In History, Myth, and Legend
♦ Allia, Battle of
At the little river Allia, in 387 B.C., the Senone giants put the proud Roman army to a hasty, humiliating flight. Upon hearing the news of the defeat, practically the entire population of Rome fled the city. Shortly afterward, the revengeful giants burned Rome to the ground.
·♦ Cimmerian Giants
The Cimbri or Cimmerians, after making their way overland by the northern route, occupied for a time the country above the Euxine or Black Sea, around the Palus Maeotidis. When they again felt the irresistible urge to roam, they continued westward, eventually settling east of the Rhine, in Germany. They afterward established themselves as far north as Denmark and also colonized Belgium. Acmon's hordes, meanwhile, having advanced by the southern route, first settled in Cappadocia and Galatia, then later on the southern shores of the Black Sea. From there they spread into Gaul, which today we call France, and also across Spain, where they assimilated with the Iberians.6 Being as prolific in Eu-rope as they had been in Asia, Gomer's oversized children soon overspread a vast territory—from the lands east of the Rhine to the Atlantic and from the Baltic Sea to the coasts of Spain. They also inhabited Switzerland and some northern parts of Italy, especially around the Adriatic. The Greek historian Pausanias called them the world's tallest people. Gerhard Herm, his modern counterpart, agrees. He describes them as "blond giants" who struck terror in the hearts of every foe, even in the mightiest of mighty Rome, which they fought several ferocious wars with and which they once captured, sacked, and burnt to the ground. At the utmost divergence from the mean, some Celts even stood to a colossal height, perhaps as tall as or taller than the nine-foot-nine Goliath, or even Og, who required a bed over thirteen feet long.
♦ Giants are often celebrated as heroes in the North of France.
♦ Jan den Houtkapper, a giant with blue eyes, was head of a family of giants.
♦ Ain Giant
The Gospel Herald of Dayton, Ohio, gives the following account of a large human skeleton, recently discovered in Ain, France.
The frame is complete in all its parts, and is four yards in height. It was found in a soil of alluvium, the head buried in the earth, with the feet upward."
♦ Angers' Giant
A skeleton found in 1692 in a tomb near Angers, France, which measured seventeen feet four inches.
♦ Battle near Aquae Sextiae,
Two days after the battle at Aquae Sextiae, the great Roman general Gaius Marius tricked over one hundred thousand huge Teutones and Ambrones into attacking his retreating cavalry up a hill where he was posted. At the top, the cavalry suddenly turned. Being now joined by the legionnaires, they drove the pursuing Teutones and Ambrones into an ambush that Marius had set up in some nearby woods. Of the great Celtic army that began the battle, only three thousand escaped.
♦ Bordeaux Giant
In his De Gigantibus, Joh. Cassanio relates that while in Bordeaux, Francis I of France (1494-1547) saw a giant of such height that he immediately enlisted him as one of his guards. It is said that the giant, who subsequently became an archer, stood so tall that a man of ordinary size could walk between his legs.
♦ Joseph Brice
Known as "The Giant of the Mountains" at the age of sixteen he toured France and afterward exhibited himself in England and Ireland. In an 1862 advertisement he claimed to be eight feet tall, but Frank Buchland challenged him to a measurement, and in his third series of Curiosities of Natural History, he reported the French giant's actual height as seven feet six and one-half inches. But that was still tall enough, declared Buchland, to frighten the troop-horses at Regent's Park Barracks and cause them to snort and shy away when he and the giant, as his invited guest, visited that place.
♦ Chevalier Ricon De Vallemont
An ancient tomb that ditch diggers uncovered in Rouen, France, in 1509, contained the skeleton of a man over seventeen feet tall, in his armor. Affixed to the tomb was this engraved identification: "In this tomb lies the noble and puissant lord, the Chevalier Ricon de Vallemont, and his bones."
·♦ Charles Gruel D'lndreville
His seven feet six inches made Charles Gruel d'lndreville, of Nesle, in Normandy, the tallest Frenchman of his day. As a young man he enlisted as a private in the imperial army, but quickly rose to the rank of sub-lieutenant. He fought in the battles of Wagram and Moscow. When he returned to France he set up a glassworks that became famous, even drawing several visits from King Louis Philippe himself. He belonged to the Legion of Honor. In 1860, at the age of seventy-one, he died near Rouen.27
♦ Louis Frenz
In 1829, Louis Frenz, a seven-foot-four-inch Frenchman, came to London seeking his fortune. During his tour, his portrait was engraved and a cast of his giant hand was made for the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Frenz reportedly had a brother taller than himself and two sisters almost as tall.
♦ Antoine Hugo
Antoine Hugo proclaimed himself the world's tallest man. He stood about eight feet and four inches tall.
John Riolan, the naturalist, relates that at the close of the sixteenth century the tomb of the giant Isoret, who towered twenty feet high, could be seen near St. Germain.
♦ Battle in Provence
In 109 B. C, 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.
The giant Bucart, the famed "tyrant of the Vivarais," whose bones were recovered in 1705 from his grave at the foot of the Crussol mountain in France, measured twenty-two-and-a-half-feet tall.
♦ Brunswick-Hanover Giant
According to Schreber, in his History of Quadrupeds, 1775, the Duke of Brunswick-Hanover had in his service a guard eight feet six inches tall.
♦ Jacob Damman
Platerus, a noted seventeenth century physician who took a great interest in giants, reported seeing "a young man at Luneuburg called Jacob Damman, who for his extraordinary stature was carried through Germany to be seen. Anno 1613 he was brought to us at Basil; he was then twenty-three years and a half of age; beardless as yet, strong of body and limbs, save that at that time he was rather sick and lean; he was nine feet high complete; the length of his hand was one foot six inches."
In the sixteenth century, a giant named Michael, who measured eight feet tall, served in the Court of Joachim, the Elector of Brandenburgh, a province in northeastern Germany.
♦ Maximilian Christopher Miller
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." Maximilian Christopher Miller appears in this etching wearing his cap topped with a plume of feathers and the curved sword that Louis XIV presented to him. Miller actually stood seven feet eight inches tall, but his velvet cap, with its large plume, made him seem taller. He usually wore a Hungarian tunic, and always at his side swung the curved, single-edged sword that Louis XIV gave him. Dressed thus, he would appear dramatically in a draped doorway, strut briefly among his patrons, then suddenly vanish, leaving them "clamoring to see him again."
♦ 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.
♦ Saxony's Prodigy
A seven-foot-five-inch giant from Saxony was born with such strength that he could hold at arm's length a ten-pound weight for twelve minutes. James Paris, who saw him in London in May, 1716, included him in his book of drawings, which the British Museum later acquired. The Saxony giant, during his travels in Europe, was presented with a suit of armor custom-made to his great size by the King of the Romans. In England he appeared before George I, the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and Court of Windsor.
♦ Wurttemberg's Giant
Schreber, in his History of Quadrupeds, 1775, reports that the Duke of Wiirttemberg in Germany employed a porter with a stature of seven and a half feet.