Probus's Life of St. Patrick

This author died about the year 950. He follows very closely Muircu's Life. He states: " Sanctus Patricius qui et Sochet vocabatur Brito fuit natione. . . . Hic in Britaniis natus est a patre Calpurnio diacono qui fuit filius Potiti presbyteri ... de vico Bannaue Tiburniae regionis haud procul a mari occidental; quem vicum indubitanter comperimus, esse Nentreae (vel Neutreae) provinciae qua olim gigantes habitasae dicuntur."

Ventre by Muircu and Nentreae by Probus must stand for Neustria, which was a territory between the Meuse and the Loire.

The old Roman Breviary describes the Saint as genere Brito; the Breviary of Rheims, In maritimo Brittaniae territorio; the Breviary of Rouen, in Brit-habitasse dicuntur."

Now we have submitted all the evidence which can throw any light on the subject of the Saint's birthplace. The Confession is of the highest authority, and is very explicit. It tells us that his father lived in Bannavem Taberniae and had a small property there, where the Saint was taken prisoner. He does not exactly say that he was born in that place, but it is most probable that he was born where his parents lived. As to the identification of Taberniae the weight of evidence supports the view that it stood for the modern Therouenne, on the Lys, in the north of France. It was the estate city of the Morini, and was then far more important than it is at the present day—in fact it was a great trade centre leading to Germany, and there were many priests there, and thousands of Christians were made captive, and they deserved it because they did not obey their priests. At that time the Church was fully organised in Gaul, and the same cannot be said for the British Isles.

He became the slave of Milchu, who lived near the hill of Slemish in Antrim. After six years' captivity he heard a voice saying: " Behold thy ship is ready." And the place was not near, but about 200 miles distant, and it was on the western sea. We suggest that Killala was the port from which the ship sailed. The cargo consisted chiefly of Gaelic hounds, which were prized highly in Gaul and Italy, and were used for the chase. The voyage took three days, and this proves that he was bound for Gaul, which was the country of his parents and relatives. The party landed at the mouth of the Loire.

The cargo—dogs, etc.—was consigned to some merchants at Marseilles, and the crew compelled Patrick to accompany them, for in his Confession he says: " I was taken captive," and on the first night he heard a divine response saying: " You shall be two months with them." He does not state the length of time he spent at Marseilles, but as Cassian had just founded a monastery there it is probable he entered it and made his studies there for a few years.

" And again after a few years I was with my relatives in Britain, who received me as a son, and earnestly besought me that then, at least, after I had gone through so many tribulations, I would go nowhere from them."

This confirms our view, that he spent a few years at Marseilles and then visited his relatives in Britain. Now as to the identification of this place there may be some difficulty. At that time there were two places that bore the name, the present Great Britain, and there was a territory called Britain in the Northwest of Gaul. It was inhabited by a remnant of the race that passed over to Britain, and they occupied the territory in which are now the towns of Etaples, Montrueil, Hesdin, and Ponthieu, to the river Somme. Now which of these two represented the Britain mentioned in the Confession? It seems to us quite certain that he meant the Britain situated in Gaul, because as it is stated in the Confession it was there his relatives lived.

The Metrical Life of St. Fiacc states that the Saint was born at Nemptur, and nearly all the subsequent lives assign Nemptur as the birthplace. Poets are allowed a license for the exigencies of their metre, to transform, derive, and coin new terms. The words Nemptur and Tabernia are one and the same. Tabernia means the fenced town on the river (Lys). Thor signifies fence, and abann pronounced ouann, a river. As to Nemptur, the latter part, thor or tur, represents taber and nem, abann, ouann, nia, and thus tabernia.

Now, some learned authors maintain that the Saint was born at Alcluaid (the Rock of Clyde), the present Dumbarton. The Tripartite Life and the Scholiast on Fiacc seem to favour this view. The Tripartite Life states that Patrick was of the Britons of Alcluaid by origin. Do the words " by origin " mean that he was born at Alcluaid? or that he was of the same race as the Britons who lived at Alcluaid? If the latter, we agree, but we do not consider it probable that he was born at Alcluaid. There is no doubt a tradition connecting the Saint with the place, and it is possible that he with his parents may have visited Dumbarton and spent some time there. This would be in harmony with the statement made by the Scholiast on Fiacc: " They all went from the Britons of Alcluaid across the Iccian Sea, southwards on a journey to the Britons who are on the Sea of Icht, namely the Britons of Letha, because they had brethren there at the time." The Tripartite Life states that the Saint was born at Nemptur, but there is no evidence at all that Dumbarton was even known by that name.

Saint Patrick in his Epistle to Coroticus states that his father was a decurion, a Roman magistrate, and it is alleged that he may have spent some time at Dumbarton as a government official. St. Patrick was born 393 A.D., and at that time the Roman Empire was rapidly breaking down. Maximus revolted in 383 and took with him across to Gaul the greater part of the troops stationed in Britain. The heart of the empire was threatened and the troops had to be withdrawn from the extremities. In fact the Roman occupation of Scotland lasted only a short time and came to an end before the end of the second century. From henceforward Hadrian's wall, which ran across the isthmus between the Tyne and Solway, was the frontier. The Romans exercised no authority north of that and could not have a representative there.

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