Tag Archives: Gibbon

The Secret History – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 5

Belisarius_mosaic

We’ve all got used to social media and communicating over the internet. We instinctively know what the real meaning of a lot of communications are.  You can tell that an email or a message on Twitter is not genuine even without reading the whole thing. But put yourself in the place of an historian looking back on the 21st century from a 1,000 years in the future. Human nature probably won’t be very different, but the social context will have changed enormously.  Many of the social conventions we regard as so obvious we hardly even feel the need to notice let alone explain will be far from obvious any more.  There will probably be a thesis written on exactly what LOL means. Our future digital historian might well ponder statistics about how many plaintive tweets went unanswered and ponder how lonely people using Twitter used to be in the early years of the twentieth century.  As to what they will make of Twitter exchanges between famous people – well we all know that their accounts are run by their offices.  But how do we know that?  Again, taken out of context would it make any sense? Continue reading

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HBR The Gothic War Continues – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 4

Belisarius_mosaicThe Goths were far from out of the running and although they had pulled back from Rome they still held plenty of territory in northern Italy, had a very strong base in Ravenna and were mobile and numerous enough to counterattack at any time. Continue reading

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The Reconquest of Italy – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 2


Reconquest Of italyThe Goths with their extensive kingdom in Italy ought to have found events in Africa thought provoking. Here was a resurgent Empire confidently recovering a lost province. They must have guessed that they were now top of the to do list. Perhaps now was the time to unite against a common enemy. Continue reading

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The Reconquest of Africa – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 1

Reconquest of Africa

One of the problems of reading history is that we get a very distorted view of it. We are looking at the past down the wrong end of a telescope. A good example is the Vandal kingdom of North Africa. This seems like a very ephemeral kind of thing from our point of view. In fact the Vandal Kingdom lasted for over 50 years and it must have seemed pretty well established to people living in it. It was possible to have been born in it and to have lived to a pretty mature age without knowing any different. Continue reading

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The Suppression of the School Of Athens – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 4

Suppression of the School of Athens

The extraordinary flowering of thought in Athens in the fifth century before Christ has demanded an explanation but has defied submitting to one. People have suggested all sorts of reasons from the development of the Greek economy to the availability of exceptionally nutritious shellfish.

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Hagia Sofia – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 4

Hagia Sophia

The largest man-made enclosed space in the world is the Pentagon. The United States is a big country, with a big opinion of itself and which asserts that it has an important mission. Their defence headquarters is not just somewhere to keep their photocopy paper. It is a building that is meant to impress. Continue reading

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Silk – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 2

byzantine silk Globalisation is not a new thing.  The Roman and Chinese economies were linked by the trade between them, and this trade was significant enough to have an effect on their economies.  Although they weren’t in a direct dialogue with one another, they were aware of each other’s existence and the policies they followed made a difference. Continue reading

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The Rise of Justinian – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 1

justinian

The Byzantine Empire survived the turmoil that had wrecked the western Roman Empire despite having some pretty unimpressive leadership.  Leo was the first emperor to use Greek for his legislation, but had little notable impact on the big picture.  His successor was Zeno who was newly in post when the western Empire was ended.  He consolidated the situation in the East but there was still instability at the top with other candidates for the throne creating problems.  Zeno’s reign was briefly interrupted by the reign of Basiliscus.  He was finally succeed by Anastasius, who owed his elevation to the favour of Zeno’s widow.  This was hardly the most legitimate of grounds for rule, and to add to the problem he contrived to approach death childless and with no obvious heir. Continue reading

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A Hymn To The Enlightenment – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 4

 

Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is permeated from beginning to end with the atmosphere of the Enlightenment.  But at the end of the third volume, he comes out and says directly what he believes in.

Gibbon wonders whether some unknown threat could arise that would once again destroy the civilisation of the western world of his time.  After all the Arabs had appeared out of nowhere in the eighth century.  Could the same thing happen again?  Luckily the existence of gunpowder had changed the rules of the game.  Mounted bow wielding horsemen no longer needed to be feared – Attila’s Huns would be no match for a column of men with muskets.  And it is not just gadgets.  The whole of Europe has progressed and moved forward to a brighter age. Continue reading

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Conquest of Britain – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 2

Conquest of Britain

Although Roman influence in Britain ended before it did in Gaul, Gibbon chooses to place it in the narrative afterwards.  You can see why.  The situation in Gaul steadily evolved and are developed. It’s very much part of the story of the fall of the Western Empire. What happened in Britain seems to be a very different story indeed, it does feel very much like a footnote to the rest of the book. Continue reading

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