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The Romans were the first true force to convert to Christianity. During their reign they would conquer and command heathen tribes into obeying this new found religion. However, the Roman Empire would decay, disappear and then it was left to another group to take over. The Irish would eventually become a driving force behind Christianity; peaceably converting and forming new ideas and thought behind the religion itself. Thus, the Irish unknowingly save civilization.
To put things in perspective, first one must know some background information. For it was Augustine who brought about the need for explanations. Augustine in his search for answers set up libraries with histories, philosophy, and legends. These libraries would become the treasure of classical knowledge and the basis for thought that would follow. Augustine constantly was questioning beliefs and always reforming them to suit his new state of mind. For instance Augustine’s beliefs on religion were quite exploratory.
To absolve himself from his lust of the fine flesh he abandoned Catholicism for Manicheism, which had the aspects of “a little Christian symbolism, a large dose of Zoroastrian dualism, and some of the quiet refinements of Buddhism. (49)”. Although this would not satisfy his intellectual hunger and he would move onto studying the works of Plato and Socrates. In the end though he would come across the letters of a Jew named Paul who would show him the light of the Christian god. Thus, he would purify his soul, absolve his past sins, and “ submit himself to the death of the flesh through baptism-and to the Christian God. (58)”
At this same time 4th Century Ireland was not as nearly educated as Augustine of that time was. Ireland was a barbaric nation, which in essence paralleled the famous epic poem Beowulf. It was a society in which wealth determined the ruling factor and histories were kept in the way of the oral tradition. Through stories such as Tain Bo Cuailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, one is shown what Ireland might have been like and through heroes such as Deirdre and Cuchulainn one can idealize what the Irish pagan ways were.
In the Tain one finds the characters of Medb and Ailil of who are trying to find out who has more wealth to insure the power of the other. The final decision comes down to a prize bull that lives in Ailil’s pastures because he can’t stand to be under the rule of a woman, therefore Ailil the King has more power. Medb determined to win though seeks the help out of a neighboring ally. The ally agrees but in the end the deal goes bad and we are introduced to the famous warrior Cuchulainn. Cuchulainn defeats Medb and shows again the fact that men are more powerful.
In Ireland’s Pagan society the God’s were merciless and yet at the same time they allowed more freedom in people’s actions. The pagan Irish had a religion that was more fantastical and easier to follow. Women in the pagan society were not held as equals but they were not cast aside such as those of the Christian society. During this time Ireland was not a developed nation. It was a simple time with a simple way of life. Life revolved around the good things in life such as wealth, sex, drinking, and storytelling. The only problems within the society were those that were created in-between themselves or those brought on by the will of the Gods; for example extreme weather or unexplainable situations. It would not be until Patrick came along that Ireland would resemble that of a higher society.
Patrick was brought to Ireland as a slave of an Irish king. As a respite from the pain and hunger he felt on a daily basis he turned to the god of his upbringing and through the Christian God he found his calling. He eventually escaped on a boat and managed to make his way back to England where he couldn’t get Ireland out of his mind and in his dreams he envisions himself as “VOX HIBERNACTIUM, The Voice of the Irish. (105)” He then travels to Gaul and starts a theological education in which he is ordained a priest and a bishop. At this point he becomes “virtually the first
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Celtic Christianity, Columbanus, Irish literature, Christianity in Ireland, Saint Patrick, Hiberno-Scottish mission, Columba, Augustine of Hippo, Christianity, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Christianity in the 6th century
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