Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Do men really think about the Roman Empire? MSU experts, students weigh in

October 3, 2023
Photo by Erica Bui | The State News

Power. Invention. Violence

Not only do these traits lay the foundation of the Roman Empire, but they also seem to be the reason why the once-great civilization now lives, as TikTokers put it, “rent free" in men’s heads.

This new trend, which has swept across social media in recent weeks, is simple: women ask men, typically their boyfriends or spouses, how often they think about the Roman Empire, to which many men reply, "constantly." 

However, people are questioning if men actually think about the Roman Empire that much, why they're so interested in it and, more recently, what their own "Roman Empire" is. 

When Michigan State University criminal justice freshman Karissa Wesselman asked her boyfriend how much he thinks about the Roman Empire, he told her he had already thought about it once that day.

But it didn’t stop there.

Wesselman said her boyfriend admitted to talking about the Roman Empire with his friends to psychoanalyze "how the Roman Empire fell" at least four times a month, even before the trend had started on TikTok.

A survey conducted by YouGov found that 4% of men aged 18 and older think about the Roman Empire “most days” and 14% of men think about it once a month. On the other hand, 0% of women 18 and older think about it most days, while 10% think about it once a month.

MSU ancient history associate professor Noah Kaye said many of the best students in his HST 331 Ancient Roman History classes are women.

"My only student that's gone on to further study in this field (with) field research in Turkey, Greece, was a woman," Kaye said.

Kaye said people tend to look to the readings of ancient stoics to "find peace within a tumultous world." Many of these stoic values are associated with Roman masculinity, he said. 

“People are also drawn to male leadership models in Roman history,” Kaye said.

He pointed to the famous of example of Mark Zuckerberg's fascination with the Empire’s founder, Augustus

Environmental microbiology freshman Ethan Lee said he thinks about the Roman Empire around five to ten times a week. For Lee, Roman inventions that advanced civilization are what interest him the most. 

“The aqueducts were so well engineered,” Lee said. “The fact that they were able to transport water up and down hundreds of feet of elevation with no machines helping to pressurize them, it’s pretty sick.”

Global history junior Rashad Bates said he thought about the Roman Empire on his way to an interview with The State News.

“(Men) want to be powerful,” Bates said. “The Roman Emperors really embody that.”

In response to the trend, many women across social media have begun to discuss versions of their own "Roman Empire," or things they think about every day. Some videos on TikTok and Instagram Reels have mentioned Princess Diana, the Salem Witch Trials and Tom Holland.

Wesselman said her "Roman Empire" is "Star Wars."

“I can talk so much about the characters, the lore and the history behind it,” she said.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Kaye said the influence of the Roman Empire is something people will continue to think about.

“Rome and classical Greece never really go away, even if the echoes or earlier modern resuscitations of their culture become illegible because of changes in the education system,” Kaye said. “It's just a matter of time before someone notices that Sparty’s helmet is Roman and not classical Greek.”


Share and discuss “Do men really think about the Roman Empire? MSU experts, students weigh in” on social media.