the life of GALBA
The Lives of the Caesars II, Claudius. Nero. Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Vespasian. Titus, Domitian. Lives of Illustrious Men:
Grammarians and Rhetoricians. Poets (Terence. Virgil. Horace. Tibullus. Persius. Lucan). Lives of Pliny the Elder and Passienus Crispus
Suetonius - Edited and translated by J. C. Rolfe
Suetonius (C. Suetonius Tranquillus, born ca. AD 70), son of a military tribune, was at first an advocate and a teacher of rhetoric, but later became the
emperor Hadrian's private secretary, 119–121. He dedicated to C. Septicius Clarus, prefect of the praetorian guard, his Lives of the Caesars. After the dismissal of both men for some breach of court etiquette, Suetonius apparently retired and probably continued his writing. His other works, many
known by title, are now lost except for part of the Lives of Illustrious Men (of letters).
Friend of Pliny the Younger, Suetonius was a studious and careful collector of facts, so that the extant lives of the emperors (including Julius Caesar
the dictator) to Domitian are invaluable. His plan in Lives of the Caesars is: the emperor's family and early years; public and private life; death.
We find many anecdotes, much gossip of the imperial court, and various details of character and personal appearance. Suetonius' account of Nero's death is
justly famous. The Loeb Classical Library edition of Suetonius is in two volumes. Both volumes were revised throughout in 1997-98, and a new Introduction added.
Also available: Original Latin Script
 The race of the Caesars ended with Nero. That this would be so was shown by many portents and especially by two very significant ones.
Years before, as Livia was returning to her estate near Veii, immediately after her marriage with Augustus, an eagle which flew by dropped
into her lap a white hen, holding in its beak a sprig of laurel, just as the eagle had carried it off. Livia resolved to rear the fowl and
plant the sprig, whereupon such a great brood of chickens was hatched that to this day the villa is called Ad Gallinas, and such a grove of
laurel sprang up, that the Caesars gathered their laurels from it when they were going to celebrate triumphs. Moreover it was the habit of
those who triumphed to plant other branches at once in that same place, and it was observed that just before the death of each of them the
tree which he had planted withered. Now in Nero's last year the whole grove died from the root up, as well as all the hens. Furthermore,
when shortly afterwards the temple of the Caesars was struck by lightning, the heads fell from all the statues at the same time, and his
sceptre, too, was dashed from the hand of Augustus.
 Nero was succeeded by Galba, who was related in no degree to the house of the Caesars, although unquestionably of noble origin and of
an old and powerful family; for he always added to the inscriptions on his statues that he was the great-grandson of Quintus Catulus Capitolinus,
and when he became emperor he even displayed a family tree in his hall in which he carried back his ancestry on his father's side to Jupiter and
on his mother's to Pasiphae, the wife of Minos.
 It would be a long story to give in detail his illustrious ancestors and the honorary inscriptions of the entire race, but I shall give a
brief account of his immediate family. It is uncertain why the first of the Sulpicii who bore the surname Galba assumed the name, and whence
it was derived. Some think that it was because after having for a long time unsuccessfully besieged a town in Spain, he at last set fire to
it by torches smeared with galbanum others because during a long illness he made constant use of galbeum, that
is to say of remedies wrapped in wool; still others, because he was a very fat man, such as the Gauls term galba, or because he was, on the
contrary, as slender as the insects called galbae, which breed in oak trees. The family acquired distinction from Servius Galba, who became
consul and was decidedly the most eloquent speaker of his time. This man, they say, was the cause of the war with Viriathus, because while
governing Spain as propraetor, he treacherously massacred thirty thousand of the Lusitanians. His grandson had been one of Caesar's lieutenants
in Gaul, but angered because his commander caused his defeat for the consulship, he joined the conspiracy with Brutus and Cassius, and was
consequently condemned to death by the Pedian law. From him were descended the grandfather and the father of the emperor Galba. The former,
who was more eminent for his learning than for his rank — for he did not advance beyond the grade of praetor — published a
voluminous and painstaking history. The father attained the consulship, and although he was short of stature and even hunchbacked, besides
being only an indifferent speaker, was an industrious pleader at the bar. He married Mummia Achaica, the granddaughter of Catulus and
great-granddaughter of Lucius Mummius who destroyed Corinth; and later Livia Ocellina, a very rich and beautiful woman, who however is
thought to have sought marriage with him because of his high rank, and the more eagerly when, in response to her frequent advances, he
took off his robe in private and showed her his deformity, so as not to seem to deceive her by concealing it. By Achaica he had two sons,
Gaius and Servius. Gaius, who was the elder, left Rome after squandering the greater part of his estate, and committed suicide because
Tiberius would not allow him to take part in the allotment of the provinces in his year.
 The emperor Servius Galba was born in the consulship of Marcus Valerius Messala and Gnaeus Lentulus, on the ninth day before the Kalends
of January, in a country house situated on a hill near Tarracina, on the left as you go towards Fundi. Adopted
by his stepmother Livia, he took her name and the surname Ocella, and also changed his forename; for he used Lucius, instead of Servius,
from that time until he became emperor. It is well known that when he was still a boy and called to pay his respects to Augustus with others
of his age, the emperor pinched his cheek and said in Greek: "Thou too, child, will have a nibble at this power of mine." Tiberius too, when he heard that Galba was destined to be emperor, but in his old age, said: "Well, let him live then, since that
does not concern me." Again, when Galba's grandfather was busy with a sacrifice for a stroke of lightning, and an eagle snatched
the intestines from his hand and carried them to an oak full of acorns, the prediction was made that the highest dignity would come to the
family, but late; whereupon he said with a laugh: "Very likely, when a mule has a foal." Afterwards when Galba was beginning
his revolt, nothing gave him so much encouragement as the foaling of a mule, and while the rest were horrified and looked on it as an
unfavourable omen, he alone regarded it as most propitious, remembering the sacrifice and his grandfather's saying. When he assumed the gown
of manhood, he dreamt that Fortune said that she was tired of standing before his door, and that unless she were quickly admitted, she would
fall a prey to the first comer. When he awoke, opening the door of the hall, he found close by the threshold a bronze statue of Fortune more
than a cubit high. This he carried in his arms to Tusculum, where he usually spent the summer, and consecrated it in a room of his house;
and from that time on he honoured it with monthly sacrifices and a yearly vigil. Even before he reached middle life, he persisted in keep up
an old and forgotten custom of his country, which survived only in his own household, of having his freedmen and slaves appear before him
twice a day in a body, greeting him in the morning and bidding him farewell at evening, one by one.
 Among other liberal studies he applied himself to the law. He also assumed a husband's duties, but after losing his wife Lepida and
two sons he had by her, he remained a widower. And he could not be tempted afterwards by any match, not even with Agrippina, who no sooner
lost Domitius by death than she set her cap for Galba so obviously, even before the death of his wife, that Lepida's mother scolded her roundly
before a company of matrons and went so far as to slap her. He showed marked respect to Livia Augusta, to whose favour he owed great influence
during her lifetime and by whose last will he almost became a rich man; for he had the largest bequest among her legatees, one of fifty million
sesterces. But because the sum was designated in figures and not written out in words, Tiberius, who was her heir, reduced the bequest to five
hundred thousand, and Galba never received even that amount.
 He began his career of office before the legal age, and in celebrating the games of the Floralia in his praetorship he gave a new kind of
exhibition, namely of elephants walking the rope. Then he governed the province of Aquitania for nearly a year and soon afterwards held a regular
consulship for six months; and it chanced that in this office he succeeded Lucius Domitius, the father of Nero, and was succeeded by Salvius Otho,
the father of the emperor Otho, a kind of omen of what happened later, when he became emperor between the reigns of the sons of these two men.
Appointed governor of Upper Germany by Gaius Caesar in room of Gaetulicus, the day after he appeared before the legions he put a stop to their
applause at a festival which chanced to fall at that time, by issuing a written order to keep their hands under their cloaks; and immediately
this verse was bandied about the camp:
"Soldier, learn to play the soldier; 'tis Galba, not Gaetulicus."
With equal strictness he put a stop to the requests for furloughs. He got both the veterans and the new recruits into condition by plenty
of hard work, speedily checked the barbarians, who had already made inroads even into Gaul, and when Gaius arrived, Galba and his army made
such a good impression, that out of the great body of troops assembled from all the provinces none received greater commendation or richer
rewards. Galba particularly distinguished himself, while directing the military manoeuvres shield in hand, by actually running for twenty
miles close beside the emperor's chariot.
 When the murder of Gaius was announced, although many urged Galba to take advantage of the opportunity, he preferred quiet. Hence he was
in high favour with Claudius, became one of his staff of intimate friends, and was treated with such consideration that the departure of the
expedition to Britain was put off because Galba was taken with a sudden illness, of no great severity. He governed Africa for two years with
the rank of proconsul, being specially chosen to restore order in the province, which was disturbed both by internal strife and by a revolt
of the barbarians. And he was successful, owing to his insistence on strict discipline and his observance of justice even in trifling matters.
When provisions were very scarce during a foray and a soldier was accused of having sold for a hundred denarii a peck of wheat which was left
from his rations, Galba gave orders that when the man began to lack food, he should receive aid from no one; and he starved to death. On
another occasion when he was holding court and the question of the ownership of a beast of burden was laid before him, as the evidence on
both sides was slight and the witnesses unreliable, so that it was difficult to get at the truth, he ruled that the beast should be led
with its head muffled up to the pool where it was usually watered, that it should then be unmuffled, and should belong to the man to whom
it returned of its own accord after drinking.
 His services in Africa at that time, and previously in Germany, were recognized by the triumphal regalia and three priesthoods, for he was
chosen a member of the Fifteen, of the brotherhood of Titius, and of the priests of Augustus. After that he lived for the most part in retirement
until about the middle of Nero's reign, never going out even for recreation without taking a million sesterces in gold with him in a second carriage;
until at last, while he was staying in the town of Fundi, Hispania Tarraconensis was offered him. And it fell out that as he was offering sacrifice
in a public temple after his arrival in the province, the hair of a young attendant who was carrying an incense-box suddenly turned white all over
his head, and there were some who did not hesitate to interpret this as a sign of a change of rulers and of the succession of an old man to a young
one; that is to say, of Galba to Nero. Not long after this lightning struck a lake of Cantabria and twelve axes were found there, an unmistakable
token of supreme power.
 For eight years he governed the province in a variable and inconsistent manner. At first he was vigorous and energetic and even over severe in
punishing offences; for he cut off the hands of a money-lender who carried on his business dishonestly and nailed them to his counter; crucified a
man for poisoning his ward, whose property he was to inherit in case of his death; and when the man invoked the law and declared that he was a
Roman citizen, Galba, pretending to lighten his punishment by some consolation and honour, ordered that a cross much higher than the rest and painted
white be set up, and the man transferred to it. But he gradually changed to sloth and inaction, not to give Nero any cause for jealousy, and as he
used to say himself, because no one could be forced to render an account for doing nothing. As he was holding the assizes at New Carthage, he
learned of the rebellion of the Gallic provinces through an urgent appeal for help from the governor of Aquitania; then came letters from Vindex,
calling upon him to make himself the liberator and leader of mankind. So without much hesitation he accepted the proposal, led by fear as well as
by hope. For he had intercepted despatches ordering his own death, which had been secretly sent by Nero to his agents. He was encouraged too, in
addition to most favourable auspices and omens, by the prediction of a young girl of high birth, and the more so because the priest of Jupiter at
Clunia, directed by a dream, had found in the inner shrine of his temple the very same prediction, likewise spoken by an inspired girl two hundred
years before. And the purport of the verses was that one day there would come forth from Spain the ruler and lord of the world.
 Accordingly, pretending that he was going to attend to the manumitting of slaves, he mounted the tribunal, on the front of which he had set up
as many images as he could find of those who had been condemned and put to death by Nero; and having by his side a boy of noble family, whom he had
summoned for that very purpose from his place of exile hard by in the Balearic Isles, he deplored the state of the times; being thereupon hailed as
emperor, he declared that he was their governor, representing the senate and people of Rome. Then proclaiming a holiday, he enrolled from the people
of the province legions and auxiliaries in addition to his former force of one legion, two divisions of cavalry, and three cohorts. But from the
oldest and most experienced of the nobles he chose a kind of senate, to whom he might refer matters of special importance whenever it was necessary.
He also chose young men of the order of knights, who were to have the title of volunteers and keep guard before his bedchamber in place of the regular
soldiers, without losing their right to wear the gold ring. He also sent proclamations broadcast throughout the province, urging all men individually
and collectively to join the revolution and aid the common cause in every possible way. At about this same time, during the fortification of a town
which he had chosen as the seat of war, a ring of ancient workmanship was found, containing a precious stone engraved with a Victory and a trophy.
Immediately afterwards a ship from Alexandria loaded with arms arrived at Dertosa without a pilot, without a single sailor or passenger, removing all
doubt in anyone's mind that the war was just and holy and undertaken with the approval of the gods. Then suddenly and unexpectedly the whole plan was
almost brought to naught. One of the two divisions of cavalry, repenting of its change of allegiance, attempted to desert Galba as he was approaching
his camp and was with difficulty prevented. Some slaves too, whom one of Nero's freedmen had given Galba with treachery in view, all but slew him as
he was going to the bath through a narrow passage-way. In fact they would have succeeded, had they not conjured one another not to miss the opportunity
and so been questioned as to what the opportunity was to which they referred; for when they were put to the torture, a confession was wrung from them.
 To these great perils was added the death of Vindex, by which he was especially panic-stricken and came near taking his own life, in the belief
that all was lost. But when some messengers came from the city, reporting that Nero was dead and that all the people had sworn allegiance to him, he
laid aside the title of governor and assumed that of Caesar. He then began his march to Rome in a general's cloak with a dagger hanging from his neck
in front of his breast; and he did not resume the toga until he had overthrown those who were plotting against him, Nymphidius Sabinus, prefect of the
praetorian guard at Rome, in Germany and Africa the governors Fonteius Capito and Clodius Macer.
 His double reputation for cruelty and avarice had gone before him; men said that he had punished the cities of the Spanish and Gallic provinces
which had hesitated about taking sides with him by heavier taxes and some even by the razing of their walls, putting to death the governors and imperial
deputies along with their wives and children. Further, that he had melted down a golden crown of fifteen pounds weight, which the people of Tarraco had
taken from their ancient temple of Jupiter and presented to him, with orders that the three ounces which were found lacking be exacted from them.
This reputation was confirmed and even augmented immediately on his arrival in the city. For having compelled some marines whom Nero had made regular
soldiers to return to their former position as rowers, upon their refusing and obstinately demanding an eagle and standards, he not only dispersed
them by a cavalry charge, but even decimated them. He also disbanded a cohort of Germans, whom the previous Caesars had made their body-guard and
had found absolutely faithful in many emergencies, and sent them back to their native country without any rewards, alleging that they were more
favourably inclined towards Gnaeus Dolabella, near whose gardens they had their camp. The following tales too were told in mockery of him, whether
truly or falsely: that when an unusually elegant dinner was set before him, he groaned aloud; that when his duly appointed steward presented his
expense account, he handed him a dish of beans in return for his industry and carefulness; and that when the flute player Canus greatly pleased him,
he presented him with five denarii, which he took from his own purse with his own hand.
 Accordingly his coming was not so welcome as it might have been, and this was apparent at the first performance in the theatre; for when the
actors of an Atellan farce began the familiar lines
"Here comes Onesimus from his farm"
all the spectators at once finished the song in chorus and repeated it several times with appropriate gestures, beginning with that verse.
 Thus his popularity and prestige were greater when he won, than while he ruled the empire, though he gave many proofs of being an excellent
prince; but he was by no means so much loved for those qualities as he was hated for his acts of the opposite character. He was wholly under the
control of three men, who were commonly known as his tutors because they lived with him in the palace and never left his side. They were Titus
Vinius, one of his generals in Spain, a man of unbounded covetousness; Cornelius Laco, advanced from the position of judge's assistant to that
of prefect of the Guard and intolerably haughty and indolent; and his own freedman Icelus, who had only just before received the honour of the
gold ring and the surname of Marcianus, yet already aspired to the highest office open to the equestrian order. To these brigands, each
with his different vice, he so entrusted and handed himself over as their tool, that his conduct was far from consistent; for now he was more
exacting and niggardly, and now more extravagant and reckless than became a prince chosen by the people and of his time of life. He condemned
to death divers distinguished men of both orders on trivial suspicions without a trial. He rarely granted Roman citizenship, and the privileges
of threefold paternity to hardly one or two, and even to those only for a fixed and limited time. When the jurors petitioned that a sixth division
be added to their number, he not only refused, but even deprived them of the privilege granted by Claudius, of not being summoned for court duty
in winter and at the beginning of the year.
 It was thought too that he intended to limit the offices open to senators and knights to a period of two years, and to give them only to such
as did not wish them and declined them. He had all the grants of Nero revoked, allowing only a tenth part to be retained; and he exacted repayment
with the help of fifty Roman knights, stipulating that even if the actors and athletes had sold anything that had formerly been given them, it should
be taken away from the purchases, in case the recipient had spent the money and could not repay it. On the other hand, there was nothing that he did
not allow his friends and freedmen to sell at a price or bestow as a favour, taxes and freedom from taxation, the punishment of the guiltless and
impunity for the guilty. Nay more, when the Roman people called for the punishment of Halotus and Tigellinus, the most utterly abandoned of all Nero's
creatures, not content with saving their lives, he honoured Halotus with a very important stewardship and in the case of Tigellinus even issued an edict
rebuking the people for their cruelty.
 Having thus incurred the hatred of almost all men of every class, he was especially detested by the soldiers; for although their officers had
promised them a larger gift than common when they swore allegiance to Galba in his absence, so far from keeping the promise, he declared more than once
that it was his habit to levy troops, not buy them; and on this account he embittered the soldiers all over the empire. The praetorians he filled besides
with both fear and indignation by discharging many of them from time to time as under suspicion of being partisans of Nymphidius. But loudest of all
was the grumbling of the army in Upper Germany, because it was defrauded of the reward for its services against the Gauls and Vindex. Hence they were the
first to venture on mutiny, refusing on the Kalends of January to swear allegiance to anyone save the senate, and at once resolving to send a deputation
to the praetorians with the following message: that the emperor created in Spain did not suit them and the Guard must choose one who would be acceptable
to all the armies.
 When this was reported to Galba, thinking that it was not so much his age as his lack of children that was criticized, he picked out Piso Frugi
Licinianus from the midst of the throng at one of his morning receptions, a young man of noble birth and high character, who had long been one of his
special favourites and always named in his will as heir to his property and his name. Calling him son, he led him to the praetorian camp and adopted him
before the assembled soldiers. But even then he made no mention of largess, thus making it easier for Marcus Salvius Otho to accomplish his purpose within
six days after the adoption.
 Many prodigies in rapid succession from the very beginning of his reign had foretold Galba's end exactly as it happened. When victims were being slain
to right and left all along his route in every town, an ox, maddened by the stroke of an axe, broke its bonds and charged the emperor's chariot, and as it
raised its feet, deluged him with blood. And as Galba dismounted, one of his guards, pushed forward by the crowd, almost wounded him with his lance. Again,
as he entered the city, and later the Palace, he was met by a shock of earthquake and a sound like the lowing of kine. There followed even clearer signs.
He had set apart from all the treasure a necklace fashioned of pearls and precious stones, for the adornment of his image of Fortune at Tusculum. This on
a sudden impulse he consecrated to the Capitoline Venus, thinking it worthy of a more august position. The next night Fortune appeared to him in his dreams,
complaining of being robbed of the gift intended for her and threatening in her turn to take away what she had bestowed. When Galba hastened in terror to
Tusculum at daybreak, to offer expiatory sacrifices because of the dream, and sent on men to make preparations for the ceremony, he found on the altar nothing
but warm ashes and beside it an old man dressed in black, holding the incense in a glass dish and the wine in an earthen cup. It was also remarked that as he
was sacrificing on the Kalends of January, the garland fell from his head, and that as he took the auspices, the sacred chickens flew away. As he was on the
point of addressing the soldiers on the day of the adoption, his camp chair, through the forgetfulness of his attendants, was not placed on the tribunal, as
is customary, and in the senate his curule chair was set wrong side foremost.
 As he was offering sacrifice on the morning before he was killed, a soothsayer warned him again and again to look out for danger, since assassins were not
far off. Not long after this he learned that Otho held possession of the Camp, and when several advised him to proceed thither as soon as possible — for
they said that he could win the day by his presence and prestige — he decided to do no more than hold his present position and strengthen it by getting
together a guard of the legionaries, who were encamped in many different quarters of the city. He did however put on a linen cuirass, though he openly declared
that it would afford little protection against so many swords. But he was lured out by false reports, circulated by the conspirators to induce him to appear in
public; for when a few rashly assured him that the trouble was over, that the rebels had been overthrown, and that the rest were coming in a body to offer their
congratulations, ready to submit to all his orders, he went out to meet them with so much confidence, that when one of the soldiers boasted that he had slain
Otho, he asked him, "On whose authority?" and then he went on as far as the Forum. There the horsemen who had been bidden to slay him, spurring their
horses through the streets and dispersing the crowd of civilians, caught sight of him from a distance and halted for a moment. Then they rushed upon him again
and butchered him, abandoned by his followers.
 Some say that at the beginning of the disturbance he cried out, "What mean you, fellow soldiers? I am yours and you are mine," and that
he even promised them largess. But the more general account is, that he offered them his neck without resistance, urging them to do their duty and strike,
since it was their will. It might seem very surprising that none of those present tried to lend aid to their emperor, and that all who were sent for treated
the summons with contempt except a company of German troops. These, because of his recent kindness in showing them great indulgence when they were weakened
by illness, flew to his help, but through their unfamiliarity with the city took a roundabout way and arrived too late. He was killed beside the Lake of
Curtius and was left lying just as he was, until a common soldier, returning from a distribution of grain, threw down his load and cut off the head.
Then, since there was no hair by which to grasp it, he put it under his robe, but later thrust his thumb into the mouth and so carried it to Otho.
He handed it over to his servants and camp-followers, who set it on a lance and paraded it about the camp with jeers, crying out from time to time,
"Galba, thou Cupid, exult in thy vigour!" The special reason for this saucy jest was, that the report had gone abroad a few days before,
that when someone had congratulated him on still looking young and vigorous, he replied:
"As yet my strength is unimpaired."
From these it was bought by a freedman of Patrobius Neronianus for a hundred pieces of gold and thrown aside in the place where his patron had been
executed by Galba's order. At last, however, his steward Argivus consigned it to the tomb with the rest of the body in Galba's private gardens on
the Aurelian Road.
 He was of average height, very bald, with blue eyes and a hooked nose. His hands and feet were so distorted by gout that he could not endure a
shoe for long, unroll a book, or even hold one. The flesh on his right side too had grown out and hung down to such an extent, that it could with
difficulty be held in place by a bandage.
 It is said that he was a heavy eater and in winter time was in the habit of taking food even before daylight, while at dinner he helped himself
so lavishly that he would have the leavings which remained in a heap before him passed along and distributed among the attendants who waited on him.
He was more inclined to unnatural desire, and in gratifying it preferred full-grown, strong men. They say that when Icelus, one of his old-time
favourites, brought him news in Spain of Nero's death, he not only received him openly with the fondest kisses, but begged him to prepare himself
with delay and took him one side.
 He met his end in the seventy-third year of his age and the seventh month of his reign. The senate, as soon as it was allowed to do so, voted him
a statue standing upon a column adorned with the beaks of ships, in the part of the Forum where he was slain; but Vespasian annulled this decree,
believing that Galba had sent assassins from Spain to Judaea, to take his life.
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