Ireland and the Classical World

Ireland and the Classical World

Ireland and the Classical World

Ireland and the Classical World

Synopsis

On the boundary of what the ancient Greeks and Romans considered the habitable world, Ireland was a land of myth and mystery in classical times. Classical authors frequently portrayed its people as savages- even as cannibals and devotees of incest- and evinced occasional uncertainty as to the island's shape, size, and actual location. Unlike neighboring Britain, Ireland never knew Roman occupation, yet literary and archaeological evidence prove thatIuvernawas more than simply terra incognita in classical antiquity.

In this book, Philip Freeman explores the relations between ancient Ireland and the classical world through a comprehensive survey of all Greek and Latin literary sources that mention Ireland. He analyzes passages (given in both the original language and English) from over thirty authors, including Julius Caesar, Strabo, Tacitus, Ptolemy, and St. Jerome. To amplify the literary sources, he also briefly reviews the archaeological and linguistic evidence for contact between Ireland and the Mediterranean world.

Freeman's analysis of all these sources reveals that Ireland was known to the Greeks and Romans for hundreds of years and that Mediterranean goods and even travelers found their way to Ireland, while the Irish at least occasionally visited, traded, and raided in Roman lands. Everyone interested in ancient Irish history or Classics, whether scholar or enthusiast, will learn much from this pioneering book.

Excerpt

Toward the end of the first century of our era, the Roman general Agricola stood on the shore of southern Scotland gazing a few miles across the Irish Sea at the rolling green hills of an island he knew to be rich in agricultural and mineral wealth. However, he did not invade Ireland, nor did the legions of Rome ever raise their banners over the fertile plains of Ulster or the rocky pastures of Connemara. Ireland remained beyond the political frontiers of Rome during the centuries when the empire controlled nearby Britain and Gaul; nevertheless, there was steady contact between Ireland and the classical world. Literary and archaeological evidence show that Ireland was known to the Greeks and Romans for hundreds of years, and that Mediterranean goods, and even travelers, found their way to Ireland, while the Irish at least occasionally visited, traded, and raided in Roman lands.

This book, the first ever written on relations between Ireland and the classical world, is an interdisciplinary study of all evidence linking early Ireland to the civilized lands of the Mediterranean during antiquity. The primary focus is on the literary evidence of Greek and Latin texts—that is, what the classical authors said about Ireland—but archaeological, linguistic, and other pieces of the complex puzzle are explored as well. Chapter One begins with a brief survey of archaeological evidence for contact between Ireland and the Mediterranean world. Chapter Two examines the linguistic evidence for Hiberno-Roman relations, including early Irish borrowing of Latin words and possible Roman inspiration for the Irish Ogam alphabet. Chapter Three goes beyond the evidence of archaeology . . .

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