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Byrne, Charles [Cont.]
Caesar's Triumph over the Giants
Cangick Giant
Celtic Bones

Byrne, Charles (alias O'Brien) [Cont.]

"So anxious are the surgeons to have possession of the Irish giant," wrote another newsman on June 16, "that they have offered a ransom of 800 guineas to the undertakers. This sum being rejected they are determined to approach the churchyard by regular works, and terrier-like, unearth him!"

An account of his burial appeared in the June 18 issue, as follows: His "body was shipped on board a vessel in the river last night in order to be conveyed to the Downs, where it is to be sunk in twenty fathom water: the body-hunters, however, are determined to pursue their valuable prey even in the profoundest depth of the aquatic regions; and having therefore provided a pair of diving bells, with which they flatter themselves they shall be able to weigh hulk gigantic from its watery grave!" The Annual Register for 1783 said it had reason "to believe that this [burial] report is merely a tub thrown out to a whale."

In any event, Byrne's gigantic skeleton later turned up in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
13 Tradition has it that the noted anatomist William Hunter acquired the body with a bribe of 500/. (or 800/., as another version tells it). A later published account claims the undertaker that Hunter bribed "arranged that while the escort was drinking at a certain stage on the march seaward, the coffin should be locked up in a barn. There, some men he had concealed speedily substituted an equivalent weight of paving-stones for the body, which was at night forwarded to Hunter and by him taken in his carriage to Earl's Court. To avoid risk of discovery, immediately after suitable division had been made he boiled it in his great kettle to obtain the bones." (For other accounts of surgeons or anatomists stealing the bodies of deceased giants, see Longmore, Edward; MacGrath, Cornelius)

Caesar's Triumph over the Giants
Marius' triumphs at Aquae Sextiae and on the plain of Vercellae proved a turning point in Rome's centuries-old struggle against the Celtic giants. Before this they had seemed virtually unbeatable. And the widely held conception of them as superhuman, plus the fear that their skulls might end up on some Celtic warrior's trophy shelf, caused many a Roman soldier to break out in goose bumps. But after Marius vanquished their biggest and their best, the mantle of invincibility fell from the Celts to the Romans. Some Gauls, aware that the times had changed, not only sought accommodation with the Latins, they even requested Rome's protection against some of their own wandering, expansion-minded tribes. These pleas for Rome's military help only hastened their downfall, however, for they opened the door to Caesar's subjugation of Gaul and his massacres of great numbers of their people.

It happened like this: in 71 B.C., the Suebic chieftain Ariovistus marched fifteen thousand Germans into Gaul to boost the Sequani, his allies, in their war against another Celtic tribe called the Aedui. Unfortunately, after helping win this battle, Ariovistus decided to stay and establish his own rule over all the tribes of northeastern Gaul. In the years that followed, other Germans--numbering about one hundred and twenty thousand-crossed the Rhine to join him. This migration "so strengthened Ariovistus that he treated the native population as subject peoples and dreamed of conquering all Gaul."
14 About this same time also, some three hundred and sixty-eight thousand shivering Helvetii concluded that Switzerland, their recent home, was too cold for them. They therefore set out to seek a better place for themselves and their children on Gaul's much warmer Atlantic coast. Troubled by both these threats to their own lands, several Celtic clans, in 58 B.C., sent deputations to Caesar, begging the Roman proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum15 to turn back the Helvetii and expel Ariovistus.

Having been on the lookout all along for some excuse to invade free Gaul and turn it into a Roman province, Caesar seized the opportunity. In a bloody battle at Bibracte, he halted the Helvetii's migration and forced them to return to their Swiss homeland. Next, in the plain of Alsace, he took on Ariovistus' forces and handed him a crushing defeat. After these victories, however, the proconsul, on the pretext of keeping the peace, kept his Roman legions in free Gaul. The Celts now saw, too late, that their benefactor intended to become their conqueror. Some rebelled, enlisting the aid of the powerful Belgae tribe. But acting with a celerity of movement that never allowed his foes to unite, Caesar "moved in succession against the Suessiones, Ambiani, Nervii, and Aduatici, conquered them, despoiled them, and sold the captives to the slave merchants of Italy."
16 During the Gallic wars (58-51 B.C.), Caesar fought some thirty battles. During those bloody years, he destroyed, by Plutarch's estimates, eight hundred Celtic towns and villages, and killed, by his own count, nearly one million two hundred thousand men, women, and children.

In 55 B.C., Caesar took time out from his Gallic wars to visit Great Britain. This first voyage amounted to no more than a reconnaissance--to see, in the proconsul's own words, "what sort of people lived there, and to get some idea of the terrain and the harbors and landing places" for his later invasion.
17 After putting ashore, Caesar and his party came upon men who, according to Strabo, were "taller than the Celti, and not so yellow-haired, although their bodies are of looser build."18 These towering Belgae, who originally hailed from that part of Gaul located just south of modern Belgium, now controlled much of that great island. No one seems to know when they first crossed the English Channel, but, as Caesar later learned, they came ashore as raiders. While roaming the island, however, the giants saw it was a pleasant place to live, and, after plundering the natives, they decided to settle there. Able on account of their size and strength to do much as they pleased, they chose for themselves the coastal areas and became farmers.19 The aborigines, upon being dispossessed of the choicest land, retreated to the interior. By the time the Romans landed on England's shores, notes Caesar, the population of these robbers-turned-farmers had grown "extremely large." But on his quick exploratory trip, the proconsul caught them unprepared, easily put down what resistance they put up, then returned to Gaul to deal with yet another Celtic uprising there.

When Caesar crossed the channel the following year, intending this time to conquer the island, he ran into a fierce resistance. Having mustered a large force of Celts under his banner, Cassivellaunus, king of the dominant Catuvellauni tribe, fought the Roman invaders on the beaches. After three battles, all won by the much shorter legionnaires, the alliance Cassivellaunus had formed began to fall apart. Then, after some of the petty kings sent envoys to Caesar to sue for peace, Cassivellaunus himself also capitulated. The terms of surrender Caesar imposed upon the British Celts were fairly light. They only had to pledge their allegiance to Rome and pay an annual tax to the Roman government.

As lenient as Caesar's terms were, answering to a foreign government and paying it tribute never set well with the giants.

Even in defeat they remained proud, arrogant, defiant, unwilling to adapt themselves to the lowly role of a conquered people. So the time of unrest that followed became a permanent way of life. Over the next several years Rome managed to keep the high-strung Brits in check, but their ability to hold the troubled island always remained in doubt. Then Cassivellaunus died, and Cunobelin became king of the Catuvellauni. Cunobelin's strength and influence over the divided Celtic tribes kept the island just peaceful enough not to invite Roman intervention in its domestic affairs. But when Cunobelin also died, a struggle for supremacy broke out between two tribal leaders named Togodubnus and Caratacus. This struggle gave the Roman Emperor Claudius just the excuse he was looking for to invade the island and bring it completely under Roman control. Accordingly, in A.D. 43, he dispatched over twenty thousand legionnaires and a like number of those in lesser ranks across the English Channel. Learning of Claudius' intentions, Togodubnus and Caratacus met, quickly patched up their differences, then joined forces to oppose the legionnaires. After the Romans soundly defeated them, Britain became a Roman province and was thereafter ruled by Roman governors.

With many British giants refusing to knuckle under, however, the troubled island remained in or always near revolt. In 59, during the turmoil, Veranius, the emperor's legate, was slain. Nero then appointed Suetonius Paulinus as Britain's fourth governor. Despite determined Celtic resistance, he soon extended Roman control into north Wales, although Anglesey remained "a hotbed of Celtic fervor" and a chief stronghold of the Druids. Suetonius, whom Tacitus lauded as "a conscientious and modest legate," restored the peace, and the provinces under his rule gradually grew somewhat content. He had the misfortune, however, of having Catus Decianus as his procurator. Serving as the civil counterpart of the governor, Catus fit the role of a cruel administrator driven by greed. His villainous conduct toward the already agitated Celts naturally boded trouble for the governor and his tenuous peace.

The uprising came, inconveniently, while Suetonius was engaged in a battle some distance off. Catus of course provided the spark by robbing the estate of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni. The story as related by the historians developed like this: Prasutagus, following a common practice in those times, negotiated a treaty with the Romans over the division of his estate. When he died, in accordance with the treaty he had signed, he left his kingdom jointly to his two daughters and to Rome. By this arrangement, he expected his family to retain half his kingdom. But Catus canceled his will, probably on the pretext that the giant Celtic king lacked a male issue.
20 On the heels of this action, writes Tacitus, Prasutagus' estate "was plundered by centurions, [and] his house by slaves, as if they were spoils of war." When his wife Boudicca protested, Roman legionnaires flogged her. They also raped her two princesses. Be-sides these grave offenses, "all the chief men of the Iceni.. . were stript of their ancestral possessions, and the king's relatives were made slaves."21 Seeing what things had happened to Prasutagus' kingdom and realizing the same fate could one day overtake them, the other Celtic nobles stirred themselves up to a revolt.22 Boudicca became the symbol for the Celtic nation to rally around, and "when this red-haired giantess took up her spear," declares Gerhard Herm, "the men hastened to arms."23

The Amazon-like queen that inspired the Celts to war was no beauty. The Roman historian Dio Cassius says "she was enormous of frame, terrifying of mien, and with a rough, shrill voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell down to her knees; she wore a huge twisted torque of gold, and a tunic of many colors, over which was a thick mantle held by a brooch. When she grasped a spear, it was to strike fear into all who observed her."

The uneasy peace that Suetonius had worked so hard to establish now exploded into a war of reprisals so suddenly that it caught the Romans off guard. Led by Boudicca with her spear, the Celtic giants stormed Colchester. This seat of the Roman government they quickly captured, slew most of its inhabitants, plundered it, then burned it. "The victorious enemy," relates Tacitus, then "met Petiolous Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, as he was coming to the rescue, routed his troops, and destroyed all his infantry. . . . Alarmed by this disaster and by the fury of the province which he had goaded into war by his rapacity, the procurator Catus crossed over into Gaul."
25 Encouraged by their success at Colchester, Boudicca's tall blond warriors next fell upon St. Albans in Hertfordshire and occupied it; then they marched on London and destroyed it. Driven by their pent-up rage, the British giants slaughtered seventy thousand Romans before Suetonius could put down the revolt. The Celts themselves suffered eighty thousand casualties, including the giantess Boudicca. Upon seeing her cause lost, she swallowed poison. Thus came to an end the bloodiest war inflicted upon the Romans during their occupation of Britain.

Following Boudicca's rebellion, a new legate replaced Suetonius. Slowly he restored order to the island. Meantime, the Romans found a more peaceful way to bring the Celts into the fold. They simply Romanized the Brits. Tacitus explains how they accomplished this: "Gradually the inhabitants of the island succumbed to pleasure and discovered a taste for colonnades, public baths, splendid banquets. In their want of experience, they mistook all of this for 'civilization, while in reality it only contributed to their greater subjection."
26 (See Antoninus, Marcus; Celtic Giants; German Giants' Annihilation; Giants Who Became Gods; Gomarian Giants; Longmore, Edward; Rome vs Senone Giants; Twilight of the Celtic Giants)

Cangick Giant
In his History of Somersetshire, Collinson relates that in 1670, while sinking a well in the parish of Wedmore, some workers found buried at a depth of thirteen feet the remains of one of the Cangick giants who, according to English tradition, formerly occupied these parts.

Celtic Bones
Bateman, in his Ten Years' Digging in Celtic and Saxon Grave-hills, mentions many instances where human thigh bones of an extraordinary size were found.

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