99, 100, 101 out of 410 days: The first Imperator, or ‘EMBRATUR’

Obverse Image

Back on 14 August 2013 I was rambling on about Sulla’s numismatic peers especially in relation to the use of the self-identifier IMPERATOR.  I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the first instance of this honorific on coins being attributed to Fimbria.  Not that after murdering his commander and taking his army and sacking Troy I thought he wasn’t an arrogant enough @$$hole to do so.  [I really dislike Fimbria: he’s my least favorite Roman and they were generally a bad lot.]  It’s just he didn’t strike me as very creative or trend-setting.  Why would Sulla be copying him?  Did they really come up with it each independently?  Well, turns out we have C. Papius C. f. Mutilus to thank for this innovation.  Yup.  That’s right.  One of the most notable of the Social War generals.   A Samnite enemy of Rome eventually defeated by Sulla.  His coinage is pretty famous too:

So it doesn’t really say Imperator as that’s Latin.  It says, reading right to left, EMBRATUR, in Oscan, but the title has the same meaning in a  very closely related language and cultural milieu.

The coins struck in Mutilus’ name use the same types as those used by the Marsic confederation and are clearly part of the same series, but Mutilus’ ability to use the coinage for the promotion of his own standing and especially his honorific title clearly had a lasting impact.

[A. Burnett raises the possibility of Mutilus inspiring Sulla briefly in general terms on p. 170 of his ‘The coinage of the Social War’ In Coins of Macedonia and Rome: Essays in Honor of Charles Hersh, edited by A. Burnett, U. Wartenberg, and R. Witschonke, 165-172. London: Spink)]

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I’m rushing to finish a chapter prior to leaving for Turkey and am generally frantic, but this observation was so fun I couldn’t not share!

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