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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  12,251 ratings  ·  526 reviews
Length: 126 hrs and 31 mins

The History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire was written by English historian Edward Gibbon & originally published in six quarto volumes. Volume 1 was published in 1776, going thru six printings; 2-3 in 1781; 4-6 in 1788-89. It was a major literary achievement of the 18th century, adopted as a model for the methodologies of historians.


Paperback, abridged, 1312 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1776)
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Shyam I read, and enjoyed, the 3-volume edition published by The Heritage Press in 1946 (edited by J. B. Bury). It's unabridged, and includes all of Gibbon'…moreI read, and enjoyed, the 3-volume edition published by The Heritage Press in 1946 (edited by J. B. Bury). It's unabridged, and includes all of Gibbon's footnotes. It's also illustrated with lots of beautiful etchings by Gian Battista Piranesi, and has a very nice design on the spines of crumbling columns.

Some other good, unabridged editions, with Gibbon's Complete notes:
-6 Volume edition (edited by J. B. Bury) published by Everyman's Library
-3 Volume edition (edited by David Womersley) published by Allen Lane/The Penguin Press(less)
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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Sep 14, 2011 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,
Ahmad Sharabiani
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon.

It traces Western civilization from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium.

Volume I was published in 1776 and went through six printings.

Volumes II and III were published in 1781.

Volumes IV, V, and VI in 1788–1789.

The six volumes cover the history, from 98 to 1590, of the Roman Empire, the h
May 28, 2008 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. ...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of perfect English prose
Shelves: rome
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
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
Mar 03, 2010 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
Loring Wirbel
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The obvious issue to address in reviewing the 3,500-page unabridged edition of Gibbon's masterpiece, is whether the maniacal effort to attack such a work could ever justify preferring it over a single-volume abridged edition. That is an easy call. This work is occasionally tough, often exciting, but in every sense a necessity over any attempts to edit down Gibbon. I tried the 1200-page Modern Library edition and found it fragmented and hard to follow, simply because Gibbon is telling a story tha ...more
Jan 18, 2013 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
Reading parts of this again for work, and realised I never reviewed this absolutely massive book.

One of the most fascinating (and distorted) works of history ever written, created by one of the most famous (and biased and opinionated) historians of all time.

Full review to come.
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
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gibbon's great, repeated subject: magnificent, superior ideas reduced by human motives to narrow self-aggrandising brutality. Not all historians are ironists, and few can summarize (albeit in compound paragraphs) complex Christian beliefs in stark contrast to un-Christian behavior (need a Gibbon for current US politics--don't see one): “but as the angels who protected the catholic cause were only visible to the eyes of faith, Theodosius prudently reinforced those heavenly legions with the more e ...more
Jan 13, 2010 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.
Czarny Pies
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
From the perspective of the 21st century, this book is quite preposterous. Beginning in 98 AD with the consulship of Trajan in Rome, it finishes in 1493 with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. Thus it starts in the Italian peninsula and finishes in the Middle East. The narrative runs from classical antiquity, passes through the middle ages and concludes in the Renaissance. The scope is too wide and the time frame is absurdly long.

It is of course a remarkable work of scholarship. At
Great Book Study
This history was impressive. Gibbon has a beautiful writing style. He makes reading history (one of the most important histories of the world) so pleasant to read. I will have to reread this someday, and much more slowly.

Here's a blurb from my review (on my blog):

You have heard it said, "History repeats itself," and "One thing we learn from history is that no one learns from history." Well, we have no excuse for this, and that is why everyone should read it. Do not be intimidated because it is
Bryan Alkire
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The edition I just finished was a complete one volume e-book. It runs to 5414 e-pages. Simply put, they don’t publish books like this one anymore. Reading Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire really puts current historiography in perspective. First, a history today is considered magisterial if it runs to 500 pages, heaven forbid that it be two or more volumes after that. Second, most history published today is on social issues or single stand-alone events which become magnified into earthshaking ...more
Sep 08, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: e-owned
I'm sure a whole book could be written just about the history of this book! From the introduction of my abridged edition, edited by Mueller:

"The present abridgment is hardly the first and will likely not remain the last. Each age and each reader will find his or her own Gibbon. We must first ask then why Gibbon's words should be abridged at all. The short answer: because there are so many of them."

For (my own) reference, Mueller's aim was to "preserve the thread" of the "spectacle of the decline
Justin Evans
Nov 25, 2011 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
Jacob Aitken
Gibbon, Edward. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Abridged. Introduction by Daniel Boorstin.

This is an abridged edition. It is 1300 pages long. If you feel like you would get bogged down from the whole work, this is a welcome addition. If you are the type where you want to soak in Gibbon’s magnificent prose, then get the Penguin edition of the full text, which are edited by David Womersley.

Before we begin we need to spend time on Gibbon’s prose style. Like Samuel Johnson he was a master of t
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll review this thoroughly the next time around, but for now, I would just like to direct anyone reading this to three excellent, long, epic works of truly Gibbonian proportions covering Roman History that they may wish to read both before, and after, Gibbon, as I did.

Before Gibbon

I. Theodor Mommsen's A History of Rome is a magisterial 5-volume work published 1854-1856, which begins with the founding of Rome in 753 BC and goes down to the reign of Julius Caesar. This work helped Mommsen win the
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 rated it liked it
Shelves: 24-ancient-rome
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!
Jonathan Mckay
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1st book of 2021: The Forest and the Trees.

After reading this near 4000 page epic, I found myself made of questions. What is Rome? What is history? What is a book? I don’t know enough to know whether Gibbon threw out the norms, or just wrote this before the norms were created, but Decline and Fall is like trying read a fractal version of game of thrones while playing a memory game about every person you met in elementary school. Is this something you would enjoy? Read on...

First, every other
Lee Walker
Oct 24, 2011 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
were gibbon a marxist, he might say that the western empire fell because roman citizens slowly transformed through the dialectics of economic and military conquest from virtuous members of a cosmopolis into self-oriented and animalistic lumpenized antisocial nihilists, which would be difficult to dispute conceptually. whether this civic decay is the cause or rather the effect of mass irreversible saturnism remains nevertheless as yet unaddressed by the learned writer.
Richard Epstein
Oct 31, 2013 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. ...more
Ross Cohen
Oct 20, 2014 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.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Gibbon expressed the hope that his book would be read for two centuries.’

I first dipped into various volumes of this work in 1972, when I was studying Ancient History (Greek and Roman) at Launceston Matriculation College. I’d read it at the Launceston Library, initially as part of my search for different sources of information about the Roman Empire. No, I didn’t (then) read the entire six volumes. I didn’t have time. I was busy imagining my future, studying hard, wondering about possibilities.
It did not take me as long to read this as it took Gibbon to write it but at times it felt like a backwards race for who will take longer. Part of the advantage of reading it is that I got it as an ebook from Part of the disadvantage is that it is an ebook that I owned so I could take as long as I needed. It also ran across the deadly experience of trying to read it on an app on a tablet instead of an ebook reader. During that phase, I rarely read as opening the tablet hurt my eye ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Was it 30 Emperors over sixty years that were covered in excruciatingly minute detail or was it 60 Emperors in thirty years? I don’t remember which it was but this book definitely did one or the other and later in the story the author will explain why he told the story in such excruciating detail. History should always be fun and the facts should never get in the way of good story telling, and sometimes it’s better to tell a story by leaving some of the details out or just wave ones hands around ...more
Oct 01, 2016 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
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Goodreads Librari...: Split Volume Set 1 8 Sep 10, 2019 08:27AM  
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The Well-Educated...: Beginning History of Decline/Fall of Roman Emp 5 8 Feb 06, 2019 08:00AM  

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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

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