As a part of my goal to give myself a classical education, I decided I wanted to read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. This work was published in 1789, and it covers the history of the Roman Empire and tries to explain all the ways in which the Empire crumbled bit by bit over time and eventually completely collapsed.
This work is very famous, but also very outdated, since it was written over 200 years ago. I had done some reading on the history of the Roman Empire before reading this work so I had some understanding of the facts of Roman history as they are currently understood in the present day. So I just want to say that I did not expect to take Gibbon’s word as if it were a modern day fact given all the archeology other further study that’s been done since his work’s publication.
This book is actually kind of famous as an audiobook because it’s worth 1 credit at Audible.com, so anytime someone signs up for a new account, they can spend 1 credit on a book, and get perhaps the most bang for their free buck by picking up the audiobook which clocks in at 126 hours, 31 minutes.
So, I decided to take that route and listen to the audiobook of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I have been an avid podcast listener going back to the days when Leo Laporte started This Week in Tech and MacBreak Weekly in the early 2000’s. I’ve listened to Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast as well, which was fantastic. This experience of listening to podcasts enabled me to take the same approach with The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I would treat it as a limited run podcast, and just listen when I could, and power through. I don’t know how many months it took me, but I did eventually get all the way through it!
My biggest takeaway that I didn’t expect from listening to all of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was that I felt it had itself become a historical document, shedding light on the thoughts and feelings of Gibbon himself, and perhaps also the feelings of other late 18th century Englishmen. As an American, it was enlightening to experience the thoughts of an Englishman on civilization and barbarism during that time period.
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