REVIEW Ç The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon Õ 9 REVIEW

REVIEW Ç The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire á The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is Edward Gibbon's magnum opus written and published over a 13 year period beginning in 1776 It not only chronicles the events of the downfall starting with the end of the rule of Marcus AureliusCe upon using primary sources for his research Many scholars today still use his highly regarded work as reference In this first of seven volumes readers will find Chapter 1 The Extent of the Empire in the Age of the Antonines through Chapter 14 Six Emperors at the Same Time Reunion of the Empire which cover the Age of the Antonines; the rule and murder of Commodus; the sale of the Empire to Didius Julianus; the rules of Severus Caracalla Alexander Severus Maximin Decius Gallus AEmilianus Valerian Gallienus Claudius Tacitus. Every Empire eventually falls Given the largest modern Empire is the United States it might behoove Americans to read thisThe 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 people but taking their religion doesn't go over wellAnother big problem was the extensive use of mercenaries in the Roman Army This is an issue for the United States as we rely and much than most people know on contractors for our dirty workI had to peruse the entire series once for my next book Time Patrol The Ides of March as I cover the day Caesar was assassinated One thing to consider is that despite the legendary warning about the Ides perhaps Caesar didn't really care at that point While most thought he had epilepsy I just read a report from two doctors who've studied all the historical writings about his affliction and they feel he was actually having mini strokes But until we invent time travel we'll never know And it we invent time travel Of course if we do invent time travel then it exists now My brain is starting to hurt Back to writing about time travel

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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is Edward Gibbon's magnum opus written and published over a 13 year period beginning in 1776 It not only chronicles the events of the downfall starting with the end of the rule of Marcus Aurelius but proposes a theory as to why Rome collapsed the populace Gibbon theorizes lost its moral fortitude its militaristic will and its sense of civic duty History is considered a classic in world literature and Gibbon is sometimes called the first modern historian for his insisten. 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 Western intellectual life feeds into Dante so all Western prose feeds into Gibbon Tacitus' compression Swift's clarity Voltaire's irony and doubtless plenty of people I've never read too Here's a sentence or less chosen at random The general respect with which these deputies were received and the zeal of Italy and the provinces in favour of the senate sufficiently prove that the subjects of Maximin were reduced to that uncommon distress in which the body of the people has to fear from oppression than from resistance This single thought that the conditions of the early clauses prove that the people were so oppressed that revolution became inevitable would take a paragraph of clauseless muddy Hemingwayed nouns Add to this Gibbon's possession of most seventeenth century virtues clarity unwillingness to hide his contradictory thoughts judgments made according to morality rather than form and his work becomes all the remarkable Of course he also has the greatest seventeenth century vices which he has to have if he's going to display his contradictory thoughts He's a supreme enlightenment thinker obsessed with natural laws hence he should be universalist who's also strangely bigoted The barbarians are uncultured the Romans effeminate the Byzantines weak and so on The Jews who bizarrely insist on worshiping only their own national God are villains as are the Christians who take over this insistence on the unity of the deity David Womersley's introduction is excellent too; it makes very clear the contradictions between Gibbon's overarching argument supposedly that Christianity is the 'cause' of the DF and what he actually writes He's fascinated by the accidents of history Cleopatra's nose and he lays out in great detail the many many social trends that would eventually lead to the fall of the West Although the book is organized as if Christianity is the primary cause the first volume ends with two chapters on the new religion; the second begins with Constantine Gibbon himself must have recognized that his book had become something much than another philosophe like attack on early modern religion Of course he also gets in some great jabs at ancient Christianity Also tied to his general plan every section ends with a lament for the continuing decline of the empire even as the empire stubbornly continues to exist This has surely shaped Western attitudes to Rome for the worse Constantinople stood into the fifteenth century; Constantinople was Roman But too many writers particularly conservatives like to say that Rome fell due to x which is exactly what Obama is giving us That's fatuous Rome lasted for two thousand years would you say the United States fell because the capital was moved from D C to Portland and then DC was taken by Mexico No you would not But if there's a real flaw to the work it's simply that Gibbon couldn't help attacking ancient historians particularly ecclesiastical historians They deserve attack and if I'd spent dozens of years reading about so and so's miracles and the genius of such and such I'd be on the offensive as well But only rarely does this make for good reading He also tends towards moralizing generalities outside of the major figures Julian Constantine etc he too often writes that this usurper was bad without explaining how or why That might be a problem with his sources of course but again a little boring I don't imagine many people will get through the six volumes of this work There's too much of everything so whatever you dislike you'll find it here Personally I was rarely riveted by his explanations of battles and wars So and so set up by the mountains; so and so in the valley I'm asleep Others will be tortured by his discussions of early Christian heresies On the other hand if you can get into Game of Thrones you can get into this It's the original fantasy novel So in sum it's not perfect What a damning indictment

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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireProbus Carus Diocletian Maximinus Thrax Gordian I Gordian II Pupienus Balbinus and Gordian III; the current state of Persia; and the current state of Germany English parliamentarian and historian EDWARD GIBBON 1737 1794 attended Magdelan College Oxford for 14 months before his father sent him to Lausanne Switzerland where he continued his education He published Essai sur l'Etude de la Litterature 1761 and other autobiographical works including Memoire Justificatif pour servir de Reponse a l'Expose etc de la Cour de France 17. It’s Gibbon It’s definitive It’s a titan of scholarship As a reader I took a while to get into that baroue 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