The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  6,987 ratings  ·  271 reviews
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 compass equivalent to a long novel. Casual readers now...more
Paperback, abridged, 1312 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1776)
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Tedb0t
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.
Paul
May 26, 2013 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Szplug
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
Rlotz
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...more
Traveller
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.
Robert Farwell
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, poverty, and rapine"; "rapine and oppression"; "violence and rapine"; "rapine and cruelty"; "rapine and torture"; "rapine and corruption"; "rapine and disregard"; "War, rapine, and freewill offer...more
Adam
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
Lee Walker
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...more
Justin Evans
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...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The local book shop made this set available to me last night. Three volumes, hardcover with dust jackets, seemingly unread condition, no marks no owner's name, (but) no slip case, damage limited to common shipping related corner-crush but otherwise as-new -- US$28 amounts to much pocket-change-savings over the typical abe$175. That be $2 in excess of the cover price of Danielewski's latest.

Proust2013/Gibbon2013. Any brave souls to schedule this one?
Richard Epstein
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.
Joseph Nicolello
May 01, 2014 Joseph Nicolello 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...more
John Cairns
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...more
Paul
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
Barce
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...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
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
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...more
Lee
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
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!
Elizabeth
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.
Emilian Kasemi
Eruditi qe kembengul se: qyteterimi romak nuk vdiq nga pleqeria e tij por "ai u vra", ka thene tri te verteta te kunderta, se qyteterimi romak vrau veten, se nuk ka asgje te bukur te vrasesh veten, por ai nuk vdiq, sepse qyteterimet nuk jane te vdekshme dhe se shpirti romak mbijetoi, permes barbareve, gjate gjithe mesjetes dhe pertej saj.
Christopher
Jul 15, 2008 Christopher is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
How an empire works. Creepy how close it resembles the U.S.
Yann
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
Brian
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
Ahmet Cihat Toker
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...more
Zachary
Unreviewable (in the sense of priceless). I only read it in abridgement, as I figure the full six volumes can wait for my doddering old age. If you read it, in full or in abridgement, get the latest Penguin edition! It preserves Gibbon's original sentence structure, unlike the Everyman edition which chops his flowing prose into more digestible chunks.
Justin
Two hundred and forty years later, Gibbon still informs modern thinking (for better or worse) about the fall of Rome, and he managed to do it with a work that remains perhaps the supreme achievement of prose style in the history of the modern English language. This, along with Proust, are two things worth devoting a week or so to read, if only once in one's life.
Patrick
Okay, so I didn't exactly read it all. my version was over 1000 pages and still had some parts missing. i really like this book. it is written in the language of its time, so it sounds like the Decleration of independence. the only problem is that scholarship since has cast into doubt a great many of its facts, but still a really good, insightful read.
Linda
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.
Conrad
I wasn't going to list this, but I figure since I've read the first five hundred pages or so, I'm going to give myself a mulligan on the rest.
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Literary Fiction ...: Handheld Devices Will Be the End of the Human Race 261 40 Aug 03, 2014 03:41PM  
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire
  • The Conquest of Gaul
  • The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
  • The Annals of Imperial Rome
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  • How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower
  • The Twelve Caesars
  • In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire
  • The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization
  • The History of England
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
  • The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives
  • The History of Rome, Books XXI-XXX: The War With Hannibal
  • The French Revolution: A History
  • Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
  • The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378
  • Europe
  • Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome
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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
More about Edward Gibbon...
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume III The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1-3: Volumes 1, 2, 3 The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume II The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4-6: Volumes 4, 5, and 6

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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.” 206 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.” 18 likes
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