Faustina the Elder was the daughter of Marek Annius Verus and Faustina Rupilia. She also went down in history as the aunt of emperor Marcus Aurelius. But her biography also hides an interesting story – she was one of the most engaged empresses in improving the education of the lower social strata…
The story goes that she was the only daughter of Consul Verus. Her brothers were the consuls Annius Libo and Marcus Annius Verus. Her maternal aunt was Empress Vibia Sabina.
Faustina was born and grew up in Rome. She became the wife of Antoninus Pius when he was still an ordinary citizen. When Antoninus went as proconsul to Asia, she was said to have made excessive use of her freedom. She was a grateful object of gossip. This phenomenon was certainly influenced by her great beauty. But after the return of her husband, the rumors died down.
Her uncle was Emperor Hadrian. It was he who appointed Antoninus as the new emperor. Faustina, by his side, became empress and the Senate awarded her the title of Augusta.
Together with her husband, they had four children, including the youngest daughter, also Faustina, who later became the wife of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Faustina the Younger was the only child who survived and witnessed her parents’ elevation to the rank of emperor and empress.
Fabia Orestilla, later the wife of Gordian, one of the emperors, is also descended from Faustina the Elder.
Faustina the Elder was valued not only for her beauty but also for her wisdom. She was actively involved in charity work. She also had another great passion. She was well aware that education could improve the lives of many people. Therefore, she helped Roman children, especially young girls, gain knowledge.
Faustina also went down in history because of the hairstyle she promoted. In the Roman world, her updo was imitated for two or three more generations.
Pius, being emperor, rarely left Italy. He and his wife divided their time between Rome and their favorite estate in Lorium and other estates in Tusculum.
Faustina probably died around the year 140, most likely in Lorium. Antoninus was deeply moved by her death and wanted to honor her properly. That is why her sculptures were included in the Roman Forum. but also in the main circus.
Antoninus and Faustina, according to many historians, are still regarded as one of the most compatible and matched couples of the Empire.