A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich

Anthony Grafton writes:

Giambattista Vico knew that history began with the giants: the primitive men and women who lived after the universal Flood, and invented myth and poetry. More important, he knew why they had become so immense. The Jews, God’s holy people, had kept themselves cleanly, in accordance with divine commands, and had achieved only ordinary stature. But non-Jewish babies had played with their own urine and faeces. And these had a great fertilising power, as anyone could see by planting crops where an army had made camp. No wonder, then, that giants had stalked the drying earth after the Flood, amid the terrifying cracks of thunder and bolts of lightning that inspired them to imagine the pagan gods.

(LRB 14 July 2011)

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