Giants 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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