St Patrick is perhaps the most venerated saint of the modern age, whose feast day is marked each year by massive celebrations across the world, from Dublin to New York and Sydney to Rio de Janeiro. Yet, in spite of his popularity, very little is known of his life, which is clouded by myth and uncertainty. The facts that are known - that he was born in the late fourth century in Roman Britain, was captured by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and sold into slavery, escaped six years later to Britain where he became a priest and later a bishop before returning to Ireland to proselytise - give only a vague sense of the man behind the legends. J.B. Bury's classic biography, which remains the definitive work on the saint, dispels many of the myths and paints a vivid and exacting portrait of the world around St Patrick, revealing the influences and inspirations that transformed him from a minor fifth century missionary into the patron saint of Ireland and a source of living inspiration for countless people - the Irish above all - some 1,500 years after his death.
John Bagnell Bury (1861-1927) was an eminent British classical scholar and historian who wrote extensively on Greek, Roman and Byzantine history and was instrumental in the revival of Byzantine studies. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, where he was later made a fellow, he also gained a chair in Modern History at Trinity in 1893 and in 1898 was appointed Regius Professor of Greek. In 1902 he became Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, where he became a mentor to Sir Steven Runciman. Bury is famous for his major histories of the Roman Empire as well as his classic work The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians and his work on a new edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He also edited the Cambridge Ancient History and planned much of the Cambridge Medieval History.