From a small Iron-Age settlement on the banks of the Tiber, Rome grew to become the centre of an empire that dominated what was then known of the western world. This book recreates the evolution of that city, describing the individuals and events that made Rome a political and cultural conqueror. The book portrays not only the cynosures of the Roman world, but also lesser known figures, reassessing their impact upon both the character of Roman society and the development of the Empire. Rome's artistic achievements, especially in literature, architecture, sculpture and painting, are scrutinized, and the economic and social conditions of life for ordinary people are examined. Finally, the changing relationships between Rome and the peoples of its provinces, and the reasons for the ultimate disintegration, or transformation, of the western empire are closely examined.