JONES: 3 Reasons Men Dream Of Ancient Rome

Greg Jones Freelance Writer
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Unless you’ve been under a rock the last couple of weeks, you’ve likely heard about the Roman Empire trend on TikTok, in which women are shocked to learn that their husbands and boyfriends spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about, well, the Roman Empire.

One of the more popular videos has over five million views and the trend has inspired countless other women to ask the men in their lives how often they ponder the greatness of Rome.

I personally have been asked no fewer than ten times, by various people, how often I think about it, and my answer is always the same: daily. It doesn’t hurt that my various text threads and Twitter group chats frequently share Roman-themed jokes and memes. As long as my phone is in my hand, Rome is on my mind.

And I think I know why.

There is much to admire about the ancient world, and so much to despise about the modern world, and it is at these intersections that Rome’s resurgent popularity lies.

Specifically, there are three reasons I believe Ancient Rome is so back.

Men crave greatness

We demand it from our football teams, our politicians (yes, we are often stupid) and our children.

Greatness can mean many things, of course, but it generally refers to achievement or dominance of a particular arena, both of which are derided these days as products of misogyny.

We desire competition and often go to great lengths to discover “what we are made of,” yet the society in which we currently find ourselves considers such masculine instincts to be “toxic.”

So who can blame us if our minds naturally harken back to a time when men were at their most? Be it marching in legions to conquer exotic lands, outmaneuvering your enemies in the Senate or battling to the death in an arena to the roar of bloodthirsty spectators, Ancient Rome has plenty to offer in terms of personal greatness.

And in an era where achievement is demonized, men long for an era when it was prized.

Men seek brotherhood

Such bonding, however, is becoming more difficult in an increasingly virtual world.

I’ve yet to analyze the demographics, but in my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience the men fawning over Rome’s glory days fall into two camps: they are either older millennials or members of the Greatest Generation. And by that I mean Gen X, of course. This makes sense when you consider that, although the virtual world isn’t exactly foreign to us, in too many ways it rings hollow. We grew up playing video games, sure, if it was pouring rain out or too late at night (at least until we discovered girls). 

But our fondest memories were not made in front of a screen. Rather, they were largely forged by bruising our bodies alongside our best friends. Be it backyard football games or questionable bicycle ramps, there’s an irreplaceable bond that comes with shared physical pain.

Which is why the growing disdain for personal interaction brought about by COVID, social media and the Metaverse is alienating to so many of us. It’s not that we are Luddites, but rather that we prefer the real over the artificial.

A natural reaction to false progress is a pivot toward tradition, and few eras evoke the longing to RETVRN like Ancient Rome does.

As Jeremy Armstrong notes in the Journal of Ancient History, “Family bonds, and particularly fraternal relationships, play key roles in many of the narratives relating to Rome’s Regal and early Republican periods. In particular, the literary sources for these periods are full of references to brothers standing side by side, fighting for, and in many ways embodying (sometimes quite literally), the various social and political entities which were struggling for supremacy in archaic Latium.”

Some things, it seems, never change, and if you’re seeking shining examples of fraternity, it’s hard to beat the greatest empire the world has ever known.

Men must dream

For a long time America fulfilled our need to dream, as the cultural explosion at the beginning of the twentieth century produced no shortage of heroes and myths with which to identify.

But those days seem a distant memory. What works of real value has Hollywood, or the arts in this country in general, produced recently? Hardly anything as far as I can tell. Rather, we are subjected to countless comic book adaptations and endless reboots of exhausted franchises, creating a cultural vacuum longing to be filled.

Few eras offer a more viable substitute than do Rome’s glory days. While the Empire is in many ways infamous for its debauchery and excesses, those were largely relegated to societal elites (sound familiar?). The culture Rome produced, however, is unrivaled and lives on to this day, from art to architecture to language to law. How can we be faulted for admiring the West’s foundations, even as the West itself crumbles?

As the modern world fails to inspire devotion to our own civilization, it’s only natural that we seek those feelings out elsewhere. And what could possibly compete with Rome, the genesis of the cultural greatness currently being tossed aside like trash by a West that has lost its way.

I submit that if anything, we think about Rome too little in this post-Hollywood era.

Simply put, as guys like myself see our own nation, largely modeled after Rome herself, decline into depravity, it’s difficult to resist looking back and dreaming about what our ideals can achieve when unencumbered by modernity’s psychoses.

And if that strikes some women as strange, just know the feeling is mutual. We think yoga is weird and pumpkin spice is gross as hell.

Greg Jones is a conservative freelance writer and blogger.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.