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The Last Galley Impressions and Tales

Giant Maximin
I THE COMING OF MAXIMIN
Many are the strange vicissitudes of history. Greatness has often sunk to the dust, and has
tempered itself to its new surrounding. Smallness has risen aloft, has flourished for a
time, and then has sunk once more. Rich monarchs have become poor monks, brave
conquerors have lost their manhood, eunuchs and women have overthrown armies and
kingdoms. Surely there is no situation which the mind of man can invent which has not
taken shape and been played out upon the world stage. But of all the strange careers and
of all the wondrous happenings, stranger than Charles in his monastery, or Justin on his
throne, there stands the case of Giant Maximin, what he attained, and how he attained it.
Let me tell the sober facts of history, tinged only by that colouring to which the more
austere historians could not condescend. It is a record as well as a story.
In the heart of Thrace some ten miles north of the Rhodope mountains, there is a valley
which is named Harpessus, after the stream which runs down it. Through this valley lies
the main road from the east to the west, and along the road, returning from an expedition
against the Alani, there marched, upon the fifth day of the month of June in the year 210,
a small but compact Roman army. It consisted of three legions--the Jovian, the
Cappadocian, and the men of Hercules. Ten turmae of Gallic cavalry led the van, whilst
the rear was covered by a regiment of Batavian Horse Guards, the immediate attendants
of the Emperor Septimus Severus who had conducted the campaign in person. The
peasants who lined the low hills which fringed the valley looked with indifference upon
the long files of dusty, heavily-burdened infantry, but they broke into murmurs of delight
at the gold-faced cuirasses and high brazen horse-hair helmets of the guardsmen,
applauding their stalwart figures, their martial bearing, and the stately black chargers
which they rode. A soldier might know that it was the little weary men with their short
swords, their heavy pikes over their shoulders, and their square shields slung upon their
backs, who were the real terror of the enemies of the Empire, but to the eyes of the
wondering Thracians it was this troop of glittering Apollos who bore Rome's victory
upon their banners, and upheld the throne of the purple-togaed prince who rode before
them.
Among the scattered groups of peasants who looked on from a respectful distance at this
military pageant, there were two men who attracted much attention from those who stood
immediately around them. The one was commonplace enough--a little grey-headed man,
with uncouth dress and a frame which was bent and warped by a long life of arduous toil,
goat-driving and wood-chopping among the mountains. It was the appearance of his
youthful companion which had drawn the amazed observation of the bystanders. In
stature he was such a giant as is seen but once or twice in each generation of mankind.
Eight feet and two inches was his measure from his sandalled sole to the topmost curls of
his tangled hair. Yet for all his mighty stature there was nothing heavy or clumsy in the
man. His huge shoulders bore no redundant flesh, and his figure was straight and hard
and supple as a young pine tree. A frayed suit of brown leather clung close to his giant
 
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