How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role, By Thomas Cahill

Mr. Cahill is famous for his Hinges of History series of which this is the first book. I have to say that being English I wanted to find something wrong with this book but I have to concede that St. Patrick was a Romanized Celtic Briton and not actually English so there you go. I knew he wasn’t Irish, which so many people are clueless about but if you want to be very specific he wasn’t English either.

This volume starts with a little history into the Roman takeover of the world – or a lot of it – but also touches on the downfall of the Roman Empire. I am a bit of a history geek but for some reason rarely read historical books. There is a chapter at the beginning, whilst dealing with the downfall that is almost eerie in its similarities to how life in America is now. Eerie because it explains about the end of the Empire and one thinks is this where the US is heading? The Romans treated those with wealth in a very different way to those without land or holdings. The book doesn’t even go into the social horrors of the Empire although I do feel that it contributed to the ‘little people’ being quite malcontent.

Anyway without going into too much detail, in the Winter of 406 AD there was a very hard frost – enough to freeze the Rhine completely and what is now known as the German migration occurred. Barbarians, those without any education, were looking for food and security and warmth. They began to take over everything probably by sheer numbers and strength. The Romans were used to winning and had become lazy and therefore succumbed. In just a few years towns had only a bishop who could read and write which in turn made him more powerful.

There is a whole section on Augustine who was a terrific author but also had some terrifying ideas about how to control people. The modern church certainly can thank him for his work but can also look back and shudder at some of his methods.

Ultimately we get to Patricius or St. Patrick and see his passion for his adopted land, Ireland. Ireland still stands as the only Celtic nation/state in the world. All the other Celts were absorbed by larger political entries. That is quite an accomplishment but also Patrick’s hatred of slavery and his love of creating monasteries and structuring society without the use of a sword. Patrick knew peace which intrigued others and interestingly Christianity was introduced to Ireland without bloodshed.

Well worth your time and also may contribute to your going to the next book in the series.

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