This second volume covers A.D. 395 to A.D. 1185, from the reign of Justinian in the East to the establishment of the German Empire of the West. It recounts the desperate attempts to hold off the barbarians, palace revolutions and assassinations, theological controversy, and lecheries and betrayals, all in a setting of phenomenal magnificence.
(P)1992 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"[Gibbon] stood on the summit of the Renaissance achievement and looked back over the waste of history to ancient Rome, as from one mountain top to another." (Christopher Dawson)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
There was some drudgery with the minor, post Constantine emperors. I was also not as excited by the HRE sections as I was by the sections on the Rise of Islam, the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, and the Crusades. Those sections alone are why I rated the second half 5 stars and not 4. Anyway, a fantastic read. Ironic to finish it right after S&P lowers our national credit rating and our senators again fail to do anything productive.
This is obviously one of the most important western works of literature, and should be on the list of every serious reader. Unfortunately there are several major flaws with this rendition.
First and foremost, this is a very very poor, almost unlistenable recording. It is either very old and uncared for or it was just plain technically poor when recorded. Unless you have a tin ear it will be excruciating to endure it for long.
Second the reader has a very thick British accent and peculiar annunciation and timing. This, combined with the imperceptible mumbling lows and over modulated highs make this an unbearable recording.
Yet somehow, the absolute brilliance of the writing comes through.
It's just that it is so enormously fatiguing that I was unable to finish it.
This exhaustive history is one of the best on the subject. Gibbon knew his material and gave us one of the greatest works about the long period that this history covers. Where this history might seem long and tedious in places, it is made up for by the numerous explanations of battles and descriptions of the cities and characters of the times. Where Gibbon sometimes seems to opinionated about the times and people, he gives reasons for this and helps the listener to understand the circumstances and ideas of the times. The narration is at times tedious as well. You get the idea that you are in a college lecture hall rather than listening to the reading of a book. Bernard Mayes does a good job with the material. Overall, I would recommend this set of volumes to anyone who is interested in the hisory of the world. Others will find this material tedious and boring at times. My advice? Give a listen and stick with this. You might find out some things that you didn't know and might find this history as extremely interesting as I have.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The 2nd volume of the audiobook of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire contains the 3rd (1781) and 4th (1788-89) volumes of the classic six volume history, moving from 340 AD through the “total extinction” of the Western Empire and 600 years of the continual decay of the Eastern Empire. Along the way Gibbon performs refined autopsies on 250 years of internecine Christian warfare fought over the precise nature of the Incarnation of Christ (“religious controversy [being] the offspring of arrogance and folly”); the “apostolic fervor” of the Christian extirpation of paganism and destruction of its beautiful temples; the pernicious popularity of relics and saints (“myriads of imaginary heroes, who had never existed, except in the fancy of crafty or credulous legendaries”); the rise of savagely solitary hermits (“unhappy exiles from social life . . . impelled by the dark and implacable genius of superstition”); 1000+ years of Roman laws, from property and inheritance through marriage and divorce to crime and punishment; the superstitious perception of disasters like earthquakes, comets, and plagues; and the impacts on language, religion, law, class, and empire of “barbarians” like Attila and the Huns, Theodoric and the Goths, Genseric and the Vandals, Clovis and the Franks, and Alboin and the Lombards (Long Beards!). And he writes fascinating cultural reports about things like the Green and Blue chariot racing faction conflict that pervaded every sphere of society (from the familial and vocational to the political and religious) and nearly toppled the Eastern Empire (making the soccer hooligans of today seem like quaint Quakers and casting light on our own obsession with sports stars and teams). He even recounts legends of interest, like the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, a Rip Van Winkle-like tale that spread throughout the world, a human response to shocking change like that of the pagan Roman Empire turning Christian.
There is in this second audiobook volume no single figure as fascinating as the Apostate Emperor Julian in the first, but there are more compelling supporting characters. The emperor Justinian, for example, the persecutor of Jews and torturer of homosexuals, the rewarder of enemies and punisher of friends, the reformer of the law code, promoter of science and technology and builder of churches, hospitals, and aqueducts, unprecedentedly gave half his reign to his wife Theodora, who in her younger days acted in ribald comic pantomimes and sold her sexual favors to a parade of lovers and who after becoming Empress had people disappear into her private prisons and reappear as maimed monuments to her displeasure and had an old palace converted into a home for 500 prostitutes. The general Belisarius, perhaps the greatest military leader in the history of the Empire--an active giant among a race of supine pygmies--used his brains, bravery, charisma, leadership, and reputation to recover in only six years with pitiful resources and puny armies half of the provinces of Africa and Italy etc. lost by the fall of the Western Empire. In return for his boon-service, Belisarius was repeatedly humiliated by suspicious Justinian but ever exercised a patience and loyalty “either below or above the character of a man,” and his only flaw was uxoriousness, giving Gibbon the opportunity of remarking, “the revenge of a guilty woman is implacable and bloody.” And the life of Andronicus, the last Emperor of the Comnenian dynasty, was an engaging cross between a romantic pulp adventure novel and a revenge tragedy.
No one can run down a villain as enjoyably as Gibbon! Now he introduces the archbishop Theophilus as “the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood.” Now he dryly caps the life of the emperor Arcadius: "At length, in the thirty-first year of his age, after a reign, if we may abuse that word, of thirteen years, three months, and fifteen days, Arcadius expired, in the palace of Constantinople." Now he ironically sums up Empress Theodora: “The prostitute, who, in the presence of innumerable spectators, had polluted the theatre of Constantinople, was adored as a queen in the same city, by grave magistrates, orthodox bishops, victorious generals, and captive monarchs.” And now he takes to task Romanus: “The hours which the emperor owed to his people were consumed in strenuous idleness. In the morning he visited the circus; at noon he feasted the senators; the greater part of the afternoon he spent in the sphoeristerium, or tennis-court, the only theatre of his victories.”
Gibbon’s moderation even compels him to qualify his admiration for things he likes, like the St. Sophia cathedral in Constantinople, a sublime work of taste, wealth, and skill that seemed the residence if not the workmanship of the deity: “yet how dull the artifice and insignificant the labor if it be compared to the formation of the vilest insect that crawls on the surface of the temple.”
The audiobok sounds a little tinny and “skips” several times, but Bernard Mayes is a pleasing reader through this long history, sounding like a wittily articulate and dryly enthusiastic British professor. He never stoops to donning different voices, but merely reads Gibbon’s elegant text with every appropriate nuance.
Throughout, Gibbon’s history is marked by his Age of Enlightenment value of humane, rational, and moderate behavior and his condemnation of its opposite, by his rich and balanced sentences, by his wit and imagination, by his attempts to obtain from earlier panegyrics and invectives an objective historical truth about his subjects, by his application of the lessons of history to his own contemporary era and to human civilization in general, and by his impressive ability to hold the reader’s interest through thousands of pages of centuries of history. He says near the end, “In a composition of some days, in a perusal of some hours, six hundred years have rolled away, and the duration of a life or reign is contracted to a fleeting moment: the grave is ever beside the throne: the success of a criminal is almost instantly followed by the loss of his prize and our immortal reason survives and disdains the sixty phantoms of kings who have passed before our eyes, and faintly dwell on our remembrance.”
The story the author is telling is in itself fascinating and the point of view from which he tells it makes it even more interesting.
This is the weakest spot in the work. The narrator does not make voice shifts to differentiate the characters, and since this is a history work written in the third person that is not really to be expected.
A bit of both.
If you are not interested in the story this history wants to tell, do not get this book. It was not produced as entertainment, but as the author often says, to be instructive.
I have always wanted to read this book. It is almost as long as the whole Old and New Testament. However, using an audio book makes the job much easier. It can get dry in parts, but the history of the period from 180-1450 AD has many details that you cannot get without reading several hard to find books. I would only suggest this book to persons who are intense readers of history. Reading Suetonius, Livy and Tacitus before reading this book might be wise. That would give you some concept of the period 700BC-180AD in Roman history. What is most interesting is that Rome really took 1300 years to fall. Also, an clear understanding of the current East-West conflict goes all the way back to the days of Constantine. The players in the East-West conflict keep changing but the game started when Constantine divided the empire around 325 AD.This book is helpful in understanding the books of Daniel and Revelation in the Bible.
I enjoyed this tremendously. Some reviewers have been pretty hard on Mayes, but I'm really not sure why. I thought he did very well. He's not my favorite reader, nor even one of my favorites, but I'd give him a B+ at least and would certainly not hesitate to buy another of his recordings. As mentioned in the headline, the technical quality of the recording is mediocre (at best) which I would find a serious concern if I were listening to, say, the Berlin Philharmonic; but the quality here is more than adequate for this purpose and before long I did not notice it at all.
An avid reader, who also loves to listen.
probably not unless I read it as opposed to listening to it.
Any narrator aside from him would have made this better. Very boring
Yes it's a great story that already has been made into movies and series and they're all great.
This book was very informational but it was boring and dry and was just an overall hard book to listen to and get through.
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