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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

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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!

31 people found this helpful

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Very informative.

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

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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.

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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.

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A masterful look at the ponderous tome.

The decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is as famous as it is intimidating by virtue of sheer size. It is an insightful work and this course does a good job in pointing out many of the highlights.

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All in One

If you are interested in ancient Roman / early Medieval history OR culture and philosophy of the European Enlargement OR great English literature, you will enjoy learning about Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. All three perspectives are covered in these engaging lectures.

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Very good educational study.

Although it was not exactly what I was expecting which was a direct reading of Gibbons book this had a lot of additional valuable information that I would suggest you still listen to. The value comes in the translation and interpretation of the footnotes in the book which are not translated into English but consists of about 25% of the total pages in the book. Even lthough not every chapter was read completely or every footnote translated this interpretation I feel was excellent to anybody looking to study Gibbons book or knowledge and information on the topic.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.