The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I
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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  896 ratings  ·  88 reviews
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, Gib...more
Paperback, 1232 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Penguin Classics (first published 1776)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
As to Volume II of The History and Decline of the Roman Empire as provided us by Eduard Gibbon

Comments 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 s...more
Justin Evans
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 We...more
Bar Shirtcliff
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 (perhap...more
Caroline
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...more
David
I love this book because:
it's great value for money - there is so much reading
Gibbon 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 Romans
Once 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...more
Silvana
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 i...more
Alyssa
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 an...more
Debbie
May 04, 2009 Debbie is currently reading it
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!
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Aug 19, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gluttons for Punishment?
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading; 100 Significant Books
I feel decidedly ambivalent about this book. My rating reflects that ultimately I didn't want to stick with it; I didn't find its pleasures and degree of informativeness worth the slogging through. This is the slowest read I've ever encountered--slower reading than James Joyce's Ulysses. And yet it's not that the prose was difficult or rambling or the subject boring. In fact I found the prose rather elegant. Partly, it's that I felt as if it was going on forever. This is only the first volume of...more
Stephen
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 pret...more
Ben Davis
Awesome book(s). I started this right about spring break of 2009, but just finished the 3rd and final volume this morning, so 17 months to finish all 2442 pages. The set covers the division of the empire into the eastern and western halves, then traces the fall and contributions toward the fall of each half. Along with the decline and fall of the Romans, Gibbon outlines the rise and establishment of Charlemagne (and modern Europe, early Christianity, and Islam. Fascinating read. More readable th...more
ElSeven
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 t...more
Pang
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
...more
Laurel Kane
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...more
Louis Shalako
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...more
Michael Nash
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 i...more
Russell
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 discip...more
Phil
Another big book knocked out, and this one deserves the hype. I was surprised that it did not just focus on the Western Roman Empire, but devoted about half its text to the Eastern Roman Empire. The closest analogy I can draw is to Herodotus, who also wrote about an Eastern Empire instead of his own forerunners. However, it's nice to read this in the original language, especially since Gibbon has money maxims and his story about what poor decision Julian takes to accelerate the collapse of the W...more
Jonathan
In my view, Western civilization has produced only two great historians: Thukydides and Gibbon. Or maybe what I mean is, only two historians who were also great artists. For deep understanding of human affairs, of the underlying dynamics of war and politics, the basic realities which are ever the same regardless of which era we're looking at, these two are unsurpassed. But they were also able to take that understanding and shape it into a historical account which is beautifully shaped, in which...more
Richard
Penguin's 1994 edition of the Decline and Fall, edited by David Womersley, collects the six volumes of Gibbon's text in three doorstoppers – the third of which also contains Gibbon's celebrated Vindication, and the first re-publication (re-paginated) of the original index. The Penguin Volume 1 contains the first two instalments, published in 1776 and 1781, along with a generous introduction and a list of revisions made to the text of the 1776 instalment in subsequent editions.

Womersley describes...more
Fredrick Danysh
Part of the multi-volume work than analyizes the growth and decline of the Roman Empire. It can serve as a model for what is happening in America today and has happened to other empires.
Wyatt Kaldenberg
This is the best book on Roman History. It's a must read for all Odinists. It gives great detail in how the West got where it is today.
Chris
Apr 19, 2014 Chris marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them

...more
chaz2b
Nov 02, 2011 chaz2b marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
- 061111 All six volumes at Project Gutenberg http://bit.ly/jXIv1j
Alex Milledge
I am currently reading the three part series.

A mammoth of a read, but its always very interesting. To be facetious, I could probably summarize how the Roman Empire fell and declined in a few points:

1. Barbarian Invasions all fronts
2. Poor leadership and political strife among the senate and the Emperor
3. Disgruntled people no longer wanting to live under Roman rule
4. Going broke and lost lands from barbarian invasions - therefore, less tax revenue to fund expansion and armies
5. Division of the...more
Chris Chester
After dwelling too long in the realms of fiction, I decided to challenge myself by picking up one of the great western works of non-fiction, in Gibbons' first volume.

I braced myself for something dry and slightly inaccessible, but to my delight, he weaves a story that is full of character and archetypes that careful readers will recognize from a variety of other media -- from careful Augustus to the monster Caligula to the brilliant Diocletian.

Despite reading warnings that Gibbon's language was...more
Lindsey
I really enjoyed this history until the last chapter - The Rise of Christianity. It is clear that Gibbon is very much biased in favor of Christianity despite calling his account impartial. The rest of the book does seem largely free from bias and as close to the historical truth as possible. This last section, however, really just serves as an apology for the inevitability of the rise of Christianity due to its inherent truth. I didn't realize that his history would turn into a religious text in...more
Joe
(Note: this review address Volume One, which is the first 580-odd pages of this book)

I enter this title as one of my very favorites. Glimpsing its length, its generic classics series binding, or perhaps a portrait of its 18th century English author on the spine, one might judge Decline and Fall as a dull and academic work. Not the case. Imagine the dry wit which reputedly characterizes British writing and self-expression. Gibbon's writing represents a distillation of that character, if not its...more
Carlos Burga
Having heard of this book for the better part of my young life, I finally decided to tackle it, and in all honesty it was surprisingly engaging and refreshingly open minded. Having been written in the 18th century I was afraid that it would be a laundry list of complaints against “pagan” emperors and the sufferings the impose on the nascent religion of Christianity; however, I was gladly surprised to find a logical argument behind the decline of the Roman empire that had nothing to do with their...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
More about Edward Gibbon...
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 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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