Review: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This abridged edition (691 pages) concentrates on the centuries from the height of the Roman empire at the beginning of the second century AD to the fall of the empire in the West. It is very dense even without the footnotes (which were left out of this edition). Most of the Roman conquests were achieved under the republic, and the emperors that followed Augustus and his successors maintained the earlier expansions.

Gibbon examines contributing factors to the fall of the empire, including foreign invasions, wars, overextension of the empire, the corruption of Rome, and the growth of Christianity. The last chapter contains selections from the second half of the original work, covering the Byzantine empire, the rise of Islam, and the fall of Constantinople.

Gibbon’s history is famous for its prose and character descriptions. The most enjoyable was probably the account of Commodus (kind of horrifying, but fun to read)! It is in chapter four.

Some highlights:

“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.”
(Chapter 2)

“The desire of perfection became the ruling passion of their soul; and it is well known that, while reason embraces a cold mediocrity, our passions hurry us with rapid violence over the spaces which lie between the most opposite extremes.” (Chapter 9)

[The destruction of Metz and other cities in the German invasion of Gaul:] “This scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man.” (Chapter 15)

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Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  1. I read it from March to July, so 5 months. I got through Herodotus AND Thucydides in about 5 months (well, 5 and a half) so I guess Gibbon was just not that gripping for me. Worth reading, though.

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