A quotation from Seneca the Elder

Portions of this post are written under the UK government legislation controlling criticism of homosexuality

I came across this appalling quotation recently while looking for legal materials online, quoted by Seneca the Elder in his Declamations.  In the Controversiae IV, pr. 10 and made by the orator Quintus Haterius, who lived in the days of Tiberius:

impudicitia in ingenuo crimen est, in servo necessitas, in liberto officium.

Unchastity is a disgrace for the freeborn, a necessity in a slave, and a duty for the freedman.

Few of us will be tempted to idealise Roman times.  But it is worth remembering that systematic abuse of human beings was a structural feature of that world, and no household — or very few — went without it.

I was unable to find either a text or a translation of these works of the elder Seneca, which I had never run across before.  It’s a reminder of how much is still offline.

1 Response to “A quotation from Seneca the Elder”


  1. Q. Haterius and the “duty” of a freedman at Roger Pearse

    [...] cases, with the arguments for and against.  Each came with a preface.  I quoted a phrase from one a little while ago, attributed to Haterius, an orator of the time of Tiberius: impudicitia in ingenuo crimen est, in [...]



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