TikTok users are asking their boyfriends, fathers or any other man how often they think about the Roman Empire—and surprisingly, some say they think about the fallen empire daily or even more often, sparking online confusion and launching a TikTok trend that’s garnered more than a billion views.
According to a bizarre new TikTok trend, men think about the Roman Empire more often than you would expect—and they have plenty of reasons why, including the empire’s vastness, gladiators and architectural advancements.
Some men enthusiastic about the empire have backed it up with evidence: “Why wouldn’t I think about the Roman Empire?” one user asked, praising the Romans for creating aqueducts and running water and making concrete known for its strength and ability to be set underwater.
Other answers are more straightforward: After one woman asked her boyfriend how often he thinks about the Roman Empire, he said every other day on average, simply “because it’s cool.”
When one TikTok user asked her brother how often he thinks about the empire, he said two to three times a week—and when she didn’t believe him, he went to his computer and showed her a replica of the Colosseum he built on Minecraft, which he said took him weeks.
In one TikTok video (which garnered 1.5 million likes) satirizing the trend, a group of men and women are hanging out watching football—but when all of the women get up and leave, the men immediately turn on a Roman Empire documentary.
Some men are recruiting their partners to love the Roman Empire, too: One user said after she asked her husband if he thinks about it, they had a “45 minute conversation about the Roman Empire, and then Egyptians, then Neanderthals, and it led to the Big Bang,” and acknowledged she may now think about the Roman Empire daily, too.
Some celebrities have joined in on the trend. Australian singer Firerose asked her fiance, Billy Ray Cyrus, how many times a day he thinks about the Roman Empire. “15 to 20, max,” Cyrus said, specifying he thinks about gladiators. Singer and actress Kira Kosarin participated in the trend, posting a video to her 31 million followers asking her fiance how often he thinks about the empire. “Three times a day,” he said, adding there’s “so much to think about.” Actress and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Rinna asked her husband, actor Harry Hamlin, the viral question in a TikTok video—but his answer was a little different. “Not very often. Maybe a couple times a year,” Hamlin said.
Not every man is a fan of the Roman Empire—and a few have misattributed the fallen empire to rapper Nicki Minaj. In one video that garnered more than 700,000 likes, a woman asks her husband how often he thinks about it—but in response, he asked: “Like the Nicki Minaj album?” Though Minaj doesn’t have an album by that name, she has an album titled Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, a song titled “Roman’s Revenge” and an alter-ego she adopts named Roman. In another video with nearly 250,000 likes which also twists the trend’s gender expectations, a woman asks her girlfriend how often she thinks about the Roman Empire. “The Nicki Minaj fans?” she replies (Minaj’s fans are referred to as Barbz). “I think about the Roman Empire every damn day,” one user said before displaying a playlist of Minaj’s songs. “This is my Roman Empire. I don’t even know… is there another one?” she said.
The trend may have first been popularized by Artur Hulu, known as “Gaius Flavius” on social media, a Roman reenactor who posts comedy sketches as a gladiator, according to a Washington Post report. The influencer first posed the viral question on Instagram last month, and more recently on TikTok last week. “Ladies, many of you do not realise how often men think about the Roman Empire. Ask your husband/boyfriend/father/brother – you will be surprised by their answers!” he wrote. Some historians have noted the Roman Empire—which was dominant until its fall in A.D. 476—isn’t just for men, despite what the trend may suggest. Some historians told the Washington Post popular culture may have overemphasized aspects deemed masculine, like military power and gladiators, creating a masculine image of the empire. But in reality, the Roman Empire had “numerous forms of masculinity, women could have agency and power, and there were multiple gender expressions and identities, as well as various sexualities,” Lewis Webb, a historian of ancient Rome at Oxford University, told the Washington Post.
1.1 billion. That’s how many views the hashtag #romanempire has on TikTok. Most of the most popular videos under this hashtag are installments in the viral trend.
Like many other popular TikTok trends before it—including “girl dinner,” “girl math” and more—the Roman Empire trend has attracted attention for being gendered. “Girl dinner” went viral on TikTok over the summer as users showed off their hastily thrown together meals, which were deliberately silly, like chicken nuggets paired with chocolate milk in a wine glass. “Girl math” went viral recently thanks to users creating their own rules for spending money, which often make little sense—like if you spend money that you put in your Starbucks app weeks ago, the coffee isn’t really costing you anything today. Delara Alviri, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer, told The New York Times the Roman Empire trend reminded her of “girl dinner” because neither food nor the empire are inherently gendered, and she speculated the trends grew out of “current questioning of gender roles and norms in general.” Some users have speculated what the feminine version of the Roman Empire trend is, and a few have landed on an answer: “How often do you think about your ex best friend?” one user asks in a TikTok video. In another video with 1.2 million likes that stitches that original TikTok, a woman says: “Oh my God, this is our Roman Empire.”
How often do men think about ancient Rome? Quite frequently, it seems. (The Washington Post)
Why Are So Many Men Obsessed With the Roman Empire? (Rolling Stone)