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Faustina Friday – The Currus Elephantorum Part 2


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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! Today we're going to talk about one of Faustina the Elder's more interesting reverse types, her second issue to depict the currus elephantorum. As I discussed in a previous installment devoted to the first issue featuring the currus elephantorum, coins featuring the empress's currus were issued twice: 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.[1] This sestertius was part of the tenth death anniversary issue of 150 CE.

FaustinaSrAETERNITASSCcurruselephantorumsestertius.jpg.62aa6dbfcc4e17ae6caa4883de3ce94e.jpg

Faustina I, 138-140 CE.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 25.47 g, 32.2 mm, 6 h.
Rome, 150 CE.
Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: AETERNITAS, Faustina I, veiled and draped, seated left, holding corn ears and scepter, in carpentum drawn left by two elephants with riders; S C in exergue.
Refs: RIC 1113; BMC 1502-1504; Cohen 57; Strack 1256; RCV 4611.
Notes: Ex-
Münzb. Karlsruhe, Dr. Becht, 25 Feb 1996; Gilles Blançon Oct 1991, lot 562; Auktion-Basel Nov 1967, lot 1314. This reverse die is unique for the issue in that it depicts Faustina holding corn ears and scepter; the typical depiction is holding a vertical torch (or scepter) in right hand and resting left hand on knee. Reverse die match to: Mazzini 2, pl. 86, 57; Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger (Auction 279), 8.2.2012, lot 2469; and Auktionshaus H. D. Rauch GmbH (Summer Auction 2013), 18.9.2013, lot 661; and Roma Numismatics Limited (E-Sale 62), 17.10.2019, lot 901. Dinsdale assigns this reverse die a separate listing, no. 017830, because the empress has different attributes.[2]


Features of the Second Issue of 150 CE

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. Like the earlier issue, this issue was struck the aureus and sestertius denominations. Their medium-bronze counterparts are anepigraphic and are not discussed here. 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
 bare-headed bust is characteristic of the sestertii, which are not known with a veiled bust. Unlike the aurei, left-facing busts do not appear the sestertii. The cart may be drawn to the left or to the right on the sestertii. There is no indication, however, that these varieties were intended to be separate issues by the mint; rather, they appear to have been in production contemporaneously and should be seen as artistic license on the part of the die engravers.

The elephant cart is depicted differently on the second issue than on the first. Unlike the first issue, the cart has a single (rather than double) tier of decoration on its side. Secondly, a canopy is present, supported by four large columns, over the seated figure of Faustina atop the cart.[3] Whether it represents an actual modification to Faustina's currus is impossible to know, but it seems probable. A study of the AETERNITAS and temple type of 150 CE demonstrates that in the course of renovating the temple for the empress's 10th death anniversary, the carpentum used in the currus elephantorum during her funeral was installed on a pedestal in front of the stairs to the entrance of the temple.[4] On the temple coins, the cart is depicted with a canopy. I have discussed this previously
elsewhere
.

Well-preserved specimens of the first and second issues illustrate these differences.


FaustinaSrEXSCelephantcarpentumBMC.png.6161987957cfc219c7efe322849f6e4f.png

A sestertius of the first issue. The obverse inscription reads DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA and the reverse reads EX S C in the exergue. Note the cart has no canopy over the figure of the empress and has two tiers of decorations on the cart’s side. British Museum specimen, BMCRE 1435.


FaustinaSrAETERNITASSCcurruselephantorumsestertiusBMC.png.24f9929bccd3570e02a3cefd9fc40d92.png

A sestertius of the second issue. The obverse inscription reads DIVA FAVSTINA and the reverse reads AETERNITAS clockwise around the rim from 9:00 to 1:00, with S C in the exergue. Note the presence of a canopy over the figure of the empress and only one tier of decorations on the cart. The empress is depicted differently on this coin than on my coin, above; she (reportedly) holds a vertical torch or scepter in her right hand and rests her left hand on her knee, whereas on my coin, she holds corn ears and a transverse scepter. British Museum specimen, BMCRE 1503.


Do you have any currus elephantorum coins? 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. 64.

2. Dinsdale, Paul H. Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius Caesar AD 138-161; Second Revised Edition. Leeds, Paul H Dinsdale, 2021, p. 281.

3. Beckmann, op. cit., pp. 65-66.

4. Ibid., pp. 33-35, 67.

Edited by Roman Collector
Add provenance information; correct misinformation about the corresponding medium bronzes
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What an amazing coin! I like that patina a well. 

Other than being huge, I wonder why they chose elephants to pull her instead of horses? 

Since I don't have a currus elephantorum, here is an elephant with a horse on it. 

 

3037041_1656323595.l-removebg-preview.png.3d5d6e9c413ae98de054b7ad04ca91bb.png

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9 hours ago, Ryro said:

What an amazing coin! I like that patina a well. 

Other than being huge, I wonder why they chose elephants to pull her instead of horses? 

Since I don't have a currus elephantorum, here is an elephant with a horse on it. 

 

3037041_1656323595.l-removebg-preview.png.3d5d6e9c413ae98de054b7ad04ca91bb.png

Thats what im talking about GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Thank you for the kind words, @Ryro! What a cool coin! An elephant with a horse countermark!

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