Posted by: ken98 | September 12, 2009

So it begins

Day 1 This is Ken

We are Mark and Ken – 2 guys who passionately love history and who also happen to have complete editions of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire taking up an impressive amount of shelf space in our bookcases. Well, that’s partially true. Mark has owned his beautiful, six volume, gilt-edged folio edition of Gibbon for some time, while Ken has only recently ordered his 3 book set of Penguin Classics from Amazon. But the important thing is that we have them and we want to do something with them.
We want to read them.
Working through the entire work from prologues to appendices will be a monumental task (the Penguin edition approaches 3,500 pages all told), but a worthwhile and healthy one.  We definitely expect a heavy workout for all the historical muscle groups. Reading Gibbon is an opportunity to force ourselves to see our lives, country, families, friends, culture, world, (well…pretty much everything) through an extraordinary set of filters: a gifted 18th century historian’s worldview, and the physical evidence of past lives recorded and remembered by hundreds of individuals.
History, when it gets right down to it, is just our own life stories told to ourselves and to others – it’s an honor to be a listener, and to try and hear what people really mean to say to us.
So, on to getting historically buff.
Over the next year we will read approximately 10 pages a day of Gibbon’s 6 volumes and finish the lot of them. We will record (hopefully, daily) our progress, our thoughts, and the intersection of our lives and the books. We will try and be honest with ourselves, with the books, and honest about our motives and goals. We will work on making Gibbon our own and try and engage in a real conversation with him.
We’d also be very happy just to finish reading the thing within the next year.
But enough with the preliminaries, time to start doing the work. We’re off to the Gibbon-free-weights-rack to start pumping.

We are Mark and Ken – 2 guys who passionately love history and who also happen to have complete editions of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire taking up an impressive amount of shelf space in our bookcases. Well, that’s partially true. Mark has owned his beautiful, six volume, gilt-edged folio edition of Gibbon for some time, while Ken has only recently ordered his 3 book set of Penguin Classics from Amazon. But the important thing is that we have them and we want to do something with them.

We want to read them.

Working through the entire work from prologues to appendices will be a monumental task (the Penguin edition approaches 3,500 pages all told), but a worthwhile and healthy one. We definitely expect a heavy workout for all the historical muscle groups. Reading Gibbon is an opportunity to focus, to force ourselves to see our lives, country, families, friends, culture, world, (well…pretty much everything) through an extraordinary set of filters: the filter of a gifted 18th century historian’s worldview, and the filters of past lives recorded and remembered by hundreds of individuals.

History, when it gets right down to it, is just our own life stories told to ourselves and to others.  It’s an honor to get the chance to be a listener to someone else’s story,  and fascinating to puzzle out how we personally might benefit from someone else’s experiences.

So, on to getting historically buff.

Over the next year we will read approximately 10 pages a day of Gibbon’s 6 volumes and finish the lot of them. We will record (hopefully, daily) our progress, our thoughts, and the intersection of our lives and the books. We will try and be honest with ourselves, with the books, and honest about our motives and goals. We will work on making Gibbon our own and try and engage in real conversation with him.

But enough with the preliminaries, time to start doing the work. We’re off to the Gibbon-free-weights-rack to start pumping.

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Responses

  1. I’m so happy to have found this wonderful and insightful blog. I too am reading The Decline. You see, during the Great Recession I read every book about the 1920’s and the Great Depression I could find, and when the Great Recession ended (well, allegedly), I naturally moved on to the next historically influential and popular topic – the fall of Rome – and where else to start except with Gibbon?

    I found this blog after a random Google search of the passage from Gibbons “The streets of Carthage were polluted by effeminate wretches, who publicly assumed the countenance, the dress, and the character of women..” which quite frankly, I found to be a fascinating way to describe a city of antiquity, and here I am.

    I too am reading 10 pages at a time, primarily because I’m reading The Decline as an e-book on my android phone. 10 to 20 pages at a time is about all I can read during my train commute home (train commute to work is catching up on blogs and topical news stories). I will, however, be adding your blog to my morning blogroll.

    I’m currently on chapter 33, and you seem to be a bit further than that, but I’ll be catching up fairly quickly and checking up on this site probably every day or every day other as soon as our paths meet. I can probably provide a couple of much needed comments too.

    The one thing I’ve learned from The Decline is that it takes a long, long time for everything to fall apart, and when people say America is going to collapse, I laugh, because quite frankly, we as a country are still very very early in this declining business, and it’s going be at least another 200 years before the wheels of this empire start to fall off the wagon, so to speak and I’ll be long gone. I personally believe that space was our Antonine wall, and now that the space program is over, it’s only a matter of time before we start closing our bases around the world, and historians can write the real time story of the diminishing American empire.

    Keep up the good work guys, you’ve got at least one loyal follower.

  2. I really respect you guys for reading all of Gibbon w/ a sense of humor :) I read most of the abridged Wordsworth version, and I enjoyed some of his hilarious anecdotes about the 3rd century emperors and Christian “miracles.” How did you survive the Arab chapter?

  3. What a wonderful thing! In our current world where newspaper articles grow smaller and information exchange seems to have drifted into the “What Oprah thinks about Sarah Palin’s shoes” territory, this blog sounds delightful. Although I am curious to see how many times humans have previously experienced our current social, civic, and spiritual patterns, that is probably only a small part of what you two are doing on your journey. The fall of Rome and the decline of the New West being, I guess, a comparative-slow-pitch to historian such as yourselves. Well, good luck with your personal and academic journey – looking forward to it.

  4. Wow. My hats off to both of you. Well, ok – my ears are to big to actually wear a hat, but if I did I would definitely be taking off it off right now! What an amazing excursion. One that I don’t think I could committ to, although I have to admit that I am immensely lured by the mension of gilt-edged volumes – I do ever so like the glittery things. Is it possible to like history just for the glamour of it? I’m looking forward to lots of amazing and insightful postings from you two. Hopefuilly, Nora Ephron will see this blog and will make a movie about your lives too. In the meantime, read on!


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