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NA0127 - GIBBON, E.: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3 (The) (Unabridged)
Summary of the Contents
Natural phenomena interpreted by superstition • The tribes of Scythia and Tartary • Their diet, habitation and exercise • The structure of Tartar and Scythian government and society • Progress of the Huns, from China to Europe • They attack the Goths who flee to seek the protection of the Roman Empire in the East • The entire nation is transported across the Danube and settled in Thrace by Valens • Abuse by Romans provokes a Gothic war, involving Gratian and the Western Empire • Defeat and death of Valens • Gratian invests Theodosius, son of Theodosius the general, with the Eastern Empire (379) • His character • His success in subduing the Goths in the provinces • Peace with the Goths and their settlement in colonies under the Roman jurisdiction • General distrust nevertheless of the Goths by Romans
Character of Gratian • Revolt of Maximus in Britain against Gratius • Assassination of Gratian (383) • Maximus challenges Theodosius for the Empire of the world • Theodosius chooses a prudent alliance with Maximus • Theodosius defeats Arianism • St. Gregory • Martin of Tours • St. Ambrose • Young Valentinian and his mother Justina are threatened by Maximus and seek help from Theodosius • First civil war—against the tyrant Maximus • His defeat and death • Character and administration of Theodosius, and, under the influence of Ambrose, his public penance • Valentinian II falls under the influence of Arbogastes, commander of the Army • The death of Valentinian II (392) • Arbogastes elevates Eugenius, a rhetorician • Second civil war—against Eugenius and Arbogastes • Their defeat • Death of Theodosius (395) • The lapse of the Romans into effeminacy and luxury during his reign • Its effects on the army
Final destruction of Paganism throughout the Empire: the statues, the temples, the sacerdotal order, paganism in the senate, sacrifices and all the ancient fabric of superstition • Christian violence against idolatry • The Christians convert temples to sepulchres and replace pagan statues with relics of Christian martyrs • Introduction among the Christians of the worship of saints, their miracles and relics
Final division of the Roman Empire between the sons of Theodosius • Arcadius becomes Emperor of the East (395–408) and Honorius the Emperor of the West (394–423) • Their calamitous reign • Arcadius undermined by the ambition of Rufinus to rule • The character and achievements of Stilicho, general of the West • His influence over Honorius • Stilicho defeats his rival Rufinus • The administration of the East by Stilicho • The revolt of the Moor Gildo in Africa and his defeat by Stilicho • Honorius’s weakness leaves Stilicho master of the West
Revolt of the Goths, led by Alaric • The weakness of the Eastern Empire • They over-run and plunder Greece • The invasion of Italy by Alaric • They are repulsed by Stilicho • Honorius takes up residence in Ravenna • A description of this fortified town and palace, the future home of succeeding emperors • Description of the Chinese and Huns at this time • Tribes fleeing from the Huns over-run Germany • The Germans, led by Radagaisus, approach Rome • Stilicho resists and defeats Radagaisus • Alaric and Goths invade Gaul • Britain revolts and elects Constantine, a private soldier, as emperor in the West • Alaric concludes a treaty with Honorius and becomes master-general of Roman armies • Honorius persuaded of the treachery of Stilicho by his favourites • Disgrace and death of Stilicho
Invasion of Italy by Alaric and successful passage to the walls of Rome • Weakness of the Roman senate and people, compared to their forbears at the time of Hannibal • Their present luxurious manners, the ‘blessings of ease’, the reason given for Roman laziness and pusillanimity • Rome suffers famine as a result of Alaric’s siege and thousands die • Alaric’s clemency and demands • Roman pride and intransigence lead to further sieges by Alaric and at length the pillage of Rome by the Goths • Its devastation • The death of Alaric • Adolphus, his successor, negotiates a successful peace with the Roman emperor • He marries Honorius’s sister • The Goths evacuate Italy and occupy Gaul • Fall of the usurper Constantine • The state of Spain before the reign of Honorius, and its fall to the Goths • An alliance is made between the Goths inhabiting Gaul and Spain, and the Romans • Withdrawal of troops from Britain leads to its independence • Reorganisation of Britain after the Romans depart
Arcadius, Emperor of the Eastern Empire (395–408) • Its gradual decay • The influence of Eutropius, the eunuch • His rise to power and his control of the law • His resentment and avarice • Gainas the Goth leads a revolt of the Ostrogoths against Eutropius and Arcadius • Eutropius sacrificed by Arcadius to appease Gainas • His defeat and death • The life and persecution of St. John Chrysostom • The death of Arcadius and the reign of his young son Theodosius II (408–450) with his Sister Pulcheria • Her pious and charitable acts • Her care of government • The character of Theodosius II • His wife Eudocia • Her piety and her worldly ambitions • An inconclusive war with Persia and the division of Armenia
Death of Honorius, Emperor of the West (423) • Usurper, John, vies for the throne • Theodosius II sends an Eastern army to repel the usurper • Their success under the general Ardaburius in subduing Italy • Valentinian III, Emperor of the West (423–455) • Administration of his Mother Placidia during her son’s minority • Aetius and Boniface, generals of Placidia’s army • Their discord and rivalry result in revolt in Africa • Boniface encourages the conquest of Africa by Genseric and the Vandals • St. Augustin • The fable of the Seven Sleepers
The character, conquests, and court of Attila, king of the Huns • Eastern Empire falls to Attila • An ignominious treaty secures peace • Ambassadors from Constantinople view Attila’s ‘capital’ and ‘palace’ • Death of Theodosius the Younger (450) • His sister Pulcheria declared empress, the first female sovereign of the Romans • Elevation of Marcian, as Pulcheria’s husband, to the Empire of the East (450–457)
Placidia and Valentinian III under the protection of the general Aetius • His character and relationship with the Huns and Goths • The Franks • The adventures of Honoria, sister of Valentinian III • Invasion of Gaul by Attila • He is repulsed by Aetius with the aid of Theodoric and the Visigoths • Attila invades Italy • The republic of Venice evolves from the conflict • The ambassador Avienus arranges a treaty for the retreat of the Huns • The death of Attila, the murder of Aetius, and the assassination of Valentinian III
Genseric and the Vandals invade Italy and threaten Rome • Elevation of Maximus to the Western throne (455) • His character and brief reign • Avitus in Gaul is elevated by the Visigoths to the throne of the West (455–456) • Theodoric, king of the Visigoths • Count Ricimer opposes Avitus • Majorian elected Emperor (457–461) • His character and reign • Sack of Rome by Genseric, king of the Vandals • His naval attacks • Majorian successfully resists Genseric but is betrayed by Ricimer • Elevation of Libius Severus (461–465) and Anthemius, a Greek (467–472) • Genseric continues his attacks by sea • Ricimer appeals to Leo I (457–474), Emperor of the East, for help • The combined forces attack Genseric and the vandals at sea • They are vanquished by Genseric, which heralds the total extinction of the Western Empire • Uprising of Gaul • Succession of the last emperors of the West: the senator Olybrius (472); the soldier, Glycerius (473–474); the king of Dalmatia, Nepos (474–475); and the last emperor Romulus Augustulus (475–476) • Reign of Odoacer, the first Barbarian King of Italy
Emperors of Rome
AUGUSTUS: 27 BC–14 AD
Emperors of the Western Empire after Theodosius I
End of the Western Empire: Odoacer, King of Italy
Emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire
CONSTANTINE I: 306–337
Dynasty of Theodosius
THEODOSIUS I, the Great: 379–395 (sole emperor after 392)
Dynasty of Leo
LEO I, the Thracian: 457–474
Dynasty of Justinian
JUSTIN I: 518–527
Dynasty of Heraclius
Syrian or Isaurian Dynasty (the Iconoclasts)
LEO III, the Isaurian: 717–741
Phrygian or Amorian Dynasty
MICHAEL II, the Amorian: 820–829
BASIL I, the Macedonian: 867–886
Dynasty of the Comneni
ALEXIOS I, Komnenos: 1081–1118
Dynasty of the Angeli
ISAAC II, Angelos: 1185–1195 (dethroned)
Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade and establishment of Latin emperors in the city
Latin Emperors of the East
BALDWIN I: 1204–1205
Eastern Emperors in Nicaea
THEODORE I, Laskaris: 1204–1222
Recapture of Constantinople and reestablishment of the Eastern emperors there
Dynasty of the Palaiologi
MICHAEL VIII, Palaiologos: 1261–1282
Capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II
End of the Roman Empire
The Life of Edward Gibbon
It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefoot friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.
Memoirs of My Life and Writings, 1796
Gibbon was born at Putney, Surrey, on 8 May 1737, into a comfortable, though not particularly wealthy, family. At the age of ten, his mother died and he was brought up by an aunt. During childhood he was always sick and of a weak disposition. This interrupted any regular attendance at school and led to his being privately educated at home, where he had access to his father’s extensive library. This developed the natural scholar in Gibbon at an early age.
At age 15, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and he ‘arrived with a stock of erudition that might have puzzled a doctor’ (Gibbon, Memoirs).
Ever curious, Gibbon challenged the Anglican clergymen who were his tutors as to the true faith. His inclination was towards the Roman Catholic faith, and after consultation with a Roman Catholic student, he converted to Catholicism. It was a rash decision, for by English law, Roman Catholics were excluded from public office and ostracised from many rights available to their Anglo-Catholic brethren.
When Gibbon’s father learnt of his son’s actions he was furious and insisted that his son should be sent to Lausanne, Switzerland, which was a centre of Calvinism, to be re-indoctrinated to the Protestant faith.
Gibbon studied there under the Calvinist minister Daniel Pavilliard for nearly five years (1753–1758). During this time he renounced his conversion, became fluent in French and Latin, had a meeting with Voltaire, and for the one and only time in his life, fell in love, with a beautiful and highly intelligent girl, Suzanne Curchod. Once again, Gibbon was thwarted by his father who would not countenance ‘this strange alliance’, and Gibbon reluctantly returned to England. Reflecting on this in his Memoirs, Gibbon wrote: ‘I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son.’
With the advent of the Seven Years War in 1760, Gibbon dutifully joined, with his father, the local militia, which was assembled in response to the possibility of a French invasion. He does not seem to have shone as an officer. At the end of his term of service he embarked on a grand tour of Europe, an obligatory experience for educated young men in the 18th century. Arriving in Rome early in October 1764, he was overwhelmed by its magnificence and antiquities, and as he said in his memoirs it was here he first began to conceive his magnum opus, but it would be nine years before he began to write it. The first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, shortened here to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in 1776. It was an instant success and quickly ran into three editions. Volumes II and III appeared in 1781, with equivalent success. In the same year, Gibbon was elected as an MP for Lymington, but despite a dead end job in the board of trade in Lord North’s declining government, his parliamentary career was uneventful.
Resorting to his true vocation, he moved back to Lausanne and shared accommodation with an old student friend, George Deyverdun, and completed the last three volumes of his Decline and Fall, which were all published in 1788, to coincide with his 51st birthday.
In 1793, when the effects of the French Revolution began to intrude on his Swiss idyll, he returned to England. His health had begun to fail, an enlarged scrotum caused him considerable pain and despite several unsuccessful operations, he died in his sleep on 16 January 1794, at the age of 56.
A Note on the Text
The text used in this recording of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the standard Everyman edition of 1910, with additional notes by Oliver Smeaton. It is a clean text unabridged and unedited, and in six volumes it reflects the division of chapters of the original edition of the 1780s.
Notes by David Timson
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