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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How the mighty fell
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...
Published on 5 Jan 2006 by Sally-Anne

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3.0 out of 5 stars Review
Thought I'd read this after reading I Claudius as I loved book however couldn't get into this but I wouldn't let that put you off I may have another go at reading this when I have a few weeks to spare and at price paid a bargain
Published 3 months ago by dg


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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How the mighty fell, 5 Jan 2006
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (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. I would not attempt the whole, original, unabridged version because it's a huge time investment and the "language barrier" would cause frustration.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is certainly a fantastic achievement and I would recommend it to any determined and scholarly person who is deeply interested in this area of history. However, for interested non-students (like me) I would suggest you do what I'm about to do, that is, look for something similar written in more accessible language - what is usually referred to these days as "Plain English".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read, 21 July 2011
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest English Writers, 12 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (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.

For me, the golden age begins with Dryden and Congreve, and continues into the 18th century with Pope, Swift and Addison. It holds up until nearly the end of that century, after when there is a gentle decline towards the murkier style of the Victorians.

The strengths of the Augustans were clarity and balance in their writing, and in their corresponding regard for truth and a dislike of enthusiasm. In Gibbon, these virtues are carried about as far as they can go. Granted, his style is often rather feline. Granted, he generally insinuates his theological views where he dares not assert them. Granted, his footnotes are littered with the most comic vanity that any historian ever displayed; and his readers are always aware of M. Pomme de Terre wandering up and down his study in his club wig and coat, composing those matchless sentences, and every so often glancing lovingly up at the portrait of himself hung just above the fireplace. But what matchless sentences they are, and how devastating they can be in the cause of enlightenment and humanity.

Take, for example, a passage from one of the later and so less frequented chapters - No 51. The Arabs are said to have burned the Alexandrian Library on their conquest of Egypt - claiming that either its contents agreed with The Koran, and so were superfluous, or they contradicted it, in which case they were blasphemous. Gibbon doubts the testimony of the first historian to have mentioned the event. He continues in his smoothest and most reasonable manner:

"The rigid sentence of Omar is repugnant to the sound and orthodox precept of the Mahometan casuists; they expressly declare, that the religious books of the Jews and Christians, which are acquired by the right of war, should never be committed to the flames; and that the works of profane science, historians or poets, physicians or philosophers, may be lawfully applied to the use of the faithful. A more destructive zeal may perhaps be attributed to the first successors of Mahomet; yet in this instance, the conflagration would have speedily expired in the deficiency of materials. I should not recapitulate the disasters of the Alexandrian library, the involuntary flame that was kindled by Caesar in his own defence, or the mischievous bigotry of the Christians, who studied to destroy the monuments of idolatry. But if we gradually descend from the age of the Antonines to that of Theodosius, we shall learn from a chain of contemporary witnesses, that the royal palace and the temple of Serapis no longer contained the four, or the seven, hundred thousand volumes, which had been assembled by the curiosity and magnificence of the Ptolemies."

Then comes the flash of steel:

"Perhaps the church and seat of the patriarchs might be enriched with a repository of books; but if the ponderous mass of Arian and Monophysite controversy were indeed consumed in the public baths, a philosopher may allow, with a smile, that it was ultimately devoted to the benefit of mankind."

I first read this passage in 1987, lying on my bed at about three in the morning. I nearly cried with laughter then, and I still laugh as I transcribe the sentence. One needs to know about the disputes over the nature of Christ that disgrace the Church between the reigns of Constantine and the second Justinian, to appreciate the full weight of Gibbon's scorn; but the contrast between "library" and "repository of books", between "patriarch" and "philosopher", and the descent of time from the Antonines to Theodosius, tells us all that needs to be known of what he thought about Christianity.

As said, this was not my first meeting with Gibbon. I was twelve when I found him in the abridgement by D.M. Low. As an undergraduate, I made use of him in the J.B. Bury edition up till the reign of Heraclius and the Arab conquests. In my late twenties, I went through him again in a desultory manner, skipping chapters that did not interest me. But it was only last year that I read him in the full and proper order, from the military resources of the Antonines to the revival of Rome under the Renaissance Popes - one and a half million words of the only historical work in English still to be in print and read and appreciated after two centuries. I commend him to the readers of Free Life. Indeed, I may even review him in full for the next issue. I do not agree entirely with his judgement on Christianity or on the Byzantine Empire; and I am at work on a long article about the demographic and political consequences of the Great Plague of 542, the extent of which Gibbon describes without being able to appreciate.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abridged Version, 3 Oct 2010
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, 9 Mar 2012
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Roman Empire explained, 28 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
A classic of history literature about the Roman Empire and its decline. Easy reading dispite the size. It's like new.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, 9 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
This is a great book for anyone who is into tis era. It can be read like a novel and both my son and myself did this or it can be dipped into as needed. The only reason for not giving it five stars is that not all the chapters are in it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Review, 10 July 2014
This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
Thought I'd read this after reading I Claudius as I loved book however couldn't get into this but I wouldn't let that put you off I may have another go at reading this when I have a few weeks to spare and at price paid a bargain
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5.0 out of 5 stars Evaluation, 21 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
I enjoy the book by Edward Gibbon very much. It is a literary masterpiece. Intellectually challenging und enlightening. That it was written two centuries ago, makes it the more interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars cheap alternative to very expensive Everyman editions, 26 April 2013
By 
P. Geeroms "PJ" (Vlaanderen) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
If your looking to get into Mr. Gibbons almost 250 year old epic, but don't like to pay for the magnificent albeit very expensive Everyman edition then this is your book!

It's an abridged version with the most important chapters given in full text and the other remaining ones in short one page descriptions.

I'm saving up for the full volumes as we speak, but this is great and very cheap Gibbon for the price.
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