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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) Paperback – 5 Sep 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853264997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853264993
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 12.7 x 6.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Sally-Anne on 5 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
This abridged edition of Decline and Fall, published by Wordsworth Editions, includes 28 of Gibbon's original 71 chapters. It starts with an introduction by Antony Lentin and Brian Norman of the Open University. Then there's a very small and not very comprehensive glossary - just enough to warn the reader that Gibbon uses certain words differently to the way we normally understand them. As we might expect, language evolves and this book was published over 220 years ago, so the meanings of some words have undergone subtle changes since Gibbon was writing and a modern desk dictionary may not help. There's a chronological list of Roman emperors starting with Augustus in Rome in 27 BC and ending with the demise of Constantine XI in Constantinople in 1453. The list of chapter is set out, very usefully, with a brief description of the contents of each chapter. This is especially helpful as it lists all 71 chapters - and there is no index! In the place of each missing chapter, there is a summary of the chapter. There are 16 very rough maps distributed through the book, showing how boundaries were changing and religious influences were spreading.
I found it a variable read. All of what is included in this volume is fascinating and left me wanting to know more. The variability relates to the ease of reading. Gibbon's writing style is not easy and some of it is vague, obscure and ambiguous. I often struggled to understand his meaning and in some cases had to give up and move on - this despite having the entire Oxford English Dictionary to refer to for clarification. Even so, I've mostly enjoyed the book, which has made a strong impression on me. Gibbon is astute and entertaining and a generator of frequent smiles. This compensated for the more difficult patches.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. S. I. Gabb on 12 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
I opened the first volume of his Decline and Fall one Sunday afternoon in September, and closed the last volume early in December. During this time, almost every moment not reserved to earning a living or to the cares of married life was given up to reading Gibbon. I read him on railway trains and in the gaps between lectures. I read him in bed and once very furtively in the Church of St Mary le Bow. I read him sometimes with enthusiasm and sometimes with helpless envy. I read him sometimes with impatience. But always I read him in the knowledge that he was the greatest of English historians, and one of the four or five greatest of all historians, and easily one of the greatest of all English writers.

I cannot understand the belief, generally shared these past two centuries, that the golden age of English literature lay in the century before the Civil War. I accept the Prayer Book and the English Bible as works of genius that will be appreciated so long as our language survives. I admire the Essays of Francis Bacon and one or two lyrics. But I do not at all regard Shakespeare as a great writer. His plays are ill-organised, his style barbarous where not pedantic. I am astonished how pieces like A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, with their long, ranting monologues, can be thought equal to the greatest products of the Athenian theatre. I grant that Julius Caesar is a fine play - but only because Shakespeare stayed close to his ancient sources for the plot, and wrote in an uncharacteristically plain style. Perhaps I am undeveloped in some critical faculty; and I know that people whose judgements I trust have thought better of him. But I cannot see Shakespeare as a great writer or his age as the greatest in our literature.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David1556 on 21 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book, well researched and written. A must read. It makes the life of the Roman Empire come to life and is easy to understand. A definite recommendation if you are at all interested in the Roman Empire.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
This Wordsworth Edition only has something like twenty eight full chapters, the others to make up the full seventy seven chapters are precis-ed. What Gibbon set out and achieved would be unthinkable today, there would need to be a number of historians to write the different chapters because people specialise on different ages and aspects. Gibbon though, studied a lot and could quote primary sources for his information. What he produced is an amazing work of history, albeit we know that it isn't all accurate by today's advances in history, but that shouldn't detract from what he achieved. This is also a great piece of literature. Admittedly some will find the print in this book too small, and those unfamiliar with reading 18th Century literature may find it archaic in places.

This edition does have maps as well as copious notes and makes for some interesting reading. Who knows, you may read this and then want to read the whole work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dommy on 9 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. It is written in excellent English and thus is inspirational to read. The content is extremely compelling and really fulfils your needs.
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Edward Gibbon does with words what an artist does with a paint brush. One reviewer said that reading Gibbon's prose was like HD TV. This is true. In fact, Winston Churchill copied Edward Gibbons style. He doesn't come close to the master, but it still won him the Nobel Prize in literature.

Gibbon didn't even have a dictionary when he wrote this and he can create images in you mind whilst you read!

Many reviewers keep talking about Gibbon's claim that it was Christianity that weakened the empire. This is only partly true. Gibbon spends much time talking psychology, power politics, general weakening of a decadent people and many other piercing insights into the general idiocy and brutality of the times.
Words can't describe the genius of Edward Gibbon.
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