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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has always maintained its initial appeal to both the general public and scholars alike. Its sheer scale is daunting, encompassing over a millennium of history, covering not merely the Western Empire from the days of the early emperors to its extinction in AD 476, but also the Eastern Empire, which lasted for another thousand years until the Turks vanquished it in 1453. But Gibbon’s style, part historical fact and part literature, is enticing, and the sheer honesty of the man, who endeavours to be scrupulously impartial in his presentation, endears him to the reader. In this recording, David Timson incorporates the most salient of Gibbon’s footnotes.
In Volume I (chapters I-XV), Gibbon opens by setting the scene with the Empire as it stood in the time of Augustus (d. AD 14) before praising the time of the Antonines (AD 98-180). The death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Commodus and his successors ushers in turbulent and dangerous times which were only occasionally marked by a wise and temperate ruler. The volume ends in AD 324, with Constantine the Great becoming undisputed Roman emperor, uniting both the East and Western Empires.
What did you love best about The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I?
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I?
Too many to count.
What does David Timson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
On paper Gibbon's prose can appear dauntingly monumental, but David Timson's reading makes it come alive. You feel almost as if Gibbon were chatting with you. An absolutely marvelous job!
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Again, too many to count.
Any additional comments?
Unfortunately Audible has adopted a policy of appending the Amazon.com reviews as a default if there are no reviews of the audiobook they are trying to sell. In the case of Gibbon, this means that anyone curious about this audiobook found himself wading through one-star reviews of a defective ebook version of Gibbon. So pay no attention to the Amazon.com reviews. The Naxos Gibbon is one of the great achievements of the "audible age," thanks to incredible reading of David Timson. (His Dickens is also wonderful.)
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
Where does The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It is a supremely learned, painstakingly researched, and exquisitely written book about a fascinating part of ancient history. It is a true classic and like a work of Shakespeare, doesn't need to be compared to other books in my opinion. Everyone agrees on its definitiveness on the subject, and to boot, it uses an incredibly large vocabulary which I love. As someone who reads mostly non-fiction, this is one of the best books I have come across.
Who was your favorite character and why?
There are thousands of characters in this work of course but Commodus was one of the crazier emperors whose maltreatment of the office makes the reader shake his or her head in disbelief. If you are dissatisfied with your elected politicians, read this book and praise your good fortune for being born in such benign times.
Which character – as performed by David Timson – was your favorite?
Sarpor, the Persian king, lived in such splendor and oriental opulence that it really transports the reader there.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I felt relocated to the ancient times, several times during the reading. I think this is an amazing achievement for a non fiction book. It really is a riveting story....
Any additional comments?
This is not light fare. I am reading for a second time and plan to give it a third listen. The text is extremely dense and you will miss much. I see this as an advantage, as each repeated listening feels like a new book. As I drop little anecdotes from the book into my conversations, people start to regards me as someone with deep knowledge of history which is very good mileage for the time I spent I think. I recommend this to anyone who wants a thriller that actually happened.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
Since all six volumes are of a piece I am reviewing it as such. This is a massive work and I will not attempt to extol all its virtues here. I have always had this on my reading list but knew that I would never devote months of reading time to tackling this history. This is a prime example of the superiority of the audio format in facilitating the assimilation of such lengthy books.
Here are my general impressions:
History is primarily an account of the leaders and ruling class. The vast unwashed masses pass through the halls of recorded history in abject silence.
The Roman Empire persisted for a very long time in many different forms. It is beyond my attention span to try to hold the entire span in my head. I admire Edward Gibbon for his ability to seemingly relate all these different eras with equal perspicuity. I will require a second pass through to more fully grasp
The influence of Christianity is the primary cause for the decline of the Roman Empire. One cannot hope to understand the underlying causes of the Roman Empire’s downfall without having a firm grasp of the doctrinal battles within the church. In order to make his reasoning clear to the listener Gibbon is careful to explain the fine points of Christian doctrine. He expounds, at length, the Arian heresy and its political implications. And, in a related episode, he relates the origins and expanse of the Mohammadan religion because of its impact on the Romans.
This is not merely a narrative history. Gibbon writes with high style and great aplomb. His humor is witty and droll and quite pervasive. The byzantine convolutions of this history are made beautiful by his flowing prose. This is a work of literature.
Either the common vocabulary of people in the eighteenth century was higher than that of people today or Gibbon has an incredible mastery of the English language, uncommon in any time. I prefer the latter.
David Timson has a wonderful sonorous voice; one quite suitable to hours of critical listening. His enunciation is crisp and his inflection perfectly suited to delivering Gibbon’s frequent backhanded compliments.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
This was a struggle for me, not for the narration or writing style (which are both excellent), but due to density and breadth of the information presented. This must be one of the most thoroughly researched and executed historical works of all time. Truly epic.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
How could the performance have been better?
For Pete sakes...the narration was terrible....constantly reverting to footnote....end of footnote....couldn't take it any longer and gave up.....much better to just read it
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I mistakenly bought an abridged version of this work (different reader, too) and was not impressed -- just a list of emperors, the high points of their reigns, and their (usually) tragic ends. The full length work, while it does challenge the attention at times, covers the subject with such richness that the effort is well repaid. Especially interesting, to me at least, are the many descriptions of cultures within and adjacent to the Roman Empire. The depth and breadth of erudition is awe inspiring, as is the quality of Gibbon's writing.
Timson's excellent reading makes some of the more intricate and less stimulating parts of the work bearable.
I confess I was relieved to reach the end of the volume -- with the reign of Constantine and the rise of Christianity-- and will move on to something a bit lighter before tackling volume two. But I will come back to the other volumes; I hope sooner rather than later.
The only thing keeping me from giving 5 stars across the board is my deficiency in understanding Rome
Timson's dlivery of Gibbons'
magnificent work captures its true escense . I think Gibbons would approve.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Truly amazing the events and capturing it through all the historic texts that must have been reviewed. At times the wording is difficult to understand and often the footnotes would only make sense to someone who was as literary familiar with those ancient and modern authors. Definitely educational.
...does make up in some degree for the doubt produced in this listener about the accuracy of his history by his very thinly veiled contempt of Christianity and more generally of organized authority. Still, an entertaining story.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful
I was really impressed with this. it was some other reviews and a love of ancient civilisations that made me go for this and I am so glad I did. It does not seem to be written such a long time ago - indeed the way David Timson narrates it could have been written by a current historian. Fabulous albeit sweeping insight into the Roman Empire.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
This is an amazing book and feat of scholarship. We tried as a family the audio vox version and David Timson is just so much better at bringing it to life
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This truly is unabridged, with all the footnotes as well. This makes for serious listening, but does reward with much fine and fascinating material generally left out of abridged volumes. Timken's reading is clear, but suffers from overemphasis, which is a great shame. Gibbon is full of irony, sarcasm and dismissive wit: unfortunately Timson doesn't believe we'll get it unless he signals it with pantomime exaggeration. Silly man: I cannot think of a single person who would be listening who's not already aware of Gibbon's outlook and reputation.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful
I have not got far enough into this title to really judge the performance etc. But after just 30 minutes of listening, I cannot deal with the footnotes which are inserted (clearly by Mr Gibbon in the original) about every three sentences. It is just a problem with the medium. If I were reading, I would probably ignore most of them to lose myself in the narrative but of course that is not possible if the structure of the original is to be maintained. So no criticism of the book or reader, just that this book is wrong, for me, in this medium.