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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Volume I

Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a bit of a monster seeing as it is split in five volumes of 500 pages each. I am considering myself a bit of a fool for even having started it, but then I am also a bit of a fool for trying to learn Arabic, so I guess that's just who I am. Anyway, the first volume I've finished now and it made for a surprisingly enjoyable and pleasurable read. I was expected a more out-dated language, a less modern historiography and in general a much slower, more tedious lecture.

Instead Gibbon's offers a fast-paced, battle-filled account of Roman history, which in fact moves too fast at times, with emperors, generals, and battles even cities being named left and right that I had never heard of before (raise your hand if you know Nicomedia, well really, you should know it, take my word for it). Apart from feeling a bit lost at times amid all these historical personalities that I had been unaware of previously, Gibbon's does provide his reader with a far better understanding of the Roman empire, its constant internal and external struggles, its borders, boundaries and centers. He showed how Rome moved from being the center of the universe, well empire, to the seat of an ignored Senate, discusses the Praetorian Guard, which for him was instrumental in bringing about the decline of Roman civic virtue, the emergence of a military state with the emperors, and finally the rise of Christianity within the empire.

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