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Ireland and the Classical World

By Philip Freeman

Publication Year: 2001

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.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

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...

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1. The Archaeology of Roman Material in Ireland

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pp. 1-13

Philology and archaeology ideally should work together to integrate literary and material evidence in the investigation of a particular subject. The investigation of interaction between Ireland and the classical world is no exception, with literary studies aided by physical remains of Roman origin occurring in several dozen Irish sites of the early centuries A.D. The difficulty...

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2. Language:The Influence of Latin in Pre-Patrician Ireland

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pp. 14-27

Roman coins, foreign pottery sherds, and exotic burial goods all yield important archaeological evidence for contact between the Mediterranean and pre-Christian Ireland, but evidence of Latin connections to early Irish vocabulary and literacy can also illuminate relations between Rome and Ireland. This linguistic influence consists of a handful of likely commercial...

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3. Ancient Authors

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pp. 28-128

It is ironic that the earliest classical reference to Ireland may be contained in a very late document, the Ora maritima of Rufius Festus Avienus, who wrote in the mid-fourth century A.D. Avienus served as a Roman proconsul and composed rather second-rate poetry based on earlier authors. His rambling Ora maritima is a periplus, or coastal description, over...

Appendix 1: The Greek Alphabet

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pp. 129-130

Appendix 2: Classical References to Ireland

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pp. 131-134

Appendix 3: The Names of Ireland

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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-140


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pp. 141-148

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798274
E-ISBN-10: 029279827X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292725188
Print-ISBN-10: 0292725183

Page Count: 166
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 22 line drawings, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 568479054
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Ireland and the Classical World

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ireland -- Relations -- Greece.
  • Romans -- Ireland.
  • Ireland -- History -- To 1172 -- Sources.
  • Rome -- Relations -- Ireland.
  • Greece -- Relations -- Ireland.
  • Ireland -- Antiquities, Roman.
  • Ireland -- Relations -- Rome.
  • Latin language -- Influence on Irish.
  • Civilization, Classical.
  • Irish language -- Foreign elements -- Latin.
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