Heroic Saga and Classical Epic in Medieval Ireland

Heroic Saga and Classical Epic in Medieval Ireland

Brent Miles





An examination of the ways in which works of Classical literature influenced and were received by the native Irish tradition.
"Original, innovative work which elucidates a number of individual narratives; but more significantly, by placing these texts in their proper intellectual context, the author demonstrates how the world of learning in eleventh- and twelfth-century Ireland really worked. He illuminates a world of medieval education and scholarship; he tells us (as no-one has done previously) what medieval Irish classicism was all about." Dr Máire ni Mhaonaigh, St John's College, University of Cambridge.

The puzzle of Ireland's role in the preservation of classical learning into the middle ages has always excited scholars, but the evidence from the island's vernacular literature - as opposed to that in Latin - for the study of pagan epic has largely escaped notice. In this book the author breaks new ground by examining the Irish texts alongside the Latin evidence for the study of classical epic in medieval Ireland, surveying the corpus of Irish texts based on histories and poetry from antiquity, in particular Togail Troi, the Irish history of the Fall of Troy. He argues that Irish scholars' study of Virgil and Statius in particular left a profound imprint on the native heroic literature, especially the Irish prose epic Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Cattle-Raid of Cooley").

BRENT MILES is a Fellow in Early and Medieval Irish, University College Cork.


April 2011
284 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Celtic History
ISBN: 9781843842644
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC HIS018000, LIT011000, HIS037010
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Figmenta Poetica and Heroic Saga
Classical Learning in Medieval Ireland: The State of the Question
The Irish Classical Tales: Texts and Sources
Classicism and Togail Troí
Táin Bó Cúailnge and Latin epic
The Rhetorical Set Piece and the Breslech of the Plain of Murthemne
Afterword: An Invitation to Study


The most sophisticated and ambitious attempt so far published to assess the extent and nature of medieval Irish interest in classical literature. CAMBRIAN MEDIEVAL CELTIC STUDIES, 65, Summer 2013

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