This is the abridged version of the six-volume classic standard for Roman history (691 pages, but not bulky!). Considered a historical masterpiece by many, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose characters discuss it in The Great Gatsby, and Winston Churchill, it was originally published in 1776. This version has an excellent introduction and prose that is highly readable (not old-fashioned). It begins with Commodus (he was the cruel and corrupt emperor in the film Gladiator), covers Diocletian, and the rise of Christianity and foundation of Constantinople. It ends with the revolt of the Goths, the fall of Rome and Constaninople, and the rise of Islam. You will find this fascinating and relevant (and if you've already read Elizabeth Kostova's novel The Historian, this will be of particular interest as background to many of the conversations her characters have about the past and its influences).