Servius Sulpicius Galba was born on 24 December 3 BC, in a country villa near Tarracina, the son of patrician parents, Gaius Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica.
Augusts, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius all held him in great esteem and so he held successive offices as governor of Aquitania, consul (AD 33), military commander in Upper Germany, proconsul of Africa (AD 45).
Galba was an old disciplinarian whose methods owed much to cruelty, and he was notoriously mean.
When in AD 68 Gaius Julius Vindex, the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis revolted against Nero, he did not intend to take the throne for himself, for he knew that he didn't command widespread support. Far more he offered the throne to Galba.
Galba was then joined by Otho, now the governor of Lusitania, and gilted husband of Poppaea. However, Otho had no legion in his province and Galba at that time only possessed control of one. Galba quickly began raising an additional legion in Spain. When in May AD 68 Vindex was defeated by the Rhine armies, a despairing Galba withdrew deeper into Spain. No doubt he saw his end coming.
However, roughly two weeks later news reached him that Nero was dead, - and that he had been pronounced emperor by the senate (8 June AD 68). The move also enjoyed the support of the praetorian guard.
But before Galba had even reached Rome, things began to start going wrong. Had the commander of the praetorian guard, Nymphidius Sabinus, bribed his men to abandon their allegiance to Nero, then Galba had always found the promised amount too high. So instead of honouring Nymphidius's promise to the praetorians, Galba simply dismissed him and replaced him with a good friend of his own, Cornelius Laco. Nymphidius' revolt against this decision was quickly put down and Nymphidius himself was killed.
But Galba, a man of enormous personal wealth, soon displayed other examples of dire meanness. A commission was appointed to recover Nero's gifts to many of the leading figures of Rome. His demands were that of the 2.2 billion sesterces Nero had given away, he wanted at least ninety percent to be returned.
This contrasted wildly with the blatant corruption among the officials Galba himself appointed. Many greedy and corrupt individuals in Galba's new government soon destroyed any goodwill towards Galba which might have existed among the senate and the army.
With this sort of government in Rome, it was not long before the army revolted against Galba's rule. On 1 January AD 69 the commander of Upper Germany, Hordeonius Flaccus, demanded his troops to renew their oaths of allegiance to Galba. But the two legions based at Moguntiacum refused. They instead swore allegiance to the senate and the people of Rome and demanded a new emperor.
Galba tried to create the impression of dynastic stability by adopting the thirty year-old Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, as his son and successor. This choice however greatly disappointed Otho, one of the emperor's very first supporters. Otho no doubt had hopes for the succession himself. Refusing to accept this setback, he conspired with the praetorian guard to rid himself of Galba.
On 15 January AD 69 several praetorians set upon Galba and Piso in the Roman Forum, murdered them and presented their severed heads to Otho in the praetorian camp.