Faustina the Elder

Statue of Faustina the Elder. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Gabby Storey

Annia Galeria Faustina the Elder, also known as Faustina I or Faustina Major, was born on 16 February c.100 to Marcus Annius Verus and Rupilia Faustina.

Faustina married the future emperor Antoninus Pius between 110 and 115. They had four children together: Marcus Aurelius Fulvius Antoninus, Marcus Galerius Aurelius Antoninus, Aurelia Fadilla, and the future empress Annia Galeria Faustina Minor.

On 10 July 138 Antonius succeeded Hadrian as emperor as his adopted heir. Faustina was granted the title of Augusta by the Senate, and spent her reign, as she had spent her time as a private citizen, aiding the poor and working for her family’s interest.

Faustina also worked for the promotion of children’s education, particularly that of girls. Her death in 140 devastated Antoninus, and as a result she was deified and had a temple constructed in her honour in the Roman Forum.

Bust of Faustina the Elder. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Her posthumous legacy was significant, with several statues constructed and coins minted in her honour. Ten years after her death a new commemorative coin was struck. Antonius’ successors, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus erected the column of Antoninus Pius which depicts Antoninus and Faustina being elevated to the heavens.

Commemorative plinth to Antoninus and Faustina. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Recommended Reading

Annelise Freisenbruch, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars (London: Vintage, 2010)

Barbara Levick, Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Bettina Bergmann and Wendy M. Watson, The Moon and the Stars: Afterlife of a Roman Empress (South Hadley: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, 1999)

Jussi Rantala, Gender, Memory, and Identity in the Roman World (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019)

Martin Beckmann, Diva Faustina: coinage and cult in Rome and the provinces (New York: American Numismatic Society, 2012).

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