BC 300 – 400 AD
The ancient Irish redefined “savage”. The Romans could do “savage”. They could put up with the barbarians to the north, the savages in Gaul and the savages in Britain; they even conquered them and turned them into civilized proper Romans.
But the Irish, they were the demons who clung on to the edge of the earth (since, literally, after Ireland was nothing but ocean and abyss). They were the savages of the savage. If other barbarians were cannibals, the Irish were cannibals who believed it an honor to eat their own fathers. If other barbarians had sex with complete strangers in public view, the Irish did so with their own mothers and sisters. If other barbarians ate their enemies, the Irish would cut off the buttocks and nipples of their enemies and savor them as delicacies.
And Irish festivals were no less volatile than Irish war. At an Irish festival a brave brute of an Irishman would claim rights to the choice piece of meat. Another brave brute of an Irishman would challenge the first over that tasty tenderloin and the two were expected to brawl it out to the death. One is left with the impression that if the Irish had a festival where no one died, it was not a proper meal.
Jerome, that early Christian scholar, spoke of the Irish:
“no wife belongs to a particular man, but as each desires, they indulge themselves like beasts”.
Like beasts, that was how the Romans viewed the Irish.
And they were as illiterate as beasts as well. In Rome the illiteracy rate was about 80 percent give or take depending on the era you were looking at. In Ireland it was 100 percent! The Irish had not cared to learn and no one cared to teach them (frankly, it was probably too dangerous to try).
We might say the ancient Assyrians were savage (800 B.C.). When they defeated an enemy on the battlefield, they would cut off their heads and pile them up in a heap as a proud way of proclaiming the victory. The Irish were more savage then they. For the Irish would also cut off the heads of their enemies but then they would bring the heads back to their homes and place them up on the mantle or hang them on the showroom wall to show off when visitors came over for dinner.
Have you got the picture yet? Do you see how the civilized Roman world viewed the barbaric Irish?
The Irish were so distasteful to Rome that Emperor Hadrian built a wall stretching the length of the Britain Island as a way of saying, the civilized on this side, and the uncivilized on that side, or as a way of literally cutting them savages off from the rest of the world. And later that same wall would also symbolize a way of saying, the privileged Christian on this side, and the distasteful pagan on the other side. It was, in a sense, the dividing wall. It became the Wall of Perdition in a new age.
And who dare would break down such a wall?