Empress of Scandal: Faustina the Younger's Reign of Rumor and Rebellion

1. She Was Following A Hard Act

Faustina really had her work cut out for her. Imagine trying to live up to her mom, Annia Galeria Faustina, who was pretty much the perfect Roman empress. Everyone loved her so much that they called her “Augusta,” which was the best title a lady could get back then. Even Faustina's dad thought her mom was so amazing, he said she was a goddess. 

But even with such big shoes to fill, there was something special about Faustina that made her different from everyone else.

2. Luck Was On Her Side

Back in 130 AD, when Faustina was born, it was super tough for kids to make it to adulthood in Rome. Babies just didn't survive that often. So, it was kind of a big deal that Faustina was the only one of her parents' kids to grow up. She was really lucky to be alive, especially during that time in Rome. You could say luck was definitely on her side... at least for a while.

3. The Best Of Rome Was Hers

When Faustina was born, Rome was enjoying what historians now call the “Pax Romana". It was a peaceful time in Rome, even though they were still tough on other countries. Power passed from one emperor to another smoothly. But, things didn't stay calm for long. Interestingly, Faustina might have had a big part in the chaos that ended this great period of Rome's history.

4. She Didn’t Know How To Control

Faustina never really got to choose what she wanted in life. She had all the fancy stuff that came with being part of the Roman elite, but there was a big downside. She couldn't make her own decisions. Her dad called the shots, and that led to some pretty scary outcomes.

Way before she was considered an adult by today's standards, her family pushed her into situations that changed her life big time.

5. This Political Marriage Of Hers

Faustina didn't get a say in her first marriage. It was all decided by her family. Her second cousin, Emperor Hadrian, adopted Lucius Verus and then set up Faustina's marriage to him. Imagine that, she was only eight years old and already promised to be the future Roman empress. Getting married at such a young age is already pretty tough, but that was just the start of her complicated marriage story.

6. The Incest Incident

Just when Faustina was getting used to the idea of her first marriage, her dad changed everything. He called off her betrothal and married her off to his favorite successor, Marcus Aurelius. Here's where it gets more tangled: Aurelius was Faustina’s cousin on her mom’s side and kind of like her adopted brother. 

It sounds wild, right? Back then, though, no one raised an eyebrow. But the thing is, Faustina didn't have a say in any of this.

7. Her Marriage With An Older Man

At 15, Faustina did what she was told and married her cousin, a guy almost 10 years older than her. We don't really know what she thought about all this because nobody wrote it down. But let's be real, even if she did have something to say, it's likely her dad wouldn't have listened. So, there she was, a teenager about to become an empress, facing a whole new set of big responsibilities as part of the royal Roman crew.

8. She Just Never Stopped

Back then, having a lot of kids was a big deal, especially because many children didn't make it to adulthood. Faustina was super good at having kids—like, she had almost 14 of them in 21 years! But, honestly, being a mom so many times was super tough on her. Each time she had a baby, it wasn't just about joy. She faced a lot of sadness and heartbreak along the way, and that's something that really weighed on her as an empress and a mom.

9. Her Life Was Filled With Tragedies

Faustina went through a lot during her time as empress, being pregnant a bunch. But the sad part is, most of her kids didn't make it to growing up. Imagine how tough that must have been for her and her husband. Despite all that heartache, people still thought she was doing a great job at having kids. This was a big deal and even earned her a special honor. You've got to feel for her, though, going through all that.

10. Her Legendary Fertility

People in Rome really admired Faustina for having so many kids. They even called her the "fertile empress" and made a special coin with her picture on it, showing her with four of her children. When her husband, Aurelius, became emperor in 161, she stood by his side, looking like the ideal empress everyone loved. But even though she seemed perfect on the outside, behind the scenes, her actions were not always so great.

11. She Had N

When Faustina and her husband finally got to rule, things started to go downhill in Rome. There were scary diseases spreading, which meant fewer people and money troubles. Countries nearby were causing trouble, and to top it off, Aurelius wasn’t feeling well. All these problems really got to Faustina, and let’s just say, she didn’t handle it too well. Her response to all this stress was pretty shocking.

12. She Pursued Her Passions

Faustina didn't exactly stick to the rules. She reportedly had a wild side and couldn't resist her urges, often getting involved with sailors, soldiers, and even gladiators. Some stories say she didn't just stop at flirting. One affair she supposedly had turned out to be pretty violent.

13. She Decided To Revisit Her Past

Faustina's love life was, well, complicated. She's rumored to have rekindled things with her first husband, Verus, even while married to Aurelius. Some might shrug it off, given she was just a kid when first betrothed to him. But the whole situation gets a bit messier when you remember that Verus was now sort of her family too.

14. Her Twisted Love Triangle

Okay, let's break this down. Faustina was allegedly sneaking around with Verus, who wasn't just her ex, but also her son-in-law (yup, he was married to her daughter, Lucilla). Talk about a tangled web! Things must've been super awkward at family gatherings. To top it off, Verus spilled the beans to Lucilla. 

Can you imagine? Heartbroken and betrayed, Faustina felt she had to do something drastic.

15. She Always Took Revenge

So, Faustina supposedly got back at Verus big time when she learned about his betrayal. The word is she poisoned him. Sure, some say he died in battle, but there are whispers that his symptoms looked a lot like food poisoning. Makes you think, huh? And if the rumors are true, Verus might not have been the only one who crossed this fiery empress and paid the price.

16. She Was Absolutely Ruthless

Everyone probably thought Faustina would be just like her mom, all virtuous and stuff. But Faustina had her own way of doing things. She once said, “Leaders and soldiers are accustomed to crush others if they themselves are not crushed”. So, it's no surprise she took matters into her own hands, especially when people's lives were at stake.

17. She Even Played God

Roman executions were seriously brutal, think crucifixions and even worse stuff. As empress, Faustina had a lot of power. Word on the street is that she ordered a bunch of people killed during her time. Why? Who knows. But she wasn’t shy about getting rid of her enemies. 

With all these nasty rumors about her floating around, people were looking to her hubby, Aurelius, to do something. But his reaction to his wife’s actions totally caught everyone off guard.

18. Her Husband Was On Her Side

Aurelius didn’t seem to care about Faustina's wild behavior, which didn’t sit well with the public. One critic back then even said, “Other people’s misdoings, in particular his wife’s, he tolerated, making no fuss and exacting no punishment”. Maybe Aurelius was just trying to be a chill husband, but then he went and made a super weird decision.

19. Her Lovers Got Free Passes

Instead of getting mad, Aurelius did something totally unexpected. He didn't just let Faustina's behavior slide; he even gave her lovers fancy titles and positions. With all his power as emperor, he could've easily had them wiped out. But nope, he honored them instead. This made him look kind of weak, but it turns out Aurelius had his own reasons, and they weren't exactly about being a forgiving hubby.

20. She Was Being Used As A Pawn

Aurelius saw keeping Faustina around as just part of the deal he made to become emperor. When people told him to get tough with her, he was like, "If I ditch my wife, I gotta say goodbye to her dowry too." Basically, he felt stuck. To him, Faustina was just a piece in his political chess game to stay in power. Meanwhile, Faustina, knowing she could do whatever she wanted, really pushed the limits with her affairs.

Aurelius was essentially trapped by his ambitions and the conditions of his power. Faustina, realizing her untouchable status, indulged in her desires without fear of consequences, crossing lines that even the most liberal Roman might find excessive.

21. She Was Carelessly Cheating

Faustina's flings became so bold that she didn't even bother hiding them from her hubby. Imagine, he once walked in on her having a cozy breakfast with a lover! This must've been awkward for the emperor. And guess what? Faustina had an even bigger public embarrassment up her sleeve for him.

22. Her Husband Was A Joke To Her

Back then, Roman society was big on the arts, especially comedic theater that poked fun at current events. It got super awkward though, when during one show Aurelius was at, the act threw in a pun that totally roasted his and Faustina’s marriage, probably nodding to her never-ending affairs. But wait, there's more.

23. She Was Scared For Her Husband’s Health

Faustina's wild ways were messing with her husband's rep, and eventually, they even put his power at risk. In 174, Aurelius got super sick, maybe from ulcers or something. Anyway, he was in bad shape, and Faustina, believe it or not, got worried. So worried, in fact, that she supposedly made a choice that was a huge stab in the back.

24. She Was A Possible Traitor

When her husband’s health was tanking, Faustina supposedly egged on a rebellion against him. She's said to have secretly backed Roman general Avidius Cassius, who got bold enough to call himself emperor after hearing a bogus rumor that Aurelius had kicked the bucket. With Faustina's track record, folks thought she was maybe getting cozy with Cassius. But this time around, her motives might've actually been kinda noble.

25. She Was A Ferociously Protective Mother

Back then, Faustina's kid, Commodus, who was next in line for the throne, was just a 13-year-old. With her hubby's health all iffy, Faustina was super worried about who'd look after her boy if there wasn't a reliable emperor around. That's why she thought backing Cassius was a good move. She was just trying to keep her family on top, but oops, she jumped the gun way too soon.

26. Her Husband Always Fought Back

So, Cassius got to play emperor for like three months. Then, bam! Aurelius bounced back, kicked Cassius off the throne, and was so ticked off he wouldn't even glance at Cassius' chopped-off head. Honestly, if the gossip was right, Faustina should've gotten the axe too, just like her rumored beau.

But nah, the empress had some sneaky moves up her sleeve.

27. She Knew How To Cover Her Tracks

Right after Cassius bit the dust, these letters popped up where Faustina was all like, "That traitor's gotta pay." Apparently, these letters wiped her slate clean, and she and her hubby went back to living the high life as Roman big shots. Sadly, the son she was so worried about protecting turned out to be a real headache, something she probably should've seen coming.

28. Her Nightmare Was Turned Into Reality

While pregnant with the future emperor, Faustina had this wild dream where she gave birth to two snakes instead of kids, and one was obviously stronger. Turns out, Commodus was born a twin and outlasted his bro to become the next big cheese of Rome. You'd think Faustina might've guessed from the dream that Commodus was trouble.

But there's no way she could've predicted just how much trouble he'd turn out to be.

29. Her Son Was Causing A Stir

Rumors were flying left and right about Faustina's love life. No surprise then that folks were eyeing her kids, trying to figure out if they really were the emperor's. When Commodus, the next in line, was born, people were extra curious. His arrival stirred up talk, especially about one of Faustina's most talked-about flings.

30. Her Past Was Haunting Her

Folks in Rome were whispering that Commodus might not actually be the emperor's son. Instead, they thought he could be the kid of Faustina's famous gladiator lover (we'll get into that story later). Nothing's proven, but Commodus' nasty behavior sure didn't help squash those rumors.

31. Her Child Was Vicious 

Faustina's son, Commodus, had quite the rep for being a mean, aggressive kid. There's even this wild story about him ordering his servant's execution just because his bath wasn't warm enough. With antics like these, it's no shocker people thought he was the offspring of a murderous gladiator. Sadly, Commodus' terrible ways ended up leaving a permanent mark on his family and the whole Roman empire.

32. History Was Changed By Her Son

Commodus wasn't exactly the best emperor. His reign pretty much put an end to Rome's peaceful days. Historians didn't have many nice things to say about his leadership skills. Oddly enough, he was super into acting like a gladiator. It kinda seems like Faustina didn't nail it when it came to raising the future Roman emperor. And it wasn't just him; she seemed to have a tough time with her daughter too.

33. She Used To Oppose Her Husband

Faustina wasn't exactly thrilled about her daughter Lucilla's second marriage. The exact reasons are a bit hazy, but it seems like Faustina didn't think Claudius Pompeianus was high-status enough for her daughter. Despite Faustina's feelings, Lucilla went ahead and married him anyway, thanks to her husband's decision.

Despite all the drama and whispers surrounding Faustina, she still managed to be remembered as an empress with quite a few honors to her name.

34. The Public Didn't Really Like Her

Way before all the gossip about her affairs, Faustina was actually given the top Roman honor of "Augusta" in 147 AD. She was just a teen then, but already married to Aurelius. Maybe her knack for having kids got her this early shout-out, but she didn't stop there. She kept adding more good stuff to her resume.

35. She Believed In Traditions

Despite all the wild rumors, Faustina was right there with her emperor hubby during his numerous war campaigns. Gossip aside, she was a constant presence by his side in those risky times. She definitely had a knack for leaving a strong impression on the folks she met during her many travels.

36. Men Adored Her

Faustina probably loved the attention and admiration from the army guys while traveling with Aurelius. They were so fond of her they even called her "mother of the camp." Aurelius, too, seemed pretty impressed by what she could do, and somehow, he found her a good enough partner.

37. Her Husband Stood By Her

History sees Faustina's hubby as a pretty solid leader—smart and low-key. But that's kind of different from the wild stories about Faustina. Yet, they must've had something special. Aurelius himself gave her props, saying she was “obedient, loving, and devoid of affectation” in his notes.

But, other family members? They weren't nearly as kind to the Empress.

38. She Lost a Fortune

Faustina, part of Rome's high society, was counting on a fat inheritance when her great aunt kicked the bucket. But her aunt wasn't feeling too generous, apparently. Instead of giving the cash to Faustina, the expected heir, she left it all to some buddies. Faustina? She was not happy about this twist.

39. Her Pride Never Left Her Side

Faustina could have thrown a fit and demanded her inheritance, but she had too much pride for that. She didn't want to come off as greedy and spoil her classy image. So, she didn't even bother bidding on any of her aunt's fancy jewelry at the estate auction. This whole thing about keeping up appearances was something she stuck to till the very end.

40. On The Job

Even though her husband Aurelius was seen as a decent and peaceful leader, his time as emperor was full of wars. In one of these wars out East, Faustina passed away suddenly while she was with him. Her life was pretty much a rollercoaster of gossip and mystery. And, honestly, the way she died was just as puzzling, if not more.

41. She Died Pretty Suspiciously

Experts and history buffs can't quite agree on what caused the empress to kick the bucket. Some say it was just natural causes, while others think she might have offed herself, maybe to hide something shady. But there's an even juicier theory floating around. It makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, her past shenanigans finally came back to bite her.

42. People Wished Her Gone

Faustina definitely made some iffy choices as empress, especially with the whole thing about supposedly backing the dude who tried to steal her husband's crown. Some say she got whacked because of her romantic ties with the rebel Cassius. With her life full of so many question marks, it's tough not to raise an eyebrow about how she died. 

But even though things seemed a bit off, her hubby really bent over backward to paint her in a good light.

43. She Was Immortal

Faustina's husband really seemed heartbroken when she died. It was a Roman thing to turn important people into gods and goddesses after they passed, and Aurelius jumped right on that. He made Faustina a goddess and even built temples in her memory. That alone was pretty huge, but he didn’t just stop there.

44. Her Legacy Lasted

To honor Faustina, her husband went all out. He even renamed the spot where she died to Faustinopolis. Plus, her fans set up the Baths of Faustina in Greece, and they still carry her name. It's kind of wild how this empress, despite all the scandals, ended up with a pretty respected legacy. And her husband really put in the effort to help others remember her fondly.

45. She Helped Others

Faustina's dad was really touched when her mom passed away, so he set up this fund to help poor girls in Rome, sort of as a tribute. When Faustina died, her husband, Aurelius, did something similar in her memory and even added more to the fund. Aurelius really went the extra mile to honor her. That's why his next decision, or rather his hesitance to make a move, totally makes sense.

46. Her Husband Never Moved On

After Faustina was gone, Aurelius could have remarried, but he never did. Maybe he truly loved her and felt he couldn't find that again. Some say he was worried about how a new wife might treat his kids. So, in Faustina's absence, he stayed single throughout his rule. 

I mean, who could really follow Faustina's act—especially when you think about her most scandalous affair, the one we haven't gotten into yet...

47. Her Gruesome Taste

Faustina was rumored to have had an affair with a Roman gladiator, and boy, did that set tongues wagging! Gladiators were the ultimate bad boys in Rome – powerful, off-limits, and oh-so-tempting. You can kind of understand why a husband would be ticked off. But when her hubby, who just happened to be the Roman Emperor, found out, word is he flipped out in a dangerously intense way.

48. Her Husband Didn't Like Competition

Legend has it that Faustina's husband, totally miffed, consulted his astrologers. They gave him some mystical advice on how to handle the situation. So, he ordered the gladiator, Faustina's lover, to be executed – probably in one of those brutal Roman ways. That took care of the guy, but it was just the start of Faustina's troubles.

49. The Bath She Used To Take Was Unusally Gory

Aurelius had Faustina bathe in her executed lover's blood. Weird, right? They thought it would calm her down and make her the dutiful royal she was supposed to be. But that was just the start. As crazy as bathing in blood sounds, it was only half of this wild solution. Things got even stranger after that.

50. She Followed A Weird Ritual

Things took an even weirder turn with Faustina's "cleansing". After the whole blood bath thing, her husband decided they should, you know, get intimate. Yup, seriously. And there's another version where things happened the other way around: she was with the gladiator and, mid-moment, her husband decided it was execution time. 

Super messed up, right? But despite all that drama, Faustina's fiery spirit wasn't dampened even a little bit.