St Patrick of Ireland: A Biography

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Ireland's patron saint has long been shrouded in legend: he drove the snakes out of Ireland; he triumphed over Druids and their supernatural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths. We have no surviving image of Patrick, but we do have two remarkable letters that he wrote about himself and his beliefs -- letters that tell us more about the heart and soul of this man than we know about almost any of his contemporaries. In St....
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Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Shipped to over one million happy customers. Your purchase ... benefits world literacy! Read more Show Less

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2004 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing Very Good with no dust jacket 0786265949. Large print edition; Ex-Library; 8vo 8"-9" tall; 311 pages.

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Overview

Ireland's patron saint has long been shrouded in legend: he drove the snakes out of Ireland; he triumphed over Druids and their supernatural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths. We have no surviving image of Patrick, but we do have two remarkable letters that he wrote about himself and his beliefs -- letters that tell us more about the heart and soul of this man than we know about almost any of his contemporaries. In St. Patrick of Ireland Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life.

Born in Britain late in the fourth century to an aristocratic family, Patrick was raised as a Roman citizen and a nominal Christian, destined for the privileged life of the nobility. But just before his sixteenth birthday, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and abducted to Ireland, where he spent six lonely years as a slave, tending sheep. Trapped in a foreign land, despondent, and at the mercy of his master, Patrick's ordeal turned him from an atheist to a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned to his astonished parents. Even more astonishing was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland and devote the rest of his life to ministering to the people who had once enslaved him.

One of Patrick's two surviving letters is a declaration written to jealous British bishops in defense of his activities in Ireland; the other is a stinging condemnation of a ruthless warlord who attacked and killed some of Patrick's Irish followers. Both are powerful statements remarkable for their passion and candor. Freeman includes them in full in new translations of his own.

Combining Patrick's own heartfelt account of his life as he revealed it himself with the turbulent history of the British Isles in the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, shorn of legend, and shows how he helped to change Irish history and culture.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In this lively and lucid biography, Philip Freeman, who teaches classics at Washington University in St. Louis, draws on the saint's surviving letters, including the eloquent Confession, to glean personal details of Patrick's life and fit them into what is known of early Irish history. — Allen D. Boyer
Publishers Weekly
Born to an aristocratic British family in the fifth century, Patrick was kidnapped by slave raiders at age 15 and sold to an Irish farmer. After six years of tending sheep he escaped, walked 200 miles to a port city he had seen in a dream, and sailed for home. Years later, as a priest or bishop, he returned to Ireland. Bribing petty kings for safe passage through their rural domains, he preached, baptized and established churches in his beloved adopted land. This information about the saint's life is known from two lengthy letters he wrote late in life, both included in a lively translation by Freeman, a classics professor and author of three previous books about the Celtic world. Dismissing many familiar tales as myths, he relies on archeological discoveries as well as Greek and Roman writers to create a colorful picture of Ireland at the end of the Roman Empire: its kings and headhunting warriors, gods and human sacrifices, belief in the Otherworld. "I am a stranger and an exile living among barbarians and pagans, because God cares for them," Patrick wrote. Besides, time was running out: As Freeman observes, "The gospel had been preached throughout the world and was even then, by [Patrick's] own efforts, being spread to the most distant land of all. There was simply no reason for God's judgment to be delayed once the Irish had heard the good news." In the storytelling tradition of popular historian Thomas Cahill, this small book offers a fascinating and believable introduction to Ireland's patron saint. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Those seeking the reality behind the legends of Patrick of Armagh would do well to start with this useful and highly readable examination of the saint's life. Freeman (classics, Washington Univ., St. Louis; Ireland and the Classical World) roots his investigation in two authentic documents that come from Patrick himself-his Letter to Coroticus and the Confession, a defense of his ministry. The examination of these sources within the contemporary context of Patrick's era reveals no all-conquering demigod but a semi-educated man of tremendous faith and courage. We see a Patrick who shows great care and concern for his new converts (especially slaves and women), whose life was constantly in danger from pagan Irish chieftains, and whose position was undermined regularly by jealous colleagues in Britain. Freeman's imaginative but fact-based reconstructions of significant events in Patrick's life, such as his kidnapping, read like the most exciting popular fiction. For those who wish to read further, a six-page annotated bibliography is included. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Christopher Brennan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Freeman (Classics/Washington Univ.) sticks close to authenticated sources in this quick and rangy popular biography, which serves up a taste of life and times in Ireland and late-Roman Britain during the fifth century. Since the author prefers to expostulate on the facts as they are known and to set one piece aside another without forcing the fit, there is little narrative drive to his life of Ireland's patron saint-but then, Patrick wasn't given to high drama. Freeman's strength lies in his ability to bring a place to life in the mind's eye. Britain in the weak final years of Roman rule, before the medieval Anglo-Saxon community took hold, was an unstable terrain subject to raids by the Picts, Saxon, and Irish. A group of the latter spirited Patrick away from his family and into slavery on (most likely) the west coast of Ireland. The author is patient with the material; when he notes that Patrick's family were nobles and farmers, he discusses the nature of Roman governance and the look and feel of a typical British villa/farmstead, all of which adds terrific color to the story. Infectiously smitten with the age, if perhaps less so with the saint, Freeman delights with overviews of the political and social landscape Patrick entered upon his return to Ireland, as well as the spiritual environment that was already in place. He delivers a sharp, elementary course in traditional local religions, including Druidism, and the role of celibate women in the early Christian church. He describes Patrick's Confessions, actually one of only two extant letters from the saint, as a "window into the soul of a person," far more intimate than Cicero's letters or Augustine's Confessions and, as such, "likeno other document from ancient times." A solid grounding to the saint's life that provides the footing necessary to explore more speculative works like, for example, E.A. Thompson's Who Was Saint Patrick? (1986). Agent: Joelle Delbourgo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786265947
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Pages: 333
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface

Maps

Introduction: Patrick's Life and Letters

One: The Early Years

Two: Slavery

Three: Escape

Four: Home

Five: The Missing Years

Six: Return to Ireland

Seven: Kings

Eight: Druids

Nine: Virgins

Ten: The Ends of the Earth

Eleven: Coroticus

Twelve: Confession

Thirteen: Ireland After Patrick

Epilogue: Patrick's Letters

Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus

Confession

Irish Names and Words

Time Line

Suggested Reading

Index

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