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510209
510209.

Sabina. Augusta, AD 128-136/7. AR Denarius (18.5mm, 3.12 g, 6h). Rome mint. Group 3, circa AD 130-133. Draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair falling in plait down neck / Concordia seated left on throne, holding patera with her extended right hand and resting her left arm on statue of Spes on low cippus; cornucopia below throne. RIC II.3 2501; RSC 12. Attractive old cabinet tone. Near EF.


Vibia Sabina’s husband Hadrian is much better known for his love of men, particularly the youth Antinöus, than for any affection he felt for her. Their marriage was politically useful: Sabina was the great-niece of Trajan and had been married to Hadrian, who was also her second cousin, at the request of Trajan’s wife Plotina. Sabina may have found other outlets for her energies; the Historia Augusta records that several officials including the historian Suetonius were removed from the emperor’s employ for over-familiarity with the Empress, but Hadrian did not divorce her. Sabina may also have enjoyed liaisons with women; one of her ladies in waiting, the poetess Julia Balbilla, wrote a poem on the statue of Memnon which describes Sabina’s “lovely form.”

The Epitome de Caesaribus states that Hadrian treated Sabina like a slave and abused her to the point where she died by suicide rather than endure any longer, but this is not attested in other sources. Sabina was certainly a very public Empress during her lifetime and was deified after her death, like her aunt Plotina before her.