The History of Mullets

Found on…

Date: Tue, 6 May 2003 22:27:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: MeiHwa Chang
Subject: re: Great Mullets in History

While the photograph of the coin featuring Roman emperor Tiberius (see below) is a valuable addition to the web site, Blake Beattie’s submitted central argument and reference materials (“Great Mullets in History” e-mail of April 28, 2003) go no further than the Suetonius quote previously quoted in Steve Johnson’s piece (“historical mullets” e-mail of July 2, 2002 in “History of the Mullet”).

Andrea Beringer’s excellent research brings the mullet back at least to the Homeric period (“file under literature” e-mail of May 10, 2002 in “History of the Mullet”), perhaps 7th to 8th century BCE. This and the other findings regarding ancient Etruscan mullets and the “Standing Youth” statue (aka “Apollo of Tenea,” original at the Glyptothek in Munich) statue show the presence of mullets in the 6th Century BCE.

Although Beattie’s piece may not have been correct in asserting that Tiberius was the first mullet, scholars at the National Singapore Institute of Mulletology have been hotly debating the implications of whether Tiberius could have been the single most famous powerful mullet in history. From examination of Beattie’s coin image, along with those of many other of denarii of the Roman emperors, it seems clear that the coins do not show hair on the back of his neck; rather, at best one sees the usual ribbons hanging down from the back of the laurels. As to Tiberius’ strength and personality, we may perhaps never know where the mulletude left off and the emperoritude started.

This leads us to a central issue in mulletology. These coin portraits are, for the most part “idealised” depictions of the emperors. (Imperial coin designers did not want to show Gaius Caligula’s well-recorded baldness, for example.) If Suetonius is correct in his recordation of Tiberius’ hair (noting Beattie’s careful acknowledgement that Suetonius was born decades after Tiberius’ death), then we can perhaps infer that the mullet was left out of the coin portrait on purpose. Why? Nearly 2000 years later, we are left only to guess. However, one widely circulated theory is that those close to Tiberius made this slight alteration, not wanting the whole Roman Empire to know they were being ruled by a guy whose chariot probably had a T-top.

Meihwa Chang, PhD candidate
National Singapore Institute of Mulletology


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