TikTok is a constantly evolving app with new trends and ideas popping up daily in a continuous turnover of content. Recently, a new trend has presented itself on the app. Women everywhere have been asking their guy friends and significant others a question: How often do you think about the Roman Empire? For some, it occurs at a surprisingly high frequency. But what specifically is the reason for this intriguing occurrence?
When we consider the might of the Roman Empire, especially as it is aggrandized in the field of history, this trend is not surprising. The Roman Empire was certainly not the first to conquer great amounts of land, but in my own experience, it is most often discussed in the context of Western history. Indeed, when I decided to test it out for myself, I found that people regarded the Empire as a major influence on Western culture, science and technology. I found people often thought about the Roman Empire in the context of its “greatness” and military prowess. When asked about the Roman Empire, one might wonder how its people were able to create aqueducts and cement, seemingly simple items that were revolutionary at the time.
But what does this historical kinship say about our own society today? The very symbol of the Roman Empire aligns heavily with classical ideals of masculinity, which is why we are seeing a gendered divide in who thinks about the Empire more commonly. The Roman Empire is often considered the epitome of strength and might, two characteristics that are conflated with masculinity. Answers that venture slightly into the unconscious show that such correlations still exist within our minds and likely also exist in our actions.
The focus on the Roman Empire also illuminates that much of the history we are taught largely focuses on Western culture. I distinctly remember my world history class in high school where, rather than learning about history in numerous regions across the globe, our work was nearly always focused on Europe with little to no information about other countries and continents. Of course, European history clearly affects our own history, but there are many more invisible strings that connect us to histories in so many other areas, especially as a country that is often quite involved in global politics. Much of our history is intertwined with countries from around the world and perceiving history through a Eurocentric view can cause other important events to be ignored. Our past is tied with every country we interact with, and understanding their history allows us to better understand other nations and our roles in interactions with them.
It is interesting what is revealed about society by something as common as a TikTok trend. Of course, the creator of this trend likely did not mean to elucidate the unconscious differences between men and women or provide insight into our educational system, but by identifying pop culture trends, we can more clearly see societal tendencies that have a significant effect on numerous other, and arguably more important, parts of our society.