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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


Gibbon, Edward

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Edward Gibbon: A Brief Biography

Edward Gibbon was born in 1737 in Putney, England, and was the only child of his parents to survive infancy. Although his education was frequently interrupted by ill health, his knowledge was far-reaching. His brief career as an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford, ended when he joined the Catholic Church. Consequently, his father sent him to Lausanne, Switzerland. Here, while studying Greek and French for the next five years, he re-joined the Protestant Church. In 1761, he marked his entry into the literary world with the publication of his Essai sur l'étude de la Littérature; the English version appeared in 1764.

Military and Travel Experiences

Between his academic endeavors, Gibbon served as a captain in the Hampshire Militia until 1763. His thirst for knowledge led him back to the Continent. It was during his stay in Rome in 1764 that he conceived the idea for his magnum opus, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Life in London and Literary Achievements

1774 marked a significant year for Gibbon. Following the death of his father, he settled in London and entered the political arena by being elected to Parliament. Despite holding his seat for eight years, he never voiced his opinions in the Commons. However, he was a prominent figure in the literary circles of London. The first volume of his acclaimed History was published in 1776. While it was lauded for its learning and style, it also faced criticism for its portrayal of the early Christians. Subsequent volumes were released in 1781, with the final ones, penned in Lausanne, seeing the light of day in 1788.

Final Years and Legacy

Gibbon's life journey concluded while he was visiting his friend, Lord Sheffield. Posthumously, Sheffield took on the role of editor for Gibbon's autobiographical papers, ensuring their publication in 1796.

About the Editor

David Womersley, an academic at Jesus College, Oxford, is renowned for editing Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Penguin Classics.

Tags: Ancient, Bitcoin Audible, Civilization, Historiography, History, Rome View full details