My latest article at Return of Kings takes an amusing look at an example of ancient anti-lawyer sentiment. Not that anyone had any doubt about it, of course.
We take a look at an anti-attorney tirade that appears in Ammianus Marcellinus’s history, called the Res Gestae. This phrase could be loosely translated as “Events” or “Chronicles.” The full article can be found by clicking here.
I wanted to address a question about something in the article asked by an astute reader. Samuel B. Roberts (@SBRoberts10) asks:
Why do you suppose Ammianus’s [legal] scammers went after single men? Modern single men aren’t known for a propensity for lawsuits.
Good question, Sam. The reason why the “forensic orators” of Ammianus’s day targeted rich widows and single men was because of the great importance of wills and trusts in Roman society. The act of drafting a will and preparing one’s estate for the testamentary process was very important.
There was, for example, a certain type of woman (called a “legacy hunter”) who would target single men for resource extraction. Think of it as the ancient version of a gold-digger.
If a scammer could get his fingers on someone’s legacy, or have a hand in preparing its documents, he could find a ready source of profit. The testator left property on trust to an heir, who was bound to transfer the property to a person (e.g., a woman) by a certain date.
Then, as now, there were abuses of the system. We probably should not take too seriously Ammianus’s complaints. Against his scowling disapproval of the legal system, we find the exemplary guidance offered by Quintilian.
In every age, vices achieve the limelight, and goodness remains in the shadows.
Those wishing to read Ammianus can find his history here.