The six ages of Patrick: Yet another return to the dating question

Stephen J. Joyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article returns to the surviving texts of Patrick, apostle to Ireland, in order to refine further his floruit in the fifth century. It argues that Patrick’s use of a classical scheme relating age to status clarifies the contexts for the autobiographical details of his life, and that these details can be correlated with the limited historical records that survive for this period. In connecting his excommunication of Coroticus to an Easter controversy c. 455, and his controversial elevation to an episcopal see to a dislocation in clerical authority in Britain c. 441, I argue that Patrick’s formal clerical career c. 427–455 matches Richard Hanson’s sophisticated literary arguments made in the latter third of the twentieth century. I also propose that the uncertainty over the date of Patrick’s death (in a context of exile), as represented by various reports in the Irish and Welsh annals c. 457–493, is inconsequential to his formal period of authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Chronicle of Ireland
  • Easter controversy
  • Germanus
  • Leo the Great
  • Patrick

Cite this