Philip Freeman, Qualley professor of classical languages, receives grant for sabbatical research on St. Patrick

November 9, 2009

Philip Freeman, Luther College associate professor of classics, has been awarded of a $1,850 grant from the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in support of his proposed sabbatical research, “The Letters of St. Patrick and Early Patrician Literature.”

Freeman will be recognized at the AAR’s annual meeting awards ceremony and reception in Montreal, Canada. The ceremony will be held Sunday, Nov. 8.       

St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is known primarily through the chance survival of two Latin letters he wrote in his old age: the “Confession” and the “Epistle to the Soldiers of Coroticus.” These short letters are two of the most remarkable documents written in ancient times.

In addition to Patrick’s letters, there are several early documents related to the life of the saint, including a biography, an account of his travels throughout Ireland, collected sayings, synod decrees and two hymns. Many of these documents are little known to scholars.

Freeman’s research will focus on the production of an updated and accessible edition of St. Patrick’s letters and early Patrician literature in Latin and old Irish with English translations and notes that will be helpful to both scholars and students.

Freeman hopes that by producing a more accessible documentation of Patrick’s letters and other texts related to Patrick and his life, scholars and students alike will be able to understand the uniqueness and importance of these documents, which provide crucial information concerning the rise of Christianity in the late Roman Empire.

Freeman holds the Orando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages at Luther College. Before joining the classics department at Luther, Freeman taught at Boston University and Washington University. He has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, the American Academy in Rome, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.

Freeman holds the master of arts degree in classics from the University of Texas at Austin and the master of arts degree in Celtic languages and literatures and a joint doctoral degree in classical philology and Celtic languages and literatures from Harvard University.

An internationally recognized specialist in Greek, Roman, medieval culture and Celtic studies, he is the author of “Julius Ceasar” (Simon & Schuster, 2008), “The Philosopher and the Druids” (Simon & Schuster, 2006), “St. Patrick of Ireland” (Simon & Schuster, 2004), “War, Women, and Druids” (University of Texas Press, 2002), “The Galatian Language” (Mellen Press, 2001) and “Ireland and the Classical World” (University of Texas Press, 2001).

A frequent speaker and presenter, Freeman has given talks on the ancient world at the Smithsonian Institution and interviews on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Television, and public radio stations across the Midwest.

As a leading biographer of St. Patrick, he served as a resource specialist for the 2008 DVD “Patrick.” Freeman recently received a $24,950 grant from the National Endowment in Humanities in support of his NEH Enduring Questions pilot course “Enduring Questions: Gilgamesh to Frankenstein,” which he will teach in the spring semester of the 2009-10 academic year at Luther.