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Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus

December 24, 3 BCE – January 15, 69 BCE

Galba was the Emperor of Rome for seven months, ruling from June 8, 68 CE to his death on January 15, 69 CE.

He was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis (Spain) who rebelled against Nero and became the first emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors. Accompanied by Marcus Salvius Otho, the governor of Lusitania (Portugal), Galba marched on Rome and was proclaimed Emperor by the Senate.

Galba’s posterity measures, an attempt to curtail Nero’s extravagant spending, were extremely unpopular with the people. The Praetorian Guard, bribed by Otho, assassinated Galba.

Before becoming emperor, Galba served as a capable administrator and military leader, who, in addition to Spain, had previously governed in Gaul, Germany, and Africa, where he had earned a reputation for strictness and impartiality. Hearing that he was in disfavor with Nero and that he would soon be executed, he considered joining the revolt of the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis (southern France), Gaius Julius Vindex, who had promised him his support in a bid for the throne.

He hesitated, which proved to be a fatal move, as Vindex’s revolt was quickly suppressed.

In June 68, the Praetorian Prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, transferred his allegiance to Galba. Nero, deserted by the Praetorians, was declared a public enemy by the Senate and committed suicide when he could not flee Italy.

Galba promptly took the title of Caesar, raised a legion, and, along with Otho, quickly marched on Rome, where he was welcomed into the city.

Galba’s reign was short and unpopular. Fearing a conspiracy, Galba executed many senators and equites without trial, and he never paid the Praetorians the bonus promised to them in his name by the prefect Nymphidius. Galba mistakenly–arguably shockingly naively–presumed that a soldier’s loyalty could not be bought.

Further complicating things, the Rhine regions to the north were hostile to him. They had expected to be rewarded for their loyalty to the throne with their actions in suppressing the revolt of Vindex but were instead accused of impeding Galba’s ascent to the throne.

On January 1, 69 CE, the northerners refused to swear allegiance to the Emperor and instead proclaimed their commander, Aulus Vitellius, Emperor.

With the Rhine legions in revolt, Galba made the fatal mistake of formerly adopting Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus as his successor. This had the effect of inciting the hatred of his former supporter, Otho, who had hoped to be bestowed that honor. Otho plotted his revenge and five days after Piso’s adoption, paid Praetorian guardsmen to brutally murder both Galba and Piso.


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