Galba, Ser. Sulpi'cius
a Roman emperor, who reigned from June, A. D. 68 to January, A. D. 69.
He was descended from the family of the Galbae, a branch of the patrician Sulpicia Gens, but had no connection with the family of Augustus, which became extinct by the death of Nero.
He was a son of Sulpicius Galba [GALBA, No. 12] and Mummia Achaica, and was born in a villa near Terracina, on the 24th of December, B. C. 3. Livia Ocellina, a relative of Livia, the wife of Augustus, and the second wife of Galba's father, adopted young Ser. Sulpicius Galba, who on this account altered his name into L. Livius Ocella, which he bore down to the time of his elevation. Both Augustus and Tiberius are said to have told him, that one day he would be at the head of the Roman world, from which we must infer that he was a young man of more than ordinary talents. His education appears to have been the same as that of other young nobles of the time, and we know that he paid some attention to the study of the law.
He married Lepida, who bore him two sons, but both Lepida and her children died, and Galba never married again, although Agrippina, afterwards the wile of Claudius, did all she could to win his attachment.
He was a man of great wealth, and a favourite of Livia, the wife of Augustus, through whose influence he obtained the consulship.
She also left him a considerable legacy, of which, however, he was deprived by Tiberius.
He was invested with the curule offices before attaining the legitimate age.
After his praetorship, in A. D. 20, he had the administration of the province of Aquitania. In A. D. 33 he was raised to the consulship on the recommendation of Livia Drusilla, and after this he distinguished himself in the administration of the province of Gaul, A. D. 39, where he carried on a successful war against the Germans, and restored discipline among the troops. The Germans had invaded Gaul, but after severe losses they were compelled by Galba to return to their own country. On the death of Caligula many of his friends urged him on to take possession of the imperial throne, but he preferred living in a private station, and Claudius, the successor of Caligula, felt so grateful to him for this moderation, that he received him into his suite, and showed him very great kindness and attention. In A. D. 45 and 46,, Galba was entrusted with the administration of the province of Africa, which was at the time disturbed by the licentiousness of the Roman soldiers and by the incursions of the neighbouring barbarians.
He restored peace, and managed the affairs of the province with great strictness and care, and on his return he was honoured with the ornamenta triumphalia,
and with the dignity of three priesthoods ; he became a member of the college of the Quindecimviri, of the sodales Titii, and of the Augustales.
In the reign of Nero he lived for several years in private retirement, for fear of becoming, like many others, the victim of the tyrant's suspicion, until, in B. C. 61, Nero gave him Hispania Tarraconensis as his province, where he remained for a period of eight years.
In maintaining discipline among his troops, his strictness at first bordered upon cruelty, for the severest punishments were inflicted for slight offences, but during the latter period of his administration he became indolent, for fear, it is said, of attracting the attention of Nero, but more probably as a naturai consequence of old age. IIn A. D. 68, when the insurrection of C. Julius Vindex broke out in Gaul, and Vindex called upon the most distinguished men in the other provinces to join him, he also sent messengers to Galba, whom he looked upon as the most eminent among the generals of the time, and whom he had destined in his mind as the successor of Nero. Index accordingly exhorted him to vindicate the rights of oppressed humanity. Galba, who was at the same time informed that some officers in Spain had received secret orders from Nero to murder him, resolved at once to take the perilous step, and place himself at the head of the Roman world, although he was already upwards of severity years old.
He assembled his troops, excited their sympathy for those who had been murdered by Nero, and was at once proclaimed imperator by the soldiers.
He himself, however, at first professed to act only as the legate of the Roman senate and people. he began to organise his army in Spain, instituted a kind of senate which was to act as his council, and made all preparations for a war against Nero. Some of his soldiers, however, soon began to repent, and as he was engaged in suppressing this spirit among his own men, he received the intelligence of the fall of Vindex, who in despair had put an end to himself. Being thus deprived of his principal supporter, Galba withdrew to Clunia, a small town of his province, and was on the point of following the example of Vindex.
But things suddenly took a different turn. Nymphidius Sabinus, prefect of the praetorians at Rome, created an insurrection there, and some of the friends of Galba, by making munificent promises in his name, succeeded in winning the troops for him. Nero was murdered. Galba now took the title of Caesar, and, accompanied by Salvius Otho, the governor of Lusitania, he went to Rome, where ambassadors soon arrived from all parts of the empire to do homage to Galba as the lawful sovereign.
Galba by this time seems to have lost the good qualities that distinguished his earlier years : a report of his severity and avarice had preceded him to Rome; and it soon became manifest that the accounts of his avarice were not exaggerated. Instead of doing all he could to win the favour of the soldiers, who had only just become aware of the fact that they had it in their power to dispose of the sovereignty, and that they might depose him just as they had raised him, he made several unpopular changes in the army at Rome, and punished with severity those who opposed his measures.
The large donatives which his friends had promised in his name were not given, and various rumours about his niggardly and miserly character were sedulously spread at Rome, and increased the discontent. Some of his arrangements were wise enough; and had he not been the victim of avarice, the common foible of old age, and been able to part with some of his treasures, he might have maintained himself on the throne, and the Roman world would probably not have had much reason to complain.
In addition to this, he was completely under the sway of three favourites, T. Vinius, Cornelius Laco, and Icelus; and the arbitrary manner in which he acted under their influence showed that the times were little better than they had been under Nero. His unpopularity with all classes daily increased, and more especially among the soldiers.
The first open outbreak of discontent was among the legions of Germany, which sent word to the Praetorians at Rome, that they disliked the emperor created in Spain, and that one should be elected who was approved of by all the legions. Similar outbreaks occurred in Africa. Galba, apparently blind to the real cause of the discontent, and attributing it to his old age and his having no heir, adopted Piso Licinianus, a noble young Roman, who was to be his coadjutor and successor.
But even this act only increased his unpopularity; for he presented his adopted son to the senate and the soldiers, without giving to the latter the donatives customary on such occasions. Salvius Otho, who had hoped to be adopted by Galba, and had been strongly recommended by T. Vinius, now secretly formed a conspiracy among the troops.
The insurrection broke out six days after the adoption of Piso Licinianus. Galba at first despaired, and did not know what to do, but at last he took courage, and went out to meet the rebels; but as he was carried across the forum in a sedan-chair, a troop of horsemen, who had been waiting for his arrival, rushed forward and cut him down, near the Lacus Curtius, where his body was left, until a common soldier, who passed by, cut off his head, and carried it to Otho, who had in the mean time been proclaimed emperor by the praetorians and legions. His remains were afterwards buried by one Argius in his own garden.
A statue of his, which the senate erected on the spot where he had been murdered, was afterwards destroyed by Vespasian, who believed that Galba had sent assassins into Judaea to murder him. (Tac. Hist. 1.1
; D. C. 64.1
; Suet. Galba ;
Plut. Gulba ;
Aurel. Vict. De Cues.
6; Eutrop. 7.10
; Niebuhr, Lect. on the Hist. of Rome, vol.
ii. p. 226, ed. L. Schmitz.) [L.S
COIN OF GALBA. The reverse represents a Corona Civica, and is therefore accompanied with the inscription OB C. S., that is, ob cives servatos.