Decline and Fall

I am still struggling away at Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; not because I'm not enjoying it – it's fascinating – but because it's so extremely long, and one has to be in rather an Augustan mood to read its magnificent Augustan prose. Also I have been distracted by many other books, both frivolous and serious. I've recently reached the 5th century, when the Byzantine empire was busy tearing itself apart with disputes on the nature of Christ, and other crucial matters, and reverend bishops and abbots were leading raving mobs to rend their religious rivals limb from limb (literally). Perhaps the fact that Christianity is a trifle moribund, these days, at least in Europe, is a blessing in disguise? Although it isn't exactly difficult to perceive other areas of the world in which religious fanaticism and dogmatism is leading to equally barbarous results. The general effect of Gibbon for me is to remind me of the endless futility, stupidity and self-destructiveness of humanity. It ought to make me more philosophical, but somehow it doesn't.


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