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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,180 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
Edited, abridged, and with a critical Foreword by Hans-Friedrich Mueller
Introduction by Daniel J. Boorstin
Illustrations by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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 great
Paperback, abridged, 1312 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1776)
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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)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 28, 2008 Tedb0t rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 17, 2016 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
May 26, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 13, 2010 Szplug rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 03, 2014 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
Oct 13, 2013 Traveller rated it really liked it
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.
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
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
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
Rob Roy
Jul 22, 2010 Rob Roy rated it liked it
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!
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
Feb 15, 2016 Alan rated it it was amazing
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
Lee Walker
Nov 12, 2012 Lee Walker rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 16, 2010 Lee rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Epstein
Dec 18, 2013 Richard Epstein rated it it was amazing
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.
Abimelech Abimelech
May 01, 2014 Abimelech Abimelech marked it as to-read
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
John Cairns
Jan 31, 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
Oct 05, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2012 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
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jun 20, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I read the abridged version, 800 pages plus notes, so I can't comment on the full extent of Gibbons work here, but I must say that I was very impressed with his breadth and scope even in the abridged form, so I am sure that the full version would be amazing. I have to admit I was (stupidly) surprised by the amount of early Christian history that went into the making of this work (and the fall of the Roman Empire and descent into the dark ages). I was also surprised at the number of interesting p ...more
Ahmet Cihat Toker
Mar 04, 2010 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
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
Dec 26, 2006 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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.
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
Linda Orvis
Mar 31, 2011 Linda Orvis rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 15, 2008 Christopher is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
How an empire works. Creepy how close it resembles the U.S.
Mar 19, 2014 Olethros rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
-Más allá de lo desactualizado en algunos casos y de la orientación personal de sus conclusiones en otros, una obra que marcó un antes y un después en los trabajos historiográficos.-

Género. Historia.

Lo que nos cuenta. Relato y análisis de los eventos históricos de carácter social, político, militar y religioso (aspecto especialmente importante para el autor) que contribuyeron, desde dentro y desde fuera, al declive y desplome del Imperio Romano (en concreto el de Occidente, en el que se centra).
Dec 18, 2012 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gibbon's work is thorough, but suffers from inconsistent expectations of the reader's previous historical knowledge. Some chapters relate detailed history of people, places, and events that are edifying to the reader with limited prior knowledge, but which may be tiresome for readers already familiar with the history. And in these chapters, there is still often a lack of dates; it seems the expectation is that the reader will be able to supply the dates purely based on the emperors' reigns, but ...more
Mark Feltskog
Jun 28, 2015 Mark Feltskog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I'd like to clear up something about this edition: this is not the full text of Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which is available in a variety of editions from three to eight volumes (or more, for all I know) and runs more than 3,000 pages. Rather, this is a quarto (i.e., a "coffee table book") edited by Rosemary Williams and with abridgments of Gibbon's text by D.M. Low. Needless to say, the text is combined with pictures of Roman ruins an ...more
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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...

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“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.” 243 likes
“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.” 26 likes
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