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Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Modern Library) Paperback – 1 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1312 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library Inc; New edition edition (1 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758119
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 4.6 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 846,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Phil Ruse on 11 Aug 2004
Format: Paperback
I thought I'd wait until I'd finished reading this edition before writing a review, but after reading around 2/3rd's of the book I'm exasperated at just how much appears to have been omitted already. As noted in a previous review the reasons are noted in the foreword; but this can't excuse an almost savage excision of the military conflicts that occurred during this history. Indeed, entire civil wars are reduced to an editorial note before proceeding on to the next detail of internal conflict within the Church.
That's not to say I don't find such details interesting. It's just that in attempting to address a previous imbalance in favour of military detail, this edition has swung so far the other way you are left feeling there are gaping holes in this particular history.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mr. RCS Young on 2 Aug 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can heartily endorse other reviews about how well Gibbon writes and how accessible this book is despite being 1200 pages of 18th century prose.
My main gripe and the reason for the lack of stars is that this version is SO heavily abridged. I picked up this book in the hope of learning not just political history but military history. All details of all battles that Gibbon apparently detailed so painstakingly have been removed. There are numerous other abridgments that have been made (footnotes and gorgraphic details) that I'm sure also speed up the prose but if you are looking for the definitive Gibbon you will not find it here.
I understand the reasons for it as explained in the foreword but the detail that has been removed needs to be highlighted in Amazon's own review because this book despite it's quality as a historical political document has been a disappointment to me.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book I have always wanted to read but never found the time. Now I do and I have bought it. It has not disappointed either. I am thoroughly enjoying this classic and will re- read in the years to come.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Bettter Than Classic! Better than Great!! 10 Oct 2005
By MARK DIMASSIMO - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Gibbon's Magnum Opus 12 May 2007
By The madcap laughs - Published on
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?) or to appease the minds of a disgruntled majority which preferred to suspect them.

Finally, his stand that the "whole" empire prospered and preferred Roman rule in the age of the five good emperors is open to debate. Pax Romana might have worked for the Italian mainland at best, but not necessarily in provinces even as close as, say, Gaul.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Modern Library Edition: Unabridged & No Index 18 Jan 2009
By Jason Joseph-Holmes - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Classic That Is Worth the Time and Effort 11 Nov 2009
By Guy the Gorilla - Published on
Format: Paperback
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. I think you need to have some prior knowledge of Roman and medieval history before delving into this modest little tome, and it is useful to have another good history book handy to check dates, as Gibbon is not good about telling you what year or years he is discussing as he proceeds through chapters that, at times, span centuries. Perhaps, in his day, people were more educated, and it was okay for him to assume that his reader would know what time frame he was talking about when he mentioned an obscure Greek Emperor. For my part, I kept copies of Volumes III and IV of Will Durant's "Story of Civilization" handy as I worked my way through the different volumes (over the course of nearly a year), and that helped me better grasp the material. I think what sets this book apart is the obvious wisdom and intelligence that is communicated "between the lines" and which shines through virtually every page. Gibbon seems to patiently explain why the events he describes were still relevant in his day, when the British Empire was approaching its zenith; and that of course is why the book remains relevant today - as the American "Empire" perhaps begins its inevitable decline, like all great powers must do, sooner or later.

The best way I can summarize how impressed I was with this work is to say that I may well have to read it again someday before I die - this book is that extraordinary, and that worth the time invested. Read and ponder this book, and you will begin to understand history like never before.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One for NASA 26 Aug 2013
By Rlotz - Published on
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. In perusing The Decline and Fall we find innumerable facets of Gibbon: the philosopher, the poet, the politician, the theologian, the strategist, the humanist, the public servant, the yellow journalist, the sage, (and the historian). But what we find, most of all, is Gibbon the lover of life. No man has ever loved more the variegated tapestry of human affairs--from the daily ritual of a serf to the greatest battles ever waged, from the planning of a palace to the marital squabbles of a prince. He will cast a glance at events large and small, weigh the facts with a disinterested hand, and with a knowing nod and amiable wink he will describe them in his inimitable prose. Gibbon views life like well-aged wine; he will take it in sips and draughts, savoring every strain in the flavor--from the musky, rotten odor to the sweet, honeyed tinge--and then discuss it with you at length. He is a connoisseur of life, won't you join him for a drink?
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