Read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I by Edward Gibbon David Womersley Online


Edward Gibbon's six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88) is among the most magnificent and ambitious narratives in European literature. Its subject is the fate of one of the world's greatest civilizations over thirteen centuries - its rulers, wars and society, and the events that led to its disastrous collapse. Here, in book one and two, GibEdward Gibbon's six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88) is among the most magnificent and ambitious narratives in European literature. Its subject is the fate of one of the world's greatest civilizations over thirteen centuries - its rulers, wars and society, and the events that led to its disastrous collapse. Here, in book one and two, Gibbon charts the vast extent and constitution of the Empire from the reign of Augustus to 395 AD. And in a controversial critique, he examines the early Church, with fascinating accounts of the first Christian and last pagan emperors, Constantine and Julian.This definitive three-volume Penguin Classic edition provides a complete and unmodernized text, presenting the History as it appeared to its early readers. In his introduction, David Womersley discusses Gibbon's life and literary career, and his insightful and vivid style of writing. This volume also includes updated further reading, a new chronology, appendices and notes....

Title : The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I
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ISBN : 9780140433937
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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I Reviews

  • Nathan
    2019-05-12 07:52

    As to Volume II of The History and Decline of the Roman Empire as provided us by Eduard GibbonComments short for this volume. The sweep of the narrative I will represent below via Gibbon’s own chapter headers ; a story themselves.First, a very turgid beginning to the volume. Foundation of Constantinople and other administrative necessities ; taxation, etc. Imagine that you were bored by the cetology chapters of Moby-Dick and then lengthen those chapters by a factor of six or seven. On with the story.Second, for a reader with a rudimentary knowledge of early Church history, here is where the shit hits the fan and everything goes to pot as Church and State are mutually conquered by the other. There’s a hell of a lot more going on than a mere presence and absence of an iota in homoousian and homoiousian. Third, Julian the Apostate is a fascinating guy. I’ll have my antennae up for more on him. And those satires which he wrote ; Loeb’s got them.Fourth, things really get moving in the final chapter of this volume as we discover the origin of the Huns and they begin to press upon the Goths who in turn begin to press upon the Empire -- and the Fall is written in the stars by now.Fifth, I’m increasingly convinced that Gibbon belongs more to the history of history than to historiography ; more for the reader of novels and fans of 18th century thought than for today’s working historian. He belongs properly on my encyclopedic shelf.And finally, Sixthly, for the hell of it ; if you love commas and semicolons, Gibbon is your man. Table of Contents of the Second Volume -- chapter headers; or, they don’t make them like this anymoreChap. XVII. -- Foundation of Constantinople. -- Political System of Constantine, and his Successes. -- Military Discipline. -- The Palace. -- The Finances. Chap. XVIII. -- Character of Constantine. --Gothic War. -- Death of Constantine. -- Division of the Empire among his three Sons. -- Persian War. -- Tragic Death of Constantine the Younger, and Constans. -- Usurpation of Magnentius. -- Civil War. -- Victory of Constantius. Chap. XIX. -- Constantius sole Emperor. -- Elevation and Death of Gallus. -- Danger and Elevation of Julian. -- Sarmatian and Persian Wars. -- Victories of Julian in Gaul.Chap. XX. -- The Motives, Progress, and Effects of the Conversion of Constantine. -- Legal Establishment of the Christian, or Catholic, Church.Chap. XXI. -- Persecution of Heresy. -- The Schism of the Donatists. -- The Arian Controversy. -- Athanasius. -- Distracted State of the Church and Empire under Constantine and his Sons. -- Toleration of Paganism.Chap. XXII. -- Julian is declared Emperor by the Legions of Gaul. -- His March and Success. -- The Death of Constantius. -- Civil Administration of Julian.Chap XXIII. -- The Religion of Julian. -- Universal Toleration. -- He attempts to restore and reform the Pagan Worship -- to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. -- His artful Persecution of the Christians. -- Mutual Zeal and Injustice. Chap XXIV. -- Residence of Julian at Antioch. -- His Successful Expedition against the Persians. -- Passage of the Tigris. -- The Retreat and Death of Julian. -- Election of Jovian. -- He saves the Roman Army by a disgraceful Treaty.Chap XXV. -- The Government and Death of Jovian. -- Election of Valentinian, who associates his Brother Valens, and makes his final Division of the Eastern and Western Empires. -- Revolt of Procopius. -- Civil and Ecclesiastical Administration. -- Germany. -- Britain. -- Africa. -- The East. -- The Danube. -- Death of Valentinian. -- His two Sons, Gratian and Valentinian II. succeed to the Western Empire.Chap XXVI. -- Manners of the pastoral Nations. -- Progress of the Huns, from China to Europe. -- Flight of the Goths. -- They pass the Danube. -- Gothic War. -- Defeat and Death of Valens. -- Gratian invests Theodosius with the Eastern Empire. -- His character and Success. -- Peace and Settlement of the Goths. On to volume the third....._______________As to Volume I of The History and Decline of the Roman Empire as provided us by Eduard GibbonGibbon’s monumental work which we are endeavoring to read this year of our lord 2013, has a select and sparse readership. Indeed, why would anyone read a moldy history book about a moldy empire, a moldy book written in the later part of the 18th century? Casual readers will find it dull. Modern readers of casual fiction will find it intolerably gehoben and pompous. Readers of history will find it antiquated and outdated. It occurs to me that there is but a single readership of Gibbon’s Great Work. That readership consists of Readers of Great Works. And Gibbon’s Decline and Fall is a Great Work. And a pleasure to read. Immediately, we should correct that audience count. There is a second Reading Party, of which I count myself a member, and that is the Party of the Encyclopedic and Mega-Novel. History, well written, is narratively structured if only because our Understanding is narratively structured. And Gibbon’s work is packed with narrative and with character. Indeed, it is Gibbon’s focus upon the characters of his leading characters, the Emperors and other actors upon history’s stage, their virtues and their vices, which causes his historical analyses to have fallen out of favor with today’s writing of history.To illustrate the degree to which Gibbon’s History is surpassed by more recent classical scholarship, I off a visual aid included in the wikipedia article on Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, the standard reference work of Classical studies, a work whose volumes I cannot count, which was published between 1893 and 1978. Please, feast upon these magnificent volumes: my purposes, as one who aspires and has the audacity and pretense to read Great Works, The Decline and Fall enters into the ranks of historical eruditional works which, no matter their status today in regard to having kept up with science, will forever be read for their literary edification; such ranks include The Father of History, Herodotus, Thucydides, and The Anatomy of Melancholy, whatever kind of work of erudition Burton has executed in that Monument. One might say that books of this sort are read for the execution of their prose. But it is a great deal more. Yes, the prose is of that quality which causes one to incessantly praise the King James Version as a great work in the English language regardless of the stance one takes toward its content. But just as the Bible is read not only for the prose, but also for the mind and experience reflected within the text, so too with Gibbon, we read for his mind; we witness his mind at work upon his materials, shaping them and containing them when his massive undertaking threatens to overthrow him in its sheer magnitude, its centuries and centuries of history and its hundreds and hundreds of actors, not to mention the enormity and near numberlessness of his sources. Which is to say, read Gibbon not for his results but for his process and method.Volume I begins with the ascension of Commodus to the Purple in AD 180. Chapters I through III function as a prelude to the beginning of the Fall, even as the Fall is already intimated at the beginning of the Empire under the reign of Augustus. This prelude sketches a broad outline of the Empire as it was under the reign of the Antonines between the years AD 138 and 192, of which dynasty we all know Marcus Aurelius as portrayed by Alec Guiness in the film of the same title as Gibbon’s History. The first volume carries us through to the beginning of the reign of Constantine in 323. We’ve only begun the Fall. Decline is well ensconced. Perhaps the most recognized portion of The Decline and Fall are the two Christianity chapters one finds at the end of the first volume, chapters XV and XVI. These are fascinating chapters. For my purposes and interests, they are still relevant as such things tend to be. It’s a history I did not know as well as I might have, given that I was raised within the Anabaptist tradition, that portion of the Reformation movement which was known as Radical, which tradition attempted to restore the Church to the model represented in the Early Church, before it was conquered by Constantine and turned into the State itself, rather than as a locus of resistance to the violent powers of the State. It is the pacifist tradition. Whatever my relation is to that tradition today, I have recently also returned to thinking on the early church as certain Left political thinkers such as Zizek, et al, have also returned to this period for rethinking resistance to the domination of the State, and the origin of a Universalist political project. As such, I found myself reading against Gibbon, not in regard to his scholarship, but in terms of the relation to his hero, The Roman Empire itself; that with Walter Benjamin, one understands history as written by the victors, whether the victor be the declining Empire or the Church Triumphant, and attempts within one’s reading, to allow a disclosure of foreshortened possibilities. I only indicate here the nature of interest I took in these two chapters. I would owe them a rereading before I would feel competent to engage in all the Anstoss which they have provided to my thinking. The Vindication, Gibbon’s response to complainers who would indict his scholarship as an historian, and which is reproduced at the end of Womersley’s volume 3, should be read immediately after chapters XV and XVI. If one reads it at all. Aside from its status as polemic in the highest style, most of its content is rather obscure for those of us not involved with the state of 18th century scholarship. On to Volume II, shortly.

  • Justin Evans
    2019-05-07 08:57

    Let's be very clear about one thing: if you write English prose, and if you read a lot and care about English prose, you should read Gibbon. His sentences are perfect. Each is carefully weighted, pulling the reader through like a kind of perpetual motion machine; the syntax and the content are perfectly matched. Certainly some constructions seem a little dated, but generally that makes me think that contemporary prose is impoverished, rather than that Gibbon's is overly difficult. Just as all Western intellectual life feeds into Dante, so all Western prose feeds into Gibbon: Tacitus' compression, Swift's clarity, Voltaire's irony, and doubtless plenty of people I've never read, too. Here's a sentence more or less chosen at random: "The general respect with which these deputies were received, and the zeal of Italy and the provinces in favour of the senate, sufficiently prove that the subjects of Maximin were reduced to that uncommon distress in which the body of the people has more to fear from oppression than from resistance." This single thought--that the conditions of the early clauses prove that the people were so oppressed that revolution became inevitable--would take a paragraph of clauseless, muddy Hemingwayed nouns. Add to this Gibbon's possession of most seventeenth century virtues--clarity, unwillingness to hide his contradictory thoughts, judgments made according to morality rather than form--and his work becomes all the more remarkable. Of course, he also has the greatest seventeenth century vices, which he has to have if he's going to display his contradictory thoughts. He's a supreme enlightenment thinker, obsessed with natural laws (hence, he should be universalist) who's also strangely bigoted. The barbarians are uncultured, the Romans effeminate, the Byzantines weak and so on. The Jews, who bizarrely insist on worshiping only their own national God, are villains, as are the Christians who take over this insistence on the unity of the deity. David Womersley's introduction is excellent, too; it makes very clear the contradictions between Gibbon's overarching argument (supposedly, that Christianity is the 'cause' of the D&F) and what he actually writes. He's fascinated by the accidents of history ("Cleopatra's nose"), and he lays out in great detail the many, many social trends that would eventually lead to the fall of the West. Although the book is organized as if Christianity is the primary cause (the first volume ends with two chapters on the new religion; the second begins with Constantine), Gibbon himself must have recognized that his book had become something much more than another philosophe-like attack on early modern religion. Of course, he also gets in some great jabs at ancient Christianity. Also tied to his general plan: every section ends with a lament for the continuing decline of the empire, even as the empire stubbornly continues to exist. This has surely shaped Western attitudes to Rome for the worse. Constantinople stood into the fifteenth century; Constantinople was Roman. But too many writers, particularly conservatives, like to say that Rome fell due to x, which is exactly what Obama is giving us. That's fatuous. Rome lasted for two thousand years: would you say the United States fell because the capital was moved from D. C. to Portland, and then D.C. was taken by Mexico? No, you would not. But if there's a real flaw to the work, it's simply that Gibbon couldn't help attacking ancient historians, particularly ecclesiastical historians. They deserve attack, and if I'd spent dozens of years reading about so and so's miracles and the genius of such and such, I'd be on the offensive as well. But only rarely does this make for good reading. He also tends towards moralizing generalities: outside of the major figures (Julian, Constantine etc...), he too often writes that this usurper was bad, without explaining how or why. That might be a problem with his sources, of course, but again, a little boring. I don't imagine many people will get through the six volumes of this work. There's too much of everything, so whatever you dislike, you'll find it here. Personally, I was rarely riveted by his explanations of battles and wars. So and so set up by the mountains; so and so in the valley... I'm asleep. Others will be tortured by his discussions of early Christian heresies. On the other hand, if you can get into Game of Thrones, you can get into this. It's the original fantasy novel. So, in sum, it's not perfect. What a damning indictment.

  • Bob Mayer
    2019-05-15 05:47

    Every Empire eventually falls. Given the largest modern Empire is the United States, it might behoove Americans to read this.The epic series is a must read for historical buffs. The premise that Christianity played a large role in the collapse of the Roman Empire might not go over well, but the lack of religious tolerance definitely hurt the Romans. Religious tolerance had been a staple and helped greatly in both the expansion and maintenance of the Empire. You can take a lot of things from people, but taking their religion doesn't go over well.Another big problem was the extensive use of mercenaries in the Roman Army. This is an issue for the United States as we rely more and more (much more than most people know) on contractors for our dirty work.I had to peruse the entire series once more for my next book, Time Patrol: The Ides of March, as I cover the day Caesar was assassinated. One thing to consider is that despite the legendary warning about the Ides, perhaps Caesar didn't really care at that point? While most thought he had epilepsy, I just read a report from two doctors who've studied all the historical writings about his affliction and they feel he was actually having mini-strokes. But, until we invent time travel, we'll never know. And it we invent time travel . . . Of course, if we do invent time travel, then it exists now. My brain is starting to hurt. Back to writing about time travel.

  • Roy Lotz
    2019-05-17 10:11

    It speaks to the genius of Gibbon, and the grandeur of this work, that there are no historians or social scientists who call themselves ‘Gibbonians’. There are Marxists, Freudians, Foucaultians; there are postcolonial theorists, gender theorists, post-structuralist theorists; there are positivists, anti-positivists, materialists, anti-materialists. But not a Gibbonian in the bunch. This is because Gibbon’s extraordinary mind cannot be reduced to a simple formula. Many have tried—he was a militant atheist, a spokesperson for the Enlightenment, a historical fatalist—but no label does him justice. Gibbon’s mind was too vast and deep to be encompassed by some nifty academic catchword.Instead of trying to reduce all of the complexity of history down to one parameter, Gibbon lets it all hang out—religion, economics, culture, psychology, sociology. He incorporates all the data available into his work; and, although he does offer some of his own opinions regarding the causes of the Empire’s fall, they remain just that—opinions. Gibbon has no dogmatic bone in his body. The vessel of his genius is not animated by a cocksure sense of right and wrong, but by a gentle sense of curiosity and wonder. He wants to know for the sake of knowing, and tell for the sake of telling.Added to this unbelievable inquisitiveness is an equally unbelievable eloquence. Gibbon’s prose is to all subsequent English prose as Greek sculpture is to all subsequent sculpture: a model of classical perfection. There are writers more engaging, more witty, more entertaining, more gripping—but no writer can take such heterogenous elements and reduce them to such homogenous beauty. What makes his writing even more amazing is how effortless it seems to him—how his sentences seem to just roll off his tongue and onto the page. In short, if you are looking for the finest English prose this side of Shakespeare, look no further, my friend.Now that I consider it, I think I have to retract my first point. It’s true that there is no group of scholars who call themselves ‘Gibbonians’—how could there be? But this is not because Gibbon didn’t exert a massive influence; precisely the reverse: it is because Gibbon’s influence is inescapable. Gibbon’s insistence on using only primary sources—on questioning all information and playing documents against one another—was a quantum leap ahead of the historical research of his day. And we’ve only gone further in that direction.His influence on the art of writing can be easily grasped by reading him alongside some of his contemporaries. Gibbon sounds dated in isolation, sure. But in comparison with the other writers of his day, he sounds like he could've been writing fifty years ago. In fact, he seems to speak to us in our own language. And that, my friend, is why Gibbon can’t be made into a catchword: he speaks to all ages, in equal beauty, with equal force, and with equal relevance.

  • فهد الفهد
    2019-05-12 06:49

    اضمحلال الإمبراطورية الرومانية وسقوطها بحثت عن هذا الكتاب طويلاً، وقنعت أخيراً أن اقرأ الكترونياً هذه النسخة المختصرة منه، تقع النسخة التي كتبها إدوارد جيبون في ستة مجلدات، قام المؤرخ (دي. إم لو) باختصارها في ثلاثة مجلدات، حاذفاً الكثير من الفصول مشيراً في ملخص سريع إلى أهم ما تضمنته الفصول المحذوفة، وبقراءة الأجزاء الثلاثة لا أشعر بأي حسرة على المحذوف – ما خلا الفصول التي تتناول الفتوحات العربية -. يتناول جيبون الفترة الإمبراطورية من التاريخ الروماني، فلذا كتابه يبدأ بعهد أوغسطس مع تمهيد عن العصر الذي سبقه ومن ثم ينطلق إلى الانهيار الأخير بسقوط القسطنطينية بيد العثمانيين، وهذا تاريخ طويل ممتد على خمسة عشر قرناً، تضمنت تحولات عالمية مهمة، ونهوض وسقوط قوى، وتغير الدين في الإمبراطورية من الوثنية إلى المسيحية، الكتاب بشكل ما للمتخصصين، ومن يرغب في القراءة حول الرومان عليه أن يبحث عن كتاب أبسط.

  • Bar Shirtcliff
    2019-05-05 06:14

    This is a book that has grown on me. The first time I picked it up, I probably didn't make it past the tenth page. Now I'm halfway through volume 1 and totally hooked. I've found the section that I'm currently reading (about the early history of Christianity) a bit dull, but interesting: many of Nietzsche's complaints about Christianity seem to have been anticipated by Gibbon.I'm amused by Gibbon's dry tone and his brevity: the effect of this and his wit together is altogether refreshing (perhaps especially for a failed historian). But really, the contrast between Gibbon's way of talking about the world, past and present, is instructive. Gibbon certainly lets the reader know about his judgements, as often as not in the footnotes, but unlike many (or most?) modern authors, he does not beat the reader over the head with one or several overwhelming points or arguments; there is no belaboured analysis, and there are no heavy technical terms or pretensions. For all that seems to be missing, Gibbon's style has more: there is a sense that the book was written to be lost, just like many of the books that he mentions in the footnotes as having actually been lost. Masterfully written though it was, the Decline and Fall was just another perspective on ancient Rome, written in an era itself about to pass. Why is this more, you ask? The easy answer is "less is more." What Gibbon sacrificed in pretence and readily apparent complexity, he gained in elegance.

  • Caroline
    2019-05-24 11:06

    You hear people refer to Gibbon's magisterial style for a reason--it is. The sentences just roll on and on. He had read everything about the period and for the most part selects and organizes the material very well (by which I mean that the history flows and makes sense; I don't know enough to know whether he selected a balanced and coherent subset of facts and events). But this isn't an endless recitation of facts. Gibbon assesses the people and explains their actions; he shares his reflections so that it becomes the finest kind of history, one which illuminates and instructs with an artistry that is almost constantly engaging.All the names and endless battles and assasinations could be overwhelming but Gibbon spends a good deal of time describing the characters of the successive emperors before explaining what happens during their various reigns, and it helps keep them distinct. He was a man of his time, so you have to accept misogyny, anti-semitism, elitism, and racism as part of the way he looks at the world. He was also an atheist, and was apparently criticised for his extensive sections on the early church, with all of its internal battles. It is difficult to tell when Gibbon is using irony and sarcasm on his own behalf and when not, because he tends to write extensively in the voice of his characters so that sometmes you can't tell whether an opinion is his or theirs. But after a while I just let it go and enjoyed the truly stunning writing. The wit is used judiciously but to great effect.Also the narrator does a very good job of reading long descriptions of intrigues and battles so that you stay interested for the most part through some very dense material.

  • David
    2019-05-02 06:00

    I love this book because:it's great value for money - there is so much readingGibbon is not just a sublime historian, he is also an prototype psychologist, sociologist, and anthropologist.His history is of the human condition and not just of RomansOnce you get used to the peculiar writing style you will actually enjoy it. It takes only 20 pages to get into it.It is impossible to believe that his insights are from so long ago because they are still so fresh.I take a star off because he just goes on too much of a detour about the role of Christianity in corrupting Rome. OK. I get it and I agree but two full chapters. He was obviously very pleased with his own refreshing heresy. Top tip - just skip the two chapters on Christianity which are the only outdated sociological parts.Otherwise, this is a highly addictive read. It's funny, insightful, intelligent and thankfully, very very long. A genuine classic and deserves to be read for another 1000 years.

  • Alyssa
    2019-05-18 10:17

    I've just finished Volume I, and II is up next. I would recommend against getting the version edited by H.H. Milman if at all possible, unless you like books that are edited by someone who thinks it's okay to mutilate someone else's work by adding a LOT more Christian nonsense to it. He even criticizes the author for attempting to be reasonably objective. This is NOT okay, and it is detrimental to a book that is rightly considered to be a masterpiece of historical writing. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a finely written, unabridged version of Gibbon that isn't edited by a chimp, and enjoy yourself. :)

  • Debbie
    2019-04-27 10:59

    This book is amazingly readable. Unfortunately, no matter how easy the reading, 1000 pages are still 1000 pages (with footnotes but no pictures or white-spacey dialogue). I don't think I'm going to finish this before book club on Thursday. ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, and my other quibble, aside from the large bulk, is the sad lack of maps and a chronology. This book is 1000 pages, people! I don't have time to pull out my atlas and look up dates on Wikipedia!

  • David Huff
    2019-05-17 05:08

    Tackling this massive classic has been on my bucket list for some time, and after finishing Volume One, the first of Six (I know, I can hardly believe it either) volumes, here are some summary thoughts so far:1. Took me a while to decide whether to read it, or listen on Audible. I've listened to quite a few books on Audible, so my comfort level (plus all the spare moments I can find in traffic or longer drives to listen) gave me the courage to go that route. I'm loving the Naxos AudioBooks version read by David Timson. Very easy to listen to, with a high British accent Gibbon might have had -- he sounds like a cross between Alec Guinness (old Obi-Wan) and John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield in "The Paper Chase").2. It's true that Gibbon had quite the vocabulary, and his prose can be dense. But once you get used to the experience, it becomes very rich and beautifully elegant. The man was a master stylist, with a good dose of wit, and very much opinionated.3. The knowledge and research that went into this work are just overwhelming. A nice bonus is that the Audible version has a good PDF reference guide for each volume. Very helpful!4. So far, I have found this to be a unique, challenging and very well written work of history. Volume One covers the beginning of the Roman Empire (after centuries as a Republic) with Augustus in 27 BC, and ends with the reunion of the Empire under Constantine in around 324 AD. Gibbon takes a departure from chronology at the very end to present a substantial (and sometimes controversial) discussion of the Christian Religion, and its founding, advance and impact during those years.There's a LOT of info, and I have often required some short rewinds to help myself keep up. But it's been well worth the adventure so far, and I'm looking forward to Volume 2!

  • Silvana
    2019-05-21 07:02

    I have been reading this for the last five months and I feel exhausted. Definitely not for people who prefer light reading. The explanation is sometimes frivolous and redundant. The footnotes are not really helpful; they just confused me even more. The first chapters are the best. The last ones...well, not so much except the parts on Diocletian. Nevertheless, I'd still recommend this as a reference for those who are interested in Roman Empire history. So many interesting tidbits and background information on the important events occurred at that time. Despite the three stars rating, I'll never regret I read this book. Hell, maybe someday I'll have time (and mood) to read the next volume, who knows.

  • Stephen
    2019-05-07 06:12

    Most readers, including myself, are discouraged from ever attempting to read Decline and Fall because of its length. I can confirm, having reached the end of the first volume, that our fears of boredom or exhaustion are exaggerated. In truth, Gibbon needs an editor, not an abridgement. A small number of dull and superfluous passages, often dealing with trifles remote from our own concerns (such as the internecine squabbles over Trinitarianism, or the unspectacular lives of quickly-forgotten pretenders to the imperial throne), are unhappy exceptions in what is otherwise a beautifully rendered history, full of eloquence and wit. To echo Churchill, I read it with pleasure from cover to cover.Its literary virtues have not lost any of their lustre with time. Disguised beneath the idiom of the 18th century is an intimate tone that renders the work not only accessible but positively lively. Gibbon wrote Decline and Fall as an amateur historian, not as an ideologue or a doctrinaire. His approach is human rather than scientific; his aphorisms generalized from experience rather than deduction. He was a master of the ironic mode of narration, and is often quite funny. The rise of Christianity, in particular, provided fertile soil for his sly humour:"At such a period, when faith could boast of so many wonderful victories over death, it seems difficult to account for the scepticism of those philosophers who still rejected and derided the doctrine of the resurrection. A noble Grecian had rested on this important ground the whole controversy, and promised Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, that, if he could be gratified with the sight of a single person who had actually been raised from the dead, he would immediately embrace the Christian religion. It is somewhat remarkable that the prelate of the first eastern church, however anxious for the conversion of a friend, thought proper to decline this fair and reasonable challenge."Historians may find more to criticize in Gibbon. His reliance on dubious sources is problematic for obvious reasons, but he is more likely to be reproached for the sin of omission. His version of the Roman Empire concerns only emperors and generals, war and the sweep of religion. Culture, society, learning, ideas, and everyday life do not figure in his definition of history:"In great monarchies millions of obedient subjects pursue their useful occupations in peace and obscurity. The attention of the writer, as well as of the reader, is solely confined to a court, a capital, a regular army, and the districts which happen to be the occasional scene of military operations."This reproach is admittedly unfair, as it supposes two centuries of evolution of historical theory which occurred after Gibbon's death, but is nevertheless worth pointing out. Those seeking histories organized thematically, or written from the bottom-up, should look elsewhere.In any case, it is rarely profitable or interesting to judge a work according to goals it never set for itself. Gibbon's lasting fame is deserved not because—as is often the case with so many masters whose works are today unreadable—he was influential or innovative, but because his writing still solicits our interest and our attention. I never felt I had gone backwards in time when reading Gibbon, as I do when reading Montesquieu, Hume or Voltaire. Despite the distance separating us, his voice is remarkably familiar to modern ears.Highly recommended (if you have six weeks to spare).

  • Louis Shalako
    2019-05-22 07:48

    Loved it. I've read it ten times, and it's an eight volume set. Gibbon has his idiosyncrasies. He will use the same phrase, for example, 'it would not offer much instruction to the reader nor amusement to the writer,' and several others more than once, but it is a big book.Critics have noted that Gibbon squashes a vast sweep of history into the last two or three volumes, but my personal favourite is volume three. As I recall, this one traces the emperors, and Julian, in particular. He's the one who tried to expunge Christianity and bring back the worship of the old gods. Setting out on a campaign against the Persians, he is killed in battle at a tragically young age.Gibbon's chapter on Roman law is a classic for almost any student of history, and his chapter on the birth of the Prophet Mohammad is utterly beautiful. Gibbon may have been an atheist, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't a bigot. Much of Gibbon's history has been modified and even contradicted by subsequent scholarly research and debate.This does not take away from the remarkable achievement as 'literature,' a word which has seen much abuse of late.Gibbon's 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' is best described as, 'a record of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.' The footnotes are a pleasure to read, although the Greek ones in the version I own are obviously impenetrable. I've actually picked up a few good Latin quotes, and used them myself a time or two.Mine is a reproduction of about a 1906 Methuen edition.It is also a wonderful read on those long, cold winter nights.

  • Brian Eshleman
    2019-05-03 07:49

    The particulars of a given place and time are incidental to why this work and its author have had a lasting impact. At least for me, curiosity about Rome subsided as I was more and more drawn in to the spell of the author. This was Edward Gibbon's space within which to expound on the sweeping currents of history and the trickling eddies of individual flawed lives that feed into them. How does the discipline of a common goal strengthen individual men and the broader culture? How does the irony of reaching that goal and being sapped by prosperity undermine the very positive attributes which brought prosperity in the first place? This is why anyone who wants to understand his or her own age should read Gibbon.

  • ElSeven
    2019-05-19 04:58

    Where to begin? How do you even rate a legendary text like this, after two hundred years of existence, carrying two hundred years of cultural baggage along with it.It's Gibbon. He doesn't need me, because he's like Tacitus or Herodotus, or any of those other historians that you refer to by only one name. Men who wrote monumental tomes that everyone familiar with them acknowledges as masterpieces, but nobody has ever seems to want to read. Still, I feel bad to own a book that I've not read, and there they are taking up a good third of a shelf, taunting me with its monumental-ness.A chapter a day, I figured. There are only 70 some chapters in the whole work. I can do that, right?You see, I was expecting it to be a slog. A mire of 18th century scholastic who-ha, with long strings of untranslated Latin. I was expecting to read Gibbon like I read War and Peace - to have passed my eye over every word of every page, in order to add another notch to my belt.Not so! Gibbon is engaging, he's witty, he's erudite. Hell, he's readable. Oh sure, he's very much the 18th century scholar. For all his wit, he isn't afraid to be dry, and often is. Also, he takes his readers knowledge about certain Classical events and personalities for granted. Not up on your myth? Don't know who Agrippina or the Gracchi were? You might not want to start here. While it's not necessary, understanding Gibbon's allusions added my enjoyment.Volume 1 of my edition covers, roughly, the years 180 AD - 324 AD. From the death of Marcus Aurelius, to the time that Constantine named himself sole Caesar, at Rome. It's a sprawling, bloody work, full of death and mayhem and, occasionally, shining moments of greatness and hope. But then the Praetorians kill everyone off again, and sell the Purple to the highest bidder.Gibbon has been the surprise of the year. What I though was going to be a laborious exercise in pretension has turned out to be a rewarding, and enjoyable experience. Reading him, it's easy to see why he was so influential. Wit, irony, and pessimism. It's like the holy trinity of historical writing, and Gibbon is the reason why.He looses a star, not because he doesn't deserve it, but rather, because there's just so much he has to say. He covers a lot of ground, and some of it he just gives the briefest mention too. This is frustrating sometimes, especially when he refers back to them, expecting you to remember incidents that he tossed out as casual events. You've forgotten about them by then, and need to leaf back. It really is a book that needs to be re-read several times to make the most of, and the fact that it's just so big hampers that.Also, the edition I'm reading is a reprint of the 1909 edition, edited by J.B. Bury. For a long time it was the definitive edition of the work, but it's 101 years old now, and Bury's notes and helps are showing their age.Four Stars

  • Matt
    2019-05-15 12:11

    The first volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers the first 26 chapters of the author’s epic historical work. Beginning with the death of Domitian and ending with Theodosius I’s treaty with the Goths and early reign, Gibbon’s spans nearly 300 years of political, social, and religious history on how the great empire of antiquity slowly began to fade from the its greatest heights.The history of the decline of Rome actually begins by showing the nearly century long period of rule of the “Five Good Emperors” as Gibbon shows the growth of absolute power of the Principate was governed by able and intelligent men. With succession of Commodus Gibbon illustrated what the power of the Principate would do for an individual who was a corrupt and tyrannical ruler. Gibbon’s then examines the political and military fallout of the death of Commodus with the declaration of five emperors in less than a year and rise of the Severan dynasty by conquest. Gibbon reveals underlining causes of era of the ‘Barracks Emperors’ and what historians call, “the Crisis of the Third Century”.With the ascension of Diocletian and through him the rise of the House of Constantine, Gibbon explores the political and bureaucratic reforms began and developed that would eventually divide the empire in his view. After Constantine’s rise to sole emperor, Gibbon then delves into the early history of Christianity before its adoption by the founder of Constantinople. Beginning with Constantine, the last half of this particular volume as the history and theological developments of Christianity as a central narrative as one of the contributing factors of the decline of the Roman Empire.Although the description above might make one pause at starting the heavy work, Gibbon’s style and prose make history come alive with every word and gives the reader a sense of the grand scale of historical forces while not overwhelming them. While every reader will have their own verdict on if Gibbon’s arguments and interruptions of history are correct, each avid history lover will find this opening volume of Gibbon’s magnum opus an engaging beginning in examining how one of the foundation stones of Western Civilization came to its political end while passing on its laws and culture to Europe.

  • Michael Nash
    2019-05-24 09:56

    Although Edward Gibbon’s masterpiece has a fearsome reputation, it’s surprisingly readable. Far from being the dry, dusty tome that you expect its absolutely loaded with what my friend Josh calls “18th-century aristocratic snark.” Some great examples: "The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord." And "Twenty-two acknowledged concubines and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes attested to the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions that were left behind him, it appears that both the latter and the former were designed for use rather than ostentation." He seems to have an enormous hard-on for the early Christian church (perhaps not shocking from what I know of his conclusions regarding the fall of the empire) and as a result, the Church bears the brunt of his piercing wit. His methodology is a bit suspect, as he tends to draw from sources with which he agrees and dismiss sources with which he doesn’t. And apparently defending figures that are universally reviled (like Nero) while mauling figures that are universally loved (like Constantine) was really cutting-edge in 1770. And it IS really long and detailed, so I won’t pretend that I didn’t get saturated somewhere around halfway through and start tuning a lot of the audiobook out. That said, his analysis has a depth and breadth that is truly breath-taking, and is almost unthinkable in the modern academe of the microcosmic. In terms of analysis and style, Gibbon is peerless.

  • Mina Soare
    2019-04-28 08:56

    I promptly blew a fuse upon being sent an article on the relative barbarism of the Roman Empire in relation to Asian cultures of the same time. Some time later I realised I hadn't thought on the history of the Romans for some time and this book was well-recommended, so I put on the headphones and went for a walk. First of all, this is an audiobook free librivox edition; many thanks to Kirsten Ferreri, Chris Chapman, Sibella Denton, Christie Nowak, Gesine, ontheroad, Jim Mowatt, krithiga, Robin Cotter, Julian Jamison, J. M. Smallheer, Lizzie Driver, Måns Broo, Lucy Burgoyne, Justin Brett and Cori Samuel.This is a gargantuan (RIP Elle), extensive work filled with beautiful prose, keen insight and pertinent commentary. Consequently it's elating and depressing by turns, to hear of noble emperors, and awful emperors, and, after a long list of unfortunate decapitations, another emperor rises! And Gibbon goes "his wisdom and modesty and strength would have likely lead the empire..." - and I'm like "someone lend me a hankie, here he goes again..."It is interesting for its similarity to contemporary western developments, hilariously stimulating for the sporadic comments on the way male virtues appear in women, insanely entertaining for its dry candor and descriptive abilities. History, leadership or sociology fans, dig in.

  • Laurel Kane
    2019-04-24 11:17

    I can honestly say that this book changed the way I think about some things. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it - and it gets much better with with re-reads. I love Gibbon's snarkiness....Page 446: "A candid but rational inquiry into the progress and establishment of Christianity, may be considered as a very essential part of the history of the Roman empire. While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans, it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili, in a world unknown to the ancients."My margin note: "Oh snap!" It's amazing how long we've been trying to separate church & state and still remain unsuccessful.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-09 12:17

    Marcus AureliusDescription: The Decline and Fall is known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open criticism of organised religion. film covers the incidents that historians pin-point as the start of the end of the Roman Empire. It took a further 300 years to finish the job.LucillaBust of Commodus as Hercules

  • Alan
    2019-05-11 07:08

    I first read Gibbon over thirty years ago, and made it through the three Modern Library volumes. Over the years I have reread the first volume, and his conclusions, a half dozen times, and his notorious Ch 15 on Judaism and Christianity maybe two dozen. I read it as contemporary news; for instance, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, leaving office, recently pardoned over 200 prisoners, including several convicted of murder. Doubtless Barbour's Christianity played into his pardoning, possibly of converts. Here's Gibbon on the first couple centuries AD. "It is a very ancient reproach...that the Christians allured into their party the most atrocious criminals, who, as they were touched by a sense of remorse, were easily persuaded to wash away, in the water of baptism, the guilt of their past conduct, for which the temples of the gods refused to grant them any expiation." From Gibbon I have learned to distrust any historian who does not use compound-complex sentences. Without them history remains incomprehensible and usually, the historian, more partisan.

  • Dan Graser
    2019-04-24 04:56

    This really is a gorgeous edition of Gibbon's classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol 1 is his most scandalous of texts - mainly due to the final two chapters - but ignoring the centuries old "controversy" of daring to chart the history of early Christianity in Rome, this is still THE seminal work of historical writing in the English language and fully codified the ridiculous relationship of the later emperors of Rome with the Senate, the various factions of the army and legions, the Praetorian Guard, would-be Princes, and every other competing influence in the ancient political world. Hugh Trevor-Roper's introduction is lengthy and insightful and Everyman's binding and presentation is wonderful. Can't wait for volume 2!

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2019-05-09 07:58

    Just too many footnotes...I'm reading a kobo version so the passages are constantly interrupted. I do not recommend reading an electronic version. Taking that into account, I've learned an immense amount about the end years of a grand era. I would have retained more knowledge if it didn't jump around on the timeline so often. Lastly, it has an abrupt ending. Do not expect an epilogue.

  • John Majors
    2019-05-22 06:01

    I've wanted to read this classic work since learning in Churchill's auto biography that this was one of the most influential books in his life (I love to read the books that influenced those that have influenced me). He read all volumes multiple times as a young military officer and sought to mimic Gibbon's writing style all of his life. This was volume one of six. I was expecting it to be rough going - but it was surprisingly engaging. Story after story of conquest and infighting among imperial leaders kept my attention - though it almost became "same song - different verse." Military leader conspires to kill standing emperor. Rival emperors gather military might till one clear leader is left standing. Rinse and repeat. You think that Shakespeare's telling of the betrayal of Augustus is unique, but reading this you learn it is old news - same story almost every emperor faced. Volume one takes us through Constantine unifying the throne and provides a overview of the spread of Christianity across the Roman empire. Now on to volume two...

  • Jigar
    2019-05-21 07:00

    Volume IIt is a testament to the breadth of Gibbon's passion that his Decline and Fall, widely regarded as a literary monument, on reading appears merely to expatiate on some salient thoughts. The charm of Gibbon resides in his unashamed partiality, notwithstanding his wise words on the responsibility of historians to extract truth from exaggeration and understatement alike.Gibbon, in the mould of his beloved Tacitus, is not for the faint-hearted, nor for the politically correct, religiously devout or feminist. Histories of a similar scale have been successfully abridged, but it would be sacrilegious to attempt the same with Gibbon. The careful editor may capture the essence but will inevitably lose the rich turn of phrase for which the Decline and Fall is so fondly read. For some reason, I never tire of the rapine, licentiousness, degeneracy, effeminacy, corruption and avarice which so liberally pepper Volume I.Before I provide some extracts of Gibbon's wonderful prose, on some particular topics which attracted my interest, it is worthwhile to comment on the title itself. Of course, it is a tautology. An empire cannot be in constant decline for well over a thousand years. But it points to the author's purpose, which is to extract the relation of each event to the eventual fate of the empire. In his quest, Gibbon was meticulous in researching and documenting primary and secondary sources; this in itself has left a profound influence.I. The meanderings of barbarians, whether from Caledonia or Gaul, provide some humorous insights. Naturally, Gibbon is dismissive of the uncivilised or unlearned.On the Caledonians (of Scottish extraction):-The masters of the fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with contempt from gloomy hills assailed by the winter tempest, from lakes concealed in a blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians.On the Germans:-Fully to apprehend this important truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calculate the immense distance between the man of learning and the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and reflection, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant ages and remote countries; whilst the latter, rooted to a single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but very little his fellow-labourer the ox in the exercise of his mental faculties.II. Organised religion, accompanied by its propagation or persecution at the whims of emperors or on dubious philosophical grounds, is ridiculed. But Gibbon did not omit from his account the apparent harmony which pervaded pre-Christian religion:-The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.Christianity is by no means singularly treated. Here Gibbon comments on the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana:-His life (that of the former) is related in so fabulous a manner by his disciples, that we are at a loss to discover whether he was a sage, an impostor, or a fanatic.Gibbon is scathing in his criticism of early Christian fanaticism:-Credulity performed the office of faith; fanaticism was permitted to assume the language of inspiration, and the effects of accident or contrivance were ascribed to supernatural causes.It is this deep impression of supernatural truths which has been so much celebrated under the name of faith; a state of mind described as the surest pledge of the divine favour and of future felicity, and recommended as the first or perhaps the only merit of a Christian.But it is the apologists who are most comprehensively vilified:-The total disregard of truth and probability in the representation of these primitive martyrdoms was occasioned by a very natural mistake. The ecclesiastical writers of the fourth or fifth centuries ascribed to the magistrates of Rome the same degree of implacable and unrelenting zeal which filled their own breasts against the heretics or the idolaters of their own times.A convenient distance of time or place gave an ample scope to the progress of fiction; and the frequent instances which might be alleged of holy martyrs, whose wounds had been instantly healed, whose strength had been renewed, and whose lost members had miraculously been restored, were extremely convenient for the purpose of removing every difficulty and of silencing every objection.We shall conclude this chapter by a melancholy truth which obtrudes itself on the reluctant mind; that even admitting, without hesitation or inquiry, all that history has recorded, or devotion has feigned, on the subject of martyrdoms, it must still be acknowledged that the Christians, in the course of their intestine dissensions, have inflicted far greater severities on each other than they had experienced from the zeal of infidels.III. The descent of the famed Roman army is attributed to excessive payment to soldiers and their succumbing to luxury and licentiousness.But in proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into a trade.Their personal valour remained, but they no longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of independence, the sense of national honour, the presence of danger, and the habit of command.The generosity of the emperor Severus to his soldiers is condemned:-Had the emperor pursued the train of reflection, he would have discovered that the primary cause of this general corruption might be ascribed, not indeed to the example, but to the pernicious indulgence, however, of the commander-in-chief.In a similar vein, Gibbon praises the severity of Aurelian:-One of the soldiers had seduced the wife of his host. The guilty wretch was fastened to two trees forcibly drawn towards each other, and his limbs were torn asunder by their sudden separation. A few such examples impressed a salutary consternation.Typical of Gibbon's wit, a comment on developments in modern warfare:-There is no surer proof of the military skill of the Romans, than their first surmounting the idle terror, and afterwards disdaining the dangerous use, of elephants in war.IV. The fall of the Roman empire is accompanied by, either as precursor or result, a degradation in human knowledge and learning.The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.Knowledge is substituted by superstition:-When Cæsar subdued the Gauls, that great nation was already divided into three orders of men; the clergy, the nobility, and the common people. The first governed by superstition, the second by arms, but the third and last was not of any weight or account in their public councils.The guardians of these ancient oracles were as well versed in the arts of this world, as they were ignorant of the secrets of fate; and they returned him a very prudent answer, which might adapt itself to the event, and secure their reputation whatever should be the chance of arms.V. Gibbon's wit pervades every aspect of human life. Here he provides a simple explanation for global warming:-The modern improvements sufficiently explain the causes of the diminution of the cold. These immense woods have been gradually cleared, which intercepted from the earth the rays of the sun. The morasses have been drained, and, in proportion as the soil has been cultivated, the air has become more temperate.But he will find difficulty in impressing today's feminist:-Female courage, however it may be raised by fanaticism, or confirmed by habit, can be only a faint and imperfect imitation of the manly valour that distinguishes the age or country in which it may be found.Nor can he disdain from mocking the early Christian:-It was with the utmost difficulty that ancient Rome could support the institution of six vestals; but the primitive church was filled with a great number of persons of either sex who had devoted themselves to the profession of perpetual chastity.Or the apologists:-The adoption of fraud and sophistry in the defence of revelation too often reminds us of the injudicious conduct of those poets who load their invulnerable heroes with a useless weight of cumbersome and brittle armour.While, at least judging from Volume I, one can hardly call Gibbon faultless, perfectly weighted prose and exquisite irony makes reading Decline and Fall a pleasure.

  • Individualfrog
    2019-05-20 06:06

    I have this book in a Victorian copy inherited from my great-grandfather, one of the only books left from such a long time ago, mostly Dutch Bibles. I've thought about reading it since I was in high school--this looming, solid, six-volume set of reddish-brown books, the spine reading only "GIBBON'S ROME". Finally this spring I finished The Dispossessed, which I really hated (many of you may wish to discount the following review on that basis) and I was feeling disgruntled, because I had thought I would love it. I said to myself, "I want to read something really good and really long," and as I looked over my shelves, one thing presented itself to me above all the others: ROME. So far, I've read the first volume, that is, Chapters I through XX, covering the Empire up to the early career of Julian the Apostate. I'll read some other books in between volumes, but I plan on reading the whole thing.Because this book is truly amazing. I was surprised how readable it is--compared to even some later books, like Carlyle's French Revolution (which I also love), it read as smoothly as an airport-rack thriller. Gibbon is usually clear and always entertaining. Even when he's not snarking, practically every sentence has some choice of words or turn of phrase which is surprising and delightful. And when he's snarking, there is simply no one better: "Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes attested the variety of his inclinations; and from the poductions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than for ostentation." Or: "Virtue, or the appearance of virtue, recommended Albinus to the confidence and good opinion of Marcus; and his preserving with the son the same interest which he had acquired with the father, is a proof at least that he was possessed of a very flexible disposition." But once you start quoting Gibbon, you never want to stop.It's true that my interest did flag at some points, but it was not really the fault of Gibbon, but rather the repetitive nature of Roman history--emperor after emperor being crowned by the army, then killed. Anyone who reads a very long book finds some kind of handholds to latch onto when their attention fails them. One reader (here?) kept track of the use of "rapine"; I kept my eye out for a favorite Gibbonian construction, "that {adjective} {noun}", used to describe in passing something or someone previously mentioned. "That worthless minister". "That crafty prince". "That artful usuper". "That imperfect species". He even uses it in the notes, to refer to some of his sources: "That partial historian". "That ignorant Greek". "That contemptible author". And my favorite, "That philosophical compiler".My edition was edited by Rev. H.H. Milman, a Victorian historian, who frequently borrows the notes of a French translator of Gibbon, a M. Guizot, who himself apparently borrowed some of the notes from the German edition by Wenck. This leads to a sort of amazingly postmodern feeling of conversation, indeed bickering, in the footnotes--almost like a comment thread on a blog or Facebook. At first I was baffled by Milman's decision to include these notes translated from translations, but in the infamous chapters on Christianity, the reason became clear. Gibbon (to the Victorian reader) is the condescending skeptic, Guizot is the fiery zealot, and Milman is the voice of moderation finding the reasonable center. Generally to the modern ear Gibbon comes out the best (overall Gibbon can be astonishingly modern, though of course just as often full of the prejudices of his time), but I found these notes to be an interesting and valuable addition. I'm sure there are many errors of fact which I didn't learn, not having modern notes, but then I wasn't really reading to learn, but enjoy Gibbon's prose and knowledge.And Gibbon is one of those authors who seem to know everything. Not only about Rome, in both a vast macro scale and on the level of entertaining and amusing anecdotes, but about the Early Church, the Goths, Zoroastrianism, writers of every kind. I'm looking forward to seeing what more he's got up his sleeve--five volumes more.

  • Russell
    2019-05-20 04:58

    I snagged the free version from Amazon for my Kindle. The page count said it was 350 pages, I thought that would be a quick read. Hooboy, that count was an utter lie! Amazon reports that a paperback edition from Penguin Classics weighs in at 1232 pages, this isn't a light, quick read on the beach.Gibbon's set the bar for modern historians by investing so much research into the subject. The first volume was published in 1776, and though we've added much to our knowledge of the past through disciplines such as archeology, eclipsing Gibbon's, his inimitable writing style sparkles with descriptions, character sketches and wit places his opus in a league beyond mere recitation of facts. The weakness in his thesis that Christianity was bad for the Empire has long been exposed and debated, I won't rehash those arguments here. At the end of the first book I had the impression that it wasn't so much the faith that he saw as being the problem but rather the Church structure as it moved from the primitive church and changed into the Catholic Church combined with the changes in society wrought by a faith that looked past this mortal existence toward a future free from strife and worry in a spiritual paradise.If you do crack this book open, be prepared for a long and detailed look at the Roman Empire through the eyes of an 18th century man of letters, shaped by the Enlightenment, and biased toward an era of Roman greatness designated as the Golden Age, against which any deviation was viewed as retrograde.I'll tackle his other volumes in the future. Thank goodness for devices like the Kindle!

  • Pang
    2019-05-01 10:11

    Well, I didn't really finish this book. I didn't even make it to three-digit page number : ( The subject is very interesting, but due to various events going on my life right now I just couldn't get into it. I really wanted to keep going with the book because I'm curious to find out what the author thought about the Roman empire. May be I can pick it up again in the future.One passage (out of a few) stuck out in my mind:The authority of Plato and Aristotle, of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the schools; and their systems, transmitted with blind deference from one generation of disciples to another, precluded every generous attempt to exercise the powers, or enlarge limits, of the human mind. The beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired only cold and servile imitations: or if any ventured to deviate from those models, they deviated at the same time from good sense and prospriety. On the revival of letters, the youthful vigour of the imagination, after a long repose, national emulation, a new religion, new languages, and a new world, called forth the genius of Europe. But the provincials of Rome, trained by a uniform artificial foreign education, were engaged in a very unequal competition with those bold ancients, who, by expressing their genuine feelings in their native tongue, had already occupied every place of honour... A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-05-15 10:57

    Chapter I[return]Chapter II[return]Chapter III[return]Chapter IV[return]Chapter V[return]Chapter VI[return]Chapter VII[return]Chapter VIII[return]Chapter IX[return]Chapter X[return]Chapter XI