Chapter 1 cont’d

A general time-frame for the ancient world:

Stone Age: roughly pre-history up to about 3,000 B.C.E.

Bronze Age: roughly 3,000 to 1,000 B.C.E.

Iron Age: roughly 1,000 B.C.E. up to perhaps as late as 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E.

True Irish history begins with the Celts, originally a northern European people who flourished throughout Europe from roughly the 7th century B.C.E. up to about the first century B.C.E., when the expansion of the Roman Empire and the migrations of the Germanic and Slavic peoples constricted the Celts to the western islands.  The Celts likely entered Ireland, along with Wales and Scotland, perhaps as early as 500 B.C.E., and began what we now refer to as Irish civilization. The bulk of what I earlier called “traditional Irish mythology” emerges from the culture of these people and their relations with the Christian culture that followed them. Celtic culture was rich and diverse, with great skill in iron-making (their iron weapons made them formidable in battle), as well as agriculture, hunting, warfare, and road-building.  Their social structure was one of tribes and kings, governed by a system of laws and interpreted judgments called “Brehon Law,”and their religion was a kind of earth and sun worship known generally as “Druidism.”  This culture was then radically transformed–though not entirely replaced–when in the early 5th century one of the former Irish slaves, a Briton named Patrick, returned to Ireland and began the awesome project of converting the Celts to Christianity.


View “St. Patrick of Ireland” 

The result of Patrick’s mission was astonishing: in a rare peaceful conversion, Ireland was transformed into an almost entirely Christian community, covered with monasteries and abbies and dedicated to the task of preserving the classical learning that was rapidly being extinguished by the barbarians ravaging Europe during what we now term “the Dark Ages.”

View “Irish Monasteries”