Monday, August 25, 2008

Philip Freeman

Associate Professor of Classics, Luther College

Department of Classics
Luther College
Decorah, Iowa 52101
(563) 387-2144

"When I was a boy, I cared much more about comic books than Homer or Virgil. My father was stationed in Italy for a year when I was twelve. I spent the whole time earning Boy Scout merit badges and bowling with my friends rather than trekking around the country looking at Roman ruins. When I got back to the states and entered high school, I signed up for French rather than Latin because a dead language was the last thing I was interested in.

When I started my first year of college I thought Latin might be fun (and not too hard). I lasted a week before I dropped the class. I just couldn't understand the notion of declensions, verb-final syntax, and the dreaded ablative case. But I eventually gave it another try and persevered. Then I ended up adding Greek, mythology, and archaeology classes to my schedule until I figured out I might as well be a Classics major. By the time I was nearing the end of my undergraduate years, I decided that I wanted to teach in college even though I had never taught anything to anyone up to that point.

There's nothing quite as much fun as standing in front of a group of college students and opening new worlds to them. It's such a privilege that I would probably do it for free (don't tell the dean I said that). There's nothing better than sharing stories with bright young people about Achilles and how anger can destroy a person's life; or Odysseus and why he gave up immortality; or Dante and how the worst sin you could ever commit isn't murder, but betrayal of someone who loves you.

I've taught at Harvard University, Boston University, Washington University, and now Luther College in the beautiful hills (yes, hills) of northeast Iowa. I've also been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, the American Academy in Rome, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. I've given talks on the ancient world at the Smithsonian Institution and interviews on National Public Radio, but my best audience ever was a class of enthusiastic elementary school students in St. Louis.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to share stories about the ancient world with an audience beyond my students, so I started writing books for anyone with a library card."

Freeman holds the Orlando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages at Luther College. He is an internationally recognized specialist in Greek, Roman, medieval culture and Celtic studies.

Publications include:

The Letters of St. Patrick - This is a bilingual Latin/English edition of St. Patrick's forthcoming from the Library of Early Christianity series published by the Catholic University of America Press. It will also include an early life of Patrick written by the seventh-century Irish churchman Muirchú.

War, Women, and Druids: Eyewitness Reports and Early Accounts of the Ancient Celts (University of Texas Press, 2002) - If you want to read in English almost every important passage about the ancient Celts that survives in Greek and Roman authors, you'll like this handy sourcebook.

The Galatian Language (Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Studies vol. 13) (Mellen Press, 2001) - A small collection of every scrap remaining from the language of the Galatians, migrating Celts who ended up in Asia Minor in the third century BC (St. Paul wrote to them in his New Testament letter).

Ireland and the Classical World (University of Texas Press, 2001) - Ireland interacted with Greece and Rome centuries before St. Patrick arrived. This book is a comprehensive study of all the literary, linguistic, and archaeological sources for this contact. Greek and Latin texts are included, but I also translate everything.

"Teaching the Bhagavad-Gita in a Traditional Great Books Program" in Uniting the Liberal Arts: Core and Context (B. Cowan, ed., University Press of America, 2002) 113-116 - I had such a great time teaching this ancient Indian text in the Core Curriculum program at Boston University that I wanted to share a few tips with anyone else who might want to include it in a course.

"The Survival of the Etruscan Language" Etruscan Studies 5: 75-84 (1999) - This article looks at the evidence for how long the language of the ancient Etruscans of Italy survived.

"The Earliest Greek Sources on the Celts" Etudes Celtiques 32: 11-48 (1996) - More than you ever wanted to know about Greek sources on the Celts dating from 500 to 300 BC. This article was based on part of my doctoral dissertation.

"Visions from the Dead in Herodotus, Nicander of Colophon, and the Táin Bó Cúailnge" Emania 12: 45-48 (1994) - We know from Posidonius and Caesar that the Celts believed in an afterlife, but the earliest evidence comes from a fragment of the Greek writer Nicander. He says the ancient Celts used to visit the graves of their ancestors seeking visions, a ritual also found in medieval Irish stories.