CHRISTOPHER KREBS, associate professor of classics, is the recipient of Phi Beta Kappa’s 2012 Christian Gauss Book Award for his publication A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich.
The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are given each year to outstanding scholarly books that “must be of broad interest and accessible to the general, literate reader.” The Christian Gauss Award specifically recognizes outstanding work in the field of literary scholarship or criticism.
Published in 2011, A Most Dangerous Book explores the history and impact of Germania, a 33-page ethnographic study of the ancient Germanic tribes penned by the Roman politician and historian Tacitus in A.D. 98. Although Tacitus portrayed these tribes as “barbarians,” the pamphlet became a source of mythological inspiration for early-modern German peoples who sought to shape their national identity and culture.
Germania gained particular notoriety in the 20th century when the Nazis reinterpreted his words in a way that supported their claims of superiority.
Through an analysis of Germania‘s influence through the centuries, Krebs reveals how the diminutive publication became one of the most misinterpreted and dangerous books in the world.
Krebs, who left Harvard’s classics department in 2012 to come to Stanford, is currently writing a commentary on Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum 7 and co-editing the Cambridge Companion to Caesar.
The Phi Beta Kappa Senate established the Christian Gauss Award in 1950 to honor the late Christian Gauss, the distinguished Princeton University scholar and dean who served as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
—CORRIE GOLDMAN, The Humanities at Stanford