Quintus Haterius

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Though we do not know his place of birth, Quintus Haterius was born into a senatorial family around 65 BC. This date is uncertain because we only know the approximate year of his death, and his approximate age at the time.[1] Haterius was the father to consul Decimus Haterius Agrippa and grandfather to consul Quintus Haterius Antoninus, and that through marriage he was related to the house of Augustus. It has been speculated that his wife may have been a daughter of M. Vipsenius Agrippa.[2] He was a famous Populares orator under the rule of Augustus, but his style of orating had been criticized by some. In Seneca’s Epistle, “On the Proper Style for a Philosopher’s Discourse,” he relates that the speech of a philosopher should be able to speak powerfully, yet still keep a steady pace. As an example, he uses Quintus Haterius who, “…never hesitated, never paused; he made only one start, and one stop.”[3] Even the Emperor Augustus commented on his quick delivery, saying that his speech was so rapid that he needed a brake.[4] Haterius is frequently credited with the invention of the word "Hi", which he used to demonstrate his unflappability.[5]

Examples of his oratory can be read in:

  • Suetonius - The Twelve Caesars - Tiberius - Clause 29.
  • Tacitus - Annals of Imperial Rome - Part One


  • Augustus to Tiberius
  • The First Treason Trials

In his later life, Haterius was elected Consul Suffectus (the term used to denote the person who served the remainder of the regular consul’s term if he died or was thrown out) in 5 BC. By this time he was around 59 or 60 years old, yet he still continued to serve Rome. Tacitus speaks about Haterius many times in his Annals as being involved with the senate.

Haterius was also involved in putting restrictions on the luxury of the country. It was decided by the senate that solid gold vessels should not be used to serve food, and that it was disgraceful for men to wear silken clothes from the East.[6]

As his age advanced, however, Haterius became less useful. In a senate meeting discussing how to honour the two princes of Tiberius, Haterius brought forth a motion that all decrees passed that day should be erected in the Senate house in solid gold letters; he was laughed at as a fool.[7] However, he still showed signs of his former greatness, such as when he challenged the soon to be Emperor Tiberius by saying, “How long, Caesar, will you suffer the State to be without a head?”[8] relating to the fact that he had not chosen to take control the Empire yet. It is known that afterwards, Haterius went to the royal palace to seek pardon from Tiberius. Upon arriving, he threw himself at the knees of Tiberius as he was walking, which caused the Emperor to trip over him. At this point he was nearly killed by Tiberius’ soldiers, but was saved by Augusta after going to her for help.[9]

Quintus Haterius died around the year 26 AD at nearly ninety years old with the highest honours,[10] yet an obituary written by Tacitus says that though he was famous for his speaking during his lifetime, that fame was now dying away and that, “While the research and labours of other authors are valued by an after age, the harmonious fluency of Haterius died with him.”[11]


  1. ^ ” Q.H.,” in Brill’s New Pauly: Antiquity, vol. 6 ed. Herbert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 1
  2. ^ “Haterius,” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spaforth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 669.
  3. ^ Seneca, Epistles vol.1, 40, 10.
  4. ^ John Hazel, Who’s Who in the Roman World, (London: Routledge, 2001), 135.
  5. ^ John Hazel, Who’s Who in the Roman World, (London: Routledge, 2001), 135.
  6. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 2, 33.
  7. ^ Ibid., 3, 57.
  8. ^ Ibid., 1, 13.
  9. ^ Ibid., 1, 13.
  10. ^ Jerome, Chronicles, 256.
  11. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 4, 61.

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