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

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  10,445 Ratings  ·  421 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)
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)
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…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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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,
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.
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2007 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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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-Chrstian 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 ef ...more
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
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!
While nobody takes this seriously in the historical profession anymore, the prose still is still a treat. Read for the latter, and supplement it with something written in the past twenty years.
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
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
عنوان: «انحطاط و سقوط امپراتوری روم»؛ اثر: «ادوارد گیبون»؛ ترجمه: «ابوالقاسم طاهری»؛ نشر : تهران، سازمان انتشارات و آموزش انقلاب اسلامی، ۱۳۷۰، در ۶۲۳ ص.نقشه؛ چاپ نخست ۱۳۴۷، کتابهای جیبی؛ فرانکلین، یادداشت : این کتاب با ترجمه فرنگیس شادمان (نمازی) بوسیله بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب در سه جلد در سال ۱۳۵۳ - ۱۳۵۱ نیز منتشر شده است
این اثر تاریخ امپراتوری روم، اروپا، و کلیسای کاتولیک از سال ۹۸ تا ۱۵۹۰ میلادی را پوشش میدهد و دربارهٔ انحطاط امپراطوری روم در شرق و غرب بحث میکند
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
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
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
Ahmet Cihat Toker
Nov 19, 2009 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
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.
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
Jul 30, 2011 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 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
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.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-non-fiction
The very best of histories!

It is telling that Mr Gibbon spent two decades of his life on these six volumes: the research and the writing are both superior to most other works. Though written in the latter half of the 18th century, 'The History of the Decline and Fall...' reads as if it was put to paper yesterday. Mr Gibbon's timeless penmanship has created and destroyed reputations, for it should be kept in one's mind how much of today's view on some people was shaped by this original and though
Josh Friedlander
Nestorians, Arians and Ebionites; Avars, Lombards and Dacians; Visigoths and Ostrogoths, Belasarius, Barbarossa and Saladin, Bonniface and Baldwin, Trebizon and Nicaea; there are enormous heaps of history here, each story full of drama and lessons for today. But when you go through all six of these volumes, covering a millenium and a half of the Western world and some of the East, there isn't much time to dwell on specifics.

Thus an audiobook. The benefit ofthe format - that you can power through
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rome, history, byzantium
The year 1776 was a year of immense significance manifested in the publication of three books/documents, first in February with the first volume of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, then in March with Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, and finally in July with the Declaration of Independent -- not to mention Thomas Paine's Common Sense which was also published in January this year. The density of important events in this year was by no means a historical coincidence: the las ...more
« 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

Nonfiction Deals

  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
    $15.99 $3.99
  • The Monster of Florence
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob
    $9.99 $1.99
  • April 1865 (P.S.)
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Jesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Lab 257
    $8.74 $1.99
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Last Lecture
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Not Tonight, Honey: Wait 'Til I'm A Size 6
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
    $10.99 $1.99
  • An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
    $27.99 $2.99
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Dakotas)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Restless: Because You Were Made for More
    $7.49 $1.99
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
    $16.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Pukka: The Pup After Merle
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Buddhist Boot Camp
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
    $21.99 $3.99
  • The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Van Gogh
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Woman's Worth
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Do the Work
    $4.99 $1.49
  • The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Suck at Girls
    $10.74 $1.99
  • The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
    $14.99 $2.99
  • A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
    $18.99 $1.99
  • The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Wright Brothers
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The Power of Moments: Why Certain Moments Have Extraordinary Impact
    $14.99 $3.99
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The Last Black Unicorn
    $12.99 $4.99
  • Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
    $14.99 $1.99
  • The Affluent Society
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The World's Last Night: And Other Essays
    $7.99 $1.99
  • A. Lincoln
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
    $13.24 $2.99
  • Grace, Not Perfection (with Bonus Content): Celebrating Simplicity, Embracing Joy
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Why We Run: A Natural History
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    $12.99 $2.99
“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.” 269 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.” 39 likes
More quotes…