Edward Gibbon [Quoted in part from the
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia], considered one of the greatest English historians, was the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This work, published in six volumes from 1776 to 1788, is a masterpiece of both history and literature. Its breadth of treatment, accuracy of detail, and elegant style are among its strong points...
Gibbon was born at Putney, near London, on Apr. 27, 1737. Although a sickly youth, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1752. Fourteen months later, however, he became a Roman Catholic and was expelled from the university. His father then sent him to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he studied French literature and the Latin classics, thus laying the foundation of his vast erudition. He was also reconverted (1754) to Protestantism. Although he left Lausanne in 1758, he was to return many times.
Between 1763 and 1765 Gibbon toured Europe. While he was in Rome, "musing amidst the ruins" as he later described it, the idea of writing the history of the later Roman Empire came to him. He spent the next 20 years at the task. From 1774 to 1783 he was also a member of Parliament. Gibbon died in London on Jan. 16, 1794...
The following quotations are from the three-volume issue by "The Modern Library, Random House, Inc., New York" and references are made exclusively to that edition.
On the values of monastic life:
The preachers recommended the practice of the social duties; but they exalted the perfection of monastic virtue, which is painful to the individual, and useless to mankind.
Vol. 1, p. 669
On the purpose of worship in Rome:
The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.
On his Book "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
"I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion."