Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Wordsworth)” as Want to Read:
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Wordsworth)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Wordsworth)

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  9,391 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published between 1776 and 1788, is the undisputed masterpiece of English historical writing which can only perish with the language itself. Its length alone is a measure of its monumental quality: seventy-one chapters, of which twenty-eight appear in full in this edition. With style, learning and wit, Gibb ...more
Paperback, Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 1056 pages
Published September 5th 1998 by Wordsworth Editions (first published 1776)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kate Schmidt Yes, this does contain all of the volumes and is an excellent, very readable abridgment of this famously long and supposedly unreadable work. It's far…moreYes, this does contain all of the volumes and is an excellent, very readable abridgment of this famously long and supposedly unreadable work. It's far from dull, trust me. Reading Decline and Fall is at times like reading George R.R. Martin, and in the age of the Google you marvel at how Gibbons's scholarship was even possible. ("Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?")(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 28, 2008 Tedb0t rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The history of human civilization and society is basically a continuum of idiots, sociopaths, murderers and bores, punctuated by the occasional rational individual whose life is cut short by those very sociopaths that succeed him. Gibbon's classic documents a tiny cross-section of some of the most lamentably pathetic mistakes and awful personalities this doomed species has ever suffered. Oh, how times have changed.
Sep 14, 2011 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
“the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave.”
― Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


Volumes 1 - 6 = 3589 pages, and I can't think of more than 200 that I would have preferred to have skipped.

Love Gibbon's sense of humor, his methodology, his hard bigotry towards the Huns, his soft bigotry towards the Christians, and his ability to find interesting nouns to link with rapine: "idleness,
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of perfect English prose
Well, it's not actually the last word on the Empire. Gibbon hated the Byzantines, thought they were appallingly religious and ineluctably corrupt. So he didn't have a good word to say on the Eastern Empire which lasted 1000 years after the fall of the Western Empire. Modern historians have rehabilitated the Byzantines to a great extent.

You have to give it up for Mr Gibbon and his grossly distended testicles - he smuggled into the universities and libraries of the west a most refreshingly undermi
Mar 03, 2010 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed the first two volumes—amongst my Dad's all-time favourites—from his study when I was around fourteen; and my enduring fascination with the Roman Empire, and ancient history in general, most likely stems from a combination of the heady brews of Gibbon's and Tolkien's masterworks, which ignited within me a terrific thirst for mythology, legend, and history that has yet to be slaked. As far as The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is concerned, I believe that Gibbon is the greatest pr ...more
Description: Edward Gibbon’s masterpiece, which narrates the history of the Roman Empire from the second century A.D. to its collapse in the west in the fifth century and in the east in the fifteenth century, is widely considered the greatest work of history ever written. This abridgment retains the full scope of the original, but in a breadth comparable to a novel. Casual readers now have access to the full sweep of Gibbon’s narrative, while instructors and students have a volume that can be re ...more
Roy Lotz
I have a question that I think you might be able to help me with: should we send this book into space? You know, download it into a golden thumb drive—or perhaps seal a nice leather-bound set in a container—strap it to a rocket, and let it float like the Voyager space probe for all of time. There are weighty reasons for answering in either the positive or the negative. Let us examine them.

On the one hand, we have every abominable act, every imaginable vice, every imprudent lunacy able to be comm
Randolph Carter
Jan 18, 2013 Randolph Carter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Best narrative history ever written. Gibbon had so many fewer sources and tools than we have today, but his basic conclusions from the late 18th century information he had are still largely correct today.

A weakened military and political state that relied heavily on barbarian mercenary soldiers for defense was doomed. The different internal barbarian factions just served to divide the military and political and religious structures to a point to where they were easy pickin's from both inside and
Jan 13, 2010 Traveller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, to-reread
Classic treatment by the eminent historian Gibbon of not only the contributing factors to the fall of the Roman Empire, but a blow-by-blow account of the course of its decline.

For more pertinent thoughts, please see the comment box below.
Avoid this abridged edition of Gibbon’s classic. It is a huge disappointment to be being fully absorbed in the text and then groan as a cross is marked where a significant portion has been cut. This is depressing and makes for a disjointed unsatisfying read. But, that is not the worst crime of this edition. Every single one of Gibbon’s footnotes has been removed. Some of his footnotes just give his sources (which are important in themselves), but others comment on the text and continue it, and o ...more
Justin Evans
Nov 25, 2011 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
Hard to know where to begin with this.

His much praised style? Sure, it's better than most historians, but it still bears the scars of the eighteenth century in general, and eighteenth century self-importance in particular. Yes, there's the odd ironic gotcha, but I got the distinct impression that he was shooting fish in a barrel. With a shotgun. An automatic shotgun, like in a video game. Compare, for instance, Swift- he was hunting big game.

The ideology? Only one kind of person could read thi
Ce livre rate les cinq étoiles du fait de l'usage détestablement répandu consistant à commercialiser des extraits d'un ouvrage sous le titre de l'intégral. Gibbon, anglais du 18ème siècle, se mesure à l'histoire de la chute de l'empire romain d'occident, mais là où son prédécesseur Montesquieu cherchait par des considérations générales à fustiger la vanité de la gloire militaire et à faire l'éloge du commerce et du libéralisme, Gibbon rédige un véritable livre d'histoire dans la lignée des ceux ...more
Rob Roy
For those who hated to learn dates in history, read this, it will change your mind. It covers 1200 years, and five volumes yet, only has two dates. A masterpiece without doubt, but his subjectivity, and preference for western European history is evident. He covers 300 years history of the Eastern Empire in one chapter.

This book is like an elephant. You eat it one bite at a time. I read two sections between each book I read. Took me a year and a half, but I ate the elephant!
Oct 01, 2016 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to tell you why I decided to read this original six-volume edition now.

The primary reason was that I had just finished revisiting Isaac Asimov's original Foundation trilogy early this year (I thought, at first, to finally get to the other volumes, which I read back when they first appeared, but that was decades ago), and it occurred to me that I had never really settled down with Gibbon for any extended length of time. Asimov's debt to Gibbon is much clearer to me now--he never made a sec
Gibbon's great, repeated subject: magnificent, superior ideas reduced by human motives to narrow self-aggrandisement. Not all historians are ironists, and few can summarize (albeit in compound paragraphs) complex Christian beliefs in stark contrast to un-Chrstian behavior (need a Gibbon for current US prez race--don't see one): PL forgive my poor paraphrase, after decades, "But as the angels which defended the faithful are only visible to the eyes of belief, the protector employed the more appa ...more
Bryn Hammond
I'll never find here my edition, which is a cute set of seven little hardbacks, 6 inches high, from 1904. I thought it would be charming to read this work in such old-fashioned books.

I have to report that my bookmark is at p.476 of volume four. That's well more than halfway. But that was the consistent read; I've dipped in, and the portions nearest to my heart -- say, on Attila and on Zingis as he calls him, and on other assorted barbarians -- Theodoric was a great story greatly told -- these I
Truly grand in scope, in subject matter, in style. Some conclusions/sources are out of date, but it is still a joy to read.
Lee Walker
Oct 24, 2011 Lee Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have almost finished Volume 1. The first fourteen chapters were excellent. Unfortunately chapter 15 drones on about Christianity, in a way that I don't find very compelling (and normally I am not that averse to the history of religion). Furthermore the edition I have is edited by some religious nut-job who, whenever the topic turns to religion, becomes very excited and starts inserting 10 times as many footnotes as he normally does.

On the whole, however, I am very much enjoying this work. Gibb
Jul 30, 2011 Barce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this tome in 1990. It was a gift from my mother, the only gift that I have truly valued, because it revealed to me the harshness and indifference of the world, that virtue and stoicism are a leader's better qualities, and that money is the corrupter of any body politic.

This book has more relevance to American politics than at any time in this Republic's 235 year history. The central thesis is provocative: Is moral education enough to stem the tide of political corruption?

In a w
Nov 16, 2010 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could only have one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one. (And its extreme length is only part of the reason). A true epic that combines stunning scholarship, storytelling, and philosophical insight. If this were all fiction, it would still be one of the great masterpieces of English literature. That fact that this is history is stunning beyond words. In a typical chapter, Edward Gibbon will make you feel like you're standing on the walls of Rome as the Goths lay siege; then h ...more
Ahmet Cihat Toker
Nov 19, 2009 Ahmet Cihat Toker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
from Iggy Pop's essay on this book:

Here are just some of the ways I benefit:

1. I feel a great comfort and relief knowing that there were others who lived and died and thought and fought so long ago; I feel less tyrannized by the present day.

2. I learn much about the way our society really works, because the system-origins - military, religious, political, colonial, agricultural, financial - are all there to be scrutinized in their infancy. I have gained perspective.

3. The language in which th
Ross Cohen
Oct 20, 2014 Ross Cohen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winston Churchill described reading "The Decline and Fall" best. He writes:

"I set out upon...Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. ...I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all."

Having spent so much time with Gibbon, and having had so much fun along the way, I find it hard to accept the ride is over. Nevertheless, it is over – Rome has fallen, and it fell spectacularly.
Richard Epstein
Oct 31, 2013 Richard Epstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although the Empire teeters almost from the beginning, it takes a long time to fall. It turns out the fall, if not the decline, was all the fault of Christianity. And evil, thoroughly debauched emperors, like Gordion, Commodus, and Palpatine. With Gibbon's assistance, they fall in the best prose possible. I was going to insert a few of my favorite passages here, but there were about 6 volumes of them, so I desisted.
Douglas Dalrymple

In his wonderful book, Cultural Amnesia, Clive James is not particularly kind to Gibbon. While admitting that Decline and Fall should be read, he complains about Gibbon’s baroque but perfectly balanced sentences. They distract. Gibbon’s book, he says, “inadvertently raises the question whether English prose style can be, or even should be, an end in itself.” The phrase cuts, but I’m not sure in which direction, and one can’t help but ask whether James, as a reader, encounters sim
Abimelech Abimelech
For the record, I have owned the abridged paperback for some time, have referenced it innumerable times, and then went on to take out the three-volume set. I loved the first book. With an insane schedule and work of my own, I felt as though I had taken too long to read part one, on two renewals at the library, and tired of lugging it around went out to purchase an unabridged edition, never finding one I could afford.

Today things changed. I took a ride out to a book fair in the country whose fun
Jun 28, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an enduring classic (in the real sense of the word) and the life's work of Edward Gibbon. I consider myself fortunate, as it took him 20 years to write it and only took me a couple of weeks to read it. Gibbon chronicles the entire history of the Roman Empire, from Augustus in 27 BC to the great fall of Constantinople to the Turks/Ottoman Empire in 1453. Much of the narrative reads like a bloody horror/slasher movie, with continual repetition of someone gaining the throne through murder, ...more
Apr 12, 2011 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gibbon is sensible of the finest Enlightenment truisms - that fear is the guardian of authority in government, and that rational persuasion is the guardian of freedom in society; that war is robbery, and wealth a distortion of the public weal; that democracy is the life of society, and monarchy its death; and that a copious prose style with cadences often involving parallel homonyms with insightfully paired subject matters is the stuff of good English prose (indeed, his English prose is, I belie ...more
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon.

J.B. Bury reprint edition in 7 hardcover volumes. ISBN 9780404028206. AMS Press, 1974. 3,928 pages.

This is the mint condition set that has been in my library for 30+ years.

Thanks to the hash that Amazon and Goodreads have made of proper and sensible listing of this work on the website, I am having to move my previous listing to this page. Somehow, the other page that listed the complete set now lists the item on that page
John Cairns
Jan 27, 2014 John Cairns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I'm not reviewing the contents of this book but my relationship to it. As a child, ancient history interested me and I saw a copy of the Decline and Fall in Methil library, adult section, but with the first volume missing. Gibbon would have to wait because I wasn't going to start other than at the beginning. (Mum would've got the book out for me on her tickets.)

Visiting an antiquarian bookshop in London, I saw the book and bought it, all twelve volumes. Gibbon had access to sources scarcely acc
Dec 26, 2006 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, history, classics
I read this while I was working in Rome and it is truly the definitive text about the Roman Empire. If you are interested in the subject matter it is worth the pain of wading your way through this challenging but rewarding text. From the Age of the Antonines in 180 AD all the way to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Gibbon shows us the historical paradoxes of the Roman Empire and the decline of a golden age.
Linda Orvis
Mar 31, 2011 Linda Orvis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know there are probably many readers who think this is a wonderful, informative, and priceless book. I'm not a fan of the Roman Empire and the tons of literature it spawned. I forced myself to finish the book, then treated me to chocolate, copious romance novels, and boiling hot bubble baths.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire
  • The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives
  • The Annals of Imperial Rome
  • The Conquest of Gaul
  • The Early History of Rome: (The History of Rome, #1-5)
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  • The Twelve Caesars
  • How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
  • Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
  • The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph & Diversity 200–1000
  • Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • A War Like No Other: How the Athenians & Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
  • The History of England
  • Caesar and Christ (Story of Civilization, #3)
Edward Gibbon (8 May 1737 – 16 January 1794) was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. 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.

Gibbon returned to England
More about Edward Gibbon...

Share This Book

“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.” 249 likes
“The most worthless of mankind are not afraid to condemn in others the same disorders which they allow in themselves; and can readily discover some nice difference in age, character, or station, to justify the partial distinction.” 30 likes
More quotes…