Continued from the previous post of real giants of history…
Western Europe Giants
Those who profess the Aryan theory hold that the Celtic race, particularly its Germanic branch, is vastly superior to all others. “Only white peoples, especially the Celtic, possess true courage, love of liberty and the other passions and virtues which distinguish great souls,” proclaimed the German historian Christoph Meiners (1745-1810). Meiners is generally regarded as a founder of this racial theory.101 Julien-Joseph Virey (1775-1846), a disciple of Meiners, asks: “What would our world be without the Europeans? Powerful nations, a proud and indomitable race, immortal geniuses in the arts and the sciences, a happy civilization. The European, called by his high destiny to rule the world, which he knows how to illumine with his intelligence and subdue with his courage, is the highest expression of man and at the head of the human race. The others, wretched horde of barbarians, are, so to say, no more than its embryo.”102 In other words, the true Aryans see themselves as “supermen,” and they regard “all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites.”103 All these peoples who are not light of skin and blond they classify as “subhumans.”
Where did such an idea come from?
In its earliest written form, the Aryan concept predates both Meiners and Virey. The historian S. H. Steinberg traced it back to the humanistic historiographers who lived during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519). “It was these fore-fathers of our contemporary journalists who supplied the copy for Maximilian’s anti-French propaganda,” he writes. ‘The French and, in fact, every other nation were, so they argued, inferior to the Germans because of the latter’s pride of place in the pedigree of the Western nations: had they not for ancestors the Cimbri who made Rome tremble? … Were the Germans of Maximilian not the sons and heirs of the Lombards who gave their name to Upper Italy, the Franks who established their rule over Gaul, the Angles and Saxons who made themselves masters of Britain?”104
MAXIMILIAN, the giant Roman Emperor, dressed in his armor in this contemporary artist’s sketch.
Steinberg thus found the Aryan idea embedded in the most ancient customs and culture of the German people. So, long before Aryanism came to be expressed on the written page, the Germans harbored the conviction that they were a superior people. This opinion apparently originated with the early German Cimbri people. We can easily see how such an idea caught on. For the gigantic Cimbri were supermen. They regarded themselves as supermen. They taught their children they were supermen, and their children taught their children they were descended from supermen, and so on and on.
Maximilian not only claimed direct descent from this ancient race of supermen, he was himself a bona fide superman. According to Henry Wysham Larder, he stood above eight feet tall,105 and was similarly endowed with the might of a giant. His father, the Emperor Frederick HI, also awed his viewers, for, declares Friedrich Heer, he was “physically … a giant, of immense corpulence.”106
While Frederick sat on the emperor’s throne, his eldest son Maximilian reigned as “King of the Romans.” When Frederick died in 1493, Maximilian began to exercise full imperial powers without going through the formality of an election, as had the other Habsburg rulers before him. The new, highly popular, thirty-four-year-old emperor “had all the qualities of a great ruler, except prudence and foresight,” writes Bayard Taylor. “He was tall, finely-formed, with remarkably handsome features, clear blue eyes, and blond hair falling in ringlets upon his shoulders; he possessed great muscular strength, his body was developed by constant exercise and he was one of the boldest, bravest and most skilful knights of his day.”107
But the giant’s daring sometimes bordered on rashness—some described it as almost a madness—as when, for some examples, he “followed a bear to his den, and fought him there; when he entered the lion’s cage, and cowed him down; and, above all, when he chased the chamois and the wild-goat up to the highest peaks of the Tyrolese Alps.”108 In battle, Maximilian fought courageously. On many occasions, he proved himself to be a resourceful commander, too, with a mind “fertile in new devices and cunning modes of attack.” He also asked nothing of his men he himself would not do. Historians say that he even forged his own armor and tempered his own sword. Perhaps to give his horse a rest, the giant emperor often marched at the head of his men on foot, carrying an oversized lance on his shoulder. He further won the admiration of his soldiers for his ability “not to be overcome by exertion and privation.”109
Although Maximilian fought in many battles, he preferred, like all the Habsburgs, to make his territorial gains through marriages and treaties. He himself took Mary, the heiress of Charles, the duke of Burgundy, for his bride. Her dowry alone included the Netherlands and two provinces of France. This was such a tremendous acquisition that historians declare that from the year of this marriage, which took place in 1477, “the history of Habsburg was the history of Europe.”110 In 1496, Maximilian prepared the way for the association of Spain with his empire by marrying his son Philip to Joanna. They became the parents of his grandson, the great Emperor Charles V.
Maximilian did much more than establish the House of Habs-burg as the major world power. Among his many other accomplishments was an effective system for law and order. A well-educated, well-read man, who became something of a poet in his later years, he also encouraged his subjects in the study of science, literature, and the arts.
Those who knew the emperor personally described him as an amiable man “of noble disposition and fine culture.” But that said, Maximilian also believed the Aryan people possessed superior capabilities for government, social organization, and civilization, and he actively promoted that belief. It finally bore fruit in this century when the Aryan theory became the rage of Germany. The concept, after its long incubation, now commanded such a following that its adherents concluded the time had come to impose their “super race” on all the “subhumans” worldwide. It took World War II, and the tragic loss of millions of lives, to disprove the Aryan myth and check its advance.
In July, 1812, an Italian journal reported that in the valley of Mazara in Sicily the skeleton of a man ten feet and three inches in length was dug up. It was noted that several other human skeletons of gigantic size had previously been found in the same area.119
Miller, Maximilian Christopher
Maximilian Christopher Miller, born in 1674 at Leipzig, in Saxony, not only grew to a remarkable height but exhibited amazing strength. After touring several countries on the continent, he came to England about 1728, during the reign of George II. According to James Paris’ manuscript at the British Museum, Miller appeared in November, 1732, at the Blue Post, as announced in the following handbill:
“This is to give notice to all gentlemen, ladies, and others. That there is just arrived from France, and is to be seen at the Two Blue Posts and Rummer, near Charing-cross, a giant, born in Saxony, almost eight foot in height, and every way proportionable; the like has not been seen in any part of the world for many years: he has had the honour to shew himself to most princes in Europe, particularly to his late majesty the King of France, who presented him with a noble scymiter, and a silver mace.”
Pritchard on Irish Giants
Frederick the Great ascended the throne, he soon afterward disbanded the enormously expensive regiment of giants and, with the money saved, established in their place four regiments of men of ordinary stature. (Also see Cajanus; Fitzgerald; Swedish Giant)
Provence, Battle in
In 109 B. C, after a few years absence, the Cimbri, Teutones, and Ambrones suddenly reappeared in Roman-occupied Provence. To check them, the Senate sent an army out under the consul Silanus. The giants practically destroyed it and put their few survivors to a rout. (See German Giants’ Annihilation)
Pusio and Secundilla
During his principate, Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14) assigned two giants who towered over ten feet tall to lead the Roman armies into battle. “On account of this remarkable height,” writes Pliny, the bodies of the two giants “were preserved in the tomb in Sallust’s Gardens; their names were Pusio and Secundilla.” (See Graveyards of the Giants)
Rhone River Battle
In 105 B.C., when a large band of roving German giants advanced as far as Orange, two Roman armies, one under Caepio, the other under Manlius, confronted them at the river Rhone. In the resulting battle, only ten legionnaires and two generals escaped. (See German Giants’ Annihilation)
Rome vs Senone Giants
About 387 B.C., or shortly before, some three hundred thousand Senones, one of the Celts’ southernmost tribes, found their land on the Adriatic coast too small for their bulging population. Led by Brennus, their chieftain, they crossed over the Apennines and swarmed into northern Italy, ravaging Etruscan towns and the surrounding country as they went. While looting the Etruscans, Polybius says the Senones took a liking for their beautiful country and decided to occupy it themselves. So, on a small pretext, the Gallic giants suddenly attacked the Etruscans with a sizable army and expelled them from the plains of the Po.139 They then spread over the whole of northern Italy. For some time they laid siege to “the splendid Etruscan city of Clusium.”
Unable to halt the Senones’ advance, the terrified Etruscans sent an urgent plea to Rome—their own ancient enemy—for military help. Perhaps still feeling the economic pinch of their recent war with the Etruscans, or possibly not realizing the gravity of the situation, the Roman Senate decided against military aid. Instead they voted to send three envoys to Clusium to mediate the dispute between the native Etruscans and the invading Celts. For its envoys, the Senate chose three noblemen, all of the well-known Fabian family. While on this assignment, however, one of these gentlemen, Quintus Fabius, committed an act that ignited a quarrel between the Senones and Rome itself. The Senones, bent upon punishing Rome for the offense, eventually brought that great city to its knees.
According to Livy, when the Roman deputation arrived at Clusium to help resolve the conflict, the Celts informed them that “this was indeed the first time they had heard of them, but they assumed the Romans must be courageous people because it was to them that the Clusians had turned in their hour of need. And since the Romans had tried to help with an embassy and not with arms, they themselves would not reject the offer of peace, provided the Clusians ceded part of their superfluous agricultural land; that was what they, the Celts, wanted…. If it were not given,” they warned, “they would launch an attack before the Romans’ eyes, so that the Romans could report back how superior the Gauls were in battle to all others. . . . The Romans then asked whether it was right to demand land from its owners on pain of war, indeed what were the Celts doing in Etruria in the first place? The latter defiantly retorted that their right lay in their arms: to the brave belong all things.”140
The resolute Clusians, however, refused to part with any portion of their land. The Senones, reacting to their unwillingness to share, took up arms. Although the quarrel did not involve him, Quintus Fabius sided with the Clusians and slew a Celtic chieftain. In the aftermath, the Celts demanded that the Roman Senate deliver up the Fabians and sent to Rome their delegation to watch the proceedings. Instead of yielding up the Fabians, the Senate appointed the three as military tribunes with consular powers for the coming year—the highest honors that could have been bestowed upon them. When the incensed Senone delegation reported to their people this slap in their face, a furor—for which they were most famous—arose in the ranks of the blond Celtic giants. That tense, dramatic scene Livy captured in these few words: “From all the immense host, covering miles of ground with its straggling masses of horse and foot, the cry went up, To Rome!'”141
With that cry, a Senone army of some thirty thousand giants began their march, arousing “the whole region with their wild singing and horrible and diverse yelling.” As vast numbers of their noisy foot warriors, horsemen, chariots, and supply carts rambled across the land toward Rome, peasants from both countryside and village fled in terror before them. News of the advancing giants reached Rome almost too late. After hastily devising a plan for defense, Rome’s legionnaires marched out to intercept the enraged Celtic horde. Upon reaching the little river Allia, a mere eleven miles from Rome, they found themselves face-to-face with a great throng of Goliath’s cousins from north of the Apennines.
That terrifying July day the Latins would never forget. The great Celts unnerved them. Some of the giants they saw wore chain-wrought iron cuirasses, and some wore only shirts gathered up “with belts plated with gold or silver.” But many wore no armor nor clothes, preferring instead to go into battle naked. Most, however, wore overlong broadswords slung around the right flanks on chains of iron or bronze. The spears and javelins they brandished give us some idea of their size and strength. On the spears were affixed “iron heads a cubit in length and even more, and a little under two palms in breadth.”142 Also, the Celts’ swords were not shorter than the javelins of average-size peoples, and just the heads of their javelins exceeded in length the swords of others.143 For those confused by these comparisons, Henri Hubert furnishes a most accurate measurement of some Celtic swords. Those that archaeologists recovered “from the second period of La Tene,” he reports, “are about 96 inches long.” And, he adds, without providing any figures, “the latest swords are still longer.”144 It goes without saying, of course, that such enormous weapons required equally enormous men to wield them.
But the terror the Romans felt at the Allia sprang not from the Celts’ height and armaments alone. These supermen also assaulted their eyes and ears with fierce looks, deep voices, and pre-battle antics. One of these antics called for some of the huge Celtic champions, when they were formed for battle, to step out in front of their lines, brandish their large weapons menacingly at their smaller adversaries and challenge the most valiant among them to single combat. We do not know whether any Romans accepted such a challenge at the Allia, but if they did, according to Celtic custom, each challenger would have then broken forth into a song praising the valiant deeds of his ancestors and boasting of his own high achievements, while at the same time reviling and belittling his opponent, and trying by such talk “to strip him of his bold spirit before the combat.”145 Not just the champion warriors, but the whole Celtic army took part in this psychological warfare. Beating their swords rhythmically against their shields, they assailed the enemy’s ears with a tumult of almost intolerable sound. The whole country round seemed filled with their exceedingly loud war cries, accompanied by the unceasing blare of innumerable giant boar-headed war trumpeters and horn blowers. That wild, horrible, almost deafening din played on the Romans’ nerves, perhaps in a small way at first, but ever building toward a crescendo that made many an alarmed legionnaire’s hair stand on end.
At this crucial point, the Roman generals miscalculated the combat savvy of this hellish people. As the Senones advanced, they concealed some reserves on a hill for a flank attack. The Celts’ leaders saw through their strategy and executed a sudden assault on the hill where the reserves had been placed. Caught by surprise, the reserves were driven off the hill and into the ranks of the legion that had been positioned on the banks of the Allia. In the resulting confu-sion, these ranks panicked. As the Senone giants pressed their advantage and commenced a slaughter, the flustered, frightened Romans fled the field. Seeing their cohorts in full flight, the soldiers on the outer flank, who were not even involved in the maneuver, also turned tail and ran.146
But the giants did not immediately exploit their victory. For after a battle it was their custom to cut off the heads of all they had killed and display them before the king. “If he brings a head,” explains Herodotus, “a soldier is admitted to his share of the loot; no head, no loot.”147 As both Roman and Greek were to learn, the Celts also scalped their victims; from these skins they fashioned garments that looked something like handkerchiefs. These they proudly attached to the bridles of their horses. That’s the way they treated ordinary enemies. “With the heads of their worst enemies,” says Herodotus, “they proceed as follows: once they have sawn off everything below the eyebrows, they carefully clean out the head. If the owner is poor he will merely stretch calf-leather round it and use it thus. But if he is rich, he will also line the inside with gold and use it as a drinking vessel.” If in a quarrel a Celt killed his kinsman, he was treated in the same way: his kinsman’s head also ended up as a drinking vessel. On occasions when the Celt had guests in his home he would “bring out these heads and say how they … attacked him, and how he defeated them.”148 Livy reveals that the Boii, a giant Celtic tribe of the Po Valley, also followed this practice, so the custom probably was widespread among the entire Celtic nation.149 For certain, Celts everywhere venerated the skulls of their enemies’ heads. As archaeologists have discovered, they all decorated their doorways with them. They also skewered some heads of their enemies to staves and placed these on their roofs to act as guards for their homes.
So, following this tribal custom, the Celts spent the day after their victory at the Allia severing the heads of those they had killed, showing them to the king in order to claim a share of the loot, and then stowing them away to take home as trophies. This unusual suspension of hostilities gave Rome’s citizens time to flee. Three days after the Battle of Allia, when the barbarians did venture into the city, they encountered only a “deathly hush.” Practically the whole population had left. After gazing in awe at some of Rome’s excellent sights, the Celts ransacked the city, then set it afire.
But the giants soon learned they were not Rome’s sole occupiers. As they advanced on the Capitol itself, Marcus Manlius and his single maniple of courageous youths confronted them.150 Against Manlius’ small band, the Senones launched several assaults. The Capitol, however, stood atop a steep slope, and this high ground gave the Latins such an advantage in the skirmishes, notes Livy, that many corpses of the huge assailants “lay in piles under their swords because, as the bodies fell, they dropped down back into the ranks of the warriors below. The Gauls would not try this kind of fighting again.”151 Instead, they resorted to a siege. When that also failed, they tried a commando-like night attack. But as they advanced up the slope under the cover of darkness, the sacred Capitol geese awoke and, with their loud cackling, aroused the sleepy Roman sentries. Running to the front of the hill, Manlius “smote the first Gaul to come up with the back of his shield,” sending him reeling down the slope. “Soon the whole band of Gauls was rushing headlong back down.”152
As the siege dragged on, both sides experienced famine. The giants also soon fell victim to two somewhat incapacitating plagues: fever and dysentery. Seven months into the siege, they delivered to the Romans a pledge to withdraw from the country upon the payment of a “bushel of gold.”153 That amount the proud but deeply humiliated Romans barely raised, by Roman scales. The Celts, however, produced their own scales, which were a bit heavier than those used by the Romans. When the Roman magistrate objected, the Celtic chieftain Brennus insolently threw the weight of his heavy broadsword on the scales. He then reddened the faces of the already embarrassed Romans with this harsh threat: “Woe to the vanquished!” Such insolent words, says Livy, sounded most “intolerable to Roman ears.”154 It was, agrees Herm, “the worst humiliation Rome suffered in her history. Even in later, more glorious periods this scene, and the Celts, remained a wound which was never completely to heal.”
More to come about real giants of history. Stay tuned!