Obviously, if you're already here at this page considering Gibbon's great history, the greatest work of its kind in world literature, then you probably know quite a bit about it. What you're wondering is: Is it really worth reading? Will I enjoy reading it? Will it be worth the time I spend reading it? Will I learn anything vital for living my life? Damn good questions! The classics are tough to review, since there are thousands of reviews in all sorts of books and venues, and Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" has received its share of coverage. So here's what you need to know, in my opinion. First, Gibbon is a chore to read. The heavily stylized writing, each sentence constructed like a lovely portico in a magnificent Roman temple, is daunting, even for people who read classics all the time. But give yourself about two weeks of steady reading, and it will begin to click for you, and then you'll really start to love the style if you have any taste or discernment at all. Those elegantly multifarious sentences and paragraphs will begin to read like graceful passages of poetry in an expansive Homeric epic. Second, Gibbon has a mountain of interesting things to say, once you get accustomed to his periodic style. The best way to read this stuff is to read it like a collection of short stories or essays. Don't plunk yourself down one lonely night brave intending to read this overwhelmingly massive tome from start to finish in 6 months or a year. Your ship of Good Hope will soon founder on the rocks of the "Decline's" sheer volume and the unrelenting, exhausting high seriousness of Gibbon. Pick one emperor's story, a section, a few paragraphs even, and just enjoy that one passage, as though you were gazing on a little stained-glass window in some dim corner of a giant cathedral. Later, to get a first taste of the full depth and breadth of Gibbon's approach, take up the deservedly famous chapters on the origins of Christianity, Chapters 15 and 16 in Volume I. That will give you the feel for the mighty swell of his thought and the powerful turn of his ideas. Third, the break-up of the empire is just one of those topics it pays, in many ways and throughout your life of thought and inquiry, to know well. And Gibbon is the best guide, by far, because he has a knack for plot. As scholarly as his work is, Gibbon tells a mean story. It helps a great deal to have a neat summary of Roman imperial history at hand, perhaps one of those excellent books on Rome by Michael Grant, or the Encyclopedia Britannica articles on the Roman Empire, to get the overview you need to keep the narrative straight, so you can concentrate on Gibbon's lofty evaluation of the action and the social and political movements that sway it first one way and then another. So, you see, once you get the style down and you start to enjoy Gibbon's voice and his approach to concepts and argument, then you will really start to profit from knowing this history and Gibbon's presentation of it. It will greatly increase the depth of your understanding of politics, power, social movements, law, religion, ambition, evil, cruelty, human folly, and more. It is one of our greatest treatises, in my view, on human "sin" and misery, leavened with just a pinch, a sadly slight pinch, of sweet human loving-kindness. After all, the Roman Empire was the greatest experiment in the history of humankind in putting an end to our collective misery, with the creation and enforcement of the Pax Romana, the worldwide peace Rome sought to impose on its world for the supposed good of all who fell under her sway. O, the arrogance! Seeing how this great mission half succeeded for a time and then failed is highly instructive. Gibbon really makes you appreciate what the founders of the American Republic achieved, and the great thinkers and doers of American history knew all this stuff backwards. For them and their world, this history was one colossal cautionary tale comprising dozens of lesser cautionary tales. Surely, you can tell by now that I am urging you to read as much of the "Decline and Fall" as you can. It is great history, great writing, great story. It is one of our greatest pieces of literature, in that lofty league with Shakespeare and Dante and Milton and Goethe. It might be a smidgen greater even than their masterpieces, in my eyes. Gibbon's work is at the summit of what you must know to be a civilized and well-educated human being, to know deeply what it means to strive for a good world. But don't be hard on yourself if it takes a long time to get going and to start enjoying Gibbon. You're not alone in that. But the pay-off will almost surely be very satisfying. Please see my interpretation of the star ratings and my other current recommendations at my amazon site.