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Was Maximinus Thrax the tallest Roman known to have ever lived? I am suspecting there might be taller specimens. Or maybe there aren't and he is simply the tallest.

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    What research have you done? What sources have you consulted so far? If as contemporaries assert, he was 8 feel tall, he is quite likely the largest. Note that I don't think he has been found; so he wouldn't qualify as the tallest Roman ever found. Although there are no lists, a simple google search turned up multiple references - one of which I've cited above
    – MCW
    Jan 6, 2022 at 2:15
  • There are no lists of tall Roman's anywhere.
    – user54389
    Jan 6, 2022 at 2:16
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    Despite @MCW's quibble, I actually like the title better than the body, on the grounds that we have no way of knowing the tallest "to have ever lived". Any candidate proposed probably wasn't it.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 6, 2022 at 3:50
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    That's impossible to answer. We don't have the remains to check it out. Very likely, Maximius was the largest military man in his time. If only for the simple reason that was noticed, enough to remark upon. It's also possible an ordinary citizen was taller, but didn't serve in the army. Hence, nobody noticed.
    – Jos
    Jan 6, 2022 at 4:49

1 Answer 1

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Taking the question Who was the tallest Roman ever found? to mean archaeological remains (the most reliable evidence we are likely to find), the current leading 'candidate' is probably a skeleton labelled T.30 which was

...found during archaeological excavations in the territory of Fidenae, an administrative centre of the Roman territorial organization, situated along the Via Salaria about 7 km north of Rome (Italy). The individual was a young male, dated back to the Imperial Age (3rd century AD), presenting a very tall but normally proportioned stature, estimated around 202 cm [6ft 7.5in]. The long bones showed incomplete epiphyseal union, therefore the stature would probably have been taller, if he had lived longer.

Source: S. Minozzi, W. Pantano, P. Catalano & F. di Gennaro “The Roman Giant”: Overgrowth Syndrome in Skeletal Remains from the Imperial Age. In 'International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 23:1-11' (May 2013)

This may not seem much by modern standards but considering that a male Roman in the Imperial Age is estimated to have averaged 167cm (just under 5ft 6in), the gentleman who was skeleton T.30 would have been unusually tall. The skeleton, which the authors say "is characteristic of a form of gigantism", was originally found in 1991 in a cemetery probably connected to a farming community.

A total of 31 tombs were excavated and the skeletal remains of 28 individuals were recovered. A tomb (T.30) longer than the others was found (2.6 m) and the skeletal remains appeared to be those of a very tall individual (Pantano et al., 2011). Tomb 30 belongs to a group of simple fossa graves (originally covered with pottery roof tiles) that seems to have been prepared and used during the first half of the 3rd century. The individual was buried in supine posture with the hands placed under his pelvis, with no funerary goods. The skeleton was complete and in good condition, but the skull was fragmented.

Source: Minozzi et al (2013)

enter image description here

Text & images source: S. Minozzi, W. Pantano, F. di Gennaro & G. Fornaciari, 'Pituitary Disease from the Past: A Rare Case of Gigantism in Skeletal Remains from the Roman Imperial Age'. In 'The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism' (October 2012)

We cannot be sure that the skeleton was that of a Roman citizen and, unfortunately, the article does not go into details of the likely birthplace of this individual. Other than the above,

we have no reports about their [giant individuals] presence in the Roman world during the Imperial Age. The only exception was the Emperor Maximinus the Thrax (235-238 AD), described by literary sources as a human mountain, and according to the image on his coinage had an acromegalic head; therefore he may well have been a giant (Roberts, 1978).

One of the literary sources for this is the Historia Augusta which, unfortunately, is not very reliable so we cannot be sure of his true height, though there seems to be little doubt that he was a very large individual (and quite possibly taller than the 'owner' of skeleton T.30). Another source, Herodian, also mentions that Maximinus Thrax was a very man but gives nothing more specific than the following:

...he enlisted in a local auxiliary cohort because of his huge size and great strength, and by luck became the emperor of the Romans.

Source: Herodian 7.1.2

The emperor's appearance was frightening and his body was huge; not easily would any of the skilled Greek athletes or the best-trained warriors among the barbarians prove his equal.

Source: Herodian 7.1.12

Two other primary sources, Zosimus and Zonaras, do not mention his size (though neither were contemporaries of Maximinus Thrax.


(all emphasis is mine)

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    "Unreliable" the source may be, but the height given for Thrax is within the possible range, especially if indeed the pituitary was perhaps 'a little' overactive and food intake adequate. The exact height given would have probably precluded any prolonged military service… Jan 6, 2022 at 7:42
  • @LаngLаngС True, it's just a pity that we don't have better evidence from ancient sources. Jan 6, 2022 at 8:14
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    hmm. "average of 167cm (just under 5ft 5in)" -- Are we talking today's inches and feet? 1 foot is 12 inches, 1 inch is 2.54 cm, so 5 ft 5 in is 65 inches or 165.1 cm. Same for the longer guy, 6 ft 6 in would be 78 inches or 198.1 cm. 202 cm would be more like 6 ft 7.5 in. Or 6.6 feet... someone didn't just convert the decimal feet into inches without taking into account that it's 12 inches per foot, not 10?
    – ilkkachu
    Jan 6, 2022 at 11:40
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    @ilkkachu Quite right, fixed. Thanks for pointing this out Jan 6, 2022 at 11:45
  • >2m is unusually tall by today's standards too though... Not enough to turn a statisticians head maybe, but tall enough to stand out in almost any crowd.
    – Cubic
    Jan 7, 2022 at 9:21

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