Зображення сторінки


This edition oï the “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is distinguished by a correct text, the verification of the references to ancient writers, and corrective and supplementary notes. On each of these points a few words of explanation are necessary.

I. The text is carefully reprinted from the last quarto edition corrected by the Author. The work was originally published in six volumes quarto; of which the first appeared in 1776, the second and third in 1781, and the three last in 1788. The first edition of the three last volumes was the only one revised by Gibbon, and in the reprints of the second and third volumes he made hardly any alterations; but the later editions of the first volume differ considerably from the earlier ones. The edition of the first volume, published in 1782,

. is the one from which that portion of the work is here reprinted; but as it contains several typographical errors which do not occur in the first edition, it has been collated with the latter. It is almost unnecessary to state that the text of the original has been faithfully preserved; and the editor has not allowed himself to introduce any changes even in orthography, except in the case of evident misprints, and of a few

a modern names, of which the more correct forms are now substituted for those employed by the Author. It seemed pedantic to retain, for instance, such words as Niester and Teyss, when custom had sanctioned the use of the correct orthography

II. The references to the ancient writers in Gibbon's notes are of great value to the scholar and the historical student. Their value, however, is considerably diminished by their being frequently made to old editions, the divisions of which no longer correspond to those in generai ase. Moreover, notwithstanding Gibbon’s extreme accuracy, the numerals in his references are not always correct; at which no one will feel surprised who has had experience in the composition or printing of a work containing numerous references, and who knows the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of guarding against such mistakes, even with the exercise of the utmost vigilance. It has been, therefore, thought desirable to verify afresh all Gibbon's references to ancient writers, and to insert in brackets [ ], by the side of the original quotations, the books and chapters of the best modern editions. This is the first time that this laborious task has been executed; and it is evident that for the purposes of the student it gives the present edition an advantage over all others.

III. It is perhaps not too much to say that the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is the greatest historical production, whether in ancient or in modern literature; and, at all events, few will be found to demur to the justice of Niebuhr's opinion, that “Gibbon's work will never be excelled.” But this very excellence—the fact that a new History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is never likely to supersede Gibbon's immortal work-renders it the more necessary that the successive editions of such a history should contain in the form of notes the advances that have been made in historical knowledge since the time at which it was written. The researches of Niebuhr, Savigny, and the other great philologers and jurists of Germany, the investigations of modern Oriental scholars, both in this country and on the Continent, and the discoveries of our enterprising country. men in the East, have thrown a new and unexpected light upon many of the subjects comprehended in Gibbon's vast work. In annotating a history which embraces a period of more than twelve centuries it would be easy to multiply notes to any extent; but the present editor has thought it right to confine his remarks to the correction of the positive errors of Gibbon, and to giving such additional information as the progress of our knowledge requires. He conceives it to be the duty of an editor, in annotating a work like the “ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” to which the author himself appended very numerous notes, to be as brief as possible, to restrict himself to the statement of facts, and to reserve the expression of his opinions for a substantive work of his own.

The notes are partly derived from former commentators, and are partly composed by the present editor. The former class of notes is taken from the annotated edition of Dean Milman, who, in addition to his own remarks, has given those of M. Guizot and M. Wenck, appended to the French and German translations respectively. In using the valuable materials thus placed at his disposal by the kindness of Dean Milman, the editor has adhered to the principles mentioned above, and has therefore omitted several notes which seemed to him superfluous. But, while he has exercised an independent judgment in adopting or rejecting the labors of his predecessors, he desires to acknowledge the great obligations he is under to Dean Milman, whose notes have received the approbation of the most competent scholars, and who has in many parts of the work added everything necessary to correct the errors or supply the deficiencies of the text.

the text. This is more especially the case in the chapters relating to Christianity, upon which the editor has abstained from making any remarks, believing that the criticisms of so distinguished a divine as Dean Milman would be more valuable and satisfactory than any which could be offered by a layman whose studies have lain in another direction.

In addition to the assistance derived from former commentators, the editor has much pleasure in acknowledging his obligations to his friend Mr. Layard, who has supplied him with valuable information upon the portions of Gibbon's work relating to the geography and history of the East.

All the notes bear the signature of their respective authors: Dean Milman's being marked M.; M. Guizot's, G.; M. Wenck's, W.; and the present editor's, S.


The Autobiography of Gibbon is prefixed to the present edition, not only on account of the admirable manner in which it is executed, which makes it one of the most charm. ing pieces of autobiography in our language, but also on account of the valuable and interesting information it supplies respecting the composition of the “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

A much more copious Index to the History than has yet appeared is given at the end of the work.




THE great work of Gibbon is indispensable to the student of history. The literature of Europe offers no substitute for “ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” It has obtained undisputed possession, as rightful occupant, of the vast period which it comprehends. However some subjects which it embraces may have undergone more complete investigation; on the general view of the whole period, this history is the sole undisputed authority to which all defer, and from which few appeal to the original writers, or to more modern compilers. The inherent interest of the subject, the inexhaustible labor employed upon it; the immense condensation of matter; the luminous arrangement; the general accuracy; the style, which, however monotonous from its uniform stateliness, and sometimes wearisome from its elaborate art, is throughout vigorous, animated, often picturesque, always commands attention, always conveys its meaning with emphatic energy, describes with singular breadth and fidelity, and generalizes with unrivalled felicity of expression; all these high qualifications have secured, and seem likely to secure, its permanent place in historic literature.

This vast design of Gibbon, the magnificent whole into which he has cast the decay and ruin of the ancient civilization, the formation and birth of the new order of things, will of itself, independent of the laborious execution of his immense plan, render “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” an unapproachable subject to the future historian :'

A considerable portion of this preface had already appeared before the pub lic in the Quarterly Review.

« НазадПродовжити »