History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Volume 4

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This developed the natural scholar in Gibbon at an early age. Ever curious, Gibbon challenged the Anglican clergymen who were his tutors as to the true faith. His inclination was towards the Roman Catholic faith, and after consultation with a Roman Catholic student, he converted to Catholicism. It was a rash decision, for by English law, Roman Catholics were excluded from public office and ostracised from many rights available to their Anglo-Catholic brethren.

Gibbon studied there under the Calvinist minister Daniel Pavilliard for nearly five years — During this time he renounced his conversion, became fluent in French and Latin, had a meeting with Voltaire, and for the one and only time in his life, fell in love, with a beautiful and highly intelligent girl, Suzanne Curchod.


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Reflecting on this in his Memoirs , Gibbon wrote: With the advent of the Seven Years War in , Gibbon dutifully joined, with his father, the local militia, which was assembled in response to the possibility of a French invasion. He does not seem to have shone as an officer. At the end of his term of service he embarked on a grand tour of Europe, an obligatory experience for educated young men in the 18th century.

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Arriving in Rome early in October , he was overwhelmed by its magnificence and antiquities, and as he said in his memoirs it was here he first began to conceive his magnum opus , but it would be nine years before he began to write it. It was an instant success and quickly ran into three editions. Resorting to his true vocation, he moved back to Lausanne and shared accommodation with an old student friend, George Deyverdun, and completed the last three volumes of his Decline and Fall , which were all published in , to coincide with his 51st birthday.

In , when the effects of the French Revolution began to intrude on his Swiss idyll, he returned to England. The weakest half, but still amazing. There was some drudgery with the minor, post Constantine emperors. Those sections alone are why I rated the second half 5 stars and not 4. Anyway, a fantastic read. Oct 12, Stuart Dean rated it really liked it. Rome is rarely mentioned until the latter part of the 6th book.

Rome is just a shadow until Constantine comes to power and the beginnings of the Popes legitimizing emperors with the crown gives it a newfound power.

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Until the Papal States come into being the most important thing to happen I Rome is when it is besieged and taken four times More properly called The Decline and Fall of the Byzantine Empire. Until the Papal States come into being the most important thing to happen I Rome is when it is besieged and taken four times in seven years. The first book follows the rise of Constantinople and its height under Justinian and his unloved general Belisarius.

Interesting as Byzantine politics gives itself to the word for which needlessly complicated is now attached. Readers of the first 3 books can easily follow Constantinople as it it devolves in the same manner that the Roman Empire fell. We move on to the rise of the Frankish Empire and quickly move into the life of Mohammed and the rise of the Moslem Empire. It conquers the Middle East, overruns North Africa, conquers Spain, and then collapses under internecine warfare soon after the death of the Prophet.

The Crusades are explored in depth and only through internal European struggles does the Middle East remain under Muslim control. The original Muslims fall beneath the Turks, and the Ottoman Empire holds sway. The intervention of Genghis Khan and later Tamerlane rock the Ottomans, but like Mohammed these forces do not hold control long past the death of their founders. Eventually the Ottomans capture Constantinople, and the Byzantine Empire comes to an end.

Though still extant during the life of Gibbons, he recognizes the same problems that had led to the collapse of Rome. The rise of the Papal States finally bring us back to Rome. You won't find a more erudite and well researched work of history of any kind. This is the Bible of historical research.

by Edward Gibbon

Interesting both for its subject matter and its writing, its well worth the months it might take to traverse its pages. It's like reading War and Peace 4 or 5 times. If you can finish it you can brag to your friends about how literate you are. Nov 07, Peter rated it really liked it Shelves: I picked up volumes in one of those little cases at a steep discount when Borders went out of business.

I'm a lot more used to reading texts in old vernaculars since , so I think I got more out of the second half.


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The first half dealt mainly with the fall of the western empire. The second deals with a sprawling range of things, but the main connecting thread is the Byzantine Empire, which like a lot of nerds I have a childhood affection for.

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You don't really read historians like Gibbon fo I picked up volumes in one of those little cases at a steep discount when Borders went out of business. You don't really read historians like Gibbon for the facts- there's many many other books for that, with better research, efforts to be more objective and culturally sensible, weren't written two hundred years ago, etc.

So what do you read Gibbon for?

The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 4, Part 1 (Audiobook)

Well, I mainly read it as something to read while on hold at work I'm on hold a lot at work that you can get online. But obviously there's more to it than that. For one thing, for better or for worse, Gibbon was hugely influential not just on history, but on literature as well, from his characterizations and prose style to writers especially scifi writers straight up ripping off Gibbon's descriptions of historical events as plots.

I enjoy Gibbon's sentence-level writing more than I do that of most historians. I actually think a fair number of his word choices are better than their modern equivalents- like "insensible" for "gradual-" it makes sense, the process goes on without you sensing it.

But of course, I'm in the minority that likes to have to think about the prose I'm reading, as long as it's not too laborious, as opposed to having the prose stand out of the way. Different strokes, as they say. The farther you get from the sentences, the more the structure doesn't look that great -- a lot of poorly-differentiated tribes and leaders doing their respective things -- but sometimes Gibbon makes those sing, too, especially his descriptions of the Byzantine-Sassanid wars and the early Lombards. Historiographically, Gibbon stands at a turning point, but not one in which he fully partook.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4-6: Volumes 4, 5, and 6

He was stuck between the two German words for history- "historie," history as a set of interchangeable chronicles saying more or less the same stuff, and "geschichte," history as the progressive unfolding of comprehensible processes, generally with some kind of meaningful endpoint- the ideal state, the abolition of class society, what have you.

The Decline and Fall is an Enlightenment-era text that looks at the vanity of a geschichte that wasn't- if Rome really was the height of civilization a problematic assumption, I know , then what sort of historical purpose was served by its fall, and the extended "dark ages" of irrationality and fecklessness his view that followed in its former domains?

This is especially fraught for Enlightenment figures like Gibbon, who did not see the rise of Christianity as a recompense for the fall of Rome to say the least , and who had at least an inkling that things were getting better -- or at least his country was getting powerful enough to have a pretense towards universalizing empire again.

So you have this sort of mishmash. Sometimes in Gibbon you see the kind of universalized and law-generating tendency we're used to seeing from more confident 19th and 20th century history, typically centered around republican theorizing about liberty, constitutions, how they're maintained or not, as well as Enlightenment-era stuff about the progress of "rational" or "humane" religion, etc. It hints towards the idea that there is some general system through which some of the exigencies of history could be mastered. Sometimes it's both- one thing I've been thinking a lot about recently is how seriously manners and affect were taken as historical topics, and how that wasn't just a matter of a silly thing weird old people care about.

In a pre-industrial age, that stuff would seem to be a real distinguishing factor between cultures and a contributor to the power and reach of the ruling elite of a given power. Methodologically, Gibbon also stands between old and new- relying mostly on chronicles collected by other scholars, but scrutinizing them critically and also attempting to use linguistic and other more subtle kinds of evidence.

Also, for people with boring temp jobs. Jun 11, sologdin rated it really liked it Shelves: Apr 19, Shawn Ryan Rosa rated it it was amazing.

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 4

A true masterpiece written by the famous British historian. May 08, Leonard Singer added it. Too dense for me. Aug 15, Andy Molino rated it it was amazing. This is worth reading just for the sheer scope. I enjoy that all his references are in the original languages. The man was some kind of savant. Aug 08, Razi rated it it was amazing. What will I do with the rest of my life? Greg Dawson rated it it was amazing Nov 16, Aarron rated it really liked it Mar 22, Lindel rated it really liked it May 18, Dennis Zachman rated it really liked it Oct 05, Edgar rated it it was amazing Sep 17, Andrew Davis rated it it was amazing Mar 29, Brad rated it really liked it May 29, Donnie rated it really liked it Mar 06, Colin Flanigan rated it it was amazing Aug 02, Shawn Steele rated it really liked it Dec 28,