The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics)
About the Author
Edward Gibbon (1737-94) studied briefly at Magdalen College, Oxford and at Lausanne, Switzerland before being elected to Parliament in 1774. DECLINE & FALL was written over 12 years and established his reputation as a pre-eminent Classical historian. David Womersley, Official Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Jesus College Oxford, is the author of The Transformation of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (CUP) and edited the 3-volume edition of DECLINE & FALL for Penguin Classics.
This work has often been called, and rightly I believe, the most significant historical text ever written in the English language. Even in abridged form this work is spectacular, but as a whole this treatise on the fall of Rome is nothing short of monumental. In fact, the whole work covers a period of history not only concerning the fall of the Roman Empire, but also some ten centuries after the barbarian invasion of Rome, encompassing not only the events which led to the ruin of the empire but also every significant occurrence concerning the land, people, or allies of the fallen kingdom. Gibbon easily could have ended his history with the fall of the western empire, but instead he chose to continue a work to which he dedicated a great portion of his life, and for which the world will be forever in his debt.
Because the work spans such a large portion of civilized European history, it is fairly easy to abridge. The most important information concerning the decline of the center of civilization can be condensed into one rather large volume, and the rest (concerning Huns, Saracens, and the like) can be summed up in a matter of pages.
The abridgement is concise in many ways, yet severely wanting in others. As is always the case with an abridgement of a great work, much that is valuable has been spliced and omitted. Despite the problems with this abridgement, however, this work is a great joy to read. More importantly, it is packed with pertinent information about the fall of the Roman empire. If one of the ultimate goals of history is to learn from the past, there is much we can learn from Gibbon’s work.
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