From The New York Times:
Thomas Cahill, a multilingual scholar who wrote a surprise 1995 best seller demonstrating to the world how a small band of Irish monks collected and protected the jewels of Western civilization after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, died on Oct. 18 at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.
His wife, Susan Cahill, said the cause was a heart attack.
“How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe” was not Mr. Cahill’s first book. But it immediately established his reputation as one of the country’s great writers of popular history.
In the book, he argued that even though the Romans never conquered remote, rural Ireland, Christianity did — and that as the continent descended into darkness and anarchy after the last Western Roman emperor was deposed in 476, its isolation became its advantage.
Living in relative peace, Irish scholars transcribed countless pagan and Christian texts, maintained a semblance of literary culture and, perhaps most important, developed a lively, life-affirming Christianity that later seeded the revival of the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe.
Five publishers rejected Mr. Cahill’s proposal before the editor Nan A. Talese, at Doubleday, snapped it up in 1991. To many would-be publishers, the title sounded like a bunch of blarney — even in the early 1990s, many people still considered Ireland a conservative backwater and a cultural appendage to Britain.
…Thomas Quinn Cahill was born on March 29, 1940, in the Bronx, to Patrick Cahill, an insurance executive, and Margaret (Buckley) Cahill, a homemaker.
He attended Catholic schools, where he developed a love for Latin and ancient Greek, and pursued that interest at Fordham University. He received a degree in classical literature and medieval philosophy in 1964, and a master’s in fine arts from Columbia University in 1968.
He also studied to become a Jesuit priest, and though he ultimately changed his mind, he did enough work to receive a pontifical degree in philosophy from the Roman Catholic Church in 1965.
Some of his other familiar titles include: “Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus” and “The Gifts of the Jews.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him …