‘Instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long’
Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire compresses thirteen turbulent centuries into an epic narrative shot through with insight, irony and incisive character analysis. Sceptical about Christianity, sympathetic to the barbarian invaders and the Byzantine Empire, constantly aware of how political leaders often achieve the exact opposite of what they intend, Gibbon was both alert to the broad pattern of events and significant revealing details. The first of its six volumes, published in 1776, was attacked for its enlightened views on politics, sexuality and religion, yet it was an immediate bestseller and widely acclaimed for the elegance of its prose. Gripping, powerfully intelligent and wonderfully entertaining, it is among the greatest works of history in the English language and a literary masterpiece of its age.
This abridgement is based on David Womersley’s definitive three-volume Penguin Classics edition of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Complete chapters from each volume, linked by extended bridging passages, vividly capture the style, argument and structure of the whole work.