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This Week In History

Galba Born – December 24, 3 BC

Servius Sulpicius Galba was born on December 24, 3 BC in Terracina, Italy to C. Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica. His family was well-connected – his paternal grandfather was Servius Sulpicius Galba, praetor in 54 BC and his maternal grandfather was politician Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Galba’s mother died shortly after his birth and his father remarried Livia Ocellina, a distant relative of the Roman empress Livia. Livia adopted Galba and he changed his name to Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba. In his youth, Galba was remarked by both Augustus and Tiberius to have great abilities and destined to be important.  This  is a category of  silver denarius.

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Servius Sulpicius Galba

Galba married Aemilia Lepida, who was connected through the marriages of some of her relatives to various members of the house of Julii-Claudii. Although the couple had two children, one died rather young and relatively little is known about him and the elder son died while engaged to his step-sister, Antonia Postuma, and not much is written about him either.

Galba rose through military ranks and became praetor in 20 AD and consul in 33. Upon the death of emperor Caligula, he was encouraged by his friends to make a bid for the throne, but refused, remaining loyal to Claudius, who then became emperor. After the death of Claudius in 54 AD, he retired during the first part of the reign of Nero, until in 61 when Nero bestowed upon him the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. In 68, Galba learned Nero was planning to have him, as well as Vindex in Gaul, executed. He saw both as a threat to his rule. At first, Galba didn’t make any moves, but after Nero committed suicide, Galba took the title of Caesar and marched toward Rome.

When Galba and his army arrived in Rome, they were met with demands by the soldiers, to which he responded by killing many of them. Galba entered the city, was proclaimed emperor and set about immediately to restore Rome’s finances. He started off dangerously, refusing to pay the praetorian guards the donative promised to them for their support. He also heavily taxed the provinces who refused to support him. He incensed the people by approving few citizenships, foregoing the normal pomp and display the people enjoyed and routinely sentenced accused to death without a trial.

On January 1, 69, two legions refused to support Galba and promoted Vitellius. Sensing the unrest and teetering toward civil war, Galba adopted L. Calpurnius Piso as his heir, which then triggered Otho, one of Galba’s earliest supporters, to respond. Otho marched on Rome and on January 15 was the first of what would be rival forces to arrive, slaying both Galba and Piso, becoming the second of four emperors that would rule during 69.

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