The Legend of Brabo and Antigone

You can find a statue of Brabo in front of Antwerp City Hall, right in the middle of the Market Square.

And a  replica of the giant's hand on The Meir.

Here is the Story of Our Local Antwerp Hero and the Giant Antigone.

Salvus Brabo was a local representative of the Roman Empire in Tongeren, the oldest city of the Roman province of Belgica and an important trade center between Colonia (Köln) and Lutetia (Paris). This was a real hero from the old school. As a nephew of Gaius Julius Caesar, he's pedigree went back via Romulus to Priamus of Troy who himself was a descendant of Jupiter (Zeus).

In the Roman times, trade ships had to pay a toll at the place where the river Scaldis (now Scheldt) made a U turn. It was just a fee for passing the river; it usually meant a few percent of the value of the stock being transported. Nothing exceptional, this was the norm everywhere. These days, locals pay 45 percent taxes to their government. So a few percent did not make a big difference.

As this was a very profitable business a giant, Druon Antigone, wanted also a piece of the action. He attacked the local castle and killed everyone who stood in his way.

Since then, the giant was the master of the area. He exploited the land and terrorized the shipping industry. He tolled all ships 50 percent of their stock. (even worse then the current Belgium government ;-) )

If a skipper rebelled to this unjustness and refused to pay the toll - he had to fight Antigone for safe passage. As Antigone was a giant, naturally he easily won all the fights. As a penalty and a warning to all future dissidents, he would cut off the hand of the beaten sailor and throw it into the river.

The stories of the violence and cruelty finally reached the ears of Salvus. When our hero learned of the unfairness and terror, he decided to put an end to the giant’s rule. He went to consult a local Oracle on the whereabouts of this giant.

The Oracle told him: “A Swan will show you the way”

Salvus took his sword and set out on his journey. As soon as he left the city, he heard a white swan in the sky above. Mindful of what the wise Oracle has told him- he head west, following the swan.

He traveled for days and days. The more he was nearing his destination - the more frequent the stories of the vicious giant became. But Brabo was undeterred – his blood boiled when he listened to those horror stories and he kept following the white swan.

And then one day… in the distance he finally saw a castle.

As he approached he heard a lot of ruckus and ferocious growling. He quickened his pace until he arrived on the riverside where, only a few miles away, he saw the giant in action. Our hero didn't wait any longer – he pushed his horse into a swift gallop. Within moments he arrived at the castle and stood face to face with the unreasonable giant.

“Stop terrorizing the folk and be gone from this land forever!”

He shouted at the horrible giant.

Antigone laughed – once he was done laughing his giant face turned into an ugly grimace and he spat out his words:

“If your life is dear to you turn back to where you came from - last chance before you’ll pay with your life for this insult!”

Without hesitation Brabo drew his sword and a terrible fight followed. The gods themselves heard of the battle and intrigued looked down upon it.

Antigone bashed him with his axe! Brabo covered himself with his shield and in turn wounded Antigone with his sword. The giant threw a fully-grown oak three at our hero ... And Brabo would be definitely killed if Jupiter himself didn’t push him out of the way.

They fought for days and days.

We only can tell you this story because a herdsman in the area saw the fight and told it to his son, who told it to his son who told it to his son, etc…until my father…told it to me. To make the story shorter then it could be… Against all odds - Brabo finally managed to slay the giant. Then he cut off Antigon’s hand and threw it far into the river.


Brabo fell in love with a fair maiden and decided to stay in the area - and soon a city was founded around the castle. The citizens called it Hand-Werpen (Throwing hands), which later became Antwerpen.

As a reward for his heroic deeds, which freed the people from the oppression and horror of Antigone, - Brabo became a Duke and his county was soon named after him - Brabant.

The swan also decided to stay and its descendants can be found in the City Park.

For centuries, Antwerp would be one of the most important harbors in the world and until today it is. And to this day its’ citizens honor the name of Salvus Brabo – whose ancestors can be traced back all the way to Jupiter himself.

Scientists claim that the name of Antwerp comes from: 'anda verpus'. Which means something along the lines of 'a piece of land being brought in front'. They think that because of the redirection of the river in the 7th century, local Benedictine priests build a new harbor a few miles in front of the old harbor. They spoke about an anda verpus, which became andaverpus, andverpus, andverpia, antverpia and later Antwerpen.

Don't believe them. You now know the real story of the city and even if you don't believe all the details of our legend, you must admit: it is a far better story then the ‘anda verpus’ one. ;-)

Return from Brabo to Antwerpens Districs

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