"The book that permanently made me a sadder -
and hopefully, wiser - man was Edward Gibbons'
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
To follow one of the greatest civilizations of
all time as it degenerated and fractured,
even before being torn apart by its enemies,
was especially painful in view of the parallels
to what is happening in America in our own times.
The fall of the Roman Empire was not just a matter
of changing rulers or political systems.
It was the collapse of a whole civilization -
the destruction of an economy, the breakdown
of law and order, the disappearance of many
educational institutions. It has been estimated
that a thousand years passed before the standard
of living in Western Europe rose again to the
level it had once had back in Roman times. How
long would it take to recover from the collapse
of Western' civilization today - if we ever recovered?"