2023, Travel/Reviews/Grand-Parenting

Was Civilization Saved by the Irish?

Narrated by Liam Neeson, this is one of my long-time favorite audio books. With St. Patrick’s day so near, it seemed like a good time to share.

Like many born in the United States, I was unaware of the history of my ancestors who arrived here centuries ago. Every single person alive today has ancestors who survived unthinkable challenges. This book filled some important gaps in my knowlege and appreciation for the tragedies and accomplishments of the past, our past, my past.

In this history of Ireland and her largely unrecognized contribution to civilization, Thomas Cahill (director of religious publishing at Doubleday and co-author of A Literary Guide to Ireland, 1973) brings together scholarship and an deep appreciation of the human predicament.

As Rome was crumbling and barbarians pillaged the Roman cities, the Irish who were only beginning to read and write, copied all the literature they could find. During their travels to Charlemagne’s court and all over Europe, they ensured that culture survived even during the Dark Ages. How precious little we would know of classical history were it not for their efforts and sacrifices.

Cahill introduces us to influential figures like Columcille and Columbanus who, between the seventh and ninth centuries, had a great impact on the region. He also delves into the origins of Ireland and the Celts before depicting the life of Saint Patrick. St. Patrick converted the suffering and tragedy of his enslavement into a gift to the people of Ireland. (History.com)

“Western Europe had become virtually illiterate.” However, Cahill said, “like the cavalry in an old Western film,” the Irish, a wild mass of savages at the farthest end of the classical world, deemed unworthy of Roman civilization, rode in to bring Western tradition and civilization back to the ravaged continent. No one was more important in this salvation, according to Cahill, than St. Patrick. Cahill cast away the notions of Patrick as a mystical wizard clothed in green who drove snakes out of Ireland and used the Irish clover to illustrate the Holy Trinity. Instead, he discussed a more human Patrick, a man who began his life as a Romanized Briton stolen by Irish slave dealers and forced to serve as a slave to an Irish shepherd from the age of 16 to 22. (Boston College)

Civilization having become uncivilized, as it is not infrequent to do, needed the Irish. The Irish delivered.

Again, one of my all time favorite audio books and a strong recommendation to the history minded reader/listener.

Thomas D. Gier
Find it here on Amazon.

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