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A Most Dangerous Book

Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich

Christopher B. Krebs (Author, Harvard University)


The riveting story of the Germania and its incarnations and exploitations through the ages.

The pope wanted it, Montesquieu used it, and the Nazis pilfered an Italian noble's villa to get it: the Germania, by the Roman historian Tacitus, took on a life of its own as both an object and an ideology. When Tacitus wrote a not-very-flattering little book about the ancient Germans in 98 CE, at the height of the Roman Empire, he could not have foreseen that the Nazis would extol it as "a bible," nor that Heinrich Himmler, the engineer of the Holocaust, would vow to resurrect Germany on its grounds. But the Germania inspired—and polarized—readers long before the rise of the Third Reich. In this elegant and captivating history, Christopher B. Krebs, a professor of classics at Harvard University, traces the wide-ranging influence of the Germania over a five-hundred-year span, showing us how an ancient text rose to take its place among the most dangerous books in the world.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • May 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-393-06265-6
  • 5.8 × 8.6 in / 304 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverA Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich


Endorsements & Reviews

“A fascinating story of how a book could be used and—especially—abused over two thousand years, as enemies saw it as presenting Germans as brutish and barbarian, while German nationalistic pride extracted a quite different message of a nation that was simple, virtuous, and pure.... beautifully told by Christopher Krebs.” — Christopher Pelling, editor of Greek Tragedy and the Historian

“A most exciting book! In Krebs’ hands, the story of the Germania manuscript becomes part thriller, part detective story.... A must-read for anyone interested in the pernicious power of the ideas of antiquity—and a timely reminder of the responsibilities placed on readers as well as writers.” — Tim Rood, University of Oxford, author of American Anabasis