I’ve been trying to get a head start with my self-set challenge of reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The first volume of the edition I’m reading includes Gibbon’s first 12 chapters. I’ve been slightly wondering how many people who read Gibbon get past this volume, as so many of the quotable sentences you come across in other works, are drawn from this early part of the magnum opus. Like this assessment of Gordian II:
His manners were less pure, but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations, and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than ostentation.
[Footnote: By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three or four children. His literary productions were by no means contemptible.]
Again, for a man who prided himself on the rationality of his generation, he has some astonishing attitudes which we would be likely to call prejudice – unless he claims they are backed up by his extensive reading? For example, he hates eunuchs:
Immediately after his accession, [Gordian III] fell into the hands of his mother’s eunuchs, that pernicious vermin of the East, who, since the days of Elagabalus, had infested the Roman palace.
and doesn’t think much of Arabs, either:
Philip, his successor (AD 243) in the prefecture, was an Arab by birth, and consequently in the earlier part of his life, a robber by profession.
He also harps on about the “effeminacy” of the East. Which is a bit rich, coming from someone who wore those silly wigs and knee breeches…