British parliamentarian and soldier Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) conceived of his plan for Decline and Fall
while "musing amid the ruins of the Capitol" on a visit to Rome. For
the next 10 years he worked away at his great history, which traces the
decadence of the late empire from the time of the Antonines and the
rise of Western Christianity. "The confusion of the times, and the
scarcity of authentic memorials, pose equal difficulties to the
historian, who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of
narration," he writes. Despite these obstacles, Decline and Fall remains a model of historical exposition, and required reading for students of European history.
With sweeping grandeur, Gibbon's masterpiece is enhanced by Naxos'
production, which includes dramatic, classical music and two British
narrators whose voices ooze with intellectual authority. The
music--often somber--soars into majestic crescendos as the fate of the
great Empire is sealed. Between straight readings of the text, one of
the narrators announces a summary of the next chapter or two, an
abridging technique particularly effective here. Little, if any, of the
effect of Gibbon's accessible and profound prose is lost, even when
detail must perforce vanish. A gripping history, this is superbly
presented by Naxos. D.W. An AUDIOFILE Earphones Award winner.