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BOOK REVIEWS299 the presentation disaUows any attempt to come to grip with the arguments of modern scholars, which embrace a broader range of categories. The idiosyncratic apportionment of references between notes and bibUography obscures their value in compUing a good Ust for future reading.There remains Ranft's initial aim of providing an accessible survey. Brevity and haste unfortunately lead to confusion, such as attributing the "new orders" of the twelfth century to the decision to mstitutionaUze eremitic groups that flourished principaUy m England .There also appears to be basic confusion between apostoUc and contemplative religion which ultimately produces the conclusion (p. 65): "Francis' disciples drew the best of aU practices, virtues and ideals from the movement into an institutional form of Ufe that was but the logical culmination of the monastic reform movement begun at Cluny."This is, alas, the sort of statement that will inevitably draw out students' highlighters and appear on their final examinations . ___ Jo Ann Kay McNamara Hunter College and the Graduate Center City University ofNew York How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story ofIreland's Heroic Role from the Fall ofRome to the Rise ofMedieval Europe. ByThomas CahiU. (NewYork: Nan A.Talese/Doubleday. 1995. Pp. x, 246. $22.95.) Why has this book been so popular?Why have readers been buying this book rather than more scholarly and more accurate histories of early medieval Ireland ? Mr. CahiU purposely distances his legend of the Irish past from more serious works which, he purports, focus on one historical period or another rather than the transition between periods, and which tend to leave out aU that is "Celtic and CathoUc" (p. 6). CahUl's purpose is to explain how Patrick saved the Irish and the Irish then saved classical culture. According to Cahill, catastrophe came with the faU of Rome, when convulsive waves ofbarbarians (always "matted" to CahiU) sweUed against the Roman frontiers much as non-Americans push our southwestern borders today f. 16). It is an essentiaUy Gibbon-esque view of the shift to the Middle Ages, as CahUl himself proudly admits, with aU the decay of poUte culture and good living that the paradigm LmpUes.We completely lost the complex world of Augustine, a vibrant inteUect inspired by "the riotous blood of his homeland" (p. 56), northern Africa. (Augustine, by the way, drew heavUy on St. Paul, here referred to as a "wiry bald-headed Jew") The waves of matted barbarians would have extinguished learning, except that in a remote outpost of Europe,unholy Ireland, a vaUant and semi-Uterate figure brought the love of letters and the Christian god. CahiU uses the possibly eighth-century epic, Táin Bo Cuailnge (copied in the twelfth century) to expUcate the way of Ufe found by Patrick when he arrived in Ireland: constant 300BOOK REVIEWS warfare, unbridled sexuaUty, insensate drunkenness, shapeshifting battle goddesses , headhunting and human sacrifice aU ran rampant.These were the customs of the wUd, brave Celts, who had dominated Europe before the Romans and had spread, according to Mr. CahiU, as far afield as New Hampshire (to, presumably , the Stonehenge ofAmerica, one of my favorite spurious Celtic sites). Patrick, himself only barely Roman in this book, persuaded the Celts to give up their human sacrifices for the sacrifice of the one god's son which, according to CahiU, was easy for the British missionary in simpático with his new people. In fact, the Irish were so ready to convert that they also gave up slaves and warfare . (I am afraid CahiU has some explaining to do about the medieval Irish annals with their constant references to warfare, and the Irish legal tracts, which mention quite a lot of slaves.) And they readUy took up the monastic and Latin learning—they even learned Greek—gobbling up every manuscript that came their way and copying it for others. EventuaUy, the Irish tooktheir bounty of Christian learning back to the Continent in a great effort to reconvert the barbarian (stUl matted) masses. They brought along everything that made their brand of Christianity unique and dynamic , including personal confession, prominent holy women, and a love of nature . Most important, though, they became "Europe's pubUsher" (p...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 299-300
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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