Gaius Bruttius Praesens (consul AD 139)
Gaius Bruttius Praesens Lucius Fulvius Rusticus (68–140 AD) was an important Roman senator of the reigns of the emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. A friend of Pliny the Younger and Hadrian, he was twice consul, governed provinces, commanded armies and ended his career as Urban prefect of Rome. Bruttius’ life and career left few coherent traces in the literary record, but a number of inscriptions, including his complete cursus honorum, fills out the picture considerably.
Pliny, writing to Praesens refers to him as a Lucanian and an inscription concerning his son has been found at Volceii in Lucania. His father has been identified as Lucius Bruttius Maximus, proconsul of Cyprus in AD 80. The element "Lucius Fulvius Rusticus" in his polyonymous name is commonly agreed to be his maternal grandfather's name, thus connecting Praesens to the Fulvii Rustici (see gens Fulvius), a senatorial family from Cisalpine Gaul.
From an inscription recovered in Mactaris (modern Siliana in Tunisia), his career in imperial service can be reconstructed. As a teenager, Praesens was a tresviri capitales, one of the magistracies that comprised the vigintiviri. This was the least desirable office to hold, for men who held that office rarely had a successful career: Anthony Birley could find only five tresviri capitales who went on to be governors of consular imperial provinces. However, it is clear that Praesens succeeded despite this inauspicious beginning. Next he held a military tribune in Legio I Minervia, when he led a vexillation from Germania Inferior to Pannonia and earned decorations for service on the Danube in Roman emperor Domitian’s campaigns.
He served as quaestor in Hispania Baetica, and it may have been at this time that he first became friends with the young Hadrian, but thereafter he retired from public life.
Pliny in 107 was urging Praesens not to remain thus on his estates in Campania and Lucania but to return to Rome and to public life. His language suggests Praesens was an Epicurean in his tastes and beliefs, something he shared with Hadrian. Praesens is next heard of in the winter of 114/115, during Trajan's Parthian war, commanding Legio VI Ferrata, which according to a fragment of the Parthica of Arrian he marched in deep snow (having secured snowshoes from native guides) across the Armenian Taurus Mountains to get to Tigranakert. After a spell as curator of the Via Latina, he was legate of Cilicia when Trajan died in that province in 117. It is widely assumed that Hadrian made him a suffect consul in late 118 or early 119. He was a novus homo, the first of his family to hold the consulship.
Subsequently, Bruttius was Curator operum Publicorum, then governed Cappadocia (121-124) followed by a tenure as governor of Moesia Inferior from 124 to 128. He was Proconsul of Africa in 134/135 and appears to have been governor of Syria in 136 or 137, anomalous for a senior former Proconsul, but perhaps empowered to exercise diplomacy with the Parthians. In a resplendent end to a long career, his second consulship came in 139, as colleague of the new emperor Antoninus Pius, and at the same time he became Praefectus urbi, succeeding Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus. However Praesens died in this office the following year, as revealed by a fragment of the Fasti Ostienses published in 1982.
We know from the Tunisian inscription that Praesens was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, one of the more prestigious collegia of Roman priesthoods. Eusebius of Caesarea and John Malalas both cite a writer called 'Bruttius' or 'Boutios' as a source for events in the reign of Domitian.
There is disagreement whether in his letter Pliny is alluding to Laberia Hostilia Crispina, a rich heiress and daughter of Manius Laberius Maximus. Not enough is known about Crispina to say whether her origins were from Campania, which would clinch the identification, or from elsewhere. If from elsewhere, Laberia would be his second wife.
In either case, Laberia bore Praesens a son, Lucius Fulvius Gaius Bruttius Praesens Laberius Maximus, who became consul in 153 and 180. Through his son, Praesens became the paternal grandfather to future Roman empress Bruttia Crispina, who married the emperor Commodus, and to the consul Lucius Bruttius Quintius Crispinus.
- Ep. VII.3
- Olli Salomies, Adoptive and polyonymous nomenclature in the Roman Empire, (Helsinski: Societas Scientiarum Fenica, 1992), p. 140
- AE 1950, 66
- Birley, The Fasti of Roman Britain, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 5
- Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 12 (1982), p. 361
- Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 13 (1983), pp. 155-164
- Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", Chiron, 13 (1983), p. 176
- Ronald Syme, "People in Pliny", Journal of Roman Studies, 58 (1968), p. 150