In the Roman Empire of the 1st and 2nd centuries, there lived two lawyers known as Lustricius Bruttianus and Montanius Atticinus. The latter of the two, Atticinus, reportedly specialized in wills and financial matters, offering his services in this purview to clients. The other lawyer mentioned, Bruttianus, was one of Atticinus’ many clients and they were also originally close friends. Yet, Bruttianus was not an average customer. He had an inquisitive nature, and rather than leave Montanius Atticinus to his own devices on the work he was being paid to do, Bruttianus was instead drawn to take peeks at the will and other documents that he had Atticinus working on. While taking these curious ganders, Bruttianus was horrified to discover that Atticinus had been criminally doctoring the will and other inheritance documents that Bruttianus had hired him to prepare. Bruttianus, being a lawyer himself, knew the laws that Atticinus was breaking, and he knew how to fast-track a criminal conduct investigation. As such, he began quickly drafting a report that would be promptly sent to Rome. Atticinus, however, realized that his relationship with Bruttianus had soured, and assuming that his criminal behavior had been discovered, Atticinus frantically tried to get ahead of the danger by alleging false charges against his accuser, Lustricius Bruttianus. The allegations of the two lawyers reached Rome and were taken up by the senate and the emperor. There, the case piqued the interest of another inheritance law specialist, Pliny the Younger (c. 61/62-113), who recorded a description of the dramatic trial. He wrote:
“Lustricius Bruttianus had detected his colleague, Montanius Atticinus, in a number of criminal offences and had sent a report to the Emperor. Atticinus then added to his misdeeds by bringing a case against the friend he had deceived. The trial came on, and I acted as assessor. Each side conducted his own case, dealing with the main items one by one, which is the quickest way at arriving at the truth. Bruttianus produced his will, which he said was written in the hand of Atticinus, as a proof both of the confidence he had placed in their relationship and of the necessity which constrained him to complain about a man who had been so dear to him. He cited a number of shocking charges, all clearly proved… [Atticinus] had bribed a slave belonging to Bruttianus’ secretary, had intercepted certain papers and falsified some of them, and, worst of all, had directed a charge intended for himself against his friend” (Pliny the Younger, Letters, 6.22).
Although Montanius Atticinus tried to piece together a semblance of a defense, inquisitive Lustricius Bruttianus brought with him enough evidence and proof to demolish his former friend in court. The senate and the emperor, convinced by what they heard and saw in the trial, dropped all of the charges that had been lodged against Bruttianus, and contrastingly, they convicted Atticinus of his illegal activity. During sentencing, Atticinus was ultimately banished by the emperor to an undisclosed island.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Tombstone stele of the twins Rhode and Rhodope, dated between 100-120, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum in Warsaw).
- The Letters of Pliny the Younger, translated by Betty Radice. New York: Penguin Classics, 1963, 1969.