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St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography Paperback – March 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Readers will be drawn into the story of St. Patrick by the short preface that tells how the teen Patricius, accustomed to a life of ease and luxury in Roman Britain, was surprised and subdued in his parents' villa by Irish slave traders who led him and household servants in chains to boats that took them to the feared barbaric island. Freeman has based his biography on medieval copies of two letters written by Patrick near the end of his life. Each chapter opens with a few lines from one of them. The author has fleshed out the story using information from archaeological finds, Roman and medieval records, and Papal documents. When discussing Patrick's home, education, or experiences in Ireland, Freeman notes that he is describing what was typical in the fifth century. As readers learn about Patrick's captivity, servitude, and escape, they also find out about life in Roman Britain and Ireland. Marriage, fostering, the role of kings, and the practices of the druids are only a few of the topics covered. This is not a heavy academic tome; explanations are simple and clear. A time line, pronunciation guide, and 13 black-and-white photographs of archaeological sites and artifacts are included.–Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743256344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743256346
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Freeman is the Orlando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Classical Philology and Celtic Languages and Literatures. He has taught at Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. His books have been reviewed in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other national publications.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Lee Freeman on March 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read other, classic studies on Patrick, I wasn't expecting much from this book. But I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Philip Freeman's "St. Patrick of Ireland" is a well-researched, scholarly, yet very readable book. While there is little new information in the book, for readers who wish to know something about St. Patrick but don't care to go in-depth, this work should serve adequately. The book should also serve as a good introduction to readers who wish to proceed to more in-depth scholarly works such as the late R. P. C. Hanson's, J. B. Bury's or other more studies.
Instead of concentrating on the vexing questions of dates, chronology, Patrick's missing years, and other intriguing though problematical issues in Patrician studies, Freeman concentrates on what is definitely known of Patrick's life and career, giving little space to speculation. He does a particularly good job of setting Patrick in the context of his times, describing fourth-century Romano-British and Irish society and religion.
Freeman also includes his own translations of Patrick's only two surviving works, the "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus," and the "Confession."
The maps of Britain and Ireland and the black-and-white photos at the beginning of each section are a nice change from other books on Patrick, and the book has a handsome dust jacket. The time line at the back of the book was convenient and helpful, as was the pronunciation guide for Celtic words. One wishes more works on Celtic history/theology provided pronunciation guides. The book also contains an index and a list of suggested readings for each chapter.
In "St. Patrick of Ireland" Philip Freeman does a very good job of presenting the life, career and writing of this mysterious and humble man of God.
As St.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By K. Helton on December 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This biography was helpful because it presents a lot of information about St. Patrick in a clear, concise way that's easy to read. However, anyone with even the pretense of an orthodox Christian view will notice a bias--in some chapters more than others. It took me a while to get past p. 61: "We can admire the spirit of Pelagius and declare that Augustine was a killjoy who burdened Christian thought forever with the idea of original sin..." Really, can we? (That statement is not historically accurate, since original sin [yes, even Augustine's view of it,though his was better articulated] wasn't exactly a novel idea.) That said, Freeman does present a fairly balanced historical view throughout the book.

I don't claim any expertise on the matter, but one point of contention: It's odd that in quoting St. Patrick's beliefs from his "Confessions," (pp.77-78) Freeman references the Apostles' Creed. It would seem much more relevant to point to the revised Nicene Creed from 381 AD, the structure of which Patrick closely follows.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on February 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There certainly is a very large amount of information packed into a very small book (by comparison) here. This is an excellent work for those who have been curious, or are curious, about this famous Irish Saint, yet who are not so curious that they want to dig through a mind numbing academic work which would be better than xanax to provide a good nap. I am one of those people and I am one who greatly appreciated this work. In other areas of history, yes, I want something more in depth, but not on this particular subject. It is written in a scholarly manner, appears to be very well researched, yet I found not one page that I did not learn something from nor one page that caused my eyes to roll back into my head and wish the author would just get on with it. It was a good and informative read.

I certainly am not going to rewrite the entire work in this form and call it a review. That has already been done. For greater detail refer to one of the well done and very in depth reviews already posted here. What I found most interesting about the book was the author's ability to paint a very vivid picture of the cultural and religious clash that too place in Ireland during St. Patrick's time. I enjoyed the brief look at the state of the Christian Church at that time and how it affected the people of that time. That story, to me, was just as fascinating as the one told by the author of the Great Saint himself. The brief look at the Celtic religious practices and beliefs was excellent. I also appreciated the author's ability to separate fact from all the fiction that has been dished out for years and years and do it in a nonoffensive way. This was quite refreshing. The author is quite careful to note fact from fiction, speculation from written and archeological fact.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Craig Stephans VINE VOICE on May 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Although the holiday bearing his name has become associated with legend and myth, St. Patrick, the man, lived such a life that warrants admiration and commendation from Christians everywhere. The man behind the myths exemplifies the Christian life of sacrifice, reliance on God, love and passion for souls, and unfoundering hope in eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Philip Freeman's book St. Patrick of Ireland presents the life and times of St. Patrick. Patrick's story is inspiring and astonishing. It reads like an addition to the Book of Acts in the Bible.
Patrick was born in Britain in the late fourth century to an aristocratic family. Irish marauders kidnapped him from his home when he was 15 years old and took him as a slave to Ireland. He labored endlessly for six years before escaping and returning to Britain and his family.
Patrick had atheistic beliefs when kidnapped, but during the course of his slavery he was transformed into a devout Christian, burning with love for Christ. After several years of religious study, Patrick willingly journeyed back to Ireland on a mission to share the message of salvation with a godless people known for their barbarianism and paganism which he had experienced first hand.
Freeman tells the story of Patrick's life from information garnered from the two writings left by Patrick. These are two letters Patrick wrote from Ireland to Britain that relate significant events of his ministry and life in simple, honest language. Freeman also references other historical texts and archeological discoveries to explain the culture of Patrick's world.
Freeman displays his expertise in Irish history by offering the reader a comprehensive picture of the cultures in which Patrick lived.
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