Sulla struck a significant series of coins in gold and silver during his return from the East after brokering a peace deal with Mithridates at the Dardenelles and marching on Rome. On that coinage, he identifies himself by the title “Imperator”, the acclamation given to a commanding general after his first major successful battle by his own troops (i.e. Roman citizens under arms).
He wasn’t the first to use this title on a coin to mark out his authority. That honor goes to the murderous, mutinous Fimbria (he even sacked Troy!):
What’s noticeable is how Sulla doesn’t get to monopolize this honor amongst even his followers:
This specimen was probably minted in Massalia as C. Valerius Flaccus, proconsul in Gaul, sets out againt Sertorius c. 82 BC. Notice how like Fimbria (HIS BROTHER’S MURDERER!) – sorry for shouting I got excited – he combines the title with the iconography of the legionary standard. His Wikipedia page is remarkably thorough and well written, although again I didn’t check the accuracy.
This type was issued by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius. On the other type in this series he includes his initials so we we’re sure, but keeping the ‘I’ for Imperator at the end:
Metellus’ career and pedigree certainly rivaled that of other men of his generation. What does all this tell us? Mostly that Sulla may have set norms but that his peers did not assume they could not match him.
Update: Also see now my post of 27 September 2013.