Besides being an object of general intellectual curiosity, the decline and fall of the ancient Roman Empire has long held a special fascination for those concerned with the health and well-being of a subsequent empire. After all, if the later empire could understand the mistakes of the former one, perhaps they—and the attendant imperial decline—could be avoided. Edward Gibbon, who wrote his monumental, six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as the British Empire was arising and the American Empire was aborning, certainly seems to have thought so. This lecture will survey Gibbon’s account of “the beginning of the end” for Rome as told in volume one of his work, with special attention to the lessons Gibbon believed he had gleaned from that pivotal period—most of which deal with a perceived decline and fall of the Roman national character.
Mr. Rose has taught in the Basic Program since 1993, and is a former Staff Chair of the program. He is primarily interested in the ways texts affect human life. He is the recipient of the 2007 Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies Excellence in Teaching Award.