Insula Sacra

Ireland was called by several Roman writers Insula Sacra or “The Sacred Island,” from its being a celebrated seat of Druidism; and this name is considered to have the same signification as the Greek term Ierne, derived from the Greek Ieros, “sacred,” and Nesos, “an island.” Hanno and Hamilco, celebrated Carthaginian commanders, made voyages to various countries of Europe some centuries before the Christian era; and the record of their voyages, termed Periplus, was deposited by Hanno in the temple of Crom or Cromus, at Carthage; and from the Annals of Carthage, in the Punic Language, Rufus Festus Avienus, a Roman poet and geographer, in the fourth century, extracted an account of various countries from the “Periplus” of Hanno, in which work Britain and Ireland are mentioned. The passage referring to Ireland is as follows:

“Ast hinc duobus in sacram, sic insulam

Dixere prisci, solibus cursus rati est;

Hæc inter undas multam cespitem jacit,

Eamque late gens Hibernicorum colit,

Propinqua versus insula Albionum patet.”


“But from this place (the Scilly Islands, off the coast of England), to the island which the ancients called sacred is a distance of two days’ sail; its land extends widely amidst the waters, and the nation of Hibernians extensively inhabit it, and near it lies the island of the Albiones (that is Albion or England.)”