To start off my reading challenge, I started with “How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill. My goal was to learn more about Irish history, and this book most definitely helped me accomplish that. Next time I’d like to focus on ancient Ireland and the Celts, but this book taught me a lot about Ireland leading up to the Medieval era after the fall of Rome. After reading, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic.
One of my favorite pieces of information from this book was the fact that the Celts fought naked. I knew they would yell and make a big commotion and looked terrifying to the enemy, but I didn’t know about the naked part. I guess my teachers in school were never comfortable about mentioning that part. In fact, this change from normal to battle warrior screaming on the field was called a warp-spasm. Another fascinating fact, Saint Patrick was a slave before becoming a priest. I never knew much about him other than the legends, so this was enlightening in regards to him since a lot of the legends we associate with him are likely not true. Still that man was a quite a force on Irish history.
So how did the Irish save civilization? The short version is they saved it by copying books and preserving them while the rest of the fallen Roman empire was locked in a battle for survival and mostly illiterate. The Irish didn’t just copy down Christian texts but anything they could get their hands on, even Pagan texts. If not for the Irish a lot of books may have been lost to history. A lot of knowledge was saved thanks to their love of books.
While I enjoyed the book, it felt a lot longer than it needed to be but I have a tendency to feel that way about non-fiction books. The information about why Rome fell and how lasted for just over the first 20% of the book. So if you are interested in the fall of Rome as well, you get a 2-in1 with this book. A lot of the book focused on building background for why Europe changed after the fall of the Roman Empire and why the Irish copying texts was so important since no one else was. But if you are interested in that time period of history, there’s a lot to be learned in this book. This book didn’t take me long to get through, which was a plus since some non-fiction really drags.
I started another non-fiction book called “Sex With Kings” and it is a little raunchier, juicer, and super fascinating. It’s about royal mistresses over a 500 year period. Anyone writing a historical about European royal mistresses should get their hands on it.