Giant (Gr. gen.fromthe earth, and obsoleteto be born, earthborn), a person of extraordinary stature. The Hebrew word nephilim (Gen. vi. 4.), which the Septuagint renders giantshas had a variety of interpretations. Some suppose it to mean men of great size; others, men surpassing in physical or mental strength; and others, apostates from the worship of the true God. But there are other passages in the Old Testament which indicate the existence of men of huge dimensions. The Rephaim, the Anakim, the Emim, and the Zuzira are described as giants. The sons of Anak were men of great stature," before whom the children of Israel, as their frightened scouts reported, were as grasshoppers." Of Og, king of Bashan, and of Goliath, sufficient particulars are given to leave little room for doubt that they were of enormous stature.-The fables of the giants and Titans in classical mythology probably had their origin in terrestrial natural phenomena. The scene of their contests is usually laid in volcanic districts. According to Homer, a race of giants who dwelt in the distant west were destroyed by the gods; Hesiod represented the giants as divine beings, who sprang from the blood of Uranus as it fell on the earth; and by later poets they were described as enemies of Jupiter, who vainly attempted to take Olympus by storm.
Scandinavian mythology is peopled with giants (jotuns), who dwelt in forests and caves, amid treasures of gold and silver. They may be a reminiscence of some hostile race of the early times, who had sought refuge in the natural fastnesses of the land. Giants abound in German legends, and may often be traced, like the classical myths, to an origin connected directly with meteorological or terrestrial phenomena. In considering the accounts of giants with which classical literature is filled, it must be borne in mind that all the ancient nations were accustomed to magnify the stature of their kings and heroes. To be thought a giant in strength and in size was the ambition of every warrior. Alexander the Great, in one of his Asian expeditions, caused to be made and left behind him a suit of armor of huge proportions, for the purpose of inducing a belief among the people he had conquered that he was of great stature. Homer exaggerates the size and strength of the heroes of the Trojan war, and declares that the race of man in his day had degenerated in size. More recent writers are not free from similar fictions. King Arthur and his knights and Charlemagne and his paladins were represented to be greater in stature than common men.
Roland, the hero of Roncesvalles, was said to be of gigantijs size; but when Francis I. opened his tomb and tried on his armor it fitted him, although he was no larger than other men of his age. The body of William the Conqueror, examined 400 years after burial, was currently reported to be eight feet in length; but Stowe says that when his tomb in Caen was broken open in 1562, his bones were found to be not remarkable for size. The Germans and Gauls appeared to the Romans to be of immense stature. Caesar says: "Our shortness of stature, in comparison with the great size of their bodies, is generally a subject of much contempt to the men of Gaul." Tacitus describes the Germans as of robust form and of great stature; and Strabo says that he had seen Britons at Rome who were half a foot taller than the tallest Italians. Yet there is no proof that the men of these nations were any larger in ancient times than now; on the contrary, the remains found in graves and barrows are usually under the average height of men of the same races of the present day. It is the same with Egyptian mummies.
According to Athenoeus, a man of four cubits or six feet in height was considered of gigantic size in Egypt. Apol-lodorus gives the height of the gigantic . Hercules" as four cubits; and Phya, the woman who was selected on account of her great height to personate Minerva at Athens, in the time of Pisistratus, was only about 5 ft. 10 in. Were it possible to get at the truth concerning the accounts of the giants of antiquity, there is little doubt that half of them would prove to be myths, and the greater part of the remainder gross exaggerations. Pliny's assertion that mankind is gradually decreasing in size rests on no good foundation. On the contrary, a vast amount of evidence can be adduced to show that the men of to-day are equal if not superior in stature to the ancients. The size of the armor, weapons, finger rings, and architecture of antiquity, and the measures of length derived from the human form that have come down to us, all go to prove this. But we must not therefore conclude that all the giants of the classical writers are imaginary. The diversity in the height and size of the human family that now prevails has doubtless existed in all ages. Instances are not wanting of individuals of 8 and even 9 ft. in height.
Pliny tells of an Arabian giant named Gabbara who was over 9 ft. high, and of two others, Pusis and Secondilla, whose skeletons, 9 1/2 ft. in length, were preserved in the Sallustian gardens. According to Julius Capitolinus, the emperor Maximin exceeded 8 ft. In more modern times we have numerous records of men of gigantic stature. Die-merbrock says that he saw in Utrecht, in 1665, a man 8 1/2 ft. high, who was born of parents of ordinary stature. Charles Birne, an Irishman, measured 8 ft. 4 in.; he died in 1783, aged 22, and his skeleton, now in the college of surgeons, London, is 8 ft. long. Edmond Malone, also Irish, born in 1682, stood 7 ft. 7 in. with his shoes off; and Patrick Cottar, still another Hibernian, is said to have been 8 ft. 7 3/4 in. high. Walter Parsons, porter to King James I. of England, was 7 ft. 7 in.; and Maximilian Christian Miller, a native of Leipsic, who died in London in 1734, was nearly 8 ft. The brothers Knipe were each about 7 ft. 2 in.; and M. Louis, a Frenchman, was 7 ft. 6 in.; the latter had two sisters nearly as tall as himself, and a brother who was still taller. Miles Darden, of Tennessee, was 7 ft. 6 in. (See Darden.) Buffon gives a number of well authenticated cases in which men have reached an extraordinary height.
The giant of Thores-by, England, was 7 ft. 5 in.; a porter of the duke of Wurtemberg was 7 1/2 ft.; Cajanus, of Finland, was 8 ft., as was also a Swedish peasant. One of the gua'rds of the duke of Brunswick measured 8 1/2 ft.; Gilli, a giant of Trent, in Tyrol, was 8 ft. 2 in.; and a Swede in the celebrated grenadier guard of Frederick William I. of Prussia stood 8 1/2 ft.-There is probably not a single well authenticated case, among the many given by ancient writers, of men whose stature has exceeded the natural limits, that has not been equalled in a comparatively modern period. Giants fully 8 ft. high are not unfrequently exhibited. The enormous skeletons, found in times past, of 20, 30, 50, and 100 ft. in length, were without doubt the fossil remains of animals of the primitive world, which only ignorance could have ascribed to a human origin. The progress of comparative anatomy has aided to dispel the errors long prevalent in relation to giants, and there is little fear that men of science of the present age will be deceived, as Buffon was, into representing as human the bones of an elephant.