Edward Gibbon Quote

β€œIn the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all - security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”

~ Edward Gibbon

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1909

Ratings and Comments

Logan, Memphis, TN

Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!

Robert, Sarasota

In this book there are so many lessons; if only we could learn from them, but we don't, we just make the same mistakes again and again and again - there must be another way?

Joe, Rochester, MI

Change "Athenians" to "Americans" and you have our country today.

Mike, Norwalk

When the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility they got the security of compelled compliance, theft of the noble laborer's fruit, victimless crime, crime filled streets, license, national IDs, torture for interrogation techniques, the loss of Habeas Corpus, wars and rumors of wars, etc. etc. etc., then the U.S. ceased to be free.

E Archer, NYC

Do you think merely knowing this fact will change anything? Any dependency from drugs to government hand-outs ultimately requires the voluntary abstention from that which binds us.

Richard, Los Angeles

Every American should be required to memorize this quote.

Dave, Harlan, Iowa

It is a very good quote. I spent most of the night trying to find it.

Eric M. Bram, Poughkeepsie

Great quote, but it's not by Gibbon. The quotation actually originated in an article by Margaret Thatcher, "The Moral Foundations of Society" (Imprimis, March 1995), which was an edited version of a lecture Thatcher had given at Hillsdale College in November 1994. Here is the actual passage from Thatcher's article:
"[M]ore than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everythingsecurity, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians' dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism."
The quoted passage was written by Thatcher. In characterizing the Athenians in the article she mistakenly cited Sir Edward Gibbon, but she was actually paraphrasing from "Athens' Failure," a chapter of classicist Edith Hamilton's book The Echo of Greece (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1967, p.47).

Astonished, East Coaster

Seriously? The comment above, re-attributing a quote from the 1700s - to Margaret Thatcher, over 200 years later β€” is what's truly terrifying. FFS.

layla, michigan

It's obvious that Hamilton and Thatcher were educated in the classics and Gibbon.


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