Some 250 years after its first publication, Gibbon's Decline and Fall is still regarded as one of the greatest histories in Western literature. He reports on more than 1,000 years of an empire which extended from the most northern and western parts of Europe to deep into Asia and Africa and covers not only events but also the cultural and religious developments that effected change during that time. In Volume I (I-XV), Gibbon opens by setting the scene with the Empire as it stood in the time of Augustus (d. 14 AD) before praising the time of the Antonines (AD98-180). But 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 324AD with Constantine the Great becoming undisputed Roman emperor uniting both the East and Western empires. It contains the first of two controversial chapters devoted to the growth of Christianity and its influence.
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