Roman Collector Posted December 16, 2022 · Patron Share Posted December 16, 2022 (edited) Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! Today we're going to talk about one of Faustina the Elder's more interesting reverse types, one depicting the currus elephantorum. This is a new acquisition. It's not exactly FDC, as you can see, but I was the only bidder on the coin at the most recent Künker auction and it was affordable. A nice VF example would have set me back more than a grand. I'm quite happy with it and it appears to be only the second known example struck with this particular reverse die. Here's the coin! Faustina I, 138-140 CE. Roman orichalcum sestertius, 25.98 g, 31.4 mm, 1 h. Rome, November 140 - early 141 CE. Obv: DIVA AVGVS-TA FAVSTINA, veiled and draped bust, right. Rev: EX S C, Statue of Faustina holding corn ears, seated left in currus drawn by pair of elephants, left. Refs: RIC 1140b; BMC 1435; Cohen 202; Strack 685; RCV –. Notes: Struck with dies daf12/EC6. The Currus Elephantorum The term currus elephantorum (literally "chariot of elephants") is used in ancient sources to describe an elephant-drawn biga. The elephant chariot was first used in Rome for the triumph of Pompey, when the size of the animals caused problems because they could not fit through the Porta Triumphalis, the triumphal gate. Suetonius reports that Claudius ordered a currus elephantorum be displayed during the annual pompa circensis as part of the divine honors for his grandmother Livia, in order to match those previously performed for Augustus. Similarly, Dio reports that Septimius Severus ordered that a golden effigy of Pertinax be carried into the Circus on an elephant cart. Beckmann notes these coins "reveal the appearance of Faustina's currus elephantorum as it looked when displayed in the ludi circenses voted for her by the Senate." Beckmann asserts "this same cart was brought out of storage … each year for inclusion in the pompa circensis (and likely for the other major state religious processions too)." The currus elephantorum, as depicted on the various coins, was not constructed like a typical wagon. The upper portion of the spoked wheels are inside, rather than outside, the façade of the cart. This allows the sides of the cart to be decorated with garlands without them getting tangled in the wheels. It also gives the impression of a mobile statue base. Apart from the garlands, there is a lot of variation from die-to-die as to the details of the decorations, with some dies depicting cherubs, others depicting crossed objects (Ceres' torches?), and some with a modius or cista mystica, and another depicting a crouching animal of some kind. These variations should thus be taken as artistic license on the part of the die engravers and not as an exact representation of the elephant-drawn cart's actual appearance. Aureus bearing the unabbreviated EX SENATVS CONSVLTO legend and depicting the cart as decorated simply with garlands. British Museum collection, BMC 333. Sestertius featuring a bare-headed bust of the empress and depicting the currus being drawn to the right and decorated with garlands, crossed torches, and a cista mystica or modius. UBS Gold & Numismatics, Auction 78, lot 1673, 9 September 2008. The Various Issues, Denominations, and Varieties There were two broad issues depicting Faustina's currus elephantorum: an issue minted shortly after her death and a second one issued in and after 150 CE to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the empress's death. The earlier issue was struck in the aureus and sestertius denominations. On the aurei, the coins may bear the empress’s full title, DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA or the abbreviated DIVA AVG FAVSTINA legend on the obverse and the full EX SENATVS CONSVLTO legend around the rim on the reverse. The bust type is always right-facing but may be bare-headed or veiled, and the cart is only depicted as being drawn to the left. On the sestertii of the earlier issue, the obverse legend uniformly reads DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA, and the bust is always right-facing but may be bare-headed or veiled. On the reverse, the inscription is abbreviated to EX S C, and may be in the exergue or around the rim above the elephants; moreover, the cart may be drawn to the left or to the right. All told, there are six different permutations of these variations in bust type, inscription location, and direction the cart is being drawn. There is no indication, however, that these were intended to be separate issues by the mint; rather, they appear to have been in production more or less simultaneously and should be seen as artistic license on the part of the die engravers. The later issue of 150 CE uniformly uses the shorter DIVA FAVSTINA legend, which was introduced in 145 CE. It features the reverse inscription AETERNITAS, as was used on many of the types struck to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the empress's death. Unlike the earlier issue, this issue was struck in the middle bronze denomination, in addition to the aureus and sestertius denominations. The aurei feature only a bare-headed bust, but it may be right- or left-facing; moreover, the cart is always drawn to the left on the gold coins. A single specimen with a veiled bust is known for the middle bronze denomination, but otherwise, the bare-headed bust is characteristic of the bronze issues. Unlike the aurei, left-facing busts do not appear in bronze. The cart may be drawn to the left or to the right on the sestertii, but only a left-drawn cart is known in the middle bronze denomination. I will not go into further detail about the tenth death anniversary issues featuring the currus elephantorum otherwise as I would like to focus on the first issue.Dating the First Issue Coins depicting an elephant-drawn biga were struck in the aureus and sestertius denominations and have thus been well-described by Martin Beckmann in his die-linkage studies of these denominations. The reverse type appears second in order on the aurei struck for the deified Faustina and it appears shortly after other early funerary types, such as the ustrinum and Pietas sacrificing over altar types, in the sestertius die series. According to the Fasti Ostienses for AD 140, "on October 23(?) Faustina Augusta died and on the same day was named diva by the Senate and a senatorial decree was made awarding her a state funeral." Unfortunately, the dating formula is uncertain and the precise date unrecoverable, and her death could have occurred at any time between 23 October and 6 November, but the beginning of this period is more probable so as to allow time for the elaborate funeral for the deified empress on 13 of November. As her earliest posthumous coins depict funerary imagery, they were likely struck in conjunction with the funeral ceremonies and shortly thereafter. A date for this series of November 140 to early 141 CE is extremely probable.As always, post comments, questions, or anything you feel is relevant!~~~ Notes 1. Beckmann, Martin. Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces. American Numismatic Society, 2012, p. 159 and plates 19 and 25. 2. Pliny, NH 8.2.4, in Pliny the Elder, The Natural History. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. (transl.), Taylor and Francis, 1855, p. 245. 3. Suetonius (Claudius 11.2). The Twelve Caesars: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Robert Graves (transl.), Penguin, 1989, p. 192. 4. Dio 75.4.1, in Cocceianus, Cassius Dio. Dio's Annals of Rome, Vol. 5. Herbert Baldwin Foster (transl.), Pafraets Book Co., 1905, p. 330. 5. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 34. 6. This veiled bust type is unlisted in RIC, BMCRE, or Cohen. Strack (no. 411) cites a specimen in Gotha; I have not been able to confirm the existence of this type despite an exhaustive search of online databases. 7. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 33 and die chart 1. 8. Beckmann, op. cit., die chart 12. 9. Fasti Ostienses (tablet O, lines 11-12), quoted and translated by Beckmann, op. cit., p. 22. 10. Vidman, Ladislav. Fasti Ostienses. Prague, Academia, 1982, p. 122. 11. Fasti Ostienses, in Beckmann, op. cit., lines 13-14. Edited February 5 by Roman Collector Spelling. 12 2 1 2 7 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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