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SERVIUS SULPICIUS GALBABorn: 24/December/0003 BC in Terracina, a town 75 miles southeast of Rome.

Father: Gaius Sulpicius Galba

Mother: Mummia Achaica (granddaughter of Catulus and great-granddaughter of Lucius Mummius who destroyed Corinth).

Emperor: AD68/69 Servius Galba Imperator Caesar Augustus.

Died: 15/January/0069 AD murdered by cavalrymen, beside the Curian Pool near the Forum in Rome.


Servius Sulpicius Galba was the first emperor of what later became known as the Year of the Four Emperors. His reign as emperor began on June 8th, 68 AD and lasted until his death in 69 AD.

Galba was born on December 24th, in the year 3 BC, in Terracina, which was a town near Fundi. He was descended by way of his paternal grandfather from another Servius Sulpicius Galba, who was a praetor in 54 BC.

While his grandfather never advanced past the position of praetor, which he held for most of his life, he was well respected for his encyclopaedic knowledge, which bore forth an extensive published history. Galba's father was also a well-respected man, although perhaps to a lesser extent, in spite of the fact that he was a hunchback of relatively modest physical stature.

Although the senior Galba was by no means a remarkable public speaker, he offset this shortcoming with his industriousness and perseverance in pleading cases before the bar. His mother Mummia Achaica for her part was descended from Catulus, who was her grandmother, and Lucius Mummius Achaicus, her great grandmother.

Between the couple, they only bore one other child, a boy named Gaius who was a few years older than Servius Sulpicius Galba. Gaius left the family home in Rome after a series of misfortunes had depleted the bulk of his inheritance. When Tiberius later withheld his yearly allotment of the yield from the provinces, Gaius took his own life.

Servius Sulpicius Galba's father remarried to a woman named Livia Ocellina, and after his subsequent adoption, Galba began to use the name Lucius Livius Ocella and continued to do so until his ascendancy to the throne of emperor.

Although Servius Sulpicius Galba was descended from a noble familial bloodline and as a result was a man of great wealth and influence, he was not actually directly related to the original six Caesars, either by birth or through adoption. Nevertheless, he showed much promise as a young man and many observers, among them Augustus and Tiberius, felt certain that Galba was destined for greatness.


SERVIUS SULPICIUS GALBAHe began his senatorial career before the normal age, was proclaimed Praetor in 20 AD and consul in AD 33. His fame also began to spread far and wide to the provinces of Gaul, Germania, Africa and Spain where he became known for his military skill, steadfastness and stern fairness. On the death of Caligula, he refused the invitation of his friends to make a bid for empire, and loyally served Claudius. For the first half of Nero's reign he lived in retirement. It would only be upon the emperor's bestowment of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis that Galba would return to public office.


In 68, believing that the emperor Nero was planning his assassination, Galba accepted (and perhaps even prompted) an invitation from Vindex, the governor of Lugdunensis in Gaul, to head a rebellion against Nero. He then recruited troops in Spain and built up a large following in many other regions of the empire, though Vindex himself was defeated in a battle with the Rhine armies.

Nero, deserted by his imperial troops (Praetorian Guard), killed himself on June 9, 68, and Galba was formally accepted as emperor by the Senate. Nymphidius Sabinus sought to seize power prior to the arrival of Galba, but he could not win the loyalty of the praetorian guard and was killed. Upon Galba's approach to the city in October, he was met by soldiers presenting demands; Galba replied with violence, killing many of them.

The primary concern of Galba during his brief reign was in restoring state finances, and to this end he undertook a number of unpopular measures, the most dangerous of which was his refusal to pay the praetorians the emperial bonus. By now, the Roman army legions were used to being paid a bonus when a new emperor ascended the throne. Galba was a man who believed that a Roman soldier should do his duty out of love for his country and not to expect any extra pay for doing what he was supposed to do. Even when he was informed that one of his own agents promised a bribe to the Praetorian Prefect, Galba replied, "It is my policy to levy troops, not bribe them". He further disgusted the mob by his meanness and dislike of pomp and display. His advanced age had destroyed his energy, and he was entirely in the hands of favorites. All this made the new emperor gravely unpopular.

On January 1, 69, two legions in Upper Germany refused to swear loyalty to Galba and toppled his statues, demanding that a new emperor be chosen; on the next day, the soldiers of Lower Germany also rebelled and took the decision of who should be the next emperor into their own hands, proclaiming the governor of the province, Vitellius, as emperor. This outbreak of revolt made Galba aware of his own unpopularity and of the general discontent. In order to check the rising storm, he adopted as his coadjutor and successor L. Calpurnius Piso, a man in every way worthy of the honor. His choice was wise and patriotic; but the populace regarded it as a sign of fear, and the praetorians were indignant, because the usual donative was not forthcoming.

Otho, formerly governor of Lusitania, and one of Galba's earliest supporters, disappointed at not being chosen instead of Piso, entered into communication with the discontented praetorians, and was adopted by them as their emperor. Galba, who at once set out to meet the rebels - he was so feeble that he had to be carried in a litter - was met by a troop of cavalry and butchered near the Lacus Curtius.

During the later period of his provincial administration he was indolent and apathetic, but this was due either to a desire not to attract the notice of Nero or to the growing infirmities of age. Tacitus rightly says that all would have pronounced him worthy of empire if he had never been emperor ("omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset").


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