Saint or Slave Trader? Doubts About St. Patrick’s Origins

Saint or Slave Trader? Doubts About St. Patrick's Originsfrom The popular legend that St Patrick was a slave taken to Ireland by force is untrue, according to researchers in England, who claim he was actually a slave trader. The classic telling of St Patrick’s life suggests he was abducted from western Britain in his adolescence and forced to work unpaid.

But a new study by Cambridge University dismisses this as “fiction” and argues the saint fled to Ireland deliberately to avoid becoming a Roman tax collector and took up a job as a slave trader instead. The study has been published to coincide with today’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Patrick’s own father, Calpornius, was a Decurion, a Roman official responsible for tax collection. But he exploited a bail-out clause in Roman law that allowed him to leave his post by joining the clergy on the condition the role was passed to his son.

According to the study, once St Patrick was faced with the obligation to become a Decurion he chose to emigrate to Ireland. The study also claims there is a good chance St Patrick became a slave trader as Ireland did not have a monetary economy. This means he most likely bought slaves in England and then used them to trade when he moved to Ireland, researchers have claimed. At the time slaves were also relatively easy to transport and experts believe St Patrick would have converted his family’s wealth into slaves.

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