Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Tea room > History of The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire

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message 1: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Has anyone else read this? I started 2014 with the idea that I was going to get through all seven volumes by the end of the year and I've not yet finished volume 2 :( It is fascinating, and beautifully written but I can't seem to keep track of all the names and places, so I have to keep stopping to look things up. Sometimes either before or after reading a chapter I'll listen to the librevox recordings but it is still hard to remember who is who. I downloaded a TimeMap ipad app about the Roman Empire and it sort of helps, but not enough. Someone suggested that writing down names as I come across them can help with remembering, but there are just so many. Maybe I should have started with a childrens book about the Roman Empire or played some online games or watched more movies or something?

Any tips from anyone who has read this? Any general tips for keeping this stuff straight? I really love the books and the authors writing style. It is just wonderful knowledge to have and surprisingly pleasant to read (maybe too pleasant, I let my mind drift off..) despite the sordid events described.


message 2: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Perhaps some emotional engagement is needed for memory to work? Gibbon's style isn't emotionally tiring, it is very elegant. I can't imagine reading seven volumes of Tolstoy's ranting and railings about Great Men, it would be exhausting, but I'd probably remember more of it.

Maybe I'll just have to buckle down and approach it old school style with flashcards and rote memorization.


message 3: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 44 comments I read the first three volumes, a couple of years ago and found it to be a litany of massacres, love of arms and rapine, heights of human folly. Read at your own risk though it was recommended to me as required reading for gaining higher education. After volume three I thought I would take a break from it, maybe another year or two, before I go back to it.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Theresa wrote: "Has anyone else read this? I started 2014 with the idea that I was going to get through all seven volumes by the end of the year and I've not yet finished volume 2 :( It is fascinating, and bea..."

I have wanted to tackle it for many years. I have dipped into it, but no more than that. I have even considered setting up a Goodreads group just read it, but haven't every found a moment when both inspiration and time came together. But maybe some day. And if enough people were to somehow say "let's do it," that might be the time.


Jeremy C. Brown | 163 comments If be game for it!


message 6: by Charles (new)

Charles I've read it three times, though I find the later volumes not so interesting and after the first time skipped around a bit. My first copy was in two volumes, squashed down into tiny type on bible paper. I can't think how I managed it. The salient points are I think these:

First, it is unwise to read Gibbon as history. There has been far too much scholarship since his day to trust his recitation of the facts.

Second, that said, his remarks on and analysis of the larger issues, such as his famous attack on Christianity and its role in Roman history, are still well worth study.

Third, the Gibbonian style, the epitome of the balanced Classical rhetoric probably never equaled since.

Familiarity with this book does enrich one's knowledge of cultural and literary history, but I think minute attention is not very profitable. If one forgets from time to time who Appollonius Graecus Magnus was and what was the importance of his sister's role in the assassination of... etc. probably matters little.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Charles wrote: "I've read it three times, though I find the later volumes not so interesting and after the first time skipped around a bit. My first copy was in two volumes, squashed down into tiny type on bible p..."

Nice comment.


message 8: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Patrice wrote: "Have you tried the Great Courses cd's? "
I didn't know about them. I did find a podcast yesterday -The History of Rome. It is a little more conversational.

Galicius wrote: "I read the first three volumes, a couple of years ago and found it to be a litany of massacres, love of arms and rapine, heights of human folly. Read at your own risk though it was recommended to ..."

It is indeed a litany of massqacres, etc. Beautiful prose nevertheless.

Everyman wrote: And if enough people were to somehow say "let's do it," that might be the time. ..."

count me in!


Charles wrote: "I've read it three times, though I find the later volumes not so interesting and after the first time skipped around a bit. My first copy was in two volumes, squashed down into tiny type on bible p..."

Three times? wow! And excellent advice, thanks. Good to know not to trust the facts too much.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Theresa wrote: "And excellent advice, thanks. Good to know not to trust the facts too much. "

Yes, I've read elsewhere that Charles is right, that Gibbon did very good research for his time, but there's been a lot of research since then that calls into doubt (or even directly contradicts) some of his facts. But his general observations are, I understand, still generally trenchant, and his writing is certainly some of the best ever done in the English language.


message 10: by Paula (new)

Paula (paula-j) | 129 comments Jeremy C. wrote: "If be game for it!"

Me too!


message 11: by Brendan (new)

Brendan (sharikov) | 4 comments It's a big undertaking but well worth it. Anyone interested in politics will find plenty of echoes in modern times. There are abridgements but it's something to do properly if you're going to do it at all.

Ford Madox Ford said, if I remember rightly, that no one who had not read it could claim to be a complete Englishman, or indeed any kind of Englishman, or maybe not even a complete man...


message 12: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments +1 especially if it was spread out over a longer period, and perhaps interspersed with additional reading material.


message 13: by Charles (new)

Charles Cass wrote: "+1 especially if it was spread out over a longer period, and perhaps interspersed with additional reading material."

Yes, bit it off maybe one or two volumes at a time.


message 14: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments I would join in as well.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We're getting some support. I wouldn't even think about it until after the holidays, but then, maybe. If I did it, what I would do would be to start a new group for it, but spend the first month or so gathering a group and giving people a chance to get the book before actually starting reading it.

And I do think that perhaps interspersing it with some other material might be of value. At least something for the group to consider.


message 16: by Mike (new)

Mike (mcg1) | 73 comments I don't always take part in the group's reads (mostly because I skip around a lot), but I'd take part in Gibbon. I made it through Book One a couple years ago, but the length of the series and the sheer monotony of reading it alone forced me to drop it.

There's got to be some organizing principle behind the read, imo. Maybe break it into the individual emperors, starting at the top.

Begin with Julius Caesar (not really an emperor, but eh) and Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars. Suetonius ends at Domitian, which rolls right into Nerva and the beginning of Gibbon.

Maybe simply divide the readings roughly into Emperor order, give each emperor a topic, and let people bring in outside scholarship (philosophy from the period, other historical texts, etc.) to fill out each historical period? Would be cool to give guys like Elagabalus and Gallienus their own space...

One point of interest that alone deserves its own thread: during the fourteen year period between Caracalla's lone rule and Alexander Severus' assassination, Rome was essentially ruled by two women, Julia Domna and Julia Maesa.


message 17: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I'm in! Let's scorn the pretentious and unreadable Joyce, and luxuriate in Gibbon instead!


message 18: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments Lol. I wonder what Joyce's opinion of Gibbon was


message 19: by Charles (new)

Charles David wrote: "Lol. I wonder what Joyce's opinion of Gibbon was"

Joyce was not a writer to take sides. He made use of everything. Luxuriating is good.


message 20: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments Charles wrote: "David wrote: "Lol. I wonder what Joyce's opinion of Gibbon was"

Joyce was not a writer to take sides. He made use of everything. Luxuriating is good."


I approve most heartily.


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments David wrote: "Lol. I wonder what Joyce's opinion of Gibbon was"

Joyce thought enough of Gibbon to parody his style in the Oxen of the Sun episode. A distinct honor.


message 22: by Charles (new)

Charles ?! I'll have to go back and look at that one.


message 23: by John (new)

John | 42 comments For those of you interested in Roman history here is an excellent podcast covering from the establishment of Rome by Romulus to its "fall" at the exile of Romulus Augustus.

http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/t...


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