Yet another of the many female deified abstractions depicted on coin reverses during Hadrian’s principate is Providentia, “Providence.” However, the word doesn’t simply mean “providence” in Latin, or anything possibly related to it (e.g. “provision” in the sense of “provide for,” etc.), but instead what those terms in English most literally mean: “vision before,” which is to say, “foresight” or “forethought.” She was honored with an altar in Rome as Providentia Augusta.
The ability of Providentia to give forethought and foresight to an emperor in order to prevent calamities in the future, or in any way to alter the course of future events, no doubt would have been very appealing to Hadrian, who was interested in astrology and oracles of all sorts. It is also a very interesting concept to consider when looking at the eventual changes in religion that came about under Christianity, especially when paired with another goddess, the Greek Metanoia, “afterthought” or “regret.” This personified goddess of regret later became essential to Christianity in a manner even more important than Fides or Spes, because this term came to be the preferred one for “conversion.” Indeed, the “change of mind” or metanoia experience of conversion is still sought by modern Christians and praised as a step (though often one taken repeatedly) in getting closer to their conception and understanding of divinity. What for the Greeks and Romans was a somewhat negative experience, “regret,” became for Christians the foundation of their spiritual experience. But people like Hadrian would have much preferred not to have Metanoia be a goddess terribly present in their lives, when taking proper advantage of Kairos (“Fortunate Timing”) and Providentia would have been possible instead.
It is also tempting to look at Providentia in the role she may have played in foreseeing Antinous’ death. If Hadrian could have prevented his drowning, would he have done so? I’m certain the answer is yes, personally. And yet, he was not able to do this. Perhaps in the aftermath of Antinous’ death, he sought out the favors of Providentia more than he would have done previously. Though it was worse for Hadrian to be without his beloved, nonetheless the gods had a new companion, the Nile was rejuvenated, and people for many generations after were able to enjoy the blessings of Antinous. The workings of Providentia are mysterious indeed.
Ave Providentia Augusta! Ave Antinoe!