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Shortlived tenure

Roman Emperor: Servius Sulpicius Galba  

The death of Emperor Nero on June 9, 68 CE officially ended the Julio-Claudian dynasty. This left the Roman Empire without a clear successor. Galba the then governor-general of Spain quickly rose to fill the void with the assistance of the army.

Looking back

Servius Sulpicius Galba was born into an aristocratic family. While little is known of Galba’s early years, historian Suetonius in his book The Twelve Caesars states that Emperor Augustus singled out Galba and said, “You too will taste a little of my glory, child,” suggesting that Galba would one day be emperor. Going by his appearance (he was bald) or his health (he suffered from severe case of arthritis) did not seem to be a threat or a matter for concern.

And hence it comes as no surprise that all the other Julio-Claudians —Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius except Nero — respected Galba and entrusted him with important responsibilities. He rose rapidly through the ranks, eventually becoming governor of Africa in 44 – 45 CE. However, Galba was a man who did not tolerate any indiscipline and this earned him a reputation of being cruel and ruthless. His ability to command grew. When Caligula died, the army and the people asked him to take over, but he refused. This earned him the respect of Emperor Claudius and for this loyalty, Claudius appointed him as the pro-consul of Africa with orders to suppress disturbances and revolts. Even though Galba dropped out of service for a brief period due to differences in opinion he rejoined at Nero’s request. The empire began to crumble and under advice dropped the title of governor-general and assumed the title of Caesar.

Galba marched into Rome and took the throne. It is said that Nero was at a loss when he heard of Galba being declared emperor by his soldiers. He planned to kill the senators, burn Rome, and flee to Alexandria. But before he could execute his plan, he was surrounded, declared an enemy and the people chose Galba.

Galba was in his early 70s and his hold on the throne decreased, Galba adopted Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus as his son and heir. This act irked his long time supporter Otho, who had considered himself the rightful successor. Otho had no help or support from the military, but he seized this opportunity and bribed the Praetorian Guards. The guards murdered and beheaded both Galba and Piso in the Roman Forum on January 15, 69 AD. Otho was hailed the new emperor in January 69 AD. Galba had served less than seven months, becoming the first in a line of what would later be known as the year of the four emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian).

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 12:52:08 PM |

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