Gallio was born in Corduba (Cordova) in c. 5 BC. His original name was Marcus Annaeus Novatus. But after getting adopted by a wealthy rhetorician Roman called Lucius Junius Gallio, he was named Junius Annaeus Gallio.
He was the brother of the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who was Nero’s teacher. Seneca speaks of the charm of his brother’s disposition which is also alluded to by the poet Statius (Silvae, ii.7, 32). Seneca dedicated to his brother, the proconsul, two treatises, on “Anger” and the “Blessed Life.”
Towards the end of the reign of Claudius, Gallio was proconsul of the newly-constituted senatorial province of Achaea sometime between A.D. 51 and 53. He was referred to by Claudius as “my friend and proconsul” in the Delphi Inscription, circa 52. After he retired from Achaia and due to a sickness (Seneca Epistles civ. 1), he returned to Rome.
His Judgement to Paul
Luke, in the book of Acts 18:12-17, recorded that the Jews in Corinth rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat of Gallio. They said, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law” (verse 13). The Jews’ goal was to obtain the apostle’s expulsion from the city.
But Gallio said to the Jews, if it were a matter of wrongdoing, there would be reason for me to get involved. And he added, but if it is a question about your law, then handle it yourself. Then, he dismissed them (verse 14-16). The Roman governor saw that Jewish law rather than Roman law was concerned in this case, therefore, he refused to become involved.
Then, the Greeks followed Gallio’s tone of scorn. And they took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. They were angry because he raised a commotion in their city. The Roman governor took no notice of these things for he recognized the limits of his proper jurisdiction. And thus, providentially Gallio’s ruling set a model of tolerance that helped the spread of Christianity.
At first, Gallio gained the favor of Nero. But later, he lost the dictator’s approval. And based on one tradition, he was executed by him. Tacitus, however, wrote that he was “dismayed by the death of his brother Seneca” and pleaded with Nero for his life (Annals xv. 73; Loeb ed., Tacitus, vol. 4, p. 333). Another tradition states that he committed suicide in 65 AD at the age of 64. Vasily Rudich, Political Dissidence Under Nero: The Price of Dissimulation (Routledge, 1993) p.117.
In His service,