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Crispina. Augusta, AD 178-188(?). AR Denarius (18mm, 3.39 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck under Commodus, circa AD 178-182. Draped bust right, hair in parallel waved plaits and drawn into chignon at back / Clasped right hands. RIC III 279B (Commodus); MIR 18, 6-4a; RSC 8. Deep blue-iridescent tone. Good VF.

Bruttia Crispina was the daughter of Gaius Bruttius Praesens, an influential Roman nobleman from Lucania. Her marriage to the teenaged Commodus was arranged by his father, Marcus Aurelius, to shore up support among the Roman gentry in the wake the abortive rebellion of Avidius Cassius (AD 175). Crispina was a legendary beauty but this probably had little effect on the egocentric Commodus, who took a succession of lovers of both sexes. Her incorruptibility and her inability to produce an heir apparently led Commodus to tire of her, though her final fate is something of a mystery. It is sometimes asserted she died early in the reign, after the conspiracy of Lucilla in AD 182, but this is due to a faulty reading of the main sources for the era, the Historia Augusta and Cassius Dio. Her coinage ceases after AD 182, probably due to her husband’s indifference, but inscriptions still name her as empress in the late 180s. Her banishment and eventual death seemed to have occurred around AD 188. Her coin portraiture depicts a graceful and delicately beautiful young lady with a long, swan-like neck, as seen here.