Definition: The English historian Edward Gibbon (May 8, 1737, to Jan. 16, 1794), a friend of Voltaire and Diderot, is best known for his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which tells about the decline and fall of Rome from the second century A.D. to the 15th century fall of Constantinople. Gibbon was unsympathetic to Christianity, humorously explaining one of the economic reasons for the decline as worthless Christian expenditure:
"A large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes, who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity."Gibbon's history precedes many advances in the area of archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics, but he is still revered as an historian of ancient Rome. J. B. Bury wrote, "whatever else is read Gibbon must be read too." Despite Bury's suggestion, few make it through Gibbon's 3000+ pages.