Ireland and the Classical World By Philip Freeman
Author: Philip Freeman
Publisher: The University of Texas Press
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 that Iuverna was 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.
Philip Freeman is Assistant Professor of Classics at Washington University in St. Louis.
Review: It is hard to say anything more than was already said in the synopsis, except that I really enjoyed reading it. It’s like reading The Heroic Age by John T. Koch but specifically for Ireland. Anyone interested in the history of Ireland and its association with the classical world would find this book useful.
Another useful feature of the book is the second appendix which gives you a list of all the classical mentions of Ireland. It is very handy if you know what the mention is but don’t know when it was mentioned and where.