I enjoyed reading Gibbon, or I should say skimming a lot of Gibbon. Much of what he wrote is outdated but I wouldn't say irrelevant. I enjoyed one commentator who as I paraphrase disagreed with the conclusion that Christianity caused the downfall of Rome by responding that the very religious Byzantines would be surprised to hear that and would take issue.

I forget the name of the historian who said it, but his observation was basically "history is a conversation because no one can fully describe every event or know its precise impact." (another paraphrase). Gibbon did get the conversation started and his flawed conclusions led to more research and differing conclusions. I think about the disadvantages historians of the past had in not having access to primary sources, the difficulties in gathering materials, etc. It's much easier today of course.

I like your remark about the ancient world going "poof." The Byzantines thought of themselves as Roman even though they were quite different but as I tried to emphasize in the article, those changes occurred very gradually over centuries. One thing I have learned in writing about Charlemagne, the Franks and now the Eastern Empire is how hard multiple parties tried to restore Rome after it fell. Several like Theodoric and Justinian had some limited success. Even a millennium later, the urge to restore the glory of Rome and all its achievements contributed to the emergence of the Renaissance and has echoed throughout history ever since.

Actually, that would make for a pretty good post.

Thanks for taking the time to read my article and post your comment.

posted by historyarch: 45 days ago