Coin of Faustina the Younger
[This entry originally by R. Kerns]

On the obverse of the coin is a profile bust of Faustina the Younger, the daughter of Emperor Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder, and the wife of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. She is identifiable by her signature hairstyle, a low bun, and by her hooked nose.1 Encircling her head is the remnants of a “FAVSTINA AVGVSTA” label, of which the FAV is poorly preserved. “Augusta” was an official title (the feminine form of “augustus,” similar to “queen”) conferred to Faustina II by the Senate after the birth of her first child in 147 AD because the event indicated successful imperial succession.2 The title brought her formal rights, including the right to mint coins.3

The reverse of the coin depicts a standing Juno holding a patera (an offering plate) in her left hand and a scepter in her right. A peacock, the goddess’ sacred animal, stands to her right side. Although unpreserved, the inscription “JUNO REGINA” encircles the goddess on other coins of this type. In addition to being queen of the gods, Juno was also the patroness of marriage and motherhood. By including Juno on the coin, Faustina associates herself with these these identities.

Based on Faustina’s portrait and Juno’s stance, the coin was among the later coinage of Faustina, minted between 169 and her death in 175.4 The Senate deified Faustina the Younger upon her death, elevating her to divine status.5 Had the coin been minted after 175, it would have included the title “Diva” to indicate her deification.6

Explore the 3D model of the Faustina coin. Model: R. Kerns
Site Plan, courtesy of Trasimeno Archaeology Directors.

This coin was found in an upper stratum of the southwest corner of trench A6. Because it was found intermingled with a variety of building materials (mostly roof tiles), it was likely dropped and subsequently buried during a structural collapse or a dump. Due to the small size of the coin, erosion could also have moved it to this location.

Trench A6. Star indicates location of coin. Photo: R. Schindler.

Other coins from the Villa
Approximately 10 bronze coins have been excavated at the Villa. Most are poorly preserved and not legible. They were found primarily in the upper fill levels of the Central Area, deposits which were formed by contemporary agricultural work on the site and which contain a mix of materials from the upper terrace level of the Villa. For example, three coins were found in Trench B6-B7 U.S. 226 in 2019.

Three coins from Q.B6-B7, U.S. 226
Date: Unknown Material: Bronze Date found: 12-13 June 2019 Location: Gioiella-Vaiano Villa Site, CLG19 Trench B6-B7, U.S. 226

Why coins matter:
[by R. Kerns]
In Imperial Rome, coins were minted by placing a hot blank (round metal piece) between two dies (hand-carved metal stamps engraved with the inverse coin design) on an anvil, then striking the stack with a mallet.7 More than just commerce tokens, coins serve as powerful propaganda. Through the natural dispersal of trade, a single coin reaches numerous individuals, all of whom see, touch—even desire—the coin and, by association, the icons it bears.     

When Marcus Aurelius began ruling in 161 AD, he needed to establish and promote his authority through propaganda. That same year had widest distribution of coinage portraying Faustina.8 As the daughter of the previous emperor, the wife of current emperor, and the mother of the presumed future emperor, Faustina herself linked past, present, and future leadership. The association with Juno reinforces her status as royalty, wife, and mother. Her portrait therefore symbolized smooth transitions of power, which promoted imperial stability and, presumably, quality of life for the Roman people. For the newly crowned imperial couple, minting coins of Faustina not only promoted her fame but also propagated the idea of good governance.

Because our coin has a minting date range of 169-175 AD, the earliest it could have been in circulation is 169, giving the layer in which the coin was found a terminus post quem (“time after which”). However, because the layer in which the coin was found was not its primary context, the layer was likely deposited much later than 169 AD.


  1. Stamper 2018.
  2.  Levick 2014, 31; Boccacio 2003, 205; Burns 2006.
  3.  Levick 2014, 36-37. .
  4. Mattingly 1976, cxliii. The coin is from Group III of Faustina II’s coins; cf. Mattingly, plate 55,  no. 13.
  5. Boccacio 2003, 206.
  6. Art Institute of Chicago 2016.
  7. Harl 1996, 10.
  8. Ameling 1992, 164.

Ameling, W. 1992. “Die Kinder des Marc Aurel und die Bildnistypen der Faustina Minor” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 90, 147-166.
Art Institute of Chicago. 2016. “Cat. 55 Aureus Portraying Faustina the Younger: Tombstone,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. 2003. Famous Women. Harvard University Press.
Harl, K. 1996. Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700. JHU Press.
Levick, B. 2015. Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age. Oxford University Press.
Mattingly, H. 1976. Coins of the British Empire in the British Museum, Vol. IV: Antoninus Piusto Commodus. British Museum Publications Limited.
Mattingly, H. 1976. Coins of the British Empire in the British Museum, Vol. IV: Antoninus Piusto Commodus. British Museum Publications Limited.
Stamper, M. 2018. “Faustina Augusta.” Trasimeno Archaeology Field School Student Blog. ArchaeoTrasimeno.

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