Talk:Edward Gibbon

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I added him to the Muslim scholars wikiproject, since he wrote a lot about islam, even though he was not Muslim. --Striver 16:39, 30 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Gibbon generally isn't considered a "Muslim scholar"... --JW1805 (Talk) 18:29, 17 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No he most certainly isn't. But I think this article is disappointing in failing to address Gibbon's view of muslim history. I would imagine that there were generations of English-speaking readers for whom Gibbon was the principal source for the life of Mohammed and the early history of Islam. It certainly seems unbalanced to devote a section, however small, to Gibbon's anti-semitism, while failing to discuss his role as a Western historian of Islam. (talk) 19:24, 18 March 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Agree that Gibbon would have been a main source for the life of Muhammed to some generations of English-speakers. For the early Arab conquests as well - and there's a quite unmistakable tone of admiration and sympathy in his description of the Arab wave of conquest, and much later of the Turks overtaking Constantinople. He sees them as young and vigorous nations who are taking what belongs to them by right of force, like the early Romans or the British. It's partly coloured by his dislike of Christianity and of Byzantium, but also by the ancient idea of old and degenerate nations overtaken by new and forward peoples. Strausszek (talk) 14:14, 19 May 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

His political ideals[edit]

If a man were called to fix a period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom.

The age of the Antonine Emperors was for Gibbon an age of tolerance, of domestic peace and of social harmony. But yet something is missing; and that something is what Gibbon refers to as the 'inestimable gift of freedom.' I am not talking here about 'democracy', which for Gibbon was a dangerous thing, but the concept of the 'balanced constitution'; of law, social responsibility, civic duty and good governance all working in harmony; the kind of constitution that emerged in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution in England. It is, if you like, also the constitution of the old Roman Republic at its zenith, before it was destroyed by mob violence, class conflict and civil war. For Gibbon civilized life has to be based on an ideal combination of order and 'rational freedom', created by the Republic but lost by the Empire. The Empire, even the Empire of the Antonines, was based on despotism, and as such was "destitute of constitutional freedom." The Antonine state was, as he puts it, "an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of the commonwealth." In other words, if the rule of the Antonines was benevolent it was benevolent by chance alone. It gave rise to Marcus Aurelius; but it could just as easily give way to Commodus.

The contrast Gibbon draws between Aurelius, the father, and Commodus, the son, was intended to highlight the fragility of the whole Antonine age. Benevolence had been created by chance, not by design, the fundamental truth that lies at the root of all despotism. The image of liberty, to put this another way, was not the same as true liberty. Gibbon admired Marcus Aurelius-just as he admired Frederick the Great-for his personal qualities; but imperial rule was still "absolute and without control." For Gibbon it is a mark of a truly good society that no single individual should be entrusted with absolute power-"Unless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant guardians the authority of so formidable a magistrate will degenerate into despotism." After all, virtue and wisdom are not hereditary.

The other point connected to this-and herein lies the real explanation for the subsequent and relentless decline of the Roman world-is that benevolent despotism is demoralising and enervating. Under the Antonines the days of Cicero and the free nobility are long gone; private comfort has replaced civic responsibility: the Empire is set to decline because the 'will to freedom' has been lost-"as long as they [the nobility] were indulged in the enjoyment of their baths, their theatres and their villas, they cheerfully resigned the more dangerous cares of empire." More than this, in public felicity lay the latent causes of corruption-"The Roman monarchy, having attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline." The causes are internal, and the Empire could never have fallen to Barbarians, or been undermined by the Christians, if it had not already been corrupted from within. The Romans may have retained personal valour, but they no longer "possessed that public courage, which is nourished by the love of independence."

Ultimately, Gibbon's view of the whole Roman world, no matter his residual sympathy, is one condescension and superiority; of celebration of his own time, of the age of virtue and progress. Clio the Muse 01:30, 5 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I copied the text of Clio's reply from WP:RD/H, in hopes that would be useful for folks who decide, sooner or later, to add a section about the ideology behind Gibbon's great work. --Ghirla-трёп- 18:32, 7 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It is not true that Burke completely rejected the idea of 'rights of man'. He merely differentiated between natural rights in the abstract and civic rights in practice, arguing that the former cannot be reconciled with the latter because as soon as one applies idealism to reality, its very nature as an ideal is corrupted - 'their abstract perfection is their practical defect' as he puts it in 'Reflections'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:38, 3 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Help: Quotation[edit] --Historiograf (talk) 00:57, 14 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Denigration of religion": Can note be clarified?[edit]

"The History is known principally for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open denigration of organized religion, though the extent of this is disputed by some critics.[2]"
- One assumes that the "this" here refers to "open denigration of organized religion". The relevant footnote references Womersley. I haven't read Womersley, but the note itself ( ) doesn't establish that Gibbon's denigration of religion has been disputed. Can this be clarified at all? Thanks. -- (talk) 14:48, 7 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This statement needs to be removed. It's not accurate. Just because he reported the history accurately doesn't mean he denigrated religion. I'm sure by denigrated religion they mean that he didn't whitewash christianity. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:29, 8 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
By "denifrated religion" they meant exactly that he denigrated religion. That you like this is of no consequence to the article. Str1977 (talk) 10:36, 1 May 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Before and after 1985[edit]

Someone knowledgeable should put a sentence at the start of the Further Reading section, explaining why the Further Reading section is divided into two groups of reading before and after 1985. (talk) 02:32, 16 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, that seems a bit odd. At first I thought it maybe was because a book from 1985 was used for the pre-1985 bibliography. But there does not even seem to be listed any book from 1985, so I have no idea why that section is divided in that year. --Saddhiyama (talk) 08:33, 16 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Craddock's 1987 Edward Gibbon: a Reference Guide only covers the period before 1985, as you can read in the note appended to its entry in the bibliography. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 12:07, 20 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gibbon's name[edit]

Somebody should IPA his name. How it is spelt? Ghibbon or Jibbon? Because in the Arabic page is spelt with a jeem (Jybwn), while at the Greek page, with a gk (Gkimpon). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Guildenrich (talkcontribs) 22:01, 5 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gibbon is pronounced with a hard g, like the Egyptian Gamal. Joshdboz (talk) 12:47, 10 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think classical arabic have no [g], so they're using the nearest they have: a [dʒ] which originated from [g]. For greek: their gamma γ is pronounced [ɣ], so they use a specific spelling "γκ" for "hard" g:s [g] in foreign words. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 15:38, 9 February 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Why modernize quote from Gibbon?[edit]

This may just be too pedantic, but why has Gibbon's "Capitoline vision" quotation been modernized with comma, hyphen and capitalization? The original is perfectly understandable, so why "fix" what ain't broken? Cspooner (talk) 05:20, 3 February 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree, I've changed it. The reference system used for many sources (the use of ¶ in place of page numbers) is bizarre and unlike any other article I've seen on Wikipedia. This whole page needs an overall, it is a bit of a mess.--Britannicus (talk) 18:11, 29 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gibbon and Tillemont[edit]

I have read that the main source for Gibbon was the monumental "Histoire" and "Memoirs" of Louis-Sebastien Le Nain de Tillemont (1637-1698), which covered Roman imperial and ecclesiastical history up to the 6th Century. Can anyone add information on this?


"every person has two educations : one which he receives from others, and one, more important, which he receives from himself." seen in "The Will Power: Its Range in Action" @ Adamaero (talk) 01:15, 28 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

2602:306:C500:58D0:C074:AD68:FE7C:21A3 (talk) 01:14, 28 July 2013 (UTC) (talk) 16:03, 1 July 2010 (UTC)Daniel BaedekerReply[reply]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Edward Gibbon by Henry Walton cleaned.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on May 8, 2015. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2015-05-08. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page. Thanks! — Crisco 1492 (talk) 00:09, 17 April 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon (1737–1794) was an English historian who published The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. Born in Putney, Surrey, he became a voracious reader while being raised by his aunt, and was sent to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, and in Switzerland. Returning to England, in 1761 Gibbon published his first book, Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature. This was well received, but Gibbon's next book was a failure. In the early 1770s Gibbon began writing his history of the Roman Empire, which was received with great praise.Painting: Henry Walton

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"[edit]

So I'm reading section Early career: 1765–1776 which begins:

"In June 1765, Gibbon returned to his father's house, and remained there until the latter's death in 1770."

Then second paragraph after that begins:

"Gibbon returned to England in June 1765. His father died in 1770, and ..."

Is the opposite of non-sequitur something like re-sequitur ? Shenme (talk) 03:21, 22 March 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Something like that. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:03, 22 March 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Unverified rephrasing[edit]

In making this edit, User:Smeat75 moves from "is no longer accepted" to "was never accepted" in relation to a view ascribed to Gibbon. I studied the relevant citation (a YouTube record of American medieval historian Paul Freedman) without finding any substantial verification of either statement. Freedman says "Gibbon emphasised the tolerance of was his contention that Christianity weakened the empire. ...This is not accepted any more for reasons that will become clearer in the next few weeks". [At 28:30.]

For one thing, Freedman is making a casual aside remark, not engaging in a serious discussion of the issue and its academic sources. Secondly, one might question whether Freedman has made a serious study of Gibbon's work, since his interests appear to lie in unrelated directions. I'm not dismissing the issue, merely insisting that it be left aside until a better standard of verification is produced. I do agree that the questionable statement does not belong in the lede. Bjenks (talk) 06:41, 30 April 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with you. Let's just remove that dubious statement by someone who is not an authority in the relevant field altogether.Smeat75 (talk) 11:44, 30 April 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In the following courses in the next clips it became clear why Gibbon's theory is not accepted.

That Freedman is not a scholar with expertise on Roman history is irrelvant, as he is just representing the general consensus in the academia: That Gibbon's works are not accepted anymore.

Since the text was sourced I will restore it back.

En historiker (talk) 20:53, 3 November 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Contributions to Historiography"[edit]

I removed this recently-added section because of its sourcing, see User talk:Hrodvarsson#“Inadequately sourced” - Edward Gibbon edits. But the Momigliano journal articles may be enough to base a section on, or at least a paragraph in the "Legacy" section. Hrodvarsson (talk) 01:59, 23 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Besides his controversial chapters pertaining to Christianity, Gibbon has made some significant contributions to the historical method such as providing a narrative that incorporates philosophy and history while it seeks to be “factual” or accurate and supported by ancient sources. His attention to detail is admirable as he summarizes the themes of the Hebrew Bible acknowledges the pursuits of the Church Fathers like Justin Martyr, and even has an awareness of why Christianity was so dangerous and unwanted by the Greco-Roman society as seen in the persecutions of the early church. In chapter sixteen, having provided the causes of Christianity’s progression alongside the objections of the philosophers to the Christian claims, he writes to “separate (if it be possible) a few authentic”[1] facts as it pertains to early Christianity from Nero’s reign to Constantine, particularly, evaluating the cause of persecution. It was this chapter that revealed Gibbon’s influence from Voltaire, French Enlightenment philosopher, as he concludes the chapter by stating that Christians “in the course of their intestine dissensions have inflicted far greater severities on each other than they had experienced from the zeal of infidels.”[2]

The most notable contribution to the historical method Gibbon made was how well he blended philosophy and erudition into his historical accounts, which was due in part to a few French philosophers who influenced him during the Enlightenment period. Arnaldo Momigliano, an Italian historian, specialized in Roman history and wrote extensively on Gibbon’s contributions. His article entitled, Gibbon’s Contributions to Historical Method clarified how Gibbon developed his style, evaluated his sources, and expanded on the ideas of the philosophers that inspired him. Some of the philosophers he mentioned as influencers to Gibbon were Bayle, Montesquieu, Jansenist Tillemont, and most notably, Voltaire. Momigliano highlights the importance of philosophic historians by stating that “accumulation of facts does not make a history, and that the components of civilisation, such as law, religion and trade are more important than diplomatic treaties or battles.”[3]

Although Gibbon was greatly influenced by philosophy, what was also seen as new in his work was the way in which he brought the “facts” to life again in his ability to describe, measure effects, and draw a line between good and evidence.[4] Despite Gibbon’s somewhat insincere introductory statement that the story of the Roman Empire’s ruin was “simple and obvious,” he understood that there was a need to explain what lead to its ruin and he felt that Christianity–while not the only means–was partly responsible. Momigliano notes that Gibbon failed in making Christianity the cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, instead, he recognized the situation that developed under Constantine by which Christian thought and practice was rapidly expanding in its influence of the empire.[5] Gibbon demonstrates his desire to be objective is his estimation by his use of ancient sources and documents from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Trajan, and many more. He was a man of his times by pitting human reason against faith, disdaining the supernatural/superstitions, yet wrote to make his work accessible to general readers.

Perhaps Gibbon’s work and manner of applying historical criticism to Christianity provided the tools for scholars to begin their quest for the Historical Jesus, which too found its roots during the Enlightenment period. While Gibbon’s emphasis was on Christianity as a sect within the Roman Empire, he proved that one could evaluate the historical claims of a religious system using the historical method rather than merely conceding to believe those facts apart from evidence. Historical criticism can be unsettling for some adherents of the Christian faith because there is a fear that by studying Christ or Christianity in this “scientific” way one may lose their faith. Conversely, the Church Fathers like Justin Martyr and Tertullian assure Christians that their religion is rooted in history and that history is grounded in both natural and supernatural events, which are inseparable from historical analysis. These studies are necessary for both Christians and non-Christians, those inside and outside the Academy because there are undeniable truths that each can sensibly agree and other “facts” that require faith.


  1. ^ Gibbon, Edward. "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3 [1776]". Online Library of Liberty. New York: Fred de Fau and Co. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  2. ^ Gibbon, Edward. "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3 [1776]". Online Library of Liberty. New York: Fred de Fau and Co. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  3. ^ Momigliano, Arnaldo (1954). "Gibbon's Contribution to Historical Method". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 4 (Bd. 2, H. 4): 453.
  4. ^ Momigliano, Arnaldo (1954). "Gibbon's Contribution to Historical Method". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 4 (Bd. 2, H. 4): 458.
  5. ^ Momigliano, Arnaldo. "Declines and Falls". The American Scholar. 49 (No. 1): 45. {{cite journal}}: |issue= has extra text (help)