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 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.[6][self-published source]

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[7][8]—who derived most of his information about Arabia from his friend Aelius Gallus.[9][10][11][12] 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.

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.



  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. ^ Gertoux, Gerard (2015). Kings David and Solomon: Chronological, Historical and Archaeological Evidence. ISBN 132969810X.
  7. ^ Strabo, xvi. p. 780–782; xvii. pp. 806, 816, 819.
  8. ^ Dio Cassius, liii. 29.
  9. ^ Strabo, ii. p. 118.
  10. ^ Pliny, Natural History, vi. 32; vii. 28.
  11. ^ Charles Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, ch. 34, 1864.
  12. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xv. 9. §3.


Preceded by
Cornelius Gallus
Prefect of Egypt
26 BC–24 BC
Succeeded by
Gaius Petronius