Galba (Servius Sulpicius
born 24 December 3 BCE in Rome. The son of an ancient patrician family was a
favorite of the Empress Livia moved in the most elevated social circles of the
Julio-Claudian era. He was governor of Aquitania, consul (33), governor of
Upper Germany (40–2), and proconsul of Africa (44–5); his standing was
recognized by the award of triumphal insignia and three priesthoods. Governor
of Hispania Tarraconensis (north-east Spain) from 60, he was approached in 68
by Julius Vindex, who was instigating revolt against Nero. Galba had his troops
proclaim him as representative of the senate and people of Rome, and enrolled a
new legion (eventually VII Gemina) in addition to the one in his province.
Vindex was defeated, Nero’s suicide and the support of Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus
and the praetorians encouraged Galba to march on Rome. Once in power, Galba
tried to recover Nero’s extravagant largess, but the execution of several
opponents including Lucius Clodius Macer who had raised revolt in Africa, and
the brutal killing of soldiers recruited by Nero from the fleet cast a shadow. Galba’s avarice was notorious.
He declined to pay the praetorians the donative promised by Nymphidius, saying
that it was his practice to levy his troops not to buy them. He compounded this
misjudgement by failing to control his own supporters. When on 1 January the
legions of Upper Germany, who felt that they had been cheated of their reward
for defeating Vindex, renounced their allegiance, Galba decided to adopt a
successor, choosing Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus. Otho, coveting
this role for himself, fomented revolt among the praetorians, who murdered
Galba on 15 January 69.
Reference: Campbell, John Brian. “Galba.” In Who’s Who in the Classical World. Oxford University Press, 2003.
monument for the cavalryman Longinus Biarta who served with a unit of auxiliary
cavalry originally raised in Bulgarian Thrace by the Emperor Galba, 68. Römisch-Germanisches
Museum, Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, Nr. S.25/474.
Aureus of Galba, 68. Reverse: Livia, holding patera in right hand and leaning
on scepter in left hand; DIVA AVGVSTA; obverse: Laureate head of Galba; SER
GALBA IMP CAESAR AVG P M TR P. Wriston Art Galleries, Lawrence University,
Appleton, Wisconsin. Ottilia Buerger Coin Collection, Nr. 91142.
Schiavone, Galba: The Twelve Caesars.
The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 32, Italian Artists of the Sixteenth Century:
School of Fontainebleau
Galba, Emperor of Rome, Anonymous Italian Sculptor, late 17th Century. Foto Reali Archive.
Paintings, Villa of Poppaea, owned by Nero, c. First Century. Oplontis, Italy. Shmuel
Magal, Sites and Photos.
Further Reading: Erich S. Gruen. Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Los
Angeles, CA.: Getty Research Institute, 2011.
Jiří Frel and Sandra Knudsen Morgan. Roman Portraits in the Getty Museum.
Tulsa, Okla.: Philbrook Art Center, 1981.