Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) was an English historian and the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Born in Putney, then a small village near the expanding city of London, he was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and converted to Roman Catholicism. He served for two and a half years as a captain in the Hampshire Militia, before travelling in western Europe. "It was at Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started in my mind." In 1769 he at last started on the project, and the first volume was published in 1776. The final volumes were published in 1788, and Gibbon sank into ill-health and an unfulfilled retirement, dying of peritonitis on 16 January 1794.