Giants Who Became Gods (Cont.)
But the master of his own house Uranus apparently was not. For his jealous wife Titea and his ambitious son Saturn schemed against him and eventually brought him to his ruin. Now, according to Hesiod in his Theognis, Apollodorus in his history, entitled Bibliotheca, and some others after them, Saturn was the youngest of all Uranus' sons. This towering prince "was of a fierce and lively temper," writes Pezron, "but at the same time cunning, and full of subtilty. It seems as if there were nothing but truth in the idea these ancient poets give us of Saturn. For it was his cunning and artifice, as well as the pernicious advice of his mother Titaea, whose jealousie transported her beyond all just bounds, that put him upon rebelling against his father, seizing several of his provinces, and depriving him of a great part of his power. It was by the same artifices that he gained the affection of some of his sisters, and especially of Rhea, a cunning and daring lady, whom his father had sent, by dark and secret means, to make away with him. Lastly, it was by the same subtilty and management, that he waylaid his father, who usually resided in maritime countries, and after many years contest and civil wars got him into his power. This confinement of Uranus by his own son affected him to that degree, that he died of grief."68
Though Uranus' eldest son Titan and some of his other brothers opposed him, Saturn nonetheless now became sole master of all his father's dominions. These provinces reached from Syria and Phoenicia to the utmost boundaries of Spain. He also held sway over Mauritania in Africa. Not content with the title of prince, which both Uranus and Acmon bore before him, Saturn proclaimed himself king and placed a crown on his head. It was from this latter act that the Greeks called him Cronos,69 though the Romans continued to call him Saturn, which, in effect, says Pezron, "is the same name he had among the Titans, who called him Sadorn, i.e. Martial, Warlike."70
Like his father Uranus before him, Saturn took for his wife his sister Rhea. He had many children, but the poets, using their so-called poetical license to deviate from the facts to produce a more dramatic effect, started the story that he devoured them. And so he did, in a way, for the giant king, explains Pezron, "sacrificed several of his children to the gods, and the angry ghost of his father." For this reason, Rhea, upon learning she was pregnant with yet another child, found an excuse to make a voyage to Arcadia. Having thus removed herself far from the court, the queen secretly gave birth to Jou (who later was worshipped as Jupiter by the Romans but as Zeus by the Greeks). Fearful that the baby might still become one of Saturn's sacrifices, Rhea had him taken to the Isle of Crete. Here he was nursed and brought up. But about the time Jupiter reached manhood, Saturn's dispossessed eldest brother Titan surprised the king with his wife Rhea somewhere in Thrace. According to the historian Ennius,71 the young giant Jupiter, upon receiving word in Crete of the "miserable imprisonment" of his father, embarked with an army, defeated his uncle's forces on the battlefield, set Saturn free, re-stored him to his throne, and returned triumphant to Crete.
As he grew old, however, whatever gratitude Saturn had felt for his son's daring rescue apparently waned. No doubt his conscience also now and then pricked him for the imprisonment of his own father Uranus. He became paranoid. In his troubled mind, he even began to suspect that Jupiter in like manner might try to depose him.72 As was the custom of the Celts on any matter of such great import, he consulted his diviners and augurs. They advised him to beware of Jupiter. This son, they warned, would in time try to dethrone him. Convinced this was so, Saturn with his army of Titans entered the Isle of Crete. Since he expected those in whom he had entrusted the island's government to join forces with him, he anticipated little trouble on this mission to put Jupiter in his power. But upon landing, he found that those he most confided in had gone over to Jupiter.73 "And so the son obtained the victory more by artifice and good management, than by force of arms. Saturn finding himself betrayed and defeated, and withal, that he could not be safe in a country, where every thing was at the disposal of his enemies, quitted the island with some troops, and fell into that part of Greece, afterwards called Peloponesus: His son being incensed with his pernicious designs against him, which tended to no other than to take away his life, followed him close, and having obliged him to fight, overcame him a second time. Upon which Saturn finding himself in a forlorn state, and that he had no secure retreat throughout all Greece, he hastened into Italy, the better to save himself from the violent prosecutions of his enemies."74
When the Titans of some other provinces learned that Jupiter had dethroned Saturn, and was determined to take over the empire, they formed a confederacy against him. In the ensuing battle, how-ever, Jupiter "ruined the forces of his enemies." Defeated, the Titans retired into Spain and were joined there by Saturn, who came over from Italy. "There it was," declares Pezron, "that they renewed the war, which lasted a long time by sea and land, with various success; but Jupiter at last having drawn his maritime forces together, and had the address to bring over some of the confederates to his side, went even as far as Spain in person, in order to put an end to a war that had for so many years been on foot: He fought his enemies all in a body, and obtained a complete victory, if we believe the Scholiast upon Homer, that goes by the name of Didymus. This great battle, that decided the fortune of the empire of the Titans, was fought near Tartesa, an ancient and famous city upon the ocean, a little above Cadiz, to the northward. This author calls them Giants, that fought against Jupiter, because they were really so, but others name them Titans."75
The war that Jupiter made against his father occurred some years before the death of Abraham. According to the poets and historians, it lasted ten years. What became of the unfortunate Saturn is not known, says Pezron, unless he fled to Sicily and died there of grief and old age. At least it was there, relates the historian Philocorus, that the Sicilians use to show his sepulchre. "This was the end and fortune of him whom prophane historians looked upon to be the origin of the gods, and, as it were, the source of their heathen deities," remarks Pezron. "Which made Tertullian say, in speaking of the Gentiles, they had no knowledge of any god before Saturn. It was in him began all, at least the chief and most noted of their deities: That which makes that great man speak thus, is, because Uranus, the father of Saturn, was not so famous as he, nor his divinity so well confirmed in the minds of mortals. He presently adds: 'That which we know for certain concerning the condition and origin of Saturn, will serve to fix that of his posterity.' He afterwards shows from history that this pretended deity was a man like other men.... Undoubtedly if Saturn was a man, he was the son of another man. And seeing he was begot by a man, he cannot be said to have been the Son of Heaven and Earth: All the ancient fathers, who in their writings have taken upon them to controvert the divinity of these imaginary gods, have spoke of them much after the same manner as Tertullian: They made no scruple to own that Saturn and Jupiter were warlike and powerful men, that ruled over nations: And any one may read what Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Minutius Felix, Arnobius, Lactantius, Augustine, and others, say upon this account.76
Besides those giants named above, several other members of Acmon's fabulous family were reckoned among the gods. Pezron mentions the following:
Atlas. Atlas was a son of Japet, another of Saturn's brothers. As Saturn's nephew, he ruled the Mauritania province where he gave his name to the famous mountain range that more or less parallels the coast of northwest Africa. He was of a gigantic stature and strength, "and thence it was that the Celtae or Titans, gave him the name of Telamon; for Tel or Tal in that language signifies high, tall or lusty, and mon or man is man: The Atlas of the Latins implies very near the same thing, the word being made of Altus, by the transposition of a letter only. This person, as well as the other Titan princes, was well skilled in auguries and divinations, and more particularly in astronomy, and 'twas his skill in this science, together with the bulk and strength of his body, that gave occasion to all the ancient fables made of him."77 Atlas was brother to Prometheus, who the ancients recognized as the Titan pioneer of civilization,78 and who the Celtae and Greeks elevated into their pantheon.
Pluto (first known as Dis). After taking over Saturn's vast domain and bringing peace to his empire, Jupiter entrusted the government of those provinces to the west, that is, Gaul and Spain, with his brother Dis. This is confirmed by Lactantius, who relates that Dis, or Pluto, as he later came to be known, was given those provinces but only as a suzerain to Jupiter. During the long period of peace that followed Jupiter's great victories, Dis settled colonies of Titans in both Spain and Gaul. "He was in all appearance their chief, and led them thither in person," says Pezron; "and that is the true reason why the ancient Greeks gave him the name of Agesander, or Agesilaus, for both these implied the Conductor of Men, and the Conductor of People."
This giant prince, whom the Celtae later admitted into the Number of the Gods, was born near Dodona. Strabo says that while in Spain, Dis found so much gold and silver that people began calling him Plutowhich means Richand that for this reason he was afterward esteemed by both the Greeks and Romans as the god of riches. But he also got to be known as the god of the underworld. This title was accorded him, Pezron explains, because "Spain was situate in the utmost parts of the west, where the sun seems to set in the ocean, and that the place where it did set, was by the ancient Grecians reputed to be the lower and most inferior part of the earth; hence the poets and fable-makers have represented this prince as the god of the inferior regions, or the god of hell: For Lactantius, speaking of this matter, says very well, 'The east, from whence light was communicated to men, seemed to be the upper part of the earth, and the west was taken for the inferior or lower part.' This made Strabo (and that with good reason) believe that the Greek word, Tartarus, was made from Tartesa, a country situate in the utmost parts of Spain and the west. Now if Dis led a colony of Titans or Celtae, into Gaul, the Gauls had reason to say, after their Druids, that they were descended from him, seeing they looked upon the person that had first fixed them there, and that with some justice too, as their first origin and stock."79
Mercury. One of Atlas' daughters, named Maia, also became Jupiter's wife, "and by whom he had the famous Teutat or Hermes, who was better known by the name of Mercury, and held in great veneration not only among the Gauls, but also among the Teutones or Germans." After Dis apparently died, according to Suidas and also the Chronicle of Alexandria, Jupiter conferred upon Mercury the empire of the west. Like his great-grandfather Uranus, Mercury interested himself in all the sciences of his day, plus that of augury, divinations, and enchantments. Because of his knowledge in these things, the other Titan princes often consulted him about their affairs. For this reason he became known as the "Interpreter of the Gods."80
But Mercury gained an even greater fame for convincing his subjects in the western parts, "who breathed nothing before, but war and rapine," to live in peace and engage in trade and commerce.
This beneficial policy earned him his name Mercury, which comes wholly from the Celtic and implies a Trading Man, for, says Pezron, Mercs in Gaulish, from whence came the Latin word Merx, signifies Merchandize, and Ur in that language is a Man.81 Now Mercury accomplished such good things for his people that they included him not only in the Number of Gods but preserved his memory for many centuries, even down to the days of Caesar. For Caesar in his Commentary reveals that the Gauls adored Mercury above all other gods and that they honored him with a great number of statues.82
Such men were the Titans, the overlarge descendants of Gomer, the son of Japhet, whom Josephus mentions in his Antiquities of the Jews as the forebears of the Celtae or Gallic giants in Europe. In their days they did exploits. Their princes, all being of immense and noble stature, gained much renown for their courage, for their feats of strength, and for the mighty things they accomplished. Moreover, these chieftains of the Titans, as we just saw, became the revered gods to whom the ignorant heathens of those early days and even much later times bowed themselves down. (See Gabbaras, the Arabian Giant; also see Abraham and the Giants; Giants and the Flood; Gomarian Giants; Origin of the GiantsBiblical Account)
By his nineteenth year, when he came to England, Bernardo Gigli already stood to a height of eight feet. "His equal," proclaimed a 1755 handbill, "has never been seen, nor any come higher than his armpit." The following year a newspaper carried this ad: "The Italian giant, a giant indeed! who tho' but nineteen years of age, is eight feet high, and of admirable symmetry, is to be seen from ten in the morning till eight at night, at a commodious apartment, the bottom of Pall-mall, near the Haymarket. Price 1s. each person."83
Harald, Giant Viking King
In the year 1066, following the death of Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson came to the throne of England, but his brother Tostig contested him. For this struggle Tostig enlisted the help of the giant Viking ruler Harald Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardraada.84 Seeing an opportunity to make himself sovereign over a portion, if not all, of England, the seven-foot-plus Norwegian warrior-king sailed for the island nation with a battle fleet of two hundred ships.85 About this time, another Viking, William of Normandy, decided the kingdom should be his alone and launched a fleet of four hundred battle ships and one thousand support vessels.
But Harald and his Vikings reached England first. Sailing down the coast to Northumbria, they swarmed ashore at Riccall, joined forces with Tostig, and then set out to capture York. Harald easily defeated York's outmanned defenders just outside the city. Hoping to avoid useless bloodshed, Tostig persuaded those who remained in the garrison to surrender. During these negotiations, both parties agreed the victorious Vikings would take possession of the castle the next day. Returning to their ships, the Vikings celebrated. On the morrow Harald and his men started out for York to finalize the terms of its surrender. That September day began hot and sunny. So, according to one chronicle, "they left their mailshirts behind and went ashore with shields and helmets and spears and wore their swords and many had bows and arrows. They were very happy, with no thought of any attack, and when they were getting near the town they saw a great cloud of dust and under it bright shields and shining mail."86
Tostig advised Harald to retreat to the ships. Harald, who had never been defeated in battle, refused. He deployed his forces at Stamford Bridge and waited for the forces of Harold Godwinson, King of England, to draw up. As the English arranged their battle lines, twenty of their armored knights rode forward. A like number from the Viking side advanced to meet them.
One of the English knights asked: "Where is Tostig in the host?"
"It is not to be concealed that you may find him here," Tostig replied.
The horseman then said: "Harald your brother sends you greeting, and the message that you shall have peace, and get Northumbria, and he will give you one-third of all his realm."
Tostig answered: "Then something else is offered than the enmity and disgrace of last winter; if this had been offered then, many who now are dead would be alive, and the realm of the King of England would stand more firm. Now if I accept these terms, what will my brother Harold offer to the King of Norway for his trouble?"
The smaller horseman carefully appraised the oversized, majestic-looking, auburn-haired, full-bearded, well-muscled Norwegian king, who looked down on him with one eyebrow raised slightly higher than the other. Then he replied: "He has said what he will grant King Harald Sigurdsson: it is a space of seven feet, or as much more as he may be taller than other men."
Tostig responded: "Go and tell my brother, King Harold, to prepare for battle. It shall not be said among Northmen that Tostig jarl left Harald, King of Norway, and went into the host of his foes when he made warfare in England; rather will we all resolve to die with honor, or win England with a victory."
As the English knights returned to their lines, Harald asked Tostig: "Who was that eloquent man?"