Sponsianus. Sponsi what ? The name of a new virus ? A brand of toilet paper ? Not at all. He is an usurper who revolted during the rule of Philip the Arab around 248 AD. The main problem with him is that there are no written records of his name ; nor of his existence. But strangely his coinage is included in the RIC catalogue ( RIC IV, III p.67). So let me tell you the 300 years old story full of mysteries about this almost unknown " Emperor". It all started in 1713 in Transylvania (Romania), birthplace of Count Dracula the vampire. Many aurei of Gordian, Phillip and from a certain Sponsianus are discovered in unknown circumstances. They seemed to have a barbarian minting origin by their non-usual style. The description of these coins are : IMP SPONSIANI / C AVG Radiate head of Sponsianus to the right, two togate figures, r. and l. of column, one on r. holding lituus, one on r. holding an uncertain object, on column a statue, bells above, corn ears below. What is very weird is the reverse type which is in fact a copy of a Republican denarius struck in...135 BC ! The mysterious reverse found on Sponsianus coins.(135 BC) Franz Neumann is the first numismatist who wrote about him in Populorum et Regum Numi Veteres Inediti in 1779. He reported about the discovery of many aurei of Gordian, Philip and a certain Sponsianus and believed their origin were certainly barbaric. Joseph Eckhel is the next one who included the usurper in his Doctrina Numorum Veterum ( 1796): he listed 5 examples in different cabinets in Germany. He attributes the fabrication of the pieces to some Gothic tribes from the time of Caracalla and also cites several museums or collections which have a specimen of him. In 1815, Theodore Mionnet in De la rareté et du prix des médailles romaines wrote :" the barbarian medallion described here is of the same manufacture, and appears to have the same origin as the barbarian medallions of Gordian and Philip the father which were described here above (...) of which there are several examples in the cabinets of Austria". Jonn Yonge Akerman also gave a description of Sponsianus the "Emperor" in A Descriptive Catalogue of Rare and Unedited Roman Coins (1834) : "this usurper is not mentioned by any historian; but it is presumed that he assumed the purple about the same period as the two former personage". Finally the numismatist Henry Cohen explained in Description historique des Medailles Impériales (1892) about the coinage of Sponsianus :" I look at these pieces as ridiculously imagined and very poorly made modern coins". The main problem with the authenticity of Sponsianus' coinage is that almost all examples have vanished over the centuries. There is only a unique poor picture of one of his aurei existing now : The one and only existing picture of Sponsianus I research online Collections of all Major Museum in the world without any result. Knowing that often not all coins' Collection have been digitalized completely , I asked for the help of the curators of these same museums by writing to them personally; I received only one positive answer from Dr. Klaus Vondrovec, curator of the Vienna Münzkabinet : Dear Dominic, Indeed two coins are in our collection. Unfortunately I have no images; despite the fact, that they are around for a few centuries, those coins are definitely modern forgeries.. Best Regards rom Vienna, Klaus Vondrovec So it seems those are the final words for the legend of Sponsianus for now...So please give us your opinion about this mysterious character. Do you believe he is a "made up" Emperor ? Or do you agree with Wayne Sayles who wrote that " the lack of coins should not be seen as evidence that Sponsianus did not actually exist"? I now leave you with one Bulgarian specimen of Sponsianus denarius (?) which come for sale on Ebay from time to time. Is it the real thing or not ???