Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is one of the greatest texts in the English language. In magisterial prose, Gibbon charts the gradual collapse of the Roman rule form Augustus (23 BC - AD 14) to the first of the barbarian kings, Odoacer (476- 490 AD). It is a remarkable account, with the extravagant corruption and depravity of emperors such as Commodus, Caracalla, and Elagabalus contrasted by the towering work of Constantine, Julian, and other remarkable men. It remains the standard work of scholarship on the subject two hundred years after it is written; yet equally important, in its sheer accessibility, it is an unforgettable story.
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How often does one hear of someone admitting to have tried and failed to get through Gibbon's "Decline and Fall"? I have heard it several times and I include myself in the statistic. This abridged audio version is exquisitely done and makes Gibbon accessible enough to enjoy and be inspired by this timeless masterpiece. Philip Madoc reads Gibbon beautifully and earnestly, while Neville Jason provides background and context. Both are first rate. I happened to listen to a sample of the other Decline and Fall version offered by Audible. I respectfully prefer this one (However, I'm intrigued by the other because it looks much less abridged than this one). I would also recommend Cyril Robinson's "A History of Rome" as a companion. Charlton Griffin is an excellent narrator.
"Beautifully written and narrated"
This is one of those classics that, sooner or later, all educated people manage to get around to. I had attempted reading it in my youth, but never finished it. I was pleased to find an abridged version that would not strain my attention span. This is a very well narrated version by two British readers who are skillful in the craft. It is elegantly done, and the voices match the baroque style of Gibbons' flowery style. If ancient Rome is a subject that interests you, you must hear this. However, this history does NOT include the origins and history of republican Rome. In fact, the vast bulk of the subject matter is the corruption and fall of the Roman Empire, starting approximately with the events of the first half of the 2nd century A.D. and proceeding from there. I recommend this work without hesitation to lovers of ancient history.
"Getting Through the Book"
When I was in grade nine, I was told by my grandfather that this was one of the best written books in the English language. I began to read it on the bus, its corners became tattered as I poured over the words. I memorized passages and adopted its language in my high-school essays and was promptly reprimanded by my english teacher.
I never managed to place the book in a narrative that I could describe to myself.
This recording helped me get through the book in its entirety and absorb it as a narrative.
Great book, great reading, read experience.
"Well-written and Colourful"
Were he writing today, Gibbon could be justly criticized for an overemphasis on the Emperors of Rome, the royal court and the wars of conquest, without devoting much ink to the other 99% of people in the world at the time. That said, he offers a compelling, well-written and colourful account of the Roman Emperors and their contribution to the Empire's decline. This is an enjoyable book, though listeners might want to take some simple notes to avoid disorientation as the Emperor's names frequently repeat themselves in later generations.
"Do you want to know what period volume 1 covers?"
Volume 1 of this audiobook, after some general discussion, begins in some depth with the reign of Augustus (27 B.C - A.D. 14). Only a very cursory account is given of the period comprising the reigns of the next several emperors, through Antoninus Pius (A.D. 161).
That's as far as I've gotten, but I'll update this, if that's possible.
"Too heavily abridged, and where's vol. 2?"
What's covered amounts to a sketch of the emperors from the death of Nero (68 CE) to the sacking of Rome in 476. Little else is said about other aspects of Roman society and politics, outside of the various interventions of the army, especially the Praetorian Guards, in determining the fall and succession of individual emperors. Essentially Spark notes coverage. That said, the production quality is high, and the principle reader handles the text beautifully (the secondary reader simply provides summaries of abridged content). The best I can say is that it leaves a taste for more, and at some point I hope to tackle the unabridged volumes, which run to nearly 150 hours! Should give an idea of how much is missing here.
This is of course an old text and a classic, so I will reserve only a single comment for the comment. First, however, the narration and production are excellent. No doubt you, considering buying this work, are concerned that it will be dry or dull. Not at all! I thoroughly enjoyed this effort.
The only complaint I have is with the content itself, and it stands out. If it means anything to you, you will notice the special venom Gibbon pours upon one group, and unjustifiedly so. It speaks more of the prejudices of 19th-century Britain than anything of Rome and her contemporaries. It is a shame, and it mars an otherwise perfect work.
Let this not deter you from rushing RIGHT OUT and buying this audiobook. If you care enough to read the review, then THIS IS the version you want.
Finally, I had zero technical problems with this or any other audiobook in the last year. Whatever the issues were, they have been thoroughly wiped out.
5/5 Buy it now.
Well read, but lacks the wit of the original, or rather the suggestion of it in the voice. The abridgement leaves out some of the more famous and amusing comments of Gibbon. The passages on the younger Gordian are omitted, and only summarised by the edtitorial voice, and some passages on the early Christians also. The music is not of the period as one might expect. But generally worth while.
"An excellent way to read Decline and Fall"
This is an extraordinary book! And although I listened to both parts, it is really during the second part, and especially with the account of the fall of Constantinople, that I was gripped ? and astonished. To be honest, it?s a bit of a challenge to listen to and I?m certainly not enough of an expert to review the book as such ? but I think this abridgement is OK. I suspect that reviewer Andrew from Dublin has read the whole work and is better placed to judge. I was quite irritated by Philip Madoc?s voice. When you start listening you think ?oh yes this is the voice of Gibbon? but after a while his sonorous tones get on your nerves ? and he sounds too old. Neville Jason who reads the intervening passages comes as a relief. Nevertheless, it is something of a tour de force to read the long, and to our modern ears, difficult to follow sentences and Madoc makes sense of what we are hearing. The book itself tends to be ?one damn thing after another? and unless you keep up and concentrate, you quickly loose the thread. But the advantage of modern technology is you can go back again, and again, and again?Depending on how good your concentration is, you may or may not be able to follow the book successfully. Having said all that, if this is one of the books you always meant to read ? the audiobook is certainly a good way of absorbing the Decline and Fall ? which is, when all is said and done, an achievement of monumental proportions.
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