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Mwm

Adbridged or unadbridged version of the history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire?

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Gibbon's obsolete in terms of historiography, but he's a thoroughly entertaining read. Go for the abridged version, and see how you do.

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Take a drink every time you see a parallel in the work you are reading to today's America.  See if you finish the book before you die of alcohol poisoning!

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1 minute ago, Mwm said:

Why?

Because it is excellently written, informative, and provides you a history of the eastern part of the Roman Empire which continued on for hundreds of years after the western half fell to the barbarians. :)

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Switzeran said:

Because it is excellently written, informative, and provides you a history of the eastern part of the Roman Empire which continued on for hundreds of years after the western half fell to the barbarians. :)

Ah...well in that case, you sold me!

Edited by Mwm

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I've read the unabridged version, and as others said, it's an entertaining read, at least for the first half. However, Gibbon's personal prejudices are very obvious, and they will probably affect your feelings for the book. To give you an idea, he despised Greeks and Ortodox Christianity, which tends to show when you are writing a history of the friggin' Byzantine Empire!

Some of his other dislikes which are obvious in the text include the Catholic Church, most early offshoots of Christianity, and Slavic nations. On the positive side, he shows a lot of admiration for Arabs and Islam. The final part of the book has only a tenuous connection to the history of the actual Byzantine Empire (mostly because of his dislike of the Palaiologos dynasty), and instead goes on rambling asides about events happening in the rest of the world. However, he gets back on topic with the Fall of Constatinople.

I would advise reading up to the end of Justinian's reign and then stopping. There are so many other, better books that you could spend that time on.

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17 hours ago, Mwm said:

Ah...well in that case, you sold me!

Norwich's book has an excellent translation of Procopius describing Theodora's life as a prostitute.

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i have a degree in Ancient History and ive never read either lmao. Nor do I think I was ever reccomended to read it by lecturers. 

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2 hours ago, Theda Baratheon said:

i have a degree in Ancient History and ive never read either lmao. Nor do I think I was ever reccomended to read it by lecturers. 

Primarily because you don't read Gibbon to find about the fall of the Roman Empire. You read Gibbon to be entertained by an eighteenth century Englishman with some amusing prejudices.

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1 hour ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Primarily because you don't read Gibbon to find about the fall of the Roman Empire. You read Gibbon to be entertained by an eighteenth century Englishman with some amusing prejudices.

Or in an academic context, to study the reception of classical history/developments in historiography. And some of his insights are still interesting. There's still a lot of value to be had in reading Gibbon, aside from the entertainment value. But yeah, if you're taking an introduction to late antiquity/the Late Roman Empire course, the chances of being assigned Gibbon are pretty low, unless as a historiographic exercise.

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5 hours ago, Theda Baratheon said:

i have a degree in Ancient History and ive never read either lmao. Nor do I think I was ever reccomended to read it by lecturers. 

Your kidding....I’ve heard it lauded in so many circles as one of the best history books. Do you have any counter recommendations if so?

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18 hours ago, Mwm said:

Your kidding....I’ve heard it lauded in so many circles as one of the best history books. Do you have any counter recommendations if so?

AHM Jones' The Later Roman Empire, 284-602, is a very good overview.   I'd also recommend reading Ammianus Marcellinus, who gives a detailed history of the later Fourth Century.  The Life of St. Severinus gives a good description of what life was like in a distant province, as Roman rule faded away.

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20 hours ago, Mwm said:

Your kidding....I’ve heard it lauded in so many circles as one of the best history books. Do you have any counter recommendations if so?

It's an important work of scholarly literature, and it's a very important work in the history of historiography. That said, it's centuries out of date, and today if a scholar recommends it it's because of its literary value or because they're teaching a course or writing a paper on the evolving historiography of Rome. You're talking about someone who was writing about Rome before modern archaeology even existed, before the bulk of Pompeii was excavated, etc. 

Another modern work I might suggest is Adrian Goldworthy's How Rome Fell

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A book that you will probably need to get through an inter-library loan is The Chronicle of Theophanes, Harry Turtledove, editor and translator, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.  Yes, that Harry Turtledove was a history PhD, and this was his first scholarly work.  It is pretty depressing to read of the self-dealing, corruption, ethical failures, social depravity and lack of civility that characterized the end of the Eastern Roman Empire, but it is well produced.

Yet another book where you can take a drink ever time you see a parallel with the news here in the States today and die of alcohol poisoning before you finish it.

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23 hours ago, Mwm said:

Your kidding....I’ve heard it lauded in so many circles as one of the best history books. Do you have any counter recommendations if so?

It might well be but I think in Academia you really have to keep up to date with your sources. Of vvourse for certain topics and questions it helps to look at a wide range of sources especially if you’re considering historiography of a certain topic. However; mostly we were trying to look at new research and I guess this was just quite outdated. I don’t mean to insult you - I was just shocked at myself really for having a degree in ancient history and never reading or really hearing much about this book. 

I think I primarily covered the fall of the roman REPUBLIC though and the beginning of the empire. I’m not well versed on the Roman Empire - we were studying earlier really. Of course I know bits and pieces but nothing I’m an expert on. 

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On 6/28/2018 at 5:06 PM, Theda Baratheon said:

It might well be but I think in Academia you really have to keep up to date with your sources. Of vvourse for certain topics and questions it helps to look at a wide range of sources especially if you’re considering historiography of a certain topic. However; mostly we were trying to look at new research and I guess this was just quite outdated. I don’t mean to insult you - I was just shocked at myself really for having a degree in ancient history and never reading or really hearing much about this book. 

I think I primarily covered the fall of the roman REPUBLIC though and the beginning of the empire. I’m not well versed on the Roman Empire - we were studying earlier really. Of course I know bits and pieces but nothing I’m an expert on. 

I did read the abridged version as a youngster. Amongst other things. The facts were useful but I doubt most historians gave much credence to his conclusions. Scholarship had advanced a lot since then. There is so much to know about the Roman Empire it can be an entire career knowing all  the details and then some new scholar comes along and shows how minor details are more important than previously thought. 

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James O’Donnell's The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History (2008).  He's among the Reformationists when it comes to the Roman Empire and it's maybe / maybe not so-called fall.  It makes a lot of people fighting mad, the planks in the platform of the Reformationist argument, but O'Donnell makes them very easy to understand and it's really good reading or good listening if you get the audio version (not all important books work well in audio).

Myself, I lean fairly heavily in the Reformationist direction, particularly since the east is Greek in every way, while here in the west latin and Roman manners, modes, language, organization of military and church and titles, etc. remain to this day, particularly via the Roman Church.  The Ottoman sultan, Mehmed, was infuriated when a  Holy Roman Emperor was crowned again in Rome, because since he himself had conquered Constantinople, he regarded himself as the ROMAN emperor, and expected to take Rome any day now.  (He and his successors got way too close for comfort to doing these things than a lot of people realize, and more than once.)

It took Napoleon, who aped so much of the classical Roman era, including the designs of his officers's helmets, etc., to finally wipe out the Holy Roman Empire -- and even then, after he went to St. Helena, it hung on with elector states in the germanies, the Haptsburgs again, and still, dominating huge parts of Italy, just as they did, though then Staufens, in the 10th - llth  centuries, the 15th and 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 

I honestly believe the Roman empire hung on via that strange three-legged shifting power stool of Church, Empire and European monarchies.  Hell, even the third Reich was all about being the next great european empire since Rome.

 

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