About this Recording
NA0130 - GIBBON, E.: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (The), Vol. 6 (Unabridged)

Edward Gibbon
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume VI



Chapter 57

The spread of the Turks • Mahmud I, the first sultan • He encourages the immigration of the Turkmans into his provinces of Persia • Conflict leads to the establishing of the house of Seljuk as leaders • Togrul expands the Turkish empire, adopts the Islamic religion and protects the caliphs, the successors of Mohammed • Alp Arslan attacks the Eastern Empire • Resisted by the Emperor Romanus • Capture of Romanus by the Turks, and his subjection to Arslan • Death of Arslan • Reign of Malek Shah and his conquests • Dispute over the Turkish throne upon the death of Malek • The holy war of Soliman against the Eastern Empire and the West • The weakness and vulnerability of Constantinople and the East • The Turks capture Jerusalem • Conquest of Asia Minor and Syria • Perilous position of Christians and Pilgrims in Jerusalem

Chapter 58

Peter the Hermit rouses Europe to achieve by arms the restitution of the sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem to the Christians • Pope Urban II inaugurates the first crusade to restore Jerusalem and protect Constantinople • The characters of the Latin Princes called upon to fight • Motives behind the first crusade • The hordes of popular supporters for Peter the Hermit, their precipitate departure and lack of discipline • The principal leaders of the first crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine, Count of Blois, Robert of Normandy, Raymond Count of St Giles and Toulouse, Bohemond • The institution of the honour of knighthood and the rise of chivalry • Hardships of the journey to the Holy Land • The duplicitous policy of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus towards the crusaders • First campaign against Soliman and the Turks • The conquest of Nicea, Antioch and Jerusalem by the Franks • Courage and chivalry of Tancred • Martial skill and fanaticism of the Crusaders • Godfrey of Bouillon made King of Jerusalem • Founding of Knights Templar and of Hospital of St John • Feudal institutions introduced into the Holy Land • Trial by battle and other feudal laws

Chapter 59

The conflict between the first crusaders and the Emperor Alexius • The formation and progress of the second crusade • The third crusade led by Frederic Barbarossa • The numbers and events of the second and third crusade • The duplicity and treachery of the Emperors Manuel Comnenus and Isaac Angelus • Misfortunes of the crusaders against the Turks • St. Bernard of Clairvaux • Discord amongst the Mohammedan powers • Rallied by Mosul and Noureddin to fight the Turks and Franks • Saladin • His character and achievements • His conquest of Jerusalem, his mercy and virtue • He reigns over Egypt and Syria • Richard I of England and his campaigns in the Holy Land • His character and reputation • Death of Saladin • Pope Innocent III raises the fourth and fifth crusades • Led by Frederic II • He recovers Jerusalem and other key cities • Louis IX and the last two unsuccessful crusades • The rise and spread of the Mamalukes of Tartary • The fall of Acre, the Latins’ final stronghold, and their expulsion by the Mamalukes

Chapter 60

Schism between the Greek and Latin churches • The duplicity of the Greek Emperors against the Latins • The rise of Isaac Angelus as Greek Emperor (1185–1195 and 1203–1204) • The revolt of the Bulgarians against the Eastern Empire • The dethroning of Isaac Angelus and the elevation of his brother Alexius Angelus (1195–1203) • The origins of the Fourth Crusade • The ambitions of the Venetian Republic • The Crusaders adopt the cause of the dethroned Isaac and his son, the rightful heir, Alexius • The Crusaders besiege and attack Constantinople • Death of the Emperors and usurpation of Mourzoufle • Latin Crusaders take Constantinople • The plundering of the Capital

Chapter 61

Partition of the Eastern Empire by the French and Venetians • Establishing of the Latin Emperors • Resistance of Mourzoufle and Alexius Angelus and the Greek people • The threat of Calo-John and the Bulgarians to Constantinople • The Latin Emperor Henry (1206–1216) overcomes the Bulgarian threat • The rise and fall of the Latin Emperors • The rise of Michael Palaeologus and the defeat of the Latins and re-taking of Constantinople by the Greeks • The division between the Latins and Greeks and the consequence of the Crusades in Europe • Digression on the different fortunes of the family of Courtenay

Chapter 62

The Greek Emperors of Nicea and Constantinople; Theodore Lascaris (1204–1222) and John Ducas Vataces (1222–1254) • The elevation and reign of Michael Palaeologus (1261–1282) • His hypocrisy in healing the schism between the Latin and Greek churches • He restores the decayed fortifications of Constantinople • Discord in the West • The hostile ambitions of Charles of Anjou • The Sicilian Vespers massacre • The Catalans attack Asia and Greece • Greece occupied and the present state of Athens

Chapter 63

Civil wars in the Eastern Empire • The reign of Andronicus the Elder (1282–1328) • His conflict with the Greek church • The reign of Andronicus the younger (1328–1341) • His young son, John Palaeologus (1341–1376) and the power of the regent John Cantacuzene • His elevation to Emperor • Civil wars of Empire increasingly reliant on barbarian mercenaries • Cantacuzene retires to a monastic life • The Genoese colony in Constantinople • The Genoese initiate a war against the Greek emperor, who involves the Venetians

Chapter 64

The rise of the Turkish nation • Zingis Khan: his life and his conquests from China to Poland with the Moguls • The escape of Constantinople from the Turkish threat • Decline of Zingis Khan’s Mogul successors and the rise of the Sultan Othman • The birth of the Ottoman Empire • The weakness of the Greeks and their alliances with the Turks • The Turkish conquest of Bithynia • Amurath I and his conquests • His son, Bajazet, his conquests and threat to Europe • John Palaeologus’s life of collusion with the Turks • The vulnerability of Constantinople to the Turkish threat

Chapter 65

The origins and character of Timour (Tamerlane) • His rise to power • His conquests in Persia, Tartary and India • Timour comes into conflict with the Ottomans in Asia • Bajazet’s capture by Timour and death • The historians of Timour • Turks and Christians unite against Timour and appease him with gifts • The extent of Timour’s conquests and his ambition to subdue Egypt and Africa • His indulgence of luxury in his capital, Samarcand • His attempt to subdue China thwarted by his death • Timour’s legacy and reputation • The revival of the Ottoman monarchy by Mohammed I • The Ottoman Turks besiege Constantinople led by Amurath II • The origin of the Turkish nation • The role of gunpowder in the first siege of Constantinople

Chapter 66

The Eastern Emperors: Alexius; Michael Palaeologus; Andronicus the Younger (through Barlaam) and their attempts to seek aid from the Popes • John Palaeologus I (1379–1391) travels to West to seek an alliance • His son, Manuel (1391–1425) repeats the trip to West for aid against the Turks • State of Germany, France and England as seen by a Greek, Chalcocondyles • John Palaeologus II (1425–1448) travels to West to agree to the union of the Eastern and Western churches • Terms of ‘union’ agreed at Council of Basil • The visits of the Eastern Emperors and their entourages revives Greek learning in Italy • Latin curiosity for Ancient Greek literature led by Petrarch and Boccace • Ancient Greek authors translated into Latin

Chapter 67

Chrysoloras extolls the respective beauties of Rome and Constantinople • The continuing schism between the East and West, as the false ‘union’ of the Latin and Greek churches collapses • The life and reign of the Turkish sultan Amurath II • Ladislaus, King of Hungary, leads a crusade against the Turkish threat to the West and East • His ignominious treaty with the Turks • Other European crusaders engage Turks in conflict • Death of Ladislaus • The Hungarian general John Huniades • The origins of the warrior Scanderbeg • His rebellion against the Turks • The end of the line of Eastern Emperors • Constantine Palaeologus (1449–1453) the last Emperor of the East

Chapter 68

The reign and character of the Sultan Mohammed II • The siege of Constantinople • The weakened state of that city because of the continuing schism of the Greek and Latin Christians • The assault of Constantinople • The zeal of the Turks, the despair of the Christians and Constantine Palaeologus’s last oration and death • The final conquest and a sacking of Constantinople by the Turks (1453) • The collapse of the remains of the Eastern Empire into Turkish hands • The consternation and apathy of the West • The conquests and death of Mohammed II

Chapter 69

The state of Rome in the 12th century • The rise of the temporal power of the Popes, and the struggle to sustain it • The revolt of the monk, Arnold of Brescia • The revival of the Roman republic in the 12th century • A new constitution strengthens the power of the senate and its officers • Rome to be ruled by an independent senator • Overtures made to Emperor Frederic Barbarossa to rule in Rome • The pride of the Romans and their wars • The reformation of the rules for electing Popes • Conflicts between Popes and Emperors • Emigration of Pope Clement V to Avignon, an exile for the Papacy of 70 years • Pilgrimages to shrines at Rome encouraged by establishment of the Jubilee festivals • The feuds of Rome’s aristocratic families • The rivalry of the Colonna and Ursini families • They adopt the names of Ghibelines (Colonna) and Guelphs (Ursini)

Chapter 70

The character and poetry of Petrarch • His coronation in the Capitol as poet of Rome • The rise and fall of the tribune Rienzi • He challenges the power of the aristocratic families • His success in restoring the ancient freedoms and government of Rome • The flawed character of Rienzi • His coronation • His expulsion by Count Pepin, ally of the Colonna and Ursini • Rienzi at the papal court at Avignon • His massacre on his return to Rome • Petrarch encourages the return of the Papacy from Avignon to Rome • Schism in the Latin church caused by the election of rival Popes • The instability of Rome and the chaos of the Church • The synod of Constance restores ecclesiastical order • The peaceful reign of Pope Nicholas V • The principles of Roman government and the decline of the republic • Last unsuccessful attempts to revive the liberty of the people by Porcaro • Rome accepts the temporal powers of the Papacy

Chapter 71

The ruins of Rome described by Poggius in the 15th century • Causes of the ruin of Rome: I. Time and nature - II. The attack of the Barbarians and the Christians - III. The use and abuse of materials - IV. The domestic quarrels of the Romans • The fortunes of the Coliseum • The revival of the spirit of the ancient games there in 1332 • Roman apathy towards antiquities • Renovation of the city since the 15th century • The conclusion of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


NERO: 54–68
GALBA: 68–69
OTHO: 69
TITUS: 79–81
NERVA: 96–98
TRAJAN: 98–117
HADRIAN: 117–138
With Lucius Verus: 161–169
With Commodus: 177–180
COMMODUS: 180–192
With Caracalla: 198–209
With Caracalla and Geta: 209–211
CARACALLA: 211–217
With Geta: 211
MACRINUS: 217–218
GORDIAN III: 238–244
PHILIP: 244–249
DECIUS: 249–251
VALERIAN: 253–260
With Gallienus: 253–260
GALLIENUS: 260–268
CLAUDIUS II: 268–270
AURELIAN: 270–275
TACITUS: 275–276
PROBUS: 276–282
CARUS: 282–283
CARINUS: 283–285
With Numerian: 283–284
With Maximian: 286–305
With Galerius 293–305
GALERIUS: 305–311
With Constantius I: 305–306
With Constantine I: 306–311
With Maxentius: 306–311
With Licinius: 307–311
With Maximinus II: 308–311
With Maxentius: 311–312
With Licinius: 311–324
CONSTANS: 337–340
With Constans: 340–350
JULIAN: 361–363
JOVIAN: 363–364
With Valens: 364–375
With Gratian: 367–375
VALENS: 364–378
With Gratian and Valentinian II:
With Gratian: 379–383
With Valentinian II: 379–392
With Arcadius: 383–395
With Honorius: 392–395

Emperors of the Western Empire after Theodosius I

HONORIUS: 394–423
AVITUS: 455–456
MAJORIAN: 457–461
(No Emperor: 465–467)
ANTHEMIUS: 467–472
GLYCERIUS: 473–474

End of the Western Empire: Odoacer, King of Italy


CONSTANTIUS II: 337–361 (sole emperor after 350)
JULIAN: 361–363 (sole emperor)

JOVIAN: 363–364 (sole emperor)
VALENS: 364–378

Dynasty of Theodosius

THEODOSIUS I, the Great: 379–395 (sole emperor after 392)
ARCADIUS: 395–408
THEODOSIUS II: 408–450 (Anthemius, regent: 408–414)
MARCIAN: 450–457 (married to Pulcheria, daughter of Arcadius)

Dynasty of Leo

LEO I, the Thracian: 457–474
LEO II: 474
ZENO: 474–491
ANASTASIUS I, Dicorus: 491–518

Dynasty of Justinian

JUSTIN I: 518–527
JUSTINIAN I: 527–565
JUSTIN II: 565–574 (Sophia, regent)
TIBERIUS II, Constantine: 574–582
MAURICE: 582–602
PHOCAS: 602–610

Dynasty of Heraclius

HERACLIUS: 610–641
CONSTANS II: 641–668
JUSTINIAN II: 685–695 (banished)
LEONTIUS: 695–698
JUSTINIAN II (restored): 705–711

Syrian or Isaurian Dynasty (the Iconoclasts)

LEO III, the Isaurian: 717–741
CONSTANTINE V, Copronymus: 741–775
LEO IV, the Khazar: 775–780
CONSTANTINE VI: 780–797 (blinded and murdered by mother Irene, wife of Leo IV)
IRENE: 797–802
MICHAEL I, Rhangabe: 811–813
LEO V, the Armenian: 813–820

Phrygian or Amorian Dynasty

MICHAEL II, the Amorian: 820–829
MICHAEL III: 842–867

Macedonian Dynasty

BASIL I, the Macedonian: 867–886
LEO VI, the Wise: 886–912
ALEXANDER: 912–913
CONSTANTINE VII, Porphyogenitus: 913–959
With Romanus I, Lekapenos: 920–944
ROMANUS II: 959–963
BASIL II: 963–1025
With Nikephoros II: 963–969
With John I Zimiskes: 969–976
ROMANUS III, Argyros: 1028–1034
MICHAEL IV, the Paphlagonian: 1034–1041
MICHAEL V, Kalaphates: 1041–1042
CONSTANTINE IX, Monomachus: 1042–1055
THEODORA: 1055–1056
MICHAEL VI, Bringas: 1056–1057
ISAAC I, Comnenus: 1057–1059 (abdicated)
CONSTANTINE X, Doukas: 1059–1067
ROMANUS IV, Diogenes: 1068–1071
MICHAEL VII, Doukas: 1071–1078
NIKEPHOROS III, Botaneiates: 1078–1081

Dynasty of the Comneni

ALEXIOS I, Komnenos: 1081–1118
JOHN II, Komnenos: 1118–1143
MANUEL I, Komnenos: 1143–1180
ALEXIUS II, Komnenos: 1180–1183
ANDRONICUS I, Komnenos: 1183–1185

Dynasty of the Angeli

ISAAC II, Angelos: 1185–1195 (dethroned)
ALEXIOS III, Angelos: 1195–1203
ISAAC II (restored): 1203–1204
With Alexios IV, Angelos: 1203–1204
ALEXIOS V, Doukas: 1204

Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade and establishment of Latin emperors in the city

Latin Emperors of the East

BALDWIN I: 1204–1205
HENRY: 1206–1216
ROBERT: 1221–1228
BALDWIN II: 1228–1261
With John of Brienne: 1229–1237

Eastern Emperors in Nicaea

THEODORE I, Laskaris: 1204–1222
JOHN III, Doukas Vatatzes: 1222–1254
THEODORE II, Laskaris: 1254–1258
JOHN IV, Laskaris: 1258–1261
With Michael VIII, Palaiologos: 1259–1261

Recapture of Constantinople and reestablishment of the Eastern emperors there

Dynasty of the Palaiologoi

(Seven-year civil war: 1390, 1391–1425, 1425–1448, 1449–1453, 1453)

MICHAEL VIII, Palaeologus: 1261–1282
ANDRONIKOS II, Palaeologus: 1282–1328
With Michael IX: 1294–1320
ANDRONICUS III, Palaeologus: 1328–1341
JOHN V, Palaeologus: 1341–1376
With John VI, Kantakouzenos: 1347–1354
With Andronikos IV, Palaeologus: 1354–1373
ANDRONIKOS IV, Palaeologus: 1376–1379
JOHN V, Palaeologus (restored): 1379–1390
JOHN VII, Palaeologus: 1390
JOHN V, Palaeologus (restored): 1391
MANUEL II, Palaeologus: 1391–1425
JOHN VIII, Palaeologus: 1425–1448
CONSTANTINE XI, Palaeologus: 1449–1453

Capture of Constantinople by Mohammed II

End of the Roman Empire


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.


The text used in this recording of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the standard Everyman edition of 1910. 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

Close the window