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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Galba

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Seruius Sulpicius Galba (after his elevation to the purple, Seruius Galba Imperator Caesar Augustus), son of Seruius Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica, and great-grandson of Quintus Lutatius Catulus, was born on 24 Dec. 5 b.c. and died in his seventy-third year (15 Jan. a.d. 69). His native place was near Tarracina (modern Terracina) on the Appian Way by the sea. He was adopted by his stepmother, and took the names of Lucius Liuius Ocella in consequence. Both Augustus and Tiberius are said to have predicted that he would become Emperor. He attained the dress of manhood in a.d. 14 and married aemilia Lepida. After her death and that of their two sons he remained unmarried. His friendship with Liuia, the widow of Augustus, gave him great influence from the start. On her death (a.d. 29) he inherited largely, but his inheritance was reduced by the Emperor Tiberius, Liuia’s son. He was, however, permitted to hold senatorial offices before the legal age. It is recorded that when as praetor he gave exhibitions to the people, he showed elephants walking on tightropes, a sight up to that time unknown in Rome. About a.d. 31 or 32 he was for one year legatus pro praetore (governor) of the province of Aquitania (S.W. Gaul). He held office as consul for six months of a.d. 33. Having been thereafter appointed legatus pro praetore prouinciœ Germaniœ Superioris (governor of S. Germany), he held in check the barbarians who had already invaded Gaul. As legatus in 41 he conquered the Chatti and gained a great reputation as a general. He attended the Emperor Claudius on his expedition to Britain (see under Claudius), and attained the proconsulship of Africa, the blue ribbon of a senatorial career. Besides being awarded triumphal ornaments, he was elected to various priesthoods. His last ordinary promotion was to the governorship of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, which he held for eight years, from a.d. 60 to 68. In the latter year, as the result of long dissatisfaction with the Neronian government, C. Iulius Vindex, legatus pro praetore prouinciœ Galliœ Lugudunensis, revolted from Nero, and Galba gave him his support. Vindex, however, was defeated by the legions in Germany, and committed suicide. Galba was then himself saluted Imperator by his soldiers. Though he declared himself representative of the Senate and People of Rome, the Senate adjudged him a public enemy. When the news of the death of Nero reached him, he accepted the title of Caesar from his soldiers, and marched to Rome. Elected consul for the second time for a.d. 69, he was put to death on 15 Jan. 69, and buried in his suburban villa near the Via Aurelia.

As Galba’s rule lusted only seven months, there is little to say about it. That he was an able general there can be no doubt whatever. He is credited also with other virtues, which, like those of Vespasian, serve to recall the old Roman type. He was the earliest of all the Emperors not of Caesarian blood, and he first manifested clearly that the election to the principate lay in the hands of the army. Supported by the praetorian guards, the ‘household troops’ at Rome, he was recognized by the Senate, a deputation from which met him at Narbo Martius (Narbonne). A number of pretenders arose about the same time, but were mercilessly crushed. What ruined Galba was on the one hand his lack of the genius for rule, and on the other his parsimony. One of Tacitus’ immortal phrases has reference to him: ‘omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset’ (Hist. i. 49). He used severity where it was uncalled for, and thus alienated many who would have settled down quietly under the new régime. He stirred up against himself one of his supporters, M. Saluius Otho (see Otho), who expected to be adopted by Galba as his successor in the Empire. The soldiers declared him Imperator and put Galba to death.

Literature.-The chief authorities are Tacitus, Historiae bk. i.; Plutarch, Galba (ed. E. G. Hardy, London, 1890); Suetonius, Galba; Dio Cassius, lxiii.-lxiv., etc., and inscriptions. The facts are given most succinctly in P. de Rohden and H. Dessau, Prosopographia Imperii Romani sœc. i. ii. iii., pars iii., Berlin, 1898, p. 284ff. (no. 723). See also the relevant parts of the modern Histories of the Roman Empire (V. Duruy [Eng. translation , London, 1883-86], J. B. Bury [do. 1893], etc.); A. von Domaszewski, Gesch. der römischen Kaiser, Leipzig, 1909, ii. 79-85; E. G. Hardy, Studies in Roman History, London, 1906, pp. 295-334 (a valuable comparison of the leading ancient authorities), also 2nd series of the same work, do. 1909, pp. 130-157.

A. Souter.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Galba'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/g/galba.html. 1906-1918.

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