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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics. I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead. Today we're going to discuss a reverse type that was first introduced to Roman Imperial coinage on an issue for Faustina the Elder shortly after her death in late October 140 CE, the Cybele seated reverse type. This type bears the reverse legend MATRI DEVM SALVTARI, which means "to the mother of the gods, the savior," and it was issued only in the sestertius denomination.


Faustina Senior, 138-140 CE.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 22.89 g, 31.4 mm, 6 h.
Rome, 141-142 CE.
Obv: DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: MATRI DEVM SALVTARI S C, Cybele, towered, seated right on throne between two lions, holding drum in left hand on left knee, right arm on throne.
Refs: RIC 1145(a); BMCRE 1436-38; Cohen 229; RCV –; Strack 1242; Hill UCR 381; Banti IGBI 83.
Notes: Struck with Beckmann reverse die MD7 (Peus Auction 371,
lot 406, 24 April 2002).

The coin was also issued with a veiled and draped bust type.

Sestertius of the MATRI DEVM SALVTARIS type paired with a veiled and draped bust (RIC 1145(b)). British Museum specimen, BMCRE 1339.

Dating the Issue

Establishing an absolute chronology for this issue is easier than establishing a relative chronology with respect to the other early issues of the empress. Beckmann, in his die-linkage study of the sestertii of Faustina the Elder, was only able to identify three small groups of die-linkages featuring reverse dies of this type, but he was not able to link these groups with the longer die-linkage chains he terms "die series." One of these groups demonstrates, however, that the type was in simultaneous production with the
ustrinum reverse type,[1] which makes its appearance among the first coins issued after Faustina's death.[2] Another group[3] demonstrates simultaneous production with the Pietas standing left, sacrificing over candelabrum type. These groups also demonstrate that the bare-headed and the veiled bust types were in simultaneous production as well.[4] I have previously discussed the Pietas issue here at NVMIS Forums and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the obverse die with which my coin was struck does not match any of the obverse dies illustrated in Beckmann and I am therefore unable to fit my coin into his die-linkage chains.

Faustina died most likely in late October, 140 CE,[5] and coins in honor of the deified empress were in production by the time of her state funeral on November 13. Among the first three types to be issued following her death was the ustrinum type.[6] Although there is a die-linkage between the MATRI DEVM SALVTARI type and the ustrinum type as noted above, the link is to one of the later ustrinum reverse dies, dating to 141 CE.[7] The other reverse type to which die-linkages can be established is to the Pietas type, which seems to have been in production continuously from late 140 CE to as late as 145 CE[8] and is of little help in establishing a date for the issue. Note, however, that the MATRI DEVM SALVTARI reverse dies are never paired with the veiled and stephaned bust type, which was introduced shortly after the introduction of the temple types of 143 CE.[9] Beckman notes only ten reverse dies of this type, as opposed to 57 of the PIETAS AVG type,[10] suggesting a rather limited period of production. Therefore, it appears the Cybele reverse type dates from 141 CE to 142 CE at the very latest.

The Iconography of the Reverse Type

The Phrygian mother goddess Cybele originally bore the simple name Matar (mother) but her attributes and iconography changed as Phrygia came under the influence of Greece and Rome, particularly as she became incorporated into the Roman pantheon during the Punic Wars. She was originally always depicted standing and with a polos draped with a veil. She was not always depicted as accompanied by lions – though she could be – but often with birds. In contrast, on Roman coins and statuary, she is typically portrayed enthroned, wearing Greco-Roman dress, and accompanied by lions.[11]

At his excellent and educational website, Bill Welch explains how the goddess became incorporated into the Roman pantheon:

Towards the end the second Punic War – Rome's war against Hannibal and Carthage – a reading was taken of the Republic's most sacred texts, the Sybilline Books. The oracle of Apollo at Delphi was also consulted. This resulted in a vow being taken to introduce the cult of Cybele into Rome, in the form of the Magna Mater, or Great Mother. Her symbol, a black stone, was imported from Pergamum in 204 CE.

After the war ended in 203 BCE, a temple was built to her on the Palatine Hill and important annual games were instituted in her honour. The cult was rather wild for Roman sensibilities, and its undesirable elements (and its Phrygian priests) were very carefully controlled.[12]

Mattingly notes Cybele was "equated by the Romans with Rhea, wife of Saturn," and that she "had been worshiped in Rome as 'Salutaris,' 'savior,' since the last years of the Second Punic War, when her image was brought from Pessinus."[13]

Cybele was depicted on denarii of the Roman Republic. Her turreted head appears on a denarius of P Furius Crassipes of 84 BCE (BMCRR
356.1.4) and the goddess is depicted driving a biga of lions on a denarius of Marcus Volteius M.f. of 78 BCE (BMCRR 385.4.13).[14] However, this sestertius of Faustina the Elder marks the first appearance of Cybele with her drum and lions as "Matri Deum Salutari" on Roman coinage.[15] Mattingly cautions us, however, that it "is not likely here that the type suggests direct identification of the dead Empress and goddess," but that it is "most natural to think of Creusa, wife of Aeneus, taken by Cybele to be with her on Mount Ida" and that the "same mysterious and blessed destiny has befallen Faustina."[16]


This coin, issued for a year or two after the death of Faustina the Elder, shares a theme illustrated by many of her posthumous coins: that the empress resides for eternity among the gods.

Let's see your coins of Cybele, the savior mother goddess, Magna Mater. As always, feel free to post comments or anything you feel is relevant!



1. Beckmann, Martin. Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces. American Numismatic Society, 2012, Die Chart 13, Sestertius Group 2.

2. Beckmann, op. cit., Die Chart 11, Sestertius Series 1.

3. Beckmann, op. cit., Die Chart 14, Sestertius Group 3.

4. Beckmann, op. cit., Die Chart 13, Sestertius Groups 1 and 2.

5. Levick, Barbara. Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age. Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 61 and n. 23; Fasti Ostienses (tablet O, lines 11-15), in Vidman, Ladislav. Fasti Ostienses. Ceskoslovenska Akademie Ved, 1982, pp. 49-50; cited in Beckmann (2012), op. cit., p. 22.

6. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 22, and Die Chart 11, Sestertius Series 1.

7. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 24.

8. As I have discussed in detail here previously.

9. Beckmann, op. cit., pp. 43, 50.

10. Beckmann, op. cit., pp. 160-165 and plates 19-23.

11. Bøgh, Birgitte. "The Phrygian Background of Kybele." Numen, vol. 54, no. 3, 2007, pp. 304–339,

Welch, Bill. "Cybele, The Mother Goddess." What I Like About Ancient Coins, Forum Ancient Coins, https://www.forumancientcoins.com/moonmoth/reverse_cybele.html.

13. 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. lxxxiii.

14. Welch, op. cit.

15. Mattingly, op. cit.

16. Ibid.

Edited by Roman Collector
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Another excellent write up!..I do enjoy your breakdowns and always come away having learnt something new..Thanks

Thought it was worth a bump..

Here's my only Kybele..One of my favourite coins..


Phrygia, Eumeneia (near Civril, Turkey). Domitia, 81-96 AD. Bronze AE 15mm (2.47 gm).
Obv.: ΔOMITIA CEBACTH, Draped bust right. Hair rolled in front and in que behind,
Rev.: ΚΛ• ΤEΡEΝΤΥΛΛΑ ΑΡΧΙE /EΥΜE-ΝE-ΩΝ, Kybele enthroned to left, Patera in extended right hand, resting left forearm and hand on Tympanum (drum) at near side
RPC II 1388. Rare. gVF.

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1 hour ago, Spaniard said:

Another excellent write up!..I do enjoy your breakdowns and always come away having learnt something new..Thanks

Thought it was worth a bump..

Here's my only Kybele..One of my favourite coins..


Phrygia, Eumeneia (near Civril, Turkey). Domitia, 81-96 AD. Bronze AE 15mm (2.47 gm).
Obv.: ΔOMITIA CEBACTH, Draped bust right. Hair rolled in front and in que behind,
Rev.: ΚΛ• ΤEΡEΝΤΥΛΛΑ ΑΡΧΙE /EΥΜE-ΝE-ΩΝ, Kybele enthroned to left, Patera in extended right hand, resting left forearm and hand on Tympanum (drum) at near side
RPC II 1388. Rare. gVF.

Thank you for your kind words, @Spaniard! This particular installment did not generate a lot of interest otherwise. Thanks for sharing your Cybele coin! It's lovely and features an uncommon empress. No wonder it's one of your favorites!

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27 minutes ago, JAZ Numismatics said:

I've always wondered how much influence Cybele had on the Roman Catholic idea of Mary as the mother of God and queen of heaven. It would seem that the cult of Cybele transitioned into the cult of Mary, although I haven't researched the subject in the least, so I could be completely wrong.

You aren't the first to have wondered this. You may be interested in this book by Philippe Borgeaud, Mother of the Gods: from Cybele to the Virgin Mary.


Based upon the review in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, it seems the author dispels two notions: first that Cybele is a latter day representative of the cult of a Great Goddess, and second that the worship of the Christian Virgin Mary is a direct descendant of the Graeco-Roman Mother-goddess cult.

I have decided to purchase a copy of this text because the question is an intriguing one and worthy of further study.

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Great, thanks for the recommendation. I'll get the book too. I've never thought that the cult of Mary was a direct descendant of the cult of Cybele, only that certain aspects of the latter may have been taken up by the Catholic Church, which after all, spent centuries trying to incorporate Greek and Roman ideas into Christian theology (read Scholasticism).

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Very informative chapter as always - thank you @Roman Collector  Sorry to say I have no Cybele types for Faustina I, but I do have one for her daughter Faustina II (note the Roman Collector notes):


Faustina II  Denarius n.d. (c. 170-175 A.D.) Rome Mint FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed draped bust right / MATRI MAGNAE, Cybele seated left holding branch in right hand, resting left arm on drum; at her side, lion. RIC 706; BMCRE 134; C192. (2.44 grams / 17 mm) eBay Jan. 2021 (Lith.) Notes:  "Mattingly (BMCRE4, p. cxliv) believes this reverse type honors Faustina "as an earthly likeness of the 'great mother', Cybele." Mattingly assigns coins of this type (along with other reverses) to her "last issue" (ibid), and even postulates that they may have been issued posthumously (op. cit., n. 2)." Roman Collector, Coin Talk


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