We all know that Ancient Origins has low standards and the Romanian nationalist writer who goes by the name of Valdar has among the lowest standards in fringe history, but are people really willing to accept an obviously Photoshop-manipulated photograph of a skeleton as a 10-meter-tall giant allegedly uncovered in Romania in 1976? Apparently so, since this particular conspiracy theory about giants in Romania has been percolating since at least 2013, with spikes in interest annually. The anti-gay gigantologist Steve Quayle has an article about the supposed giants or Romania, which appears to have been mechanically translated from a Romanian original, and which supposedly tells the story behind the fictitious photograph.
In the account, a man with the exquisitely Romanian name of “John Moses” (presumably translated by the software along with the rest of the text) alleges that a 10-meter-long skeleton was uncovered in an underground gallery in 1976, and a bunch of officials covered up what they declared to be a “Hyperborean” individual. According to this account, the atheist communists of the Romanian government immediately felt threatened by the discovery, fearing that it would undermine the theory of evolution. “Man is descended from monkeys!” one allegedly said. “Where have you ever heard [of] monkey 10 meters [tall]?” Moses said that the communist officials packed up the skeleton and shipped it to Moscow. However, Moses said that he knew the truth, that the giants were the true ancestors of the Romanian people, on whom be praise and glory forever. Like a true pulp horror story—which might be the origin of this tale—Moses finished by claiming that he was being followed and had to quickly pass along the photograph before something untoward happened to him.
Moses claims that the skeleton’s discovery was tied to efforts to find gold in a mine abandoned since Austro-Hungarian times. The site is supposedly located in Roșia Montană, a commune located in western Romania, in Transylvania, in the old Hungarian province that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its demise after World War I.
The anonymous author of the article, speaking in his own voice, then claims that the skeleton is tied to a portal to Shambhala in the old Dacian capital of Sarmisegetuza Regia and that ghostly figures who speak the pre-Greek language of Pelasgian guard this entry to paradise. Oh, and he also says that there are secret tunnels under Romania connecting the Dacian capital to the Hyperborean giants’ tomb, which was filled (of course) with an impossible alloy of gold, evidence of antediluvian high technology.
I can’t figure how anyone could take this pulp fiction nuttiness seriously when even the most basic of details don’t make a lick of sense, even before they spiral into a Romanian nationalist fantasy, appropriated in turn for Christian creationist purposes. The various layers of the story don’t even go together: Shambhala is a mythic kingdom in the hollow earth from Buddhist tradition, while Hyperborea is the northern land of the immortals in Greco-Roman myth. The reference to the Pelasgians is a way of incorporating into Western mythic tradition the Romanian nationalist belief that the Romanians were the dominant pre-Greek peoples of Eastern Europe and the possessors of the world’s oldest written language.
Given that there isn’t a lick of evidence that any of this story is true, it’s at least interesting to see how it was assembled. Hyperborea itself is a bit hard to pin down since the ancients weren’t sure where exactly it was. While today we think of it as the Arctic (along the lines of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea), for the Greeks it was simply the land beyond where Boreas, the north wind, lived. Herodotus placed it in northern Asia, but a more popular tradition located it somewhere north of Thrace, roughly in the area above the Danube cognate with old Dacia, the spiritual ancestor of the Romanian state. The exact location differed wildly by author, from the Black Sea coast (Hecataeus of Miletus) to the Danube valley (Pindar) to Scythia (Aristotle), or even farther afield. The best known views placed it in the extreme ends of the earth, such as Great Britain (Hecataeus of Abdera) or the Arctic (Pomponius Mela). Given this vast variety, the fact that “Hyperborea” shows up as a description in our story only serves to confirm the Romanian nationalist undercurrent, since it selects the most glorious reading of Hyperborea from a Romanian point of view, the one that assigns the legendary land to Romanian territory.
From this identification of Hyperborea with Romania we can start to see how the “giants” came to it. Aelian, in On Animals 11.1 states that the rulers of Hyperborea were giants, sons of the god Boreas who stood “six cubits” in height, being roughly nine feet. This is a far cry from 10 meters, or more than 30 feet, but it’s most likely the precedent used to justify the giants, which also appear in Romanian folklore (as they do in almost all world cultures). In this case, the writer of the story has tried to marry Greco-Roman and Romanian tales together, with limited success.
Shambhala enters the equation through Theosophy, and for reasons best known to Romanians Theosophy-influenced New Agers have declared the country’s caves portals to Shambhala and a link to the Akashic Records, with the astral energy concentrated on Sarmisegetuza Regia.
Why this should be is a bit unclear, but I imagine that it traces back to the old Dacian religion of Zalmoxis, who, like these giants and portals, was a chthonic god who lived in an underground palace where believers descended to be initiated into his mysteries and to learn how to achieve immortality (euhemerized in Herodotus, Histories 4.94, with Plato, Charmides 156-158 and Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 1.2). Whether the modern stories are survivals of this ancient religion or modern reconstructions and conflations based on historical accounts, I can’t say. But it looks like the creationists and Romanian nationalists have taken old material and used it to weave a modern story more in keeping with contemporary trends in Nephilim fantasies.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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