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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Modern Library Classics) Modern Library Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375758119
ISBN-10: 0375758119
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Gibbon] stood on the summit of the Renaissance achievement and looked back over the waste of history to ancient Rome, as from one mountain top to another.”—Christopher Dawson

From the Inside Flap

Gibbon's masterpiece, which narrates the history of the Roman Empire from the second century a.d. to its collapse in the west in the fifth century and in the east in the fifteenth century, is widely considered the greatest work of history ever written. This abridgment retains the full scope of the original, but in a compass equivalent to a long novel. Casual readers now have access to the full sweep of Gibbon's narrative, while instructors and students have a volume that can be read in a single term. This unique edition emphasizes elements ignored in all other abridgments--in particular the role of religion in the empire and the rise of Islam.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1312 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library edition (August 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758119
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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How did Gibbon do it?! This book is so good and so rich on so many levels, and the centuries have not made it any less a terrific read than it must have been when first published. There are so many reasons to read it -- I'll choose one. If you want to understand human nature in something approaching all it's depth and complexity, you can do no better than to read Gibbon's tales of what happens when a long succession of very different characters attain total dominion over the entire civilized world. The incredible variety of comedy, calamity and infamy is unmatched even in Greek Myths or the Bible, and to my mind, at least, the story telling is better.
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Format: Paperback
It's a literary work of art. Gibbon's style of narration is breathtaking. On every page he comes out as the true scholar that he really is. His choice of words and his style of sentence construction is consummate on every level.

Other than that, the whole account is Gibbon's perspective of the Roman Empire on a strict level. While most will concur with him on the insanity of the likes of say, Caligula, Nero; or the politically cunning inclinations of Augustus, his treatment of Christianity is open to debate. Gibbon places Christianity at the top in his list of the factors that could possibly have accelerated the empire towards decadence and its ultimate disintegration. Though this can be true on some accounts, he offers no clear explanation on how the Eastern empire could have carried on for more centuries with the religion at its very centre. It's an unwritten edict that the Byzantines were more passionate about Jesus than Western christendom.

Also, in some pages, Gibbon argues that the Roman emperors, say Marcus Aurelius for example, never really would have had an inclination towards persecuting christians on grounds of political gains. For Gibbon argues that the political elite of Rome were well aware of the fact that some kind of religion maintained social order. But his arguments are at considerable, if not complete, loggerheads with the several accounts from other historians that Rome continued to persecute Christianity until Constantine.

Persecution of Christianity might necessarily not have completely been primary disdain for the christian concept which totally conflicts with the Roman edicts of deifying dead emperors. Christianity came in handy for rogue emperors to have this sect of minorities scapegoated for their own excesses (remember Nero's fire?
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The three-star review reflects that it's an abridged edition -- not a deal-breaker, since few lose sleep over missing passages when a book is well over 1200 pages. But what really rankles is the lack of an index. I don't have any other edition to compare this to, but publishing a 1200+ page history book WITHOUT an index is a form of sadism.
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Format: Paperback
I have a question that I think you might be able to help me with: should we send this book into space? You know, download it into a golden thumb drive--or perhaps seal a nice leather-bound set in a container--strap it to a rocket, and let it float like the Voyager space probe for all of time. There are weighty reasons for answering in either the positive or negative. Let us examine them.

On the one hand, we have every abominable act, every imaginable vice, every imprudent lunacy able to be committed by man here recorded. After all, this was written by a man who considered history "little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Imagine an alien race picking up the capsule and deciphering our language. Imagine the looks on their faces (if they have faces) when they hear of the grotesque bunch of bipeds on the other side of the galaxy who do nothing but rape, pillage, and kill each other. Imagine this happens after our sun explodes or we blow ourselves up; this is the last utterance of an extinguished species. Would we want it to be this? Why not Don Quixote or the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

On the other hand, intimately connected with this narrative of wickedness and stupidity, inextricably intertwined in the fabric of the narrative, is the genius of its author. Who could read a single page of this great book and not be humbled by the quality of his thought, the care of his method, the power of his prose? If ever there was a document that singlehandedly redeems all of the idiocy our race insistently indulges in, it's this book. At least the aliens would know that one of us had a good head on our shoulders.

It is impossible to discuss this work without its author.
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At long last I have tackled one of the great achievements of the English language, and I am glad that I dedicated the time and effort to do so. I have no regrets about investing in the unabridged version, anymore than I would want to watch a two-hour TV program that hacks and condenses and combines the first two Godfather movies into a bowdlerized shell of its former self. Some works must be enjoyed in their entirety, as they were originally created, and this is one of them. Not that I should be comparing one of the crowning achievements of Western culture to a few hours of celluloid produced in Hollywood - that's like comparing Mozart to say, the Beatles - but it was just to make a point. Read the unabridged version, or don't read it all. (And BTW, no knock on the Beatles, who were great, but comparing them to Mozart? I don't think so...)

I suppose the first thing I should point out to potential buyers is to make sure that you buy the complete set of books. Gibbon's magnum opus has been published in so many different ways - I've seen the unabridged version in anywhere from three to seven volumes - that you need to be careful. This version has all of Gibbon's footnotes, which serve two purposes. First - you can get additional insight (and sometimes witty/snarky asides) to the narrative, and second - you get to see just how authoritative and reputable a source Gibbon is - he completely and fully researched all available writings and histories - ancient, medieval, and contemporary - in preparing his text. This work is one of the gold standard sources for historical information - if Gibbon reports an incident or fact in this work - you can bet good money that it is probably true.

The language is majestic, the style fluid and articulate.
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