A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich



When the Roman historian Tacitus wrote the Germania, a none-too-flattering little book about the ancient Germans, he could not have foreseen that centuries later the Nazis would extol it as a bible and 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, revealing how an ancient text rose to take its place among the most dangerous books in the world."

Product Details

W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
August 27, 2012
5.5 X 8.0 X 0.8 inches | 0.01 pounds

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About the Author

Christopher B. Krebs, a classics professor at Harvard University, has published widely on the Roman historians and their afterlives. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


A razor-sharp, eminently readable reminder of the potency of bad ideas. Christopher Krebs shows how intellectuals through the ages used and abused a Latin classic, Tacitus's Germania, and tells the unnerving story of its final transformation into a Nazi 'bible'. Fascinating stuff.--Anthony Everitt, author of "Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome"
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"
A fascinating story of how a book could be used and especially abused over two thousand years, as enemies saw it aspresenting Germans as brutish and barbarian, while German nationalisticpride extracted a quite different message of a nation that was simple, virtuous, and pure.... beautifully told byChristopher Krebs.--Christopher Pelling, editor of "Greek Tragedy and the Historian"
A dramatic detective story.
Fascinating. . . . [Krebs] has a light touch and a dry sense of humor. "
Clever, learned. . . . [Krebs] synthesizes a great deal of classical scholarship and intellectual history into a concise, accessible story. "
It is an extraordinary tale, and Mr. Krebs . . . tells it with great verve and charm. "
A dramatic detective story. "