BusinessTikTok’s ‘Roman Empire’ Meme, Explained

TikTok’s ‘Roman Empire’ Meme, Explained


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How often do you think about the Roman Empire?

A viral TikTok trend has drawn attention to an amusingly gender-specific obsession; the legacy of Rome, it seems, still burns bright in the minds of men across the world.

What is the Roman Empire meme?

It’s a simple one; women approach the men in their life and ask how often they think about the Roman Empire. Clips of boyfriends, husbands, dads, and brothers who have never stepped foot in Italy casually admitting that they think about the Roman Empire often, even multiple times per day, have gone viral on the video-sharing platform, with female creators often expressing complete bewilderment at the shared obsession.

The trend echoes the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” trope that stand-up comedians used to lean heavily on.

TikTok comments are full of amused-but-confused women asking what it is, exactly, that men are dwelling on? It’s a tough question to answer.

Where did the meme originate?

According to KnowYourMeme, this TikTok trend originated on Instagram. Swedish influencer Saskia Cort went viral in 2022 after telling her followers to ask their male partners the big question: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?

The trend returned in August 2023, after history enthusiast Gaius Flavius, who is also based in Sweden, posted the same prompt on an Instagram reel. This popularized the meme to the point where it reached TikTok, where it exploded into the mainstream, with many of the videos accumulating millions of views.

Why are men thinking about the Roman Empire?

There’s a stereotype of men, especially older men, being drawn to the battlefields of history; we all have a dad or uncle that developed a fascination with WWII, Napoleon, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar.

Our male ancestors lived and died by the sword, in stark contrast to the sedentary life of the modern man, who risks injury from sitting too long, hunched over his computer reading Wikipedia articles about the ingenuity of Roman aqueducts.

A running joke on Friends was Monica’s boyfriend, Richard, being obsessed with the American Civil War. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has talked about his fascination with the Roman emperor, Augustus – he even named one of his children August.

Thankfully, history has never been so accessible; there is an abundance of history podcasts, YouTube documentaries and well-moderated online forums, like the subreddit r/AskHistorians.

Still, why the Roman Empire?

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and HBO’s Rome surely helped popularize the time period. It could be the Roman Empire’s vast reach and longevity (1000 years), or the narrative appeal of a dramatic fall, along with the legends of lust and hedonism; who doesn’t love some messy melodrama?

Maybe it’s just the aesthetic; the colorful artwork, distinctive architecture, and of course, those iconic helmets. The Roman Empire seems brimming with personality; at least, the way we choose to remember it.

That’s likely why it’s still on our minds today.



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