Quintus Haterius

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Quintus Haterius was a Roman politician and orator 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 of Decimus Haterius Agrippa (cos. AD 22) and the grandfather of Quintus Haterius Antoninus (cos. AD 53), and related to to the house of Augustus by marriage. His wife may have been a daughter of M. Vipsanius Agrippa.[2] Haterius was a famous Populares orator under Augustus, but his style was sometimes criticized. 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]

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 removed) in 5 BC. By this time he was around 59 or 60 years old, yet he still continued to serve. Tacitus mentions Haterius many times in theAnnals in senatorial debate.

After the death of Augustus, Tiberius made a show of reluctance to accept power so that he not look ambitious. Asinius Gallus and Haterius both urged Tiberius to set aside his false modesty and assume power. Tacitus quotes Haterius: quo usque pateris, Caesar non adesse caput rei publicae? = "How long, Caesar, will you allow the state to be without a head?"[6] Suetonius might also quote him, but does not mention his name.[7] Fearing Tiberius' reaction, Haterius went to the palace to beg forgiveness and threw himself at Tiberius' knees. But his clumsy effort brought the emperor to the ground, and the guards, thinking this was an attack upon Tiberius's person, pounced upon Haterius to kill him. The intervention of Livia saved his life.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Quintus Haterius died around the year 26 AD at nearly ninety years old with the highest honours,[11] 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.”[12]


  1. ^ ” Q.H.,” in Brill’s New Pauly: Antiquity, vol. 6 ed. Herbert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 1
  2. ^ “Haterius,” Sir Ronald Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy, (Oxford 1986); The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spaforth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 669; Gaius Stern, Women, Children, and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae Chapter 5 (Berk. diss. 2006).
  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. ^ Tac. Ann. 1.13.4 (trans. Gaius Stern) as a play on Cic. Phil. 1.1.
  7. ^ Suet. Tib. 24. Compare the account to Dio 57.2.5-7.
  8. ^ Tac. Ann.1.13.7; Suet. Tib. 27.
  9. ^ Tac. Ann.2.33.
  10. ^ Tac. Ann. 3.57.
  11. ^ Jerome, Chronicles, 256.
  12. ^ Tac. Ann. 4.61.

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