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Old 09-21-2007, 07:34 PM
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Historian Edward Gibbons' five reasons for the decline and fall of Rome

The Fall of a Nation

Historian Edward Gibbons' five reasons for the decline and fall of Rome

The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
Higher and higher taxes; the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.
The mad craze for pleasure; sports becoming every year more exciting, more brutal, more immoral.
The building of great armaments when the great enemy was within; the decay of individual responsibility.
The decay of religion, fading into a mere form, losing touch with life, losing power to guide the people.
-From The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
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Old 09-21-2007, 11:24 PM
redeemedcynic84
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(I was bored and interested so I looked up some stuff on Gibbons and who he was because I wasn't sure who "Edward Gibbon" was)

Gibbon is considered anti-Christian and an anti-Semite, right?? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Gibbon)

some other pages on his work (with some excepts/commentary):
http://members.aol.com/Feuillade/TomMoran28.index.html
Quote:
Gibbon in his youth had converted to Catholicism, but it didn't take. By the time he wrote his masterpiece, he had become more or less a born-again Pagan, and was notoriously skeptical about Christianity.

At the time during which Gibbon wrote, however, to deny the truth of the Christian religion was a crime. Therefore, any skeptical or heretical opinions he might have about Christianity would have to be implied, rather than directly stated. But Gibbon knew his Church history -- to such an extent that even such an authority as Cardinal Newman would claim that "It is melancholy to say it, but the chief, perhaps the only English writer who has any claim to be considered an ecclesiastical historian, is the unbeliever Gibbon."

If you can look past Gibbon's irony, you can learn quite a bit about the early Church by reading "Decline and Fall." But for almost a century, Gibbon's apostasy (or what some people believed to be such) was all that some people could see in "Decline and Fall."

To find a good example of this, read Rev. Milman's introduction to his 19th Century edition of Gibbon (it was the edition of choice before Bury's edition supplanted it):
Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

As Gibbon's most recent biographer puts it, "Throughout the [nineteenth], and indeed well into the twentieth century, Gibbon was attacked or defended or praised for his religious positions.... Negative qualities -- innate coldness of heart, malicious hatred of Christianity, failure of historical imagination -- were assumed to account for his not portraying the beauty of Christianity or understanding the Christians' perspective on their experience. But in the course of the century, most readers came to realize that the "Decline and Fall" was not just an attack on the Christian Church."

Of course, saying that "Decline and Fall" is not just an attack on the Christian Church is not the same thing as denying that it is, at least in part, an attack on the Christian Church. Gibbon ends his work by stating that, in recounting the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he has described the triumph of "barbarism and religion," as if the two were somehow synonymous.

And they're not -- are they?

Nevertheless, it is arguably true that the less you think of the Christian religion, the more you'll appreciate Gibbon (this is, I believe, why Byron liked him and Coleridge didn't). It may just be conceivable for a devout Christian to be a fan of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," but I would consider it unlikely.

Decide for yourself. These links are to the notorious 15th and 16th Chapters of Gibbon, where he discusses the rise of Christianity:
The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire: Chapter 15
The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire: Chapter 16
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/f...ofromegibb.htm
Quote:
"The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident and removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of the ruin is simple and obvious: and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed we should rather be surprised that it has subsisted for so long."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Rome
Quote:
Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens. They gradually outsourced their duties to defend the Empire to barbarian mercenaries who eventually turned on them. Gibbon considered that Christianity had contributed to this, making the populace less interested in the worldly here-and-now and more willing to wait for the rewards of heaven. "[T]he decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight," he wrote. "In discussing Barbarism and Christianity I have actually been discussing the Fall of Rome."

Gibbon's work is notable for its erratic, but exhaustively documented, notes and research. Interestingly, since he was writing in the eighteenth century, Gibbon also mentioned the climate, while reserving naming it as a cause of the decline, saying "the climate (whatsoever may be its influence) was no longer the same." While judging the loss of civic virtue and the rise of Christianity to be a lethal combination, Gibbon did find other factors possibly contributing to the decline.
Gibbons blamed the fall of Rome on a mix of the rise of Christianity and the fall of "civic virture" (I'm reading that as willingness to do things for the good of Rome...)

interesting stuff, though...
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