The Decline and Fall of the Roman (and American?) Empire: A Free Audiobook

colliseum.JPG Edward Gib­bon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – It’s a major work of the Enlight­en­ment, a book that shaped how we mod­erns write his­to­ry (and, for that mat­ter, how we aspire to write in the Eng­lish lan­guage), and it’s now avail­able as a free pod­cast thanks to Lib­rivox. Or at least Vol­umes 1, 2, 3, and 4 are.  (Click on each link to down­load the full zip files, which include many hours of audio. And please note that the remain­ing vol­umes are forth­com­ing.)

Pub­lished first in 1776, just as the US declared its inde­pen­dence from Eng­land, Gib­bon’s Decline and Fall looked to offer an empir­i­cal expla­na­tion for why Ancient Rome fell as a pow­er, and he gen­er­al­ly point­ed to a decline in civic virtue among its cit­i­zen­ry (why both­er fight­ing the Empire’s wars when you can get mer­ce­nar­ies to do it?) and to the rise of Chris­tian­i­ty (why wor­ry about Rome when a bet­ter life, an eter­nal after­life, awaits you?).

In part, Gib­bon’s work has endured because it speaks to ques­tions that mod­ern pow­ers have on their minds. What brings Empires down, and what (implic­it­ly) allows them to endure? These ques­tions have a cer­tain amount of rel­e­vance these days in an anx­ious US. And indeed Gib­bon’s name was imme­di­ate­ly invoked in a pod­cast that asked whether Amer­i­ca, today’s empire, is on the brink. (Click to lis­ten.) The par­al­lels between Gib­bon’s Rome and the con­tem­po­rary Unit­ed States have also been direct­ly explored by the pro­lif­ic, young Har­vard his­to­ri­an, Niall Fer­gu­son. You may want to check out his Octo­ber 2006 piece in Van­i­ty Fair, Empire Falls. And depend­ing on what you think, you can give time to his two books on Empire — the first (and bet­ter) one focus­es on the British Empire, and a sec­ond one devotes itself to the US.

Sub­scribe to Our Feed - See our com­plete col­lec­tion of audio­books

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.