Books That Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire : The Great Courses: Intellectual History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Leo Damrosch
  • Series: The Great Courses: Intellectual History
  • 12 hrs and 13 mins
  • Lecture

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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!
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- Carol "Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!"

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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- Kevin D Norwood

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-03-2017
  • Publisher: The Great Courses