Decline and Fall scholarship flies high, sometimes very high, but neglects the rudimentary  needs of common readers to be able to follow Gibbon’s text, particularly the many ancient, medieval, and 18th century places he names, and his many footnote quotations in foreign languages. The resources offered here are intended to help meet the need and begin to enrich common readers’ understanding and enjoyment of a wondrous book.

This effort has taken about a decade, and would not have been possible without the online resources of Google Books,, Wikipedia, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, and others, plus the Link+ Union Catalog and interlibrary loan services of California and Nevada libraries, with holdings of 9 million books.

I hope someday scholars will hyperlink all the Decline and Fall source citations to the book editions Gibbon used.


Gibbon’s Maps (Kitchin) & Other Resources

Western Empire

Eastern Empire


(California State Library, Sutro Library, San Francisco)

Beginning with the fourth edition of Volume 1, published in 1781 along with the first edition of Volumes 2 and 3, the Decline and Fall included three original fold out maps. The larger ones, a matched pair, both measuring about 17X19″, were titled, respectively, “A Map of the Eastern Part of the Roman Empire” and “A Map of the Western Part of the Roman Empire.” Both were drawn by Thomas Kitchin (1718-1784); were dated January 1781; and carry the name of the publisher of the Decline and Fall, Strahan and Cadell. There is considerable overlap in coverage. The smaller of the three maps is 10X8″ and was likewise labeled under the title “A Map of the Parts of Europe and Asia adjacent to Constantinople.” These maps were clearly customized for the Decline and Fall; they do not appear in Kitchin’s General Atlas or World Atlas. The maps together with the 1781 text bridge the fall of the Western Empire and the rise of the Eastern Empire; the text of Volume 2 begins with an extended description of Constantinople; the corresponding map was inserted at page 22.

Numerous places on the maps are designated with both ancient and 18th century names. The basic place name font is italic. Boldface, block letters, initial caps, all caps, indicate ranks of political, ecclesiastic, or economic importance. Serving a comparable function, the cartographic place signs or symbols with settlement names are a basic circle plus –for select localities– various combinations of underlines, vertical strikes on either or both sides of the circle, boxes to the sides or top, and vertical stems atop. (Some of these tiny elements are difficult to differentiate even on original engravings of the maps under magnifier.) The names of modern capitals appear as points of reference, bold, italicized, underlined, and with an asterisk on a stem. The more elements in combination, the more important the place; otherwise, their precise meaning is unclear; the maps lack a key (“Notarum Explicatio”) nor were there generally accepted cartographic symbol conventions at the time; usage varied by cartographer, publisher, and country. Numerous place names on the maps are not in the Decline and Fall text, and numerous place names in the text do not appear on the maps. The vast majority of both appear somewhere in d’Anville’s corpus. There is no explicit mention of the maps in the text, the Prefaces or the Advertisement. The maps were omitted from most or all subsequent editions of the Decline and Fall, including the standard 20th century editions by Bury and Womersley

A Heritage & P Geelan, Edward Gibbon’s Atlas of the World  (1991) is a companion to the Folio Society edition of the Decline and Fall. It includes fine images of period maps by Cellarius, de l’Isle, Moll, and others cited by Gibbon, but none by Kitchin and only a couple by d’Anville. The Atlas also includes modern maps and a simple gazetteer of all places named in the Decline and Fall. “The present Atlas has been compiled in response to requests from members of the Folio Society, who felt the need of detailed maps to accompany the Society’s edition of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Its purpose is twofold: first, to present a panorama of Gibbon’s canvas of the world, as he pictured it to himself; secondly, to enable readers of the Decline and Fall to locate the places he names.” (p 15)

Further geographic resources are Hazlitt, The Classical Gazetteer (1851) and Butler, The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography (1907).

Maps – d’Anville

Western Empire

Eastern Empire


Rome 1738 

Rome 1756



Asia Minor




W Europe, Middle Ages

Jean Baptist Bourguignon d’Anville (1697 – 1782), one of the greatest cartographers of the 18th century, was Gibbon’s chief geographic reference. Gibbon met d’Anville in Paris and apparently wanted him to customize maps for the Decline and Fall, a hope intercepted by war. d’Anville’s Atlas General was published in 1771. It included a matched pair of Empire maps comparable to Gibbon’s but with greater detail. They were titled “Orbis Romani Pars Orientalis” and “Orbis Romani Pars Occidentalis.” These and other maps by d’Anville identify many places referred to by Gibbon in the text but not noted on the Decline and Fall maps. Gibbon’s injunction in Chapter 50, note 2, applies to the entire work: “d’Anville’s Maps … should lie before the reader.” Area maps (linked above) appear in Géographie Ancienne Abrégée (1768) translated as Compendium of Ancient Geography Volume 1, Volume 2 (1814). There is a very extensive collection of d’Anville maps on the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France,

Tabula Italiae Medii Aevi  (Italy, Middle Ages; 1680-89), by Giacomo Giovanni Spinelli, is useful for the Lombard ages

D’Anville’s Rome

“M d’Anville has given, in the Memoires of the Academy for the year 1756 (tom xxx p 198-236), a plan of Rome on a smaller scale, but far more accurate than that which he delineated in 1738 for Rollin’s history. Experience had improved his knowledge, and, instead of Rossi’s topography, he used the new and excellent map of Nolli.” (41.660.77)

1738 – Plan de Rome Ancienne

Charles Rollin (1661-1741) The Roman History from the Foundation of Rome to the Battle of Actium, that is, to the End of the Commonwealth (London 1768) Vol 1 p 12 (fold-out, scroll down one page)

1756Viarum Romanarum in Circuitu Tabula (Map of Roman Roads around Rome)

d’Anville, “Mémoire sur l’Éntendue de l’Ancienne Rome, et sur les Grandes VOIES qui Sortoient de cette Ville”, Mémoires de Littérature tirez des Registres de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, depuis l’Année M.DCCLVII, jusques & Compris l’Année M.DCCLX. Tome Trentieme (Paris M.DCCLXIV) p 198.

Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, depuis son Établissement jusqu’a présent: avec les Memoires de literature Tirez des Registres de cette Académie depuis son Renouvellement jusqu’en 1710 (Volume 30) identifier: histoiredelaca30acad

Google Books: Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, Volume 30 (map omitted)

1762 Rome Ancienne – topography of the seven hills

The Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres is a French learned society devoted to the humanities, founded in February 1663 as one of the five academies of the Institut de France. It published the Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres depuis son établissement… avec les Mémoires de Littérature tiréz des registres de cette Académie  [Full-text of most of the first six volumes, namely 1718 (T. 1 -Histoire), 1719 (T. 2-Mémoires), 1719 (T. 1-Mémoires), 1724 (T. 5-Mémoires), 1724 (T. 6 Mémoires), 1724 (T. 2-Histoire), 1724 (T. 4-Mémoires), 1731 (T. 3-Histoire), 1736 (T. 4-Histoire), 1741 (T. 5-Histoire) is available at Gallica: la bibliothèque numerique.]
This journal also appeared under the title: Mémoires de Littérature tirez des registres de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Volumes that appeared under the title Histoire de l’Académie… contain a second part entitled Mémoires de Littérature…, which had separate pagination. There was also an edition of t.I-XLI (1663-1776) published in The Hague and Amsterdam, and then in Paris, from 1718 – 1781 in 102 volumes.


Footnote Translations

Chapter and footnote numbers follow Professor Womersley’s edition, both hardcover and paperback. (Some editors have disrupted Gibbon’s sequences by inserting numbered footnotes of their own.) Gibbon’s footnote quotations are mostly in Greek and Latin, some in French and a few in Italian. The only systematic English translations I have found, sometimes quoted herein, are by Anthony Lentin and Brian Norman, in an abridged edition of the Decline and Fall (Wordsworth 1998), “unless [the passages were] already translated or substantially paraphrased by Gibbon in the body of his text.” (p xv). Generally I use Loeb Library (Harvard University) translations of the classics. An impressive number of translations of his medieval sources, however obscure, have been published. I have traced many of Gibbon’s unsourced quotations online, including in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Apparent quotations by him are sometimes paraphrases or change inflection or tense, making the original passages very hard to identify. Certain original sources Gibbon cites are now considered by some scholars as pseudonymous or forgeries, such as some letters by the Emperor Julian. Gibbon used a number of 17th & 18th century Greek texts which included parallel Latin translations. Gibbon rarely quotes secondary texts, although he usually acknowledges them as the source of the originals where he could not get at them independently.

The translations here are offered only to help the reader “form some idea” of the originals. (see 5 n 6) Almost all originals were manuscripts with illegible words and phrases subject to different, equally plausible, readings. The published translations quoted here appear sometimes to be of original texts edited differently from those Gibbon used. There is much room for a team of specialists in classical, medieval, Byzantine, and Renaissance linguistics and literature to identify the specific editions quoted by Gibbon; evaluate the merits of his emendations; assess his grasp of Latin and Greek in word and spirit; and translate the quotations on the literal end of the spectrum, for comparison to his own translations and paraphrases in his famously distinctive English style.

Chapters 1 – 10

Chapters 11 – 17

Chapters 18 – 26

Chapters 27 – 35

Chapters 36 – 42

Chapters 43 – 47

Chapters 49 – 51

Chapters 52 – 53

Chapters 54 – 58

Chapters 59 – 62

Chapters 63 – 68

Chapters 69 – 71


Illustrated Passages from The Histories

Among Gibbon’s innumerable flowers of rhetoric in the Decline and Fall, “ekphrasis” (εκφράσις) is vivid, colorful description, often of works of art or architecture, also of noteworthy places. He “draws” on many sources which include actual illustrations (etchings, etc) of his subjects.

Illustrated Passages from the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Spanheim’s Commodus (4.117)

Maffei’s Colosseum (12.353-54)

Adam’s Palace of Diocletian (13.396-97)

Pococke’s Thracian Bosphorus & Constantinople (17.591-94)

d’Anville’s Jerusalem (23.885-86)

The Bad Road (30.124)

Grelot’s St Sophia (40.595.103)

Gates of the Caucasus (40.609)

Wood and Dawkins: Palmyra and Baalbec (51.263.71)

Shaw’s Sufetula (51.293)

Swinburne’s Zehra (52.345)

The Byzantine Beacons (53.406 & n 74; 48.48)

Roman Ostia (31.196.89)