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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,…
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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1 {unabridged - Modern…

by Edward Gibbon

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The first volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers the first 26 chapters of the author’s epic historical work. Beginning with the death of Domitian and ending with Theodosius I’s treaty with the Goths and early reign, Gibbon’s spans nearly 300 years of political, social, and religious history on how the great empire of antiquity slowly began to fade from the its greatest heights.

The history of the decline of Rome actually begins by showing the nearly century long period of rule of the “Five Good Emperors” as Gibbon shows the growth of absolute power of the Principate was governed by able and intelligent men. With succession of Commodus Gibbon illustrated what the power of the Principate would do for an individual who was a corrupt and tyrannical ruler. Gibbon’s then examines the political and military fallout of the death of Commodus with the declaration of five emperors in less than a year and rise of the Severan dynasty by conquest. Gibbon reveals underlining causes of era of the ‘Barracks Emperors’ and what historians call, “the Crisis of the Third Century”.

With the ascension of Diocletian and through him the rise of the House of Constantine, Gibbon explores the political and bureaucratic reforms began and developed that would eventually divide the empire in his view. After Constantine’s rise to sole emperor, Gibbon then delves into the early history of Christianity before its adoption by the founder of Constantinople. Beginning with Constantine, the last half of this particular volume as the history and theological developments of Christianity as a central narrative as one of the contributing factors of the decline of the Roman Empire.

Although the description above might make one pause at starting the heavy work, Gibbon’s style and prose make history come alive with every word and gives the reader a sense of the grand scale of historical forces while not overwhelming them. While every reader will have their own verdict on if Gibbon’s arguments and interruptions of history are correct, each avid history lover will find this opening volume of Gibbon’s magnum opus an engaging beginning in examining how one of the foundation stones of Western Civilization came to its political end while passing on its laws and culture to Europe. ( )
1 vote mattries37315 | Dec 21, 2016 |
That I didn't give this book five stars is only indicative of my annoyance at the slow patches, the fact that there was no index (a cursory index is included in the third volume of the Modern Library edition), and my annoyance with myself for not being better read in Roman history than I was at the time that I read this. (And yes, annoyance with myself for not knowing Latin, particularly since it is in that language in which Gibbon salted away the "naughtiest bits.") Gibbon's style is nearly intoxicating at times, but in a rich, mellow way, like that of a fine brandy (Courvoisier, perhaps): definitely not plonk or rotgut to swill, but rather a finely aged spirit to savour. Much of the eight or nine years since I read Vol. I has been spent in gradually (very gradually, I'm afraid...) reading other books on Roman history in an attempt to be somewhat better prepared to enjoy and profit from Vol. II; I hope to be able to read Vol. II next year (2007). We'll see....

And yes, this volume does contain Gibbon's (in)famous Chapter XV ("The Progress of the Christian Religion, and the Sentiments, Manners, Numbers, and Condition of the Primitive Christians;" p. 382-444), which exercised so many of his detractors. ( )
1 vote uvula_fr_b4 | Jun 4, 2006 |
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Gibbon, Edwardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trevor-Roper, HughIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679601481, Hardcover)

"It was Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind," recorded Edward Gibbon with characteristic exactitude.  Over a period of some twenty years, the luminous eighteenth-century historian--a precise, dapper, idiosyncratic little gentleman famous for rapping his snuff-box--devoted his considerable genius to writing an epic chronicle of the entire Roman Empire's decline.  His single flash of inspiration produced what is arguably the greatest historical work in any language--and surely the most magnificent narrative history ever written in English.  "Gibbon is one of those few who hold as high a place in the history of literature as in the roll of great historians," noted Professor J.B. Bury, his most celebrated editor.
This three-volume Modern Library edition of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire--with Gibbon's notes--is edited with a general introduction and index by Bury, along with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin.  The volumes are illustrated with reproductions of etchings by Gian Battista Piranesi.
The first volume contains chapters one through twenty-six of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:57 -0400)

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