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Galba, 3 April 68 - 15 January 69 A.D.

Galba coins for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop

Galba was governor of Hispania Tarraconensis when proclaimed emperor by his troops on 3 April 68. The Senate recognized his authority in July 68. His avarice, ruthlessness and his refusal to pay a promised donative to the praetorian guards made him unpopular. He was assassinated in a conspiracy plotted by Otho on 15 January 69.

Also see: ERIC - GALBA


Calicó, E. Xavier. The Roman Avrei, Vol. I: From the Republic to Pertinax, 196 BC - 193 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l’Empire Romain, Vol. 1: Pompey to Domitian. (Paris, 1880).
Giard, J-B. Le monnayage de l'atelier de Lyon, De Claude Ier à Vespasien (41-78 après J.-C.), et au temps de Clodius Albinus (196-197 après J.-C.). Numismatique Romaine XX. (Wetteren, 2000).
Giard, Jean-Baptiste. Monnaies de l'Empire romain, III Du soulèvement de 68 après J.-C. a Nerva. Catalogue Bibliothèque nationale de France. (Paris, 1998).
King, C.E. Roman Quinarii from the Republic to Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. (Oxford, 2007).
Kraay, C.M. The Aes Coinage of Galba. ANSNNM 133. (1956).
Mattingly, H. and R.A.G. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, Vol 1: Augustus to Vitellius. (London, 1923).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. I. Augustus to Nerva. (Oxford, 1962).
Seaby, H.A. & R. Loosley. Roman Silver Coins, Vol. II: Tiberius to Commodus. (London, 1979).
Sear, David R. Roman Coins and Their Values, The Millennium Edition, Volume One, The Republic and the Twelve Caesars 280 BC - AD 86. (London, 2000).
Sutherland, C.H.V. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. I, From 39 BC to AD 69. (London, 1984).

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Average well preserved denarius weight 3.30 grams.


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GALBA (Servius Sulpicius)- According to Suetonius, this aged depository of short-lived Imperial power was born on the 9th of the Kalends of January, in the year 751 (A.D. 3).  He belonged to the ancient and renowned family of the Sulpicii, whose founder, on the father's side, if we may give credence to Galba himself, was Jupiter; and on the mother's Pasiphae the wife of Minos; and this account is confirmed by Silius Italicus.  The mother of Galba was Mummia Achaiea, great grand-daughter of the L. Mummius, who destroyed Corinth.  (Sueton c. 3).  When arrived at the fitting age for talking part in state affairs, he made his appearance in public; and after a time was appointed Governor of Galliae.  Subsequently being removed to a similar position in Africa, he obtained no ordinary credit by his justice, and by the valor and discipline he displayed in a military capacity.  Later still he received from Nero the jurisdiction of Hispania Tarraconesis, which he administered with fluctuating success.  When urged by Vindex, governor of the Galliae to supplant Nero in the empire, he for some time repudiated the proposition, but at length consented, on hearing that Nero was plotting his destruction. (Sueton. c. 3).  Being then saluted Emperor by the acclamations of the army, he declared himself to be but the lieutenant (or deputy) of the Senate and People.  Tidings having reached him that Vindex, after being defeated by the troops of Verginius Rufus, Legatus in Germania, had put an end to his own existence, Galba had serious thoughts of embracing the same fate; but intelligence of Nero's death, and the Senate's unanimous declaration in his own favor, arriving shortly after, he accepted the title of Caesar (Sueton. c. 11), and proceeded on his journey to present himself at Rome.  The massacre, however, which he caused of certain soldiers of the fleet on his arrival at Ponte-Molle, augured ill for his reign.

Galba, then about 72 years of age, was of a good height and advantageous figure.  His forehead was wrinkled; his nos aquiline, and his head bald in front, although on many of his coins (especially those in large brass) that defect is more or less concealed.  The employments through which he passed had given him much experience, and he appeared to be worthy of commanding Romans; but his harsh inexorable character, and the sordid avarice of his disposition, which displayed itself in endeavors by untimely parsimony to replenish an exhausted treasury; these, together with his neglect of public affairs, which he left to functionaries who committed infinite acts of injustice under his name, rendered him so much the more odious, as he had caused Nero's ministers to be put to death.  The affections of the Praetorian Guard, and of the rest of the army, he utterly estranged by the refusal of a donative, to which they considered themselves entitled.  The consequence of this was that the army of Germania Superior took the lead in throwing off its allegiance.  When this event was announced to the Emperor, he imagined that he had incurred contempt, not by his faults, but on account of his advanced and childless age, and accordingly he adopted Piso Frugi Licinianus (Tacit. Hist. i. 18), a noble and distinguished young man, on the 10th of January, 822 (A.D. 69).  But he marred the effect of a proceeding in itself laudable and acceptable to the people by a fresh instance of his innate avarice.  For when, on introduction of his adopted son Piso to the soldiery, he still omitted all mention of the donative, at a time which so peculiarly demanded it-Otho, chagrined at seeing another preferred to himself as the adopted son of Galba, availed himself of the recently excited feelings of the army, and took possession of the camp six days after the adoption.  The general feeling being thus transferred to the new chief, Galba was deserted by his adherents, and together with Piso was assassinated on the 15th of January of the same year.- See Eckhel, vi 299-Beauvais T. i 148

His style on coins is IMP GALBA - IMP SER SVLP GALBA CAES AVG TR P - SER GALBA IMP CAESAR AVG Pater Patriae - The brass and silver (with some distinguished exceptions) are common; the gold are rare (restitutions by Trajan very rare); and notwithstanding his very brief reign, the whole exhibit several curious reverses.

For a specimen of his portraiture in silver see OB. C.S.-obv.-IMP. SERV. GALBA AVG. Bare head of the emperor.


Gold- CONCORDIA PROVINCIARVM (Valued by Mionnet at 72 fr.)- DIVA AVGVSTA (Brought at the Thomas sale £ 3 9s). FORTVNA AVG (Mt. 60fr). HISPANIA. Female holding ears of corn (Devonshire sale, £ 1 12s)-IMP Emperor on horseback. (Trattle sale £ 2 2s)- IMP AVG Female with ears of corn (Brought £ 12 15s at the Thomas sale).- Liberty standing (Restored by Trajan valued by Mionnet at 200fr.)-LIBERTAS RESTITVTA (Mt 50 fr.) PAX AVG (120 FR)- ROMA RENA SC Military figure (Thomas sale £ 9 10s)-ROMA VICTRIX (Mt 72 fr.) SALVS GEN HVMANI (Thomas £ 4 16S)- TIBERIS (Trattle £ 2 16s) VICTORIA P. R. (Trattle £ 1 16s) Victory writing on a buckler (Mt 80fr).

Silver - GALLIA-HISPANIA (mat 30fr.). LIBERTAS RESTITVTA (72 fr.) REST. NVM. (72 fr.) SPQR OB CS (Thomas £ 1 1s) SER. SVL GALBAE Head of Spain (20fr.)

Large Brass - ADLOCVTIO The Emperor haranguing his soldiers (Mt 30 fr. see wood-cut in p. 7) CONCORDIA (Trattle sale, £ 7 2s. 6d.)- EX SC OB CIVES SER ( £ 2 6s. at the Brumell sale). HISPANIA CLVNIA SVL (Trattle £ 2 2s) - HONOS ET VIRTVS (Campana sale £ 1 9s.)-LIBERTAS PVBLICA (Thomas sale £ 1 6s.)-LIBERTAS RESTIT. (Mt 30 fr.)- QVADRAGENS REMISSAE Arch. (Devonshire sale £ 2 2s.)- REMISSAE XXXX (Mt. 60 fr.)- ROMAE RESTIT. (30 fr.)- SENATVS PIETATI AVGVSTI. (48 fr.)-ROMA The city personified, seated on armor (A highly preserved finely patinated specimen brought £ 7 7s. 6d. at the Campana sale).


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