One of Diva Faustina Augusta’s most important cultic aspects is that of ‘New Ceres’ (Noua Ceres in Latin, Νέα Δημήτηρ in Greek). Faustina the Elder was certainly not the only imperial lady likened to Ceres, but Cererean imagery is unusually pervasive with Faustina; we also learn from the Fasti Ostienses that Antoninus Pius, Faustina, and their household observed the Fast of Ceres on 20 October. Finally, Herodes Atticus is known to have dedicated a small private shrine to Diva Faustina as Νέα Δημήτηρ on the outskirts of Rome (the building still stands; it has been converted into the church of Sant’Urbano alla Caffarella).
The image below is not from that shrine, but from another structure of Herodes Atticus’ household, namely the nymphæum at Olympia, which depicted members of Herodes’ own family as well as those of Antoninus Pius. Herodes’ piety towards Diva Faustina and the imperial family is ironic (or perhaps fitting), given that he once got into a roadside scuffle with Pius before the latter became emperor. Although not the most flattering portrait of Faustina, this statue shows her solemn and charismatic: she is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
I’m putting up this colorized version of Herodes Atticus’ statue of Diva Faustina now since this is the season when the Ludi Cereales were observed in antiquity. Ceres herself keeps a low profile in Gaul, and it seems appropriate to also call to mind Faustina—wife of the emperor from Nîmes, Antoninus Pius.
Speaking of Gaul, it’s not too soon to mark our calendars for the dedication of an altar at Eisenberg, in honour of the divine house, to Mars Loucetius and Victoria Nemetona on 22 April 221 CE (AÉ 2007:1044). Nemetona is one of the Gaulish deities who are widely worshipped by people who are not particularly specialists in Gaulish religion (along with Epona, Cernunnos, and a few others). As ‘goddess of the grove’, she is widely invoked to sanctify sacred spaces; however, it’s perhaps less widely known that in Gaul, she frequently operated in close association with a Middle Rhine hypostasis of Mars, viz. Loucetius, and that she was syncretized with Victoria. Mars Loucetius is closely analogous with Lenus Mars of the Treveri, and as such is more of a protector of civic institutions than a war-god (although obviously these roles are by no means mutually exclusive). Furthermore, various evidence links Mars Loucetius and Nemetona with healing—a natural association given the way one often thinks of ‘battling’ and ‘overcoming’ disease—(including therapeutic waters). The divine couple will have had a divinatory role as well: the inscription at Eisenberg (as restored) mentions the dedication of lots as well as a vessel to cast them in. There are therefore numerous grounds, and numerous connections, by which to honour Mars Loucetius and Victoria Nemetona on 22 April.