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"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. 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 charming 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.
PREFACE BY DEAN MILMAN
TO HIS ANNOTATED EDITION.
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 £tateliness, 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 :'
1 A considerable portion of this preface had already appeared before the pub lic in the Quarterly Review,
in the eloquent language of his recent French editor, M. Guizot:
"The gradual decline of the most extraordinary dominion which has ever invaded and oppressed the world; the fall of that immense empire, erected on the ruins of so many kingdoms, republics, and states both barbarous and civilized; and forming in its turn, by its dismemberment, a multitude. of states, republics, and kingdoms; the annihilation of the religion of Greece and Rome; the birth and the progress of the two new religions which have shared the most beautiful regions of the earth; the decrepitude of the ancient world, the spectacle of its expiring glory and degenerate manners; the infancy of the modern world, the picture of its first progress, of the new direction given to the mind and character of man-such a subject must necessarily fix the attention and excite the interest of men who cannot behold with indifference those memorable epochs, during which, in the fine language of Corneille,
'Un grand destin commence, un grand destin s'achève.""
This extent and harmony of design is unquestionably that which distinguishes the work of Gibbon from all other great historical compositions. He has first bridged the abyss between ancient and modern times, and connected together the two worlds of history. The great advantage which the classical historians possess over those of modern times is in unity of plan, of course greatly facilitated by the narrower sphere to which their researches were confined. Except Herodotus, the great historians of Greece-we exclude the more modern compilers, like Diodorus Siculus-limited themselves to a single period, or at least to the contracted sphere of Grecian affairs. As far as the Barbarians trespassed within the Grecian boundary, or were necessarily mingled up with Grecian politics, they were admitted into the pale of Grecian history; but to Thucydides and to Xenophon, excepting in the Persian inroad of the latter, Greece was the world. Natural unity confined their narrative almost to chronological order, the episodes were of rare occurrence and extremely
brief. To the Roman historians the course was equally clear and defined. Rome was their centre of unity; and the uniformity with which the circle of the Roman dominion spread around, the regularity with which their civil polity expanded, forced, as it were, upon the Roman historian that plan which Polybius announces as the subject of his history, the means and the manner by which the whole world became subject to the Roman sway. How different the complicated politics of the European kingdoms! Every national history, to be complete, must, in a certain sense, be the history of Europe; there is no knowing to how remote a quarter it may be necessary to trace our most domestic events; from a country, how apparently disconnected, may originate the impulse which gives its direction to the whole course of affairs.
In imitation of his classical models, Gibbon places Rome as the cardinal point from which his inquiries diverge, and to which they bear constant reference: yet how immeasurable the space over which those inquiries range! how complicated, how confused, how apparently inextricable the causes which tend to the decline of the Roman empire! how countless the nations which swarm forth, in mingling and indistinct hordes, constantly changing the geographical limits— incessantly confounding the natural boundaries! At first sight, the whole period, the whole state of the world, seems to offer no more secure footing to an historical adventurer than the chaos of Milton-to be in a state of irreclaimable disorder, best described in the language of the poet :
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height,
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand."
We feel that the unity and the harmony of narrative, which shall comprehend this period of social disorganization, must be ascribed entirely to the skill and luminous disposition of the historian. It is in this sublime Gothic architect