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Faustina Friday – The Children of Faustina the Younger, Part IV

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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! I hope you have a coin-filled weekend ahead.

Last week's installment of Faustina Friday concluded with the birth of the twins Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus on 31 August, 161 CE. This week's installment concludes this series with a discussion of the births of Faustina's last three children, a boy named Marcus Annius Verus, born in 162 and for which there is abundant numismatic evidence, a boy named Hadrianus sometime in the mid-160s, for whom we have historical evidence but not much in the way of numismatic commemoration, and a girl named Vibia Aurelia Sabina, likely born in 170 or 171, for whom the IVNONI LVCINAE issues may have been issued.

Time and space constraints prohibit me from illustrating every coin documenting their births, particularly of Marcus Annius Verus. Rather, I shall illustrate only one coin of each reverse type, using the coins in my own collection whenever possible, and will simply note parallel issues in other denominations. I have previously discussed most of these issues in greater detail elsewhere and I provide links to these earlier installments where appropriate for those interested in a deeper exploration.


Marcus Annius Verus, born 162 CE

Marcus Annius Verus was named after his great-grandfather, Marcus Annius Verus, the father of Faustina I. Little is known about the boy, but he was still alive after his sister Lucilla's marriage to Lucius Verus in 164.[1]
He held the rank of Caesar when he died at the age of seven as a result of an operation for a tumor below the ear, just before Marcus set off for the German war in 169.[2] This implies a birth year of 162. The twins, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and his younger brother Commodus, were born on 31 August, 161. Allowing at least a few months before conceiving again, this implies a birth date in the later months of 162 for Marcus Annius Verus.[3]

Three reverse types were issued to commemorate the birth of Marcus Annius Verus: the FECVNDITAS type depicting Fecunditas standing right,[4] holding a long vertical scepter and infant, the LAETITIA type, depicting Laetitia standing left or right, holding wreath and scepter, and the VENVS GENETRIX type, depicting Venus standing left, holding Victory and resting her hand on a shield.

The FECVNDITAS type obviously refers to the birth of a child. It was not issued in gold, but only in silver and bronze. These coins occur in a wide
variety of bust types and hairstyles and occasionally with the all-round legend on the obverse. This reverse type is among the most common of those issued by Marcus Aurelius for Faustina. In fact, among the denarii in the Reka Devnia hoard, it was the single most common reverse type for Faustina (263 denarii), comprising 19% of the denarii issued under Marcus Aurelius in the hoard.[5] I illustrate the type with a representative specimen from my collection.


Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 3.20 g, 17.4 mm, 11 h.
Rome, late 162 – early 163 CE.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right (Beckmann Type 7 hairstyle).
Rev: FECVNDITAS, (Faustina as) Fecunditas standing right, holding scepter and infant.
Refs: RIC 677; BMCRE 92-93; Cohen 99; RCV 5252; MIR 9-4/10b; CRE 176.

The second reverse type issued for the birth of M. Annius Verus is the Laetitia type. The Latin noun laetitia roughly means "happiness." Specifically, the word connotes a feeling of joy, exultation, rejoicing, gladness, pleasure, or delight. However, the word also carries connotations of fertility.[6] Szaivert assigns the LAETITIA issue to phase three of Marcus Aurelius's issues for Faustina, issued AD 161-164. He suggests the issue commemorates the birth of M. Annius Verus, but notes this hypothesis is "unsicher, aber durchaus möglich" (uncertain, but quite possible).[7] However, support for the notion that the issue commemorates the birth of a child comes from Beckmann's recent die study of the aurei issued for Faustina II. He notes the appearance of two new types linked to a common obverse in a long chain of die-linked SALVTI AVGVSTI types: LAETITIA and VENVS GENETRIX (Venus the mother). He interprets the simultaneous appearance of these two reverse types as follows:

Together these two types (each represented by only one die) echo strongly two of the themes with which Faustina's coinage began back in 147, Venus Genetrix (in another iconographic guise) and Laetitia Publica. The birth of a child is clearly referenced, and the most probable candidate is Marcus Annius Verus.[8]

The LAETITIA reverse type was issued in all metals and with a wide variety of hairstyles and bust types. Laetitia appears standing, facing either left or right, and holding a wreath and scepter (or scepter and wreath). I illustrate the type with a representative type from my collection.


Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 2.60 g, 18.1 mm, 5 h.
Rome, late 162 – early 163 CE.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right (Beckmann Type 7 hairstyle).
Rev: LAETITIA, Laetitia standing facing, head left, holding wreath and scepter.
Refs: RIC 700; BMCRE –; Cohen 147; RCV 5258 var; CRE 197.

As noted above, the VENVS GENETRIX reverse type appears simultaneously with the LAETITIA type in Beckmann's die-linkage study of the aurei of Faustina the Younger, establishing a date for the issue of 162-163. It was issued in silver and gold. The bronze coinage depicting the same reverse iconography but with the dative case inscription VENERI GENETRICI likely formed part of this issue as well. Venus Genetrix means "Venus the mother" and was featured on coins commemorating the birth of Domitia Faustina in 147.[9] Undoubtedly her presence on this issue of 162 is similarly intended to commemorate the birth of a child. I illustrate the type with coins from my collection bearing both the nominative and dative reverse inscriptions.

Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 3.60 g, 19 mm, 1 h.
Rome, late 162 – early 163 CE.
FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right (Beckmann Type 7 hairstyle).
Rev: VENVS GENETRIX, Venus standing left, holding Victory in extended right hand and resting left hand on shield depicting the Dioscuri set on helmet(?).
Refs: RIC 734 var.; BMCRE 172; RSC 280a; RCV 5268; MIR 35-4/10b; CRE 227.


Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 26.19 g, 30.6 mm, 6 h.
Rome, late 162 – early 163 CE.
FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right (Beckmann Type 7 hairstyle).
Venus standing left, holding Victory in extended right hand and and resting left hand on shield depicting the Lupa Romana set on helmet.
Refs: RIC 1678; BMC p. 536*; Cohen 239; RCV 5285; MIR 39-6/10b.

Obviously, the mint officials in Rome considered the birth of Marcus Annius Verus to be of great importance. Indeed, the birth of a male child to the imperial family was cause for much celebration. Even though Marcus Aurelius and Faustina already had an heir (Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus) and a spare (Commodus), childhood mortality was high, and a second spare (Marcus Annius Verus) was very much welcomed. Indeed, two of these three boys died in childhood, leaving only Commodus to inherit the throne upon his father's death.

Hadrianus, born c. 163-166 CE.

This child was named after the emperor Hadrian.
Marcus Aurelius's biological father, Marcus Annius Verus the younger, was Hadrian's nephew. This means that Hadrian was Marcus Aurelius's great uncle. However, a series of adoptions made Antoninus Pius the stepson of the emperor Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius the stepson of Antoninus Pius. Moreover, Faustina the Younger was the biological daughter of Antoninus Pius. This inbreeding within the Antonine dynasty makes things complicated, but it's accurate to say that baby Hadrianus was named after his step-great-grandfather Hadrian on both his mother's and father's side, who was simultaneously his great-great uncle on his father's side.

This mysterious child is known only from two inscriptions, CIG 2968b and 3709,[10] the latter of which, an inscription from Ephesus (I.Eph. 288), is most helpful in terms of dating his birth. The Ephesus inscription names Hadrianus as son of Marcus Aurelius Augustus and was part of a family group which included Commodus (whose name is erased) and Lucilla, who is not called Augusta.[11] The numismatic evidence indicates that Lucilla received the title of Augusta upon the birth of her first child in 165 or 166.[12] Allowing at least a few months after giving birth to Marcus Annius Verus and conceiving yet another child, Hadrianus could have been born no earlier than late 163. His birth could have happened no later than 166, which is the latest date proposed for Lucilla being awarded the title of Augusta. A date of 164 or 165 seems most likely, but given the limited amount of evidence from antiquity, this must be considered conjectural.

Therefore, when looking for numismatic evidence of Hadrianus's birth, we should examine the coinage of Marcus Aurelius's 17th through 20th tribunician years for coins with iconography suggesting the birth of a child. Similarly, we should look at the coinage of Faustina depicting the empress in the Beckmann Type 9 coiffure, which was far and away the most common bust type used on her coinage of the mid-160s.

Close examination of Marcus’s coinage demonstrates an unusual number of coins depicting Felicitas during his 19th tribunician year (December 164 – December 165). Moreover, t
he Latin word felicitas not only means happiness, but carries strong connotations of fruitfulness and fertility.[13] Be that as it may, there is nothing specific about the iconography of Felicitas on these issues, such as a small child, that indicates Felicitas is to be taken as anything other than an allegorical issue. To argue that these coins commemorate an imperial birth seems case of special pleading. Basically, if a son had been born to Marcus Aurelius during the mid-160s, his coinage is silent about it.

Turning to the coinage of Faustina, the
HILARITAS reverse type dates to 166 CE and one might think this reverse type is a potential candidate. However, there is a difference in the Latin language between Hilaritas, which means almost exclusively "cheerfulness," and Laetitia, which has associations (like Felicitas) with fertility. Moreover, Hilaritas is depicted on this reverse type with a palm, which carries a connotation of military victory. Moreover, the aurei of the HILARITAS reverse type were struck simultaneously with a VENVS VICTRIX issue. For all these reasons, Beckmann postulates the Hilaritas issue was struck to commemorate the Parthian victory for which Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus celebrated a triumph in October 166.[14] Juno is a goddess of fertility and childbirth, particularly in her avatars as Caprotina and Lucina,[15] respectively. The IVNO standing issue appears simultaneously with the HILARITAS issue in 166 in Beckmann's die-linkage study and is therefore a potential candidate for an issue commemorating the birth of Hadrianus.[16] However, Juno does not carry the epithet of Lucina, nor is there anything specific about the iconography of Juno on these issues, such as a small child, to indicate she is to be taken as anything other than an allegorical issue. Lastly, the reverse type continues through at least 169 CE, when Faustina's Type 10 coiffure was introduced, making it even more unlikely that the IVNO issue was intended to commemorate the birth of a child years earlier.

In short, the story of poor Hadrianus remains as untold in the numismatic record as it is in the historical record. We have no Fecunditas standing among a hoard of children of all ages proudly holding a newborn. The paucity of mention of Hadrianus in the record suggests that he, like T. Aelius Antoninus, died in early infancy.

Vibia Aurelia Sabina, born 170 or 171

Just as Hadrianus was named after Emperor Hadrian, his younger sister Vibia Aurelia Sabina was named in honor of the late Roman Empress Vibia Sabina, the wife of Hadrian. Empress Sabina was the stepsister of Rupilia Faustina. Rupilia Faustina in turn was the mother of Faustina the Elder and the wife of Marcus Annius Verus the elder, and therefore the paternal grandmother of Marcus Aurelius and the maternal grandmother of Faustina the Younger.

This youngest princess was likely born in Sirmium, Pannonia. In the year of her birth, her parents were preparing war expeditions at Sirmium. She would have been the three-year-old in Sirmium mentioned by Philostratus when Herodes Atticus visited there in 174;[17] hence Birley dates her birth to c. 170.[18] She is known as a daughter of Marcus Aurelius from a number of ancient inscriptions, and one from Numidia makes it clear that she survived the reign of Septimius Severus by naming her divi Severi soror, "the sister of Divus Severus."[19] She had become Severus' sister after he had himself retroactively adopted by Marcus Aurelius as part of his scheme to justify his claim to power.

In seeking numismatic evidence of Aurelia Sabina's birth, we should examine the coinage of Marcus Aurelius's 24th and 25th tribunician years for coins with iconography suggesting the birth of a child. Similarly, we should look at the coinage of Faustina depicting the empress in the Beckmann Type 10 coiffure, which was introduced on her coinage sometime after the death of Lucius Verus in January 169.[20, 21]

As was the case with Hadrianus, coins commemorating the birth of a child cannot be found among those issued for Marcus Aurelius during the proposed timeframe. We therefore turn to the issues of Faustina herself. There is but a single issue that likely refers to the birth of a child, the DIANA LVCIFERA reverse type depicting the goddess standing right and holding a lighted transverse torch with both hands. This type was only issued in bronze. The empress may be bare-headed or wearing a stephane and the obverse inscription may be in the nominative or the dative case.


Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman Æ as, 9.77 g, 25.1 mm, 11 h.
Rome, 170-171 CE.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right (Beckmann Type 10 hairstyle).
DIANA LVCIFERA S C, Diana standing right, holding lighted torch in both hands.
Refs: RIC 1632; BMCRE 974-75; Cohen 89; RCV –; MIR 8-7/10c.

This DIANA LVCIFERA reverse type strongly echoes an earlier issue struck to commemorate the birth of a child. As we have seen in Part II of this series on the children of Faustina the Younger, Diana Lucifera was a goddess of childbirth, and coins with the DIANA LVCIF reverse type were issued in 157 CE to commemorate the birth of T. Aelius Aurelius. This later Diana Lucifera issue is similarly best taken as commemorating the birth of a child. It should therefore be dated to 170-171 CE, the possible birth years of Vibia Aurelia Sabina.

Summary and Conclusions

The historical and numismatic record indicates that Faustina the Younger bore 12 children in 11 pregnancies (twins): the six alive in 161 and depicted on the
TEMPOR FELIC issue of that year, plus the three who died before the death of Antoninus Pius, plus the three who were born after 161. Their fates are summarized below.


  1. Domitia Faustina, born 30 November 147. Her birth is celebrated on coins of the VENERI GENETRICI, IVNONI LVCINAE, and LAETITIAE PVBLICAE reverse types. She died in early childhood sometime before the birth of Faustina III in 150 or 151.
  2. Lucilla, born 7 March 149. She appears along with her sister on Pius's TEMPORVM FELICITAS issue of 149, Marcus Aurelius's TR POT III COS II/PIETAS and CONCORDIA TR POT III/COS II issues of 149, Faustina's IVNO and PVDICITIA issues depicting a young girl and a baby. She married Marcus Aurelius's co-emperor and stepbrother Lucius Verus in 164 and was widowed in 169. Lucilla was banished to the Isle of Capri by her brother Commodus in 182, where she was put to death later that year.
  3. Faustina III, born 150 or 151. She may be depicted allegorically as Proserpina alongside Ceres on aurei of Antoninus Pius dated to 150 and 151. The child standing next to Pietas on Faustina's PIETAS S C sestertius of c. June 152 - autumn 154 is possibly a representation of Faustina III. She subsequently appears with certainty on numerous coins issued through 161 along with her siblings. She was still living at the beginning of Commodus's reign in 180.
  4. T. Aelius Antoninus or T. Aurelius Antoninus, born 152. Died in infancy. Ancient inscriptions do not agree on his name. He is not represented on coinage.
  5. T. Aelius Aurelius, born 157. His birth was celebrated on Faustina’s DIANA LVCIF and FECVNDITATI AVGVSTAE issues of 157. He too died in infancy.
  6. Fadilla, born 159. Her birth was celebrated on Antoninus Pius's PIETATI AVG COS III and Faustina's IVNONI LVCINAE issues, each of which depicts a goddess standing, holding an infant and with two girls at her feet. Fadilla married M. Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus, who was Consul in 177 CE with Commodus Caesar. She was still alive in 190, when she was instrumental in warning her brother Commodus that a certain Cleander was endangering the grain supply.
  7. Cornificia, born 160. Her birth was celebrated on Antoninus Pius's PIETATI AVG COS IIII, Marcus Aurelius's TR POT XV COS II DESIG III, and Faustina's FECVND AVGVSTAE issues, each of which depicts a goddess standing, holding two children and with two girls at her feet. Cornificia survived to adulthood and married M. Petronius Sura Mamertinus, who became consul in AD 182. Her husband and his family were murdered by Commodus in AD 190 or 191. However, Cornificia was not involved and survived the purge, only to be forced to commit suicide by Caracalla in 213 CE.
  8. Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and twin brother Commodus, born 31 August 161. Their birth is celebrated on Faustina's coins of the TEMPOR FELIC and SAECVLI FELICIT reverse types. They appear along with their four sisters on coins of the former type, and together on a pulvinar on the latter type. The older twin, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, died in 166 CE at the age of four or five. Commodus, of course, survived to adulthood and assumed the throne after the death of his father on 17 March 180.
  9. Marcus Annius Verus, born 162. His birth was celebrated on Faustina's issues of the FECVNDITAS, LAETITIA, and VENVS GENETRIX and VENERI GENETRICI types. He held the rank of Caesar when he died at the age of seven following a surgery for a tumor below the ear, just before Marcus set off for the German war in 169.
  10. Hadrianus, born c. 163-166. He died in infancy and there appears to be no numismatic commemoration of his birth.
  11. Sabina, born 170 or 171. Her birth was commemorated on Faustina's DIANA LVCIFERA reverse type. She was still living at the time of Septimius Severus's death in 211.

I hope you found this series on Faustina's children entertaining and educational. Feel free to post comments, coins, or anything you feel is relevant!



1. Reynolds, Joyce Maire, et al. The Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. British School at Rome, 1952, p. 33, no. 25.

2. SHA Marc. 21.3: sub ipsis profectionis diebus in secessu Praenestino agens filium nomine Verum Caesarem exsecto sub aure tuber septennem amisit (Just before his departure, while he was living in retreat at Praeneste, Marcus lost his seven-year‑old son, by name Verus Caesar, from an operation on a tumor under his ear). Magie, David. Historia Augusta. I, Harvard University Press, 1921, pp. 184-185. The profectio (departure) is referred to at SHA Marc. 20.6, profiscens ad bellum Germanicum (just before setting out for the German war), set in the context of a shortened period of mourning for Lucius Verus, who died in 169 (Magie, op. cit., pp. 182-183). Coins of Marcus Aurelius with the type PROFECTIO AVG were struck in 169 (BMCRE Marcus 1349 and 1350).

3. Levick notes his birth to have occurred "towards the end of 162." Levick, Barbara. Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age. Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 117.

4. The sestertius depicting Fecunditas standing left, RIC 1640; BMCRE 905n; Cohen 102, probably doesn't exist and is likely a misinterpretation of the direction the goddess' head is facing on an unclear specimen. Cohen cites M. Hoffmann; RIC and BMCRE in turn cite Cohen.

5. Beckmann, Martin, Faustina the Younger: Coinage, Portraits, and Public Image, A.N.S. Numismatic Studies 43, American Numismatic Society, New York, 2021, p. 117.

6. Glare, P.G.W. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2016; s.v. laetus, 1.

7. Szaivert, Wolfgang, Die Münzprägung der Kaiser Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus und Commodus (161/192), Moneta Imperii Romani 18. Vienna, 1989, p. 230.

8. Beckman, op. cit., pp. 60-61. Dating is clear because the
SALVS and SALVTI AVGVSTAE types appear after the issue for the twins (as discussed in Part III of this series) and continue for two to three years. The LAETITIA and VENVS GENETRIX type appear in the die-linkage chain in the midst of the SALVTI AVGVSTAE chain.

9. Beckman, op. cit., pp. 23 ff.

10. Levick, op. cit., p. 117.

11. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 113.

12. Some historians have suggested Lucilla was awarded the title Augusta upon her marriage to Lucius Verus in 164, but Fittschen convincingly argues from the coinage of Lucilla in favor of Lucilla being awarded the title of Augusta upon the birth of her first child in 166, following the model of Faustina the Younger. Fittschen, Klaus, "Die Bildnistypen der Faustina Minor und die Fecunditas Augustae," Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse, 3rd Series, no.126, Göttingen, 1982, pp. 72-73. Some historians date the birth of Lucilla's daughter to 165.

13. A Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary: revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1879. Online version available at the Perseus Project; s.v. felicitas I.

14. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 63.

15. Jones, J.M. A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins. London: Seaby, 1990, p. 153.

16. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 63.

17. Phil. Vit. Soph. 2.1.11, cited by Levick, op. cit., p. 117.

Birley, Anthony R. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. New York: Routledge, 1966, pp. 45, 162, 181.

19. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 113.

20. Beckmann, op. cit.,
pp. 64-65.

Levick, op. cit., p. 171.

Edited by Roman Collector
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Thanks so much, @Roman Collector. This series has been fantastically informative. I hope you're able to publish it as an article. Whether you do or not, I know that I will always consider it the definitive guide to the numismatic history of Marcus Aurelius & Faustina II and their children.

I have only one more coin to post, a FECVNDITAS type commemorating the birth of Marcus Annius Verus:

Faustina II (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AR Denarius, ca. 162/163 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. draped bust right with hair in chignon behind, wearing double strand of pearls, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Fecunditas (or Faustina as Fecunditas) standing facing, head right, holding long scepter in right hand and, with left hand and arm, infant with its arms raised towards its mother (representing Marcus Annius Verus, b. ca. 162 AD*), FECVNDITAS. RIC III MA 677, RSC II Faustina II 99c (Faustina with double strand of pearls**), Sear RCV II 5252, BMCRE IV Marcus Aurelius 92 (var. with Faustina wearing single strand of pearls***). 18.46 mm., 3.54 g. 


*See Dinsdale Ch. 4 p. 51 & n. 1 [Dinsdale, Paul H., The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus, Ch. 4, Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Marcus/04 - Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (med_res).pdf) at p. 51] ("This issue refers to the birth of M. Annius Verus in 162"). See also https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Marcus_Annius_Verus_Caesar : “Marcus Annius Verus Caesar (born 162 or 163 – 10 September 169) was the 12th of 13 children of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Empress Faustina the Younger. Annius was made caesar on 12 October 166 AD, alongside his brother Commodus, designating them co-heirs of the Roman Empire. Annius died on 10 September 169, at age seven, due to complications from a surgery to remove a tumor from under his ear. His death left Commodus as the sole heir. . . . He was given the name of Marcus Annius Verus because it was the original name of his father, Marcus Aurelius” -- as well as his grandfather and great-grandfather. 

** The fourth of four listed varieties, along with Faustina II bareheaded, with single strand of pearls, and with stephane. (See RSC II at p. 223.)

*** The British Museum, at least as of the date of BMCRE, does not appear to have an example of the variety with Faustina II wearing a double strand of pearls.

Edited by DonnaML
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