 1686 (Aurelius).  

Edited by happy_collector
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@Roman Collector...Great thread as always....I do like the way you break down the subject making it very easy to follow and I always come away having learnt something new...Refreshing...Thanks.

The only seated deity I have of Faustina is Aerternitas but at least she is holding something ..


Diva Faustina Senior. Æ Sestertius (32mm, 21.19 g.)
Rome mint, struck under Antoninus Pius, circa AD 146-161.
Obv. DIVA FAVSTINA draped bust right.
Rev. AETERNITAS S-C seated left, holding scepter and globe surmounted by phoenix....RICIII #1103 (Antoninus Pius)
Reddish-brown patina

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  • 4 weeks later...

Cohen's recognition of Spes in the hand of the lady on the reverse can be moved back to the date of his first edition, vol. 2, 1859, no. 200: " AVGVSTA S. C. La Concorde (?) assise à gauche, tenant une statuette de l'Espérance et un sceptre."

The statuette of Spes is so clear on many examples, as Roman Collector shows, that one would expect other numismatists to have recognized her even earlier.

I note that Lanz had it right, following Cohen, in his Roman Middle Bronzes Catalogue of 1974, lot 364: "AVGVSTA S C, Concordia sitzt links mit Spesstatue und Szepter."

Edited by curtislclay
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