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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume II (Modern Library) Hardcover – January 1, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


''I set out upon...Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated both by the story and the style . . . I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all.'' --Winston Churchill

''[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, independent scholar, historian, and author

''Edward Gibbon, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has always been my cynosure . . . Gibbon's mind was surely the most powerful and most lucid one that has appeared so far in the whole distinguished company of Western historians . . . Gibbon [produced] a masterpiece of historical research, construction, and writing which had no superior in its own genre in any literature.'' --Arnold Toynbee, historian and New York Times bestselling author --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Gibbon is a kind of bridge that connects the ancient with the modern ages," noted Thomas Carlyle.  "And how gorgeously does it swing across the gloomy and tumultuous chasm of these barbarous centuries."  Indeed, Gibbon, the supreme historian of the Enlightenment--the illustrious scholar who envisioned history as a branch of literature--seemed almost predestined to write his monumental account of the Roman Empire's terrible self-destruction.  "I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion," wrote the author in the famous epigram that summed up his towering achievement in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
"Gibbon is not merely a master of the pageant and the story; he is also the critic and the historian of the mind," said Virginia Woolf.  "Without his satire, his irreverence, his mixture of sedateness and slyness, of majesty and mobility, and above all that belief in reason which pervades the whole book and gives it unity, an implicit if unspoken message, the Decline and Fall would be the work of another man....We seem as we read him raised above the tumult and the chaos into a clear and rational air."
The second volume contains chapters twenty-seven through forty-eight of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067960149X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679601494
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,595,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Obviously, if you're already here at this page considering Gibbon's great history, the greatest work of its kind in world literature, then you probably know quite a bit about it. What you're wondering is: Is it really worth reading? Will I enjoy reading it? Will it be worth the time I spend reading it? Will I learn anything vital for living my life? Damn good questions! The classics are tough to review, since there are thousands of reviews in all sorts of books and venues, and Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" has received its share of coverage. So here's what you need to know, in my opinion. First, Gibbon is a chore to read. The heavily stylized writing, each sentence constructed like a lovely portico in a magnificent Roman temple, is daunting, even for people who read classics all the time. But give yourself about two weeks of steady reading, and it will begin to click for you, and then you'll really start to love the style if you have any taste or discernment at all. Those elegantly multifarious sentences and paragraphs will begin to read like graceful passages of poetry in an expansive Homeric epic. Second, Gibbon has a mountain of interesting things to say, once you get accustomed to his periodic style. The best way to read this stuff is to read it like a collection of short stories or essays. Don't plunk yourself down one lonely night brave intending to read this overwhelmingly massive tome from start to finish in 6 months or a year. Your ship of Good Hope will soon founder on the rocks of the "Decline's" sheer volume and the unrelenting, exhausting high seriousness of Gibbon.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best edition available of Gibbon's history.

+ It has all of Gibbon's footnotes;
+ it is packaged in an attractive boxed set;
+ it's hard bound in good plain cloth, not snobby leather;
+ it's printed on fine paper;
+ it can be expected to last into the next century;
+ it leaves enough white margin for writing notes;
+ it has an index;
+ it even smells good.


- It gives no translation of the better Latin and Greek passages;
- the black paste used to print the cover's gold-on-black logo flakes off;
- don't forget to order the other half (volumes 4, 5, and 6).

(The only other edition worth considering is the unabridged paperback Penguin edition. It also contains the full notes, and it is cheaper, but it is bulkier since two volumes are bound as one and the paper is of much lower quality, so the that other edition won't last much more than 10 or 20 years...)
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Format: Hardcover
These three volumes constitute the first half of Edward Gibbon's masterpiece. Many would-be readers will find reading Gibbon to be somewhat daunting, but his wit, scholarship, and narrative drive (in these early volumes, anyway) make this book hard to resist.
A word about the text. Everyman's Library reprints the famous J.B. Bury edition (Bury was a famous Irish historian who wrote a well-respected History of Greece), which is close to 100 years old (it dates to 1909). If you're reading Gibbon for a history course on an undergraduate or post-graduate level, you should probably read the more recent David Womerseley edition, which is available in a three-volume Penguin paperback (with, unfortunately, unreadably microscopic type). The hardcover edition was remaindered recently, though, so you might find it on Amazon secondhand.
If you're reading Gibbon for pleasure, however, the Everyman's Library edition is the one to get. The individual volumes are just the right size, and the text is large enough and clear enough to be read easily. The text is complete, which is not always the case (some fancy editions -- the Folio Society's comes to mind -- tend to cut back on the footnotes).
Gibbon makes great bedtime reading. Take him slowly, and don't rush. Keep your eye on the footnotes -- some of the best and snarkiest stuff in Gibbon is discreetly hidden in the footnotes (in one of my favorite early footnotes [in Chapter IV] he mentions the giraffe, "the tallest, the most gentle, and the most useless of the large quadrupeds."). If you decide to push on to the second three volumes (Chapters 39-71), be prepared to be patient, because there are some rough spots. It might take you a while to get through it (my last reading of the entire work took me 26 months), but Gibbon is more than worth the effort. Which is why I've just started reading him again -- for the fifth time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always loved Roman and Byzantine history, so it was only a matter of time before I "knew" I had to read this. Like most of you I had heard a lot of modern authors and historians condemn Gibbon but I found him to be very entertaining and informative. Unlike the genius below who POSTED HER PSAT SCORES, I liked his writing style. It's obvious that the FLOW of history is important to him. I especially enjoyed the chapters in the first book about early Christianity - he actually takes a very harsh view that was very refreshing. His storytelling is superior to all others and this book is rightfully considered among the best works of the English language.
However, Gibbon does have some drawbacks- though it wasn't his fault. The Byzantine Empire, Slavs, Bulgarians, etc all get shafted by Gibbon. It's understandable since at the time this work was written, Byzantine study was not given serious thought. Overall a 5 star book! For Byzantine history I would recommend Procopius, Psellus, or "Romanus Lecapanus and his Reign" by Sir Steven Runcimen. Can't go wrong with those!
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