Galba (Suessiones)

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A coin of the Suessiones, ruled in the mid-1st century BC by Galba

Galba (fl. mid-1st century BC) was a king (rex) of the Suessiones, a Celtic polity of Belgic Gaul, during the Gallic Wars. When Julius Caesar entered the part of Gaul that was still independent of Roman rule in 58 BC, a number of Belgic polities formed a defensive alliance and acclaimed Galba commander-in-chief.[1] Caesar recognizes Galba for his sense of justice (iustitia) and intelligence (prudentia).[2]

Etymology of name[edit]

Galba as a Roman cognomen is associated with a branch of the gens Sulpicia. Although the most famous bearer is the Emperor Galba in the 1st century AD, a Servius Sulpicius Galba also served under Caesar in Gaul.[3] Suetonius says that in Gaulish Galba means "fat"[4] (compare Old Irish golb, "paunchy, fat"), and Galba is usually regarded as Celtic in origin.[5] Since physical fitness was a requirement of Gallic fighting men, who might be fined if they reported for duty overweight, the Celtic name is likely either to have lost the connotations of its original meaning, or in regard to a king to refer to "fat times" or prosperity.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 2.4; John Creighton, Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 12 online.
  2. ^ Justitiam prudentiamque (Bellum Gallicum 2.4.7): "a just and able man," in the translation of S.A. Handford, Caesar: The Conquest of Gaul (Penguin Books, 1951, revised ed. 1982), p. 59. Prudentia combines the capacities of "foresight" and "practical wisdom" (OLD). In the usage of Cicero, contemporary with that of Caesar, prudentia is the Latin equivalent of Greek phronesis.
  3. ^ Bellum Gallicum 3.1–6 and 7.90.
  4. ^ Suetonius, Galba 3, Bill Thayer's edition at LacusCurtius.; Quintilian says the cognomen originated as a type of nickname, like Rufus ("Red-headed"), Longus ("Tall"), Pansa ("Splay-footed"), etc.
  5. ^ Xavier Delamarre, entry on galba, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (Éditions Errance, 2003), p. 174. See also D. Ellis Evans, Gaulish personal names: a study of some Continental Celtic formations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 293, 297, 349.