Our quest for empire begins in what might at fi rst be thought an unusual place. We commence not in the gleaming glass conference halls of the European Parliament, where elected offi cials applaud our Unity in Diversity. Nor in the conspiratorial corridors of Queen Victoria’s Colonial Offi ce, where bewhiskered bureaucrats dissect their maps and wipe out nations with the stroke of a pen, all in the apparent name of civilisation. Nor even in the treacherous curia of the Roman Senate, where plutocrats pontifi cate on the privileges of patrocinium , blissfully unaware that their dying republic will soon be trampled beneath the heels of Julius Caesar’s coming legions. Our story, the genesis and evolution of empire , begins in a rather more colourful place.