Philip O'Sullivan Beare's Natural History of Ireland Translated
The Natural History of Ireland, by Philip O'Sullivan Beare, written in Latin in 1625, was translated by Denis O'Sullivan, for the first time, and published last year by Cork University Press.
Until now, the Latin writings of the Irish have remained neglected and untranslated. In the Foreword, Keith Sidwell, Professor of Latin and Greek at UCC, comments:
"Between 1500 and 1750, when Latin was the medium of European intellectual discourse, more than 300 Irish writers produced more than 1000 printed works, and probably as many, if not more again, like Zoilomastix, never reached print (thought this may not have stopped them circulating and having their own influence)."
In the Introduction, Denis C. O’Sullivan surveys the historic period with specific focus on the O’Sullivan clan’s political struggles. They were driven from their lands from the 1200s, and finally, after the battle of Kinsale in 1602, when Philip was an impressionable 12 year old, many members of the O’Sullivan Beare clan were exiled to Spain.
Don Philip's O'Sullivan's Catholic History
Don Philip became an important historian in his time, best known for his Historiae Catholicae Hiberniae (Lisbon 1621), usually referred to as the Compendium, and also known as O’Sullivan’s Catholic History.
In 1625, Don Philip wrote Zoilomastix in an effort to refute Giraldus Cambrensis’ derogatory report on Ireland, Topographia Hiberniae (1188), now available as an e-text online. This translation of Zoilomastix, Book One, takes us on a highly colloquial and entertaining journey into the Irish environment, region-by-region, a survey of landscapes, birds and bees, beasts and man, offering a whole new slant on life in pre-modern Ireland.
In The Natural History of Ireland, Don Philip O’Sullivan opens with the question: "What are the things that were said by Giraldus that need to be refuted here?" He compares Giraldus Cambrensis’ disparaging criticisms with his praise: "Giraldus is refuted by his very own words with which he praises Ireland in a wonderful way."
Maurice Sheehey's When the Normans Came to Ireland
A critical analysis of the ‘fraudulent’ Norman incursion into Ireland can be found in Maurice Sheehey’s When The Normans Came to Ireland (Mercier, 1998). At the same time, many significant writers described Ireland as a paradise.
This is confirmed in a recent in-depth geographic study of Ireland, undertaken by Ulf Erlingsson, a celebrated Swedish scientist with a unique background in marine geology and disasters (coincidentally, also from the University of Uppsala), who claims that Plato based his geographic description of Atlantis on Ireland: Atlantis from a Geographer’s Perspective –Mapping the Fairy Land (Lindorm Publishing, 2004).
Richard Stanihurst's De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis
Don Philip supports his argument with a broad spectrum of commentaries on Ireland. For example, on the comforts of early Irish life-style, he quotes Richard Stanihurst (1547-1618), from De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis (Antwerp 1584), recently translated by John Barry, lecturer in Classics at UCC. Stanihurst was a keen pupil of Giraldus Cambrensis, but even he refutes Giraldus’ judgments:
"He declares everywhere in his history that a great multitude of Irish men were under arms. With these and with other errors, which Stanihurst has compiled more comprehensively, it is satisfactorily established that Giraldus was ‘neither constant in truth nor consistent in lying."
Don Philip quotes Stanihurst again: "You find very few ill people apart from those who are about to die. Between continuous health and final death, there is scarcely any mean. In the same way, no one of the natives born here who has not left the land and the healthy air, ever suffers from any of the three kinds of fever…"
Read more about The Natural History of Ireland or on this St.Patrick's Day, lift a pint to the fair emerald isle and the literature it has produced, in Latin, in English and in its native Gaelic.