1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Books That Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire  By  cover art

Books That Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

By: Leo Damrosch,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Leo Damrosch
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $34.95

Buy for $34.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Published in six volumes between 1776 and 1781, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - for all its renown - can be intimidating. It contains one point five million words, an estimated 8,000 footnotes, a cast of 10,000 historical figures, and a timeline of more than 1,000 years. Yet even today, Gibbon's historical chronicle demands to be understood.

These 24 lectures invite you on a riveting examination of this great work as a vast historical chronicle, a compelling masterpiece of literature, a sharp commentary on cultural mores, and a cautionary tale to Enlightenment Europe. In this chapter-by-chapter guide to the Decline and Fall, Professor Damrosch helps you navigate the book's themes, structure, and lasting influence.

You'll approach the Decline and Fall as a written work whose footnotes, periodic style, and historical blind spots reflect the styles and ideologies of the Enlightenment age in which it was written. And for those intimidated by its thousands of pages or who feel they may lack the time to fully appreciate Gibbon's narrative of how Rome fell to "barbarism and religion", these lectures offer a richly detailed overview of what Gibbon called "many of the events most interesting in human annals", including: the reign of the Antonines, the rise of Christianity and Islam, the codification of Roman law, the Crusades, and the dawn of medieval Europe.

Whether you've read the Decline and Fall before or whether you've always wanted to read it but never knew where to start, Professor Damrosch's lectures are an authoritative guide to a once-mighty empire - and the great book that became its classic eulogy and epitaph.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Books That Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    270
  • 4 Stars
    50
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    4
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    238
  • 4 Stars
    53
  • 3 Stars
    14
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    238
  • 4 Stars
    46
  • 3 Stars
    16
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Definitely Worth Your Time!

This is a really fine course, well organized, superbly presented, and unique in its content. Since most of us will never make it through Gibbon's masterpiece (the unabridged Audible versions take up over 140 hours), this enlightening overview explains how great the book is, not only in the field of classical history, but also from literary and philosophical perspectives.

From the description of Gibbon's "periodic" writing technique to the seamless integration of Roman history and the "big questions" that face all civilizations, Dr. Damrosch's course is both fascinating and important, and his lecture style is delightful. Well done, Dr. Damrosch!

Written during the last half of the 18th century, the history Gibbon presents so exactingly in "The Decline and Fall" was filtered through the lenses of the European enlightenment and also through the perspective of a nation (England) with its own Empire. The fact that Volume 1 appeared in 1776 is not insignificant in the overall scope of the book.

So, even though most of the lectures describe the content of the book, and thus constitute a history of, well, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," the overall impact consistently speaks to much larger issues that are still important. This truly is one of the "Books That Matter."

Well done, Mr. Gibbon!

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Like a conversation with a well read old friend

Any additional comments?

I had the pleasure of taking an undergrad course with Prof Damrosch decades ago. Listening to this series was better than revisiting the classroom--it was more like listening to an old friend, a very well-read old friend, talk about this interesting book he had just read. The fact that it was the 6 volume Gibbon and the chat went on for hours was not a bother in the least. I listened generally during my 30-45 minutes in the car each day, and was always glad to pick up where we had left off. Prof D proceeds at a good pace, hitting the highlights, sometimes giving a preview of what's ahead, sometimes refreshing something we covered a while back, and always with a nice sense of humor and side references that bring other eras and other bits of culture and English Lit into play. My only regret was coming to the end of the course. I think the Prof would be pleased that I am also inclined to dig out my set of Gibbon and settle into a comfortable armchair for another visit.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Story Within a Story Told Magnificently

Absolutely astute discussion of one of the world's greatest series of books that is sometimes very funny, sad, and colorful. You will want to listen more than once.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fabulous!!!

I enjoyed every minute of this series. Leo Damrosch is wonderful. And his lectures? All of them great.

His Enlightenment Invention of the Modern Self course is also available on Audible in a lecture series, which is in some ways even better than this one. They're completely different. Both are absolutely required listening!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very informative.

The presenter was excellent. The information was imparted in an interesting and compelling manner. Would definitely recommend.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Masterpiece of Style, Not So Much of Substance

I'm speaking of the book under discussion, not the course itself. A great lecture series will equip and inspire you to read the book. And reading the Decline and Fall has been a goal of mine for years. But after these lectures, as good as they are, I think I'll skip it.

In Professor Damrosch’s presentation, Gibbon emerges as an historian who fails at one of the principal tasks of the historian – to enter into the minds, hearts, and times of which he writes. This is not to say he has to like those hearts and minds, or refrain from passing judgement on them, but he does have to make an effort to understand them. Gibbon doesn't. Coming from the perspective of the Enlightenment, a movement convinced it had found, in unaided human reason, the key to all human ills, perhaps such imaginative sympathy was impossible. Examples of this failing abound, but the most obvious is Gibbon’s contempt for religion, Christianity especially and Catholicism most of all.

For Gibbon the Enlightenment materialist, religion is almost invariably the product of psychological and physiological causes. To use trendy academic parlance, he never fails to “privilege” the false dichotomy between faith and reason. I’m not offended by this, I’m just bored. These are the opinions I was raised with, schooled in, and finally rejected years ago. Of course, viewed from the Olympus of Reason, religion isn’t the only facet of human experience that suffers under the lash of Gibbons’ somewhat heavy-handed irony. But if it gets this tedious in a lecture series, imagine reading all six volumes.

Not to say that Professor Damrosch is tedious. I enjoyed these lectures almost as much as I did his book The Club. And the professor does his best to make Gibbon appealing. Certainly his book remains a literary masterpiece, but a masterpiece of style whose substance suffers from its author’s singular lack of historical imagination.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

But the text....

Would have been much better had the lecturer actually read read from the text to set up each lecture. I expected a narrated text of the material not discussion about the text. I learned more about Gibbon than I did about his book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Manage expectations

I guess I was expecting a history of The History of the Decline and Fall and while there is some of that I feel that the course was mostly an expedited survey of the fall of Rome. What I wanted was more about the historical context in which it was written and more about Gibbon's research and writing methods. I was also hoping for a more in depth review of how the Decline and Fall is perceived in modern academics (as it is this only takes up a very small portion of the last chapter of the course).

I also got tired of the quality of the instructor's voice which had a nasal tone to it and sounded like he was suffering from a bad cold.

Overall though it is a great course and I heartily recommend it for anyone who has plans on reading the Decline and Fall in the future.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • 0
  • 10-10-22

History well-told

Very informative and interesting. A most enjoyable 12 hours. should be a tremendous help in tackling Gibbon.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Official religion?

I was under the impression that Theodosius, not Constantine, made Christianity the official religion of Rome.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Juli C. Schuttger
  • Juli C. Schuttger
  • 03-23-19

The perfect follow-up for the original

I listened to this after listening to the original. It would be quite educational on its own, but the combination has enhanced my understanding of the setting and history of Gibbon's book.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Manish
  • Manish
  • 11-03-18

Decline and Fall

This is really a history of Rome and the Byzantine Empire, rise of Islam and mediaeval Europe. I am not really sure this meets expectations. I wanted more analysis of the book given it was written over 200 years ago and comparing it to now. Much is made of the footnotes and it would have been helpful to expand on these.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Kindle Customer
  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-16-21

He read it so you don't have to...

...but maybe you will want to after hearing about it from such an erudite advocate.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 10-14-20

Good stuff

Great series of lectures which reignited my love of TDAFOTRE.

Interesting on Gibbon, the historiography and the history itself.