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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,490 ratings  ·  134 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, ...more
Paperback, 1232 pages
Published March 7th 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
Justin Evans
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-etc
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 ...more
Bob Mayer
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Every Empire eventually falls. Given the largest modern Empire is the United States, it might behoove Americans to read this.

The epic series is a must read for historical buffs. The premise that Christianity played a large role in the collapse of the Roman Empire might not go over well, but the lack of religious tolerance definitely hurt the Romans. Religious tolerance had been a staple and helped greatly in both the expansion and maintenance of the Empire. You can take a lot of things from
Roy Lotz
It speaks to the genius of Gibbon, and the grandeur of this work, that there are no historians or social scientists who call themselves ‘Gibbonians’. There are Marxists, Freudians, Foucaultians; there are postcolonial theorists, gender theorists, post-structuralist theorists; there are positivists, anti-positivists, materialists, anti-materialists. But not a Gibbonian in the bunch.

This is because Gibbon’s extraordinary mind cannot be reduced to a simple formula. Many have tried—he was a
Bar Shirtcliff
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 04, 2009 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!
John Hughes
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s Gibbon. It’s definitive. It’s a titan of scholarship. As a reader I took a while to get into that baroque prose rhythm, but found the latter half of the volume very engaging.
He may Overly harsh on the role of Christianity, and has his major reasons for the decline scattered and tucked away in otherwise obscure passages, but this is part of the experience of reading Gibbon. Anyone who has wondered at the fall of Rome, that great majesty, simply must read this book.
Michael Nash
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mina Soare
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mina by: Random pick
I promptly blew a fuse upon being sent an article on the relative barbarism of the Roman Empire in relation to Asian cultures of the same time. Some time later I realised I hadn't thought on the history of the Romans for some time and this book was well-recommended, so I put on the headphones and went for a walk.

First of all, this is an audiobook free librivox edition; many thanks to Kirsten Ferreri, Chris Chapman, Sibella Denton, Christie Nowak, Gesine, ontheroad, Jim Mowatt, krithiga, Robin
Marcus Aurelius

Description: 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.

This film covers the incidents that historians pin-point as the start of the end of the Roman Empire. It took a further 300 years to finish the job.


Bust of Commodus as Hercules
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Just too many footnotes...I'm reading a kobo version so the passages are constantly interrupted. I do not recommend reading an electronic version. Taking that into account, I've learned an immense amount about the end years of a grand era. I would have retained more knowledge if it didn't jump around on the timeline so often. Lastly, it has an abrupt ending. Do not expect an epilogue.
John Majors
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've wanted to read this classic work since learning in Churchill's auto biography that this was one of the most influential books in his life (I love to read the books that influenced those that have influenced me). He read all volumes multiple times as a young military officer and sought to mimic Gibbon's writing style all of his life.

This was volume one of six. I was expecting it to be rough going - but it was surprisingly engaging. Story after story of conquest and infighting among imperial
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very proud of myself for slogging on through this! Fascinating in spots, infuriating in spots (he really hates Jews, yo. And plenty of others!) After reading, the words you will try to work into every conversation (because he uses them every other page or so): “servile” (actually very currently useful), “donative”, and “signalize.”
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Plenty of sex and explosions. Perfect for a Michael Bay adaptation. Also occasionally casually sexist and racist but rather charmingly so.
Doina Condrea
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This book is incredibly interesting, the subject fascinates me...however, I need to read this as an actual physical book, not the iBook mistake!!
Jeffrey Covey
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a book! Historians must admire the suspicion and rigor of his mind, ironists delight in the keenness of his wit, and anyone who's tried to put one word after another despair at the eloquence of his pen. I'm 21 hours into the 126-hour audiobook and still eager for more.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Volume I

It is a testament to the breadth of Gibbon's passion that his Decline and Fall, widely regarded as a literary monument, on reading appears merely to expatiate on some salient thoughts. The charm of Gibbon resides in his unashamed partiality, notwithstanding his wise words on the responsibility of historians to extract truth from exaggeration and understatement alike.

Gibbon, in the mould of his beloved Tacitus, is not for the faint-hearted, nor for the politically correct, religiously
Mar 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Laurel Kane
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A magnificent work of history. This volume extends from the reign of Augustus to that of Constantine. The last two chapters cover the rise of Christianity, although Gibbon considers this new religion "superstition."

Far more bloody than any persecution of the Christians were the ends of the emperors and the fights to replace a decapitated Caesar with a new one. Several Caesars survived only months (one only weeks).

Does the decline of the Roman Empire imply anything for the American century of
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jeremy Egerer
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to drink good wine or enjoy a beautiful woman or have a clean house or keep in good shape or have a good attitude at work or get a good sleep or read Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But you ought to.
Kyle Ackerman
May 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately I could not get through this book. The writer is all over the place. He just keep losing my interest. I think Roman history is very interesting but not when it is being told by this author.
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I cannot vouch for its historical accuracy, and it neatly displays the full catalogue of the prejudices of its time, but the writing is always entertaining.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Listening to the librivox audio recording of the book. Great stuff..sometimes hard to understand because of the speaker`s accents ;-)
But great fun so far!
Wyatt Kaldenberg
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For all his flaws, Gibbon remains the stick by which to measure history writers. Glorious, foibles and all.
Richard Bartholomew
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
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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
“... as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.” 23 likes
“If we contrast the rapid progress of this mischievous discovery [of gunpowder] with the slow and laborious advances of reason, science, and the arts of peace, a philosopher, according to his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mankind" (Chapter 65,p. 68)” 10 likes
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