This history of the Roman Empire, spanning more than 1500 years of western civilization, is undoubtedly one of the most famous books in the English language. Gibbon's work in Latin and his interest in history extend back to his initial studies in Lausanne; he clearly demonstrated great literary ambitions, which began to come to fruition by 1765, when he spent time in the city of Rome. He was well prepared to write his History, which was first published in 1776. The Decline and Fall originally appeared in six separate volumes up to the year 1788. These volumes span two Parts – the Western and Eastern (or Byzantine) Roman Empire. The scope of the work is impressive, touching upon many peoples and territories – the European “barbarians”, the Islam and the Arab conquests, the Turks, the Crusades, the Mongols and Ottomans – as well as Church History, Medieval society and politics. Always colorful and erudite, the readership and popularity of Gibbon's work have scarcely flagged in 200 years.
Note: This initial version does not include the footnotes.