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506882. SOLD $525

Faustina Junior. Augusta, AD 147-175. AR Denarius (19.5mm, 3.41 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck under Antoninus Pius, circa AD 147-150. Draped bust right, wearing single circlet of pearls around head / Venus standing left, holding apple and dolphin-entwined rudder. RIC III 517c (Pius); RSC 266a. Underlying luster. Near EF. Struck on a broad flan, with a charming portrait of the young princess.

Annia Galeria Faustina the Younger was born in about AD 129 to then Senator Antoninus and his wife, Faustina the Elder. When Antoninus was adopted by Hadrian as his successor in AD 138, the emperor arranged for her betrothal to Lucius Verus, son of the “heir consumptive” Aelius Caesar, who died the same year. When Antoninus inherited the throne, he broke the engagement and instead betrothed her to his nephew and adoptive son, and favored heir, Marcus Aurelius. The couple were wed in AD 145 to great rejoicing and went on to produce up to 13 children, including two sets of twins, of which only five appear to have survived to adulthood, among them the future emperor Commodus and empress Lucilla. Faustina was named Augusta, or empress, in AD 147, after the birth of the couple’s first child. Since her husband as yet bore only the title of Caesar, for some years she technically outranked him in the Roman societal pecking order, if not in actual power.

Faustina Junior’s coin portraits during her long reign as Augusta show clearly the rapid evolution in Roman feminine hairstyles in the later second century AD. Here she resembles a lady of the Napoleonic court 17 centuries later, demonstrating that later rulers were keenly aware of, and imitated, Imperial Roman styles.