Ireland and the Classical World By Philip Freeman

Author: Philip Freeman

Publisher: The University of Texas Press

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 148

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.


The Making of Scotland Series (Books)

This review is going to be a little different since I’m reviewing 12 books in one go.

The Making of Scotland is a series published by Birlinn LTD and Historic Scotland.  It covers a very long stretch of Scottish history from the first settlers to the clearances.  As I said before the series has 12 books each one is under 100 pages long and it looks to be aimed at teenagers though adults like myself who are interested in a simple history outline of Scotland will find these books VERY useful.  The books are very well done, lots of pictures and maps to illustrate points.  The end of each book has a list of sites that you may visit and books that you may read to get more information.  This is a bite sized history of Scotland up to the Clearances that helps you pinpoint which part of Scottish history you want to read more about.  Or if you just want to give your kids a history of Scotland that is easy enough to understand and short enough so as not to bore them too much.

The books in order are:

1. Wild Harvesters: The First People of Scotland by Bill Finlayson

2. Farmers, Temples and Tombs: Scotland in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age by Gordon Barclay

3.Settlement and Sacrifice: The Later Prehistoric People of Scotland by Richard Hingley

4. A Gathering of Eagles: Scenes from Roman Scotland by Gordon Maxwell

5. Surviving in Symbols: A Visit to the Pictish NationBy Martin Carver

6. Saints and Sea-Kings: The First Kingdom of the Scots by Ewan Campbell

7. Angels, Fools and Tyrants: Britons and Anglo – Saxons in Southern Scotland by Chris Lowe

8. The Sea Road: A Viking Voyage Through Scotland by Olwyn Owen

9. Alba: The Gaelic Kingdom of Scotland AD 800-1124 by Stephen T. Driscoll

10. Burgess, Merchant and Priest: The Medieval Scottish Town by Derek Hall

11. Puir Labourers and Busy Husbandmen: The Medieval Countryside of Scotland 100-1600 by Piers Dixon

12. Age of the Clans: The Highlands from Somerled to the Clearances by Robert Dogshon

Highly recommended.