The Roman Empire was a remarkable achievement. It had a population of sixty million people spread across lands encircling the Mediterranean and stretching from drizzle-soaked northern England to the sun-baked banks of the Euphrates in Syria, and from the Rhine to the North African coast. It was, above all else, an empire of force - employing a mixture of violence, suppression, order, and tactical use of power to develop an astonishingly uniform culture. This Very Short Introduction covers the history of the Empire from Augustus (the first Emperor) to Marcus Aurelius, describing how the empire was formed, how it was run, its religions and its social structure. It examines how local cultures were "romanised" and how people in far away lands came to believe in the emperor as a god. The book also examines how the Roman Empire has been considered and depicted in more recent times, from the writings of Edward Gibbon, to the differing attitudes of the Victorians and recent Hollywood blockbuster films.