Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
"Annona was anciently worshipped as the goddess who prospered the year 's increase. She was represented on an altar in the capitol, with the inscription "Annonae Sanctae Aelius Vitalio," etc. (Gruter, p. 8, n. 10), as a female, with the right arm and shoulder bare, and the rest of the body clothed, holding cars of corn in her right hand, and the cornucopia in her left." -- Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Antiquities, p. 50.
The duty of the Ediles to secure for the people an abundance of provisions (annonae copiam), is plainly indicated on the coins of the Republic, in which the curule chair, ears of corn, and sometimes a cornucopia, are seen; as on denarii of the Flaminia, Lollia, Papiria, Quinctia, Rutilia, and Valeria families; some of which are inscribed with the abbreviated words AED.CVR. the mark of the Curule Aedileship: or with the modius, between two ears of corn, as on a denarius of the Livineia gens. -- See AEdilis, p. 12 of this work.
Besides the Ediles, both curule and plebeian, there were sometimes praefecti annonae, or extraordinary commissioners for affairs of provisions, appointed, who were furnished with the funds requisite to purchase and import wheat from those three principal granaries of Rome, the Sicilian, the Egyptian, and the African provinces, for the general consumption of the citizens. Memorials of the watchful care, taken by the Senate, to guard against, or at least to abate, the evils of scarcity, occur on denarii of the Calpurnia and Servilia families. The purchase and importation of provisions by the state, is also signified on certain consular coins. For example, we find in Morel, amongst the incerta, but supposed to be of the Hostilia family, a denarius, the obverse of which exhibits the head of Ceres, adorned with a crown of corn ears. On the reverse we read, C. MANCINus, Auli Filius - SEXtus ATILius Marci Filius SERRANVS. - The type figures two men seated, before the right band of one of whom is a modius, filled with ears of wheat; and behind the other is an ear of corn. - It is clear, that this denarius was struck in honour of the Plebeian Ediles, Sextus Attilius Serranus, and D. Mancinus, through whose care and exertions a great plenty of corn and other provisions, at a cheap rate, were supplied to the inhabitants of Rome. Their edileship is referred to the year U.C. 609 (B. C. 145) - [Sce Thesaurus Numi Consulares, TAB. xviii. fig. 16.]
It is not, however, until we come to the imperial series, and then not before the 4th reign, that Annona appears on Roman coins personified as a divinity. Her traits, habiliments, and attributes are nearly the same as throne of Abundantia, or to speak more in chronological order, Abundantia nearly resembles Annona. But there was this distinction between them, that the latter name was limited to express the supply for the current year, and like Copia, seems to have been applied to provisions, whereas Abundantia was a prodigal distributor of all kinds of things. Clothed in a long robe, and wearing a veil, which she partly turns over her left arm, sometimes seated, sometimes standing, the goddess is seen holding ears of corn before a measure with the right hand, and a cornucopia in the left. The first emperor by whose mint Annona is represented under the appearance of a woman, is Nero. Previously, six corn ears tied together, served to symbolize, what Mangeart calls, "this deity of provisions for the mouth," and to indicate a supply of corn abundantly procured for the people, as on a coin of Augustus.
After Nero, she appears on reverses of Titus, Nerva, Aelius Caesar, Commodus (see ANN. P. M. &c. p. 48), Sept. Severus, Caracalla, Macrinus, Philip senior, Trebonianus Gallus, Gallienus, Salonina, Tacitus, down to Constantine. With one exception (viz. that of ANNONA AUGUSTA, coupled with CERES, and in that case, if genuine, referring to the two goddesses themselves), the legends are ANNONA AUG. or AUGUSTI, or AUGG. "to shew (says Mangeart), that it was through the care, and by the generosity of the Emperors, that this deity has become propitious; that she had spread her gifts, and shed her blessings on the subjects of those princes, and was therefore a fit object of adoration."
ANNONA - Besides this word, the meaning of which has already been explained, there are other legends of imperial coins, which refer nearly to the same thing - such as Providentia Aug., with galley and sail spread, of Commodus; the Saeculo Frugifero of Albinus, and Opi Dioin. of Pertinax, with figures holding ears of corn; also the Felicitas Temporum pf S. Severus, with cornucopia and spice. The legend ANNONA AETERNA, ascribed by Mediobarbus (p. 268) to the silver mint of S. Severus, is not noticed by Eckhel, nor is it to be found in either Mionnet or Akerman.