By Rosamond McKitterick, Roland Quinault
To appreciate Gibbon's background of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire thoroughly it is vital to have wisdom of his historiographical and philosophical context. Gibbon is taken into account the following not only for what he unearths of eighteenth-century highbrow attitudes, yet for his forceful interpretation of the interval. prime specialists within the box approximately which Gibbon himself wrote input into discussion with historians of the eighteenth century. New mild is thereby thrown not just on Gibbon's textual content, but additionally at the measure to which he will be considered as a reliable advisor to past due antiquity and the center a long time within the overdue 20th century.
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Extra resources for Edward Gibbon and Empire
11, p . 441. The Roman Empire of Ammianus ( L o n d o n , 1989), p p . 471—2. 33 Decline and fall, ed. B u r y , in, p . 70. , m , p . 132 n . 143. Gibbon and the later Roman Empire 23 after the military writer Vegetius, that it was the pusillanimous indolence of the soldiery that might be considered as the 'immediate cause of the downfall of the empire'. 34 HereJ. B. Bury, in one of what Peter Brown calls his 'implacable square brackets', cites the later doubts of Otto Seeck as to the dating of Vegetius, adding soberly that 'the work is by no means critical or trustworthy'.
67. In going on, however, to hazard the guess that the explanation may 'once again have been Gibbon's great evil genius, Tacitus', Bowersock satisfactorily counts Tacitus among the hedgehogs! Phil, candidate'. To Gibbon on the other hand, 'the decline and fall of Rome suggested a picture of new societies, laws, customs, superstitions, something to be described in its various stages rather than to be deduced from certain premises'. 19 To adapt this to the literary zoology of Sir Isaiah Berlin, Gibbon was a fox - erudite, imaginative, universal, someone who, in his own words, 'by reading and reflection, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant ages and remote countries'.
218, cited above, p. 19 (of the early Germans' ignorance of letters). See also William V. , 1989) and Alan Bowman and Greg Woolf, Literacy and power in the ancient world (Cambridge, UK, *994)- 30 JOHN MATTHEWS style suggest an inference relevant to the way in which Gibbon conceived of the historical character of his subject. 57 The extent to which the formation of Gibbon's conception of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is bound up with a judgment of the quality of its literary sources is implicit in the description given in the Memoirs of his early reading of classical texts: The Classics, as low as Tacitus, the younger Pliny, and Juvenal, were my old and familiar companions.