Today in Catholic History – Edward Gibbon and the Franciscans

On 15 October 1764, Edward Gibbon received his inspiration to write his famous The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire which is seen as the beginning of modern historical writing on the Roman Empire and a tremendous influence on later historical writing.

Gibbon wrote in his Autobiography that it was as he heard Franciscan Friars singing Vespers in the Church of Santa Maria Aracoeli in Rome, which had been built on a site where there had previously been a Temple of Juno, where his desire to write about Rome began. Gibbon believed that he was on the former site of a Temple of Jupiter, but was mistaken. Gibbon’s first inspiration was to write about the city of Rome and only later concerned himself with the entire empire.

One of the main arguments of Gibbon in his magisterial work was that Christian hostility to the Roman Empire was one of the main reasons for the empire’s eventual collapse. Many historians today, however, reject this argument and instead point to economic and military reasons for the end of the Roman Empire in the West.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Rome fell because it was not economically able to pay their military forces that were scattered in too many places. The Empire became unmanageable. Citizens were not in agreement and did not see the benefit from taxing Roman citizens to pay for conquests and its responsibilities. Constant plotting of ambitious generals caused the waining of loyalty to the Emperor.The pagan Emperor did not fulfill the spiritual or material needs of the people. Rome had to fail


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