Just a half-dozen years after Columbus discovered America, the history of the world was once again completely shaken —this time being literally rewritten by an audacious Italian scholar-forger, Annius of Viterbo. In 1498, Annius first published the fruits of his ingenious “rediscovery” of eleven ancient histories that he asserted had been lost for centuries. These offered proof that Noah himself had colonized Italy precisely 108 years after the biblical Flood, creating an empire that went on to rule the world though a venerable priesthood that stretched from the ancient Etruscans through the classical Roman epoch and onward to the Renaissance papacy —the rightful latter-day claimant to Noah’s global dominion.
In an age when authentic ancient manuscripts and inscriptions were being unearthed for the first time since Greco-Roman antiquity, many scholars were prepared to accept Annius’s bogus evidence. However, many more were not, and the intricate web that Annius had carefully woven at the end of the fifteenth century provoked a bitter controversy that endured for 150 years.