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The Christians and the Fall of Rome (Great Ideas)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  330 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose id ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Penguin (first published 1776)
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Apr 02, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting little pamphlet that basically describes how the Christian Faith managed to get a foothold over the Mediterranean in Syria, Palestine and Rome, and how it then later superseded the old Polytheist Pagan beliefs, most notably with Emperor Constantine whom adopted the faith for the official Roman Empire. In fact, the title of this pamphlet is misleading; it does not go into the Fall of Rome by the Goths at all, but rather describes, using a rational analyses and hypothesis, what dist ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this excerpt from "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", presented as part of Penguin's Great Ideas series, to be brilliant. Gibbon addresses the rise of Christianity as a solely historical event, free of all religious belief which commonly filled historical and journalistic writings from the late 18th century.

While he frankly concedes some of the attractions and merits of the early Christian church, he is unafraid to present the inner machinations and political aspec
Charlotte Dann
This was enlightening. I feel enlightened. Never before have I dissected elements of the Christian religion, and it kind of made me angry. Here's a video about it. ...more
Shawn Birss
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating skeptic's view of the early history of the Christian church.

Though unabashed racism generally and anti-semitism specifically are not unusual to find in old classics, in this one it is essential to the writer's message. His is a very high opinion of the Roman Republic, her philosophies, myths, and government, from which he claims the greatest nations of the eighteenth century have descended, the European nations of which he is a part. Against these grand nations he compares
James Badger
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was somewhat disappointed to find that this is not really a standalone work, but rather an excerpt of Gibbon's larger and more important work on the rise and fall of the Rome.

That said, I really enjoyed the precision of Gibbon's prose. I can see why this portion of his work was not particularly well-received by the Christians of the day. It reveals the reality of early Christendom: multiple fragmentary groups with no consistent theology. It shows, and quit controversially so, that the Christia
Fernando Pestana da Costa
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A short extract of the great oeuvre of Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline an Fall of the Roman Empire, this book is concerned with the primitive Christians and the spread of Christianity in the roman world. Considering this was written and published in 1776, it is a matter of wonder to see the very unflattering way the primitive Christians, their beliefs, and their way of living is sometimes portrayed by Gibbons.
Gibbon's book was banned for the crime of disrespecting the character of sacred Christian doctrine, by "treat[ing] the Christian church as a phenomenon of general history, not a special case admitting supernatural explanations and disallowing criticism of its adherents".

It's precisely for this reason that he can look at early Christianity as a historical phenomenon and can create a more rounded picture of its impact on the Roman Empire.
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: greco-roman
While this no doubt must have been quite the book for its time - it's unadulterated articulation of early Christianity would no doubt have been considered heretical by 18th century standards - it has lost its edge in modern times. This is not to say Gibbon's writing is mundane or that the book is unimportant - far from it - but as I've mentioned, there is nothing particularly shocking in this abridged excerpt that anyone interested in early Christianity would not be aware of. ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Not sure this works as a fillet from the larger work - it's too much in isolation. Needs the bigger context. Also misleading title: Gibbon doesn't suggest Christians were responsible for fall of Rome, and much of this is development of early church, not decline of Rome. Not a problem, just not what the title suggests. ...more
2.5 stars, really. Interesting observations about the rise of Christianity in Rome and further afield, but the writer’s prose is too heavy for me to enjoy.

This must have been super scandalous on release as the author is generally sceptical of organised religion and Christianity in particular.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I couldn't really make much of it. ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
A decent book even if largely dismissed by contemporary scholarship.
Stephen Burridge
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brief excerpt from the great classic.
Oct 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Ryall
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
I've been meaning to read Gibbon's epic, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, so this excerpt provided a good way to get into it.

The title is perhaps a bit misleading. Gibbon doesn't really describe any relationship between the Christians and the fall of Rome, he just talks about the early church, how it rose, and how these events coincided with changes in the late Roman empire. Still, I found this area of discussion very interesting.

Despite the interesting topic, I struggled
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing

I've always had an interest in Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but I'd never really thought about it. This excerpt (part of the wonderful Penguin Books Great Ideas series) may have pushed me to the point where I have to! A brilliant and logical challenge to faith and religion, written some 250 years ago, when such ideas must have still been rather scandalous. Don't get wrong, he never approaches the subject from the Atheist angle, but rather just from a rational viewpo
Liz Polding
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting and probably quite shocking when first written, this charts the progress of Christianity from its early days of democratic and quiet emergence to the aggressive proselytising and hierarchical splendour of the emergent Catholic Church. Quite savage in places and particularly relevant now that the unshakable power of the church has been, well, shaken. Gibbon is fairly scathing about faith itself, but his main attack is on the church itself, with faith receiving a lesser blow as a rathe ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Gibbon writes, "In the course of this important, though perhaps tedious inquiry,..." I rather suspect that the book is not as important now as it was in the author's day. however the its tediousness remain undiminished. That said, there are still some useful insights, "The loss of sensual pleasure was supplied and compensated by spiritual pride" ...more
Christianity flourished in the Roman Empire because of its promise of life after death, which the pagans and Jews did not believe. It also looked after the poor, widows, and orphans through donations from members. It spread with ease through the empire because of the road system established to move Legions to the far corners of the empire.
Amber Berry
Apr 24, 2012 marked it as to-read
I'm not sure how this got onto my library "for later" bookshelf, but I borrowed it. It's a slim volume, and that could be deceptive. I've sometimes thought I should read Gibbon, so this may be my chance. ...more
Kevin K
A good sampling of Gibbon on the development of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately the excerpt doesn't discuss Christianity as a contributing factor to the fall of Rome, as you would expect from the title. ...more
Ashley Rindsberg
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Gibbon got style.
Alejandro Anaya
Pff! Libro complicado y sólo para quién ya esté inmerso en la historia antigua.
3 estrellas porque seguramente tendrá mucho valor histórico la obra de Gibbon.
Mo Topflight
rated it it was ok
Nov 12, 2019
Anahi Lopes
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Aug 24, 2015
Ion Lungu
rated it it was amazing
Aug 05, 2019
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Apr 09, 2013
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Apr 01, 2009
Magda Swiba-Knapp
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Apr 07, 2021
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Jul 23, 2009
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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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“it is always easy, as well as agreeable, for the the inferior ranks of mankind to claim a merit from the contempt of that pomp and pleasure, which fortune has placed beyond their reach. The virtue of the primitive Christians, like that of the first Romans, was very frequently guarded by poverty and ignorance.” 6 likes
“it was much less dangerous for the disciples of Christ to neglect the observance of the moral duties, than to despise the censures and authority of their bishops.” 5 likes
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