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Review: Fall of the Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fall of the Roman Empire

The book “Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon is certainly an epic work. In Poland, the book is a separate item, and at the same time a continuation of another work by Gibbon “Decline of the Roman Empire”. The English author wrote his work as a whole in the 18th century, under the title: “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. It is a monumental work that for years has become one of the most famous books in the world and to this day is a source of information about the history of the Roman Empire, the reasons for its fall, and the history of the Byzantine Empire.

Returning to the Polish edition, we will find the two parts on the market:

  • first: “Decline of the Roman Empire” – focuses on the times from the beginning of the rule of the Antonine dynasty (96 CE), to entering the crisis of the 3rd century and the reign of Emperor Julian I.
  • second: “Fall of the Roman Empire” – focuses on the actual fall of Rome, its regression and the official return of the imperial insignia from Rome to Constantinople in 476 CE

Certainly, when reading this book, one should bear in mind the fact that the author was writing almost 300 years ago, and therefore many facts or conclusions are no longer accurate, which is due to the greater knowledge of archaeologists and new discoveries today. Nevertheless, Gibbon’s conclusions were extremely bold for those times – he boldly criticized Christianity as a contribution or an element accelerating the fall of Rome. For this, among others, his work was included in 1783 in the “Index of Forbidden Books”.

It should be noted, however, that Edward Gibbon’s considerations are based on many aspects. As the factors that clearly influenced the fall of Rome, he lists the mass invasion of barbarian peoples on the Empire and the loss of the sense of citizenship among the Romans, who, among others, avoided military service and ceased to care for the public good.

Edward Gibbon allows himself to quote numerous sources and use footnotes, which is unique for those times; by the way, he can be considered a precursor of the use of footnotes in presenting a complex issue. Creating in the Age of Enlightenment, the author relied primarily on a huge number of sources. The reader, taking the book in his hand, will realize how huge amount of information he receives – at the very end of the position there are a total of over 150 pages of footnotes, printed in small type. However, the amount of collected information, sources, and developments of issues force me to criticize the edition. Certainly, a much more convenient way of reading for the reader would be to place footnotes at the bottom of the page, especially when we are dealing with so many of them.

Apart from the above negative, the book’s edition is very good in my opinion. The hard cover, illustrations, index of characters, or geographical names prove how much work was put into the publication of the position.

To sum up, every enthusiast of Rome, a historian, and a lover of an interesting plot should reach for this position, as well as the previous part. Surely time will be used in a good way.

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