Aelius Gallus

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Gaius Aelius Gallus was a Roman prefect of Egypt from 26 to 24 BC. He is primarily known for a disastrous expedition he undertook to Arabia Felix (modern day Yemen) under orders of Augustus.


Aelius Gallus was the 2nd praefect of Roman Egypt (Aegyptus) in the reign of Augustus during the years 26–24 BC. He replaced Cornelius Gallus, with whom he has often been confused.

Aelius Gallus was also known to be an intimate friend of the Greek geographer Strabo and has been identified with the Aelius Gallus frequently quoted by Galen, whose remedies are stated to have been used with success in his Arabian expedition.[1]

The expedition to Arabia Felix, of which an account is given by his friend Strabo,[2] as well as by Cassius Dio[3] and Pliny the Elder[4][5] turned out to be a complete failure. In this expedition, Strabo mentioned Ilasaros as the controller of Hadhramaut at that time.

Gallus undertook the expedition from Egypt by the command of Augustus, partly with a view to explore the country and its inhabitants, and partly to conclude treaties of friendship with the people, or to subdue them if they should oppose the Romans, for it was believed at the time that Arabia was full of all kinds of treasures.

When Aelius Gallus set out with his army, he trusted to the guidance of a Nabataean called Syllaeus, who deceived and misled him. A long account of this expedition through the desert is given by Strabo[6][7]—who derived most of his information about Arabia from his friend Aelius Gallus.[8][9][10][11] The burning heat of the sun, the bad water, and the want of every thing necessary to support life, produced a disease among the soldiers that was altogether unknown to the Romans, and destroyed the greater part of the army; so that the Arabs were not only not subdued, but succeeded in driving the Romans even from those parts of the country which they had possessed before. Aelius Gallus spent six months on his march into the country, on account of his treacherous guide, while he effected his retreat in sixty days, obliged to return to Alexandria, having lost the greater part of his force. The campaign is the subject of a 1951 novel, The Eagle and the Sun by Lord Belhaven, who had done military and civilian service in the region.[12]

Aelius Gallus was recalled by Augustus for failure to pacify the Kushites and was succeeded as praefect by Gaius Petronius, a military commander and close friend of Augustus.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "Gallus, Aelius". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


  1. ^ Galen, vol. ii, p. 455, ed. Basil.
  2. ^ Strabo, xvi. p. 780-783.
  3. ^ Cassius Dio LIII, 29
  4. ^ Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. vi. 32.
  5. ^ See also Charles Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, ch. 4; H. Krüger, Der Feidzug des Aelius Gallus nach dem glucklichen Arabien unter Kaiser Augustus, 1862.
  6. ^ Strabo, xvi. p. 780–782; xvii. pp. 806, 816, 819.
  7. ^ Dio Cassius, liii. 29.
  8. ^ Strabo, ii. p. 118.
  9. ^ Pliny, Natural History, vi. 32; vii. 28.
  10. ^ Charles Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, ch. 34, 1864.
  11. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xv. 9. §3.
  12. ^ Lord Belhaven. The Eagle and the Sun London: John Murray, 1951


  • (fr) J. Pirenne, "L'expédition d'Aelius Gallus en Arabie heureuse", in Le royaume sud-arabe de Qatabān et sa datation, London, 1961.
  • (ge) H. von Wissmann, "Die Geschichte des Sabäerreichs und des Feldzug des Aelius Gallus", Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, t. 9.1, Berlin-New York City, 1976, pp. 308-544.
  • (fr) A. G. Loudine, "H von Wissmann, Die Geschichte des Sabäerreichs und des Feldzug des Aelius Gallus", (book review) in Bibliotheca orientalis, 37 (1980), pp. 363-365.
  • (ge) M.-Th. Raepsaet-Charlier, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. II. Principat. 9, 2 (book review), l'Antiquité Classique, 49 (1980), p. 521-522.
  • W. L. Westermann, "Aelius Gallus and the Reorganization of the irrigation system of Egypt under Augustus", Classical Philology, 12 (1917), pp. 237.
  • S. Jameson, "Chronology of the campaigns of Aelius Gallus and Gaius Petronius", Journal of Roman Studies, 58 (1968), pp. 71-84.
  • S. E. Sidebotham, "Aelius Gallus and Arabia", Latomus, 45 (1986), pp. 590-602.
  • (ge) K. Buschmann, "Motiv und Ziel des Aelius-Gallus-Zuges", Die Welt Des Orients, 22 (1991), pp. 85-93.
  • (ge) C. Marek, "Die Expedition des Aelius Gallus nach Arabien im Jahre 25 v.Chr.", Chiron, 23 (1993), pp. 121-156.
  • P. Mayerson, "Aelius Gallus at Cleopatris (Suez) and on the Red Sea", Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, 36 (1995), pp. 17-24.
  • R. Simon, "Aelius Gallus’ Campaign and the Arab Trade in the Augustan Age", Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 55 (2002), pp. 309–318.
  • (ge) Heinrich Krueger, Der Feldzug des Aelius Gallus nach dem glucklichen Arabien unter Kaiser Augustus, 1862
Political offices
Preceded by Prefect of Egypt
26 BC–24 BC
Succeeded by