The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I
Read by David Timson
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has always maintained its initial appeal to both the general public and scholars alike. Its sheer scale is daunting, encompassing over a millennium of history, covering not merely the Western Empire from the days of the early emperors to its extinction in AD 476, but also the Eastern Empire, which lasted for another thousand years until the Turks vanquished it in 1453. But Gibbon’s style, part historical fact and part literature, is enticing, and the sheer honesty of the man, who endeavours to be scrupulously impartial in his presentation, endears him to the reader. In this recording, David Timson incorporates the most salient of Gibbon’s footnotes. In Volume I (chapters IXV), Gibbon opens by setting the scene with the Empire as it stood in the time of Augustus (d. AD 14) before praising the time of the Antonines (AD 98–180). The death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Commodus and his successors ushers in turbulent and dangerous times which were only occasionally marked by a wise and temperate ruler. The volume ends in AD 324, with Constantine the Great becoming undisputed Roman emperor, uniting both the East and Western Empires.
Running Time: 22 h 41 m
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ISBN: 978-1-84379-715-9 Digital ISBN: 978-1-84379-721-0 Cat. no.: NA0125 CD RRP: $107.98 USD Download size: 347 MB BISAC: HIS002020
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This first instalment in Naxos’s ambitious audio edition of Gibbon’s classic history of the Roman Empire boasts a standout performance from veteran narrator Timson. Beginning in 14 C.E. during the time of Augustus, this volume covers everything up to 324 C.E. when Constantine the Great becomes emperor of Rome. While reading a history of this size and scope would likely prove an immense challenge to any narrator, Timson handles his duties with great aplomb. His narration is crisp, clear, and commanding. His tone is both intellectual and full of authority, and he modifies his pacing and annunciation to highlight points of particular importance or interest. When reading footnotes to the text, Timson slightly alters his tone to signal to readers the transition to and from these ancillary sections. This masterful performance of a classic work is a must listen for anyone who loves history.
Gibbon’s monumental history of the later Roman Empire and its fall is given a spirited treatment by David Timson, who narrates with expressiveness, brisk pacing, and intonation and modulation sensitive to the sense of the text. He fully uses the rare opportunities for voice characterisation or acting – in the reading of letters, for instance – but without overdoing, keeping the expression appropriate for a serious history. His very British accent helps provide a clarity much needed in the coils of Gibbon’s sometimes complex syntax. At times, however, he’s a shade too quick for dense prose laden with archaic usages, ancient place names, and many obscure personages, and the listener can get lost. But overall, he provides a fine reading of this massive and difficult work.
W. M., AudioFile