A public expression of his devotion to his family, Trajan’s relatives were portrayed on his coinage to an extent not seen since the Julio-Claudian emperors. Both his natural father Marcus Ulpius Traianus and adoptive father Nerva are commemorated on his coinage, and Trajan also extended the honour to his living relatives, namely his sister Marciana, his wife Plotina and his niece Matidia. Trajan and his elder sister Marciana maintained a particularly close relationship, and the deep affection that existed between them is evident in Trajan’s decision to award her the title of Augusta, the first sister of an emperor ever to receive the title. Marciana thus became part of the imperial iconography, and her statue was placed together with those of Trajan and his wife Plotina over the Arches of Trajan in Ancona.
There is very little is in the historical record of Ulpia Marciana, Trajan’s sister. Unlike many other imperial relatives during the Empire, she is thought to have been of very high character. During Trajan’s reign, Marciana lived as a widow, and did not take another husband. Marciana was a close friend of Trajan’s wife, Plotina, and both jointly accepted the title of Augusta in 105 AD (which they had both rejected in 98 AD). The date of her death is debatable, and although some scholars believe she died in the year she was hailed Augusta, her death is commonly placed in 112 or 114 AD.
It is on this posthumous coinage of Marciana that the reverse legend CONSECRATIO is first utilised, and it was thereafter frequently employed for posthumous coinages of deified augusti and augustae. Following Marciana’s death, her daughter Matidia was raised to the rank of Augusta in her stead, and coinage was struck in her name also. Through Matidia, Marciana would be the great-great-great grandmother of the future emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Bust of Ulpia Marciana, diademed, draped, right; hair elaborately arranged and bound into tight bun high at back of head
DIVA AVGVSTA MARCIANA
Eagle standing left, head right, wings spread
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