Why Is Everyone Talking About the Roman Empire All of a Sudden?
Ancient Rome lives on in the minds of men, according to a viral TikTok trend. Here's what it's all about.
If you’ve seen an inordinate amount of Roman Empire references lately, it’s not because a streaming service is replacing Russell Crowe’s award-winning Gladiator with a new show. It’s actually a rather hilarious and bizarre TikTok trend where users ask the men in their lives how often they think about the Roman Empire.
Billions (1.2 billion to be exact) of people have viewed the #romanempire tag on TikTok so far. The trend is based on a theory that men think about the Roman Empire … a lot—sometimes multiple times a day. The videos posted are mostly of women asking their male partners how often they think of the dominant empire, followed by hysterical results. As it turns out, many men are thinking about it quite enthusiastically, even if the thoughts go unspoken. Which, based on the reaction, has come as quite a shock to half the population.
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@ambarrail This trend is incredible. Some of the best ones #romanempire #romanempirecompilation ♬ original sound – ambarrai
What’s the obsession with the Roman Empire?
Despite the fact that the Romans were responsible for the way we measure time, count our calendar year, govern our people and even worship, this trend still begs the question: Why are men thinking about the Roman Empire all the time? It seems that the answer is just that—the Romans are responsible for so much.
“Why wouldn’t I think about the Roman Empire,” asked one user’s husband. Emphatically, husbands, boyfriends, brothers and other men on TikTok have pointed to the Romans’ architectural advancements, aqueducts, running water, gladiators and sheer vastness. Oh, and Julius Caesar.
“The Roman Empire is, either directly or indirectly, responsible for a lot of what we have in the world today,” writes one Reddit user. “As such, it crosses my mind at least a few times a month.” Another Reddit user says any time he thinks about history or politics, Rome comes along. And given how the ministry of Jesus Christ also coincides with the timeline of Roman rule, it does spark some thought for anyone who attends church on Sunday. “They killed Jesus and all that,” writes Reddit user C__Wayne__G. “So on the radar for sure.”
Another explanation: power. A recent Washington Post article points out that the Roman Empire’s portrayal in history is so associated with power and masculinity—think gladiators and the Roman legion—that it’s no surprise it lives on in the heads of many.
How the Roman Empire trend started
Let’s take a few steps back. As with many TikTok trends, it can be difficult to nail down its beginning, but many claim that TikTok user Saskia Cort was the first to coin the idea. The Swedish influencer posted a theory last year stating that men think about the fallen empire often—even daily. And Cort claims that it is only now being picked up by people in the United States.
In a slideshow on TikTok, she explained how she discovered this theory by asking her followers what men think about every day, with a follower saying her boyfriend thinks about the Roman Empire. From there, the trend exploded in Sweden, expanded internationally and is now taking the internet by storm.
Celebs are also thinking about the Roman Empire
Hannah Brown, a former star of The Bachelorette, asked her fiancé how often he thinks about the Roman Empire, to which he responded: “Pretty consistently. Because I’m big into martial arts. Every time I fight people I think about walking into the Colosseum.”
US Weekly asked different male celebrities the same question. Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neil admits he thinks about it “all the time. I kind of wish I was living in those times,” he says. “But I would have to be a king or I’d have to be a feared warrior.”
There are even references in pop culture. Fans of the show Suits pointed out a scene during which Rachel (Meghan Markle) asks what her co-worker Mike (Patrick J. Adams) is listening to, and—as a cover after dancing to music—he answered, “Uh, audiobook. The Fall of the Roman Empire.” So even in fictional shows, men are thinking about the Roman Empire, it seems.
How the trend has expanded
It’s seen some offshoots on the platform, including this satirization where a group of men watching football turn the channel to a Roman Empire documentary when the women leave the room. Roman Empire equivalents have also popped up, including users asking, “So, what’s your ‘Roman Empire’?”—aka, what’s the one thing you think about all the time? For some, it’s a recent book obsession (Fourth Wing, anyone?). For others, it’s Taylor Swift or a movie moment (like Mr. Darcy‘s hand flex).
Another related trend shows TikToks of Italy in pop culture that people are obsessed with today, with the caption “I also think about the Roman Empire daily.” An example is a picture of Lizzie McGuire on a Vespa (a nod to the 2003 The Lizzie McGuire Movie) or a picture of Beyonce, Britney Spears and Pink! in their gladiator outfits for the heralded 2004 Pepsi Super Bowl commercial—set in the Roman Colosseum, no less.
So it looks like the Roman Empire lives on. It even seemed like the perfect opportunity to inquire myself. When I asked my husband, I was stupefied when his response was “depends on the day.”
- New York Post: “Did Roman Empire TikTok trend begin on Meghan Markle’s ‘Suits’?”
- Washington Post: “How often do men think about ancient Rome? Quite frequently, it seems.”
- TikTok: Saskia Cort
- US Weekly: “Us Weekly DM’d 26 Male Celebs to See How Often They Think of the Roman Empire — and It’s Shocking”
- Reddit: “The ‘Roman Empire’ Trend”