The elder Faustina (c. 97 - 140 AD) was the wife of Antonius Pius and the aunt of Marcus Aurelius, and her more prominent daughter, Faustina II (130 - 175), the wife of Marcus Aurelius and the mother of Commodus. Bearing the same name, and both the wives of rulers, these women shed valuable light on the role of imperial women in in what is often considered the golden age of the Roman Empire. Barbara Levick's Faustina I and II highlights the importance of these women to the internal politics of the Empire during this period and shows how they are links in a chain of elite Roman women for whom varying levels of recognition and even power were available. The Faustinae, as they are jointly called, come between the discreet Matidiae, the discreetly manipulative Plotina (Trajan's women), the philosophical Sabina (Hadrian's wife) and in the Severan dynasty Julia Domna, who has had a very high profile. In assessing their place in this chain, Levick will examine especially Faustina II's deep involvement in palace politics, her enhancement of her mother's position, and her possible role in the revolt of Avidius Cassius (175).
This book will also bring together and display the material evidence for their lives and legacies. There is an abundance of inscriptions and coins that provide firm evidence for their public status in Rome, Italy, and various parts of the Empire. Portraiture is also examined, in particular to see how much Faustina I and II were identified by artists, and how close a precedent Faustina II was for Domna, as their titulature suggests she was. Overall, this learned study carefully balances the evidence to explain how these women were at once continuators of a dynasty and emblems of the ideals of Roman marriage, and yet also the target of rumors of infidelity and treason, with reputations that are often in stark contrast to those of their husbands.