What fascinates men about the Roman Empire? We asked experts about the TikTok trend
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All over social media, women are asking men, 'How often do you think about the Roman Empire?'
The answers have flooded in as monthly, weekly, or, in some cases, several times a day.
It is a revelation that has perplexed even men themselves.
So, we put it to experts – explain the fascination.
Associate professor Caillan Davenport is the head of the Centre for Classical Studies at the Australian National University. Dr Davenport said he too was shocked by the trend.
"It's not only people in our lecture theatres that are thinking about Ancient Rome," Dr Davenport said.
"There are people thinking about it in bed, moving furniture, eating breakfast … it really is permeating everyday life."
Dr Davenport said Ancient Rome was both "foreign and familiar", making it an exciting empire to explore.
"There is so much to Ancient Rome – there is art, literature and beautiful poetry, but that isn't actually cropping up in these TikToks," he said.
"We've had gladiators, the army, conquests, the great feats of engineering and even orgies."
Dr Davenport said the majority of videos focused on "hyper masculine ideals" where people are picturing themselves as "triumphant heroes, rather than most of the people who were poor and enslaved."
In one video, which has amassed 5.9 million views, a TikTok creator puts it down to "the fundamentals of men".
"Men inherently have the need to conquer," an account called The Masculine Edge said.
"They always have, and they always will."
Rhiannon Evans, an associate professor at La Trobe University, said this narrow view of Rome was taken from movies and video games that heavily target men.
"It's leading into this idea that we associate Rome with military power and strength and ways of being a tough man," Dr Evans said.
TikTok creator Dennis Fang, who is an ABC employee, has gained more than 100,000 followers posting history and geopolitical videos.
He said the discourse among his audience seems to be more than gore.
"The people who are interested in battles are mainly teenagers," Mr Fang said.
"It's when you first get into history, you're into the tanks, you're into the big battles … it's why children like GTA and Halo.
"What I think adult men are interested in are the political parallels."
Mr Fang said the trend was not a true representation of history lovers, rather, those attracted by the media surrounding it.
Dr Davenport and Dr Evans both welcomed the widespread interest in the period, but said a more critical lens was needed.
Dr Davenport said university courses were working to expand the world view of Ancient Rome.
"Some of the TikToks are saying that Rome was the best … but you must also think about the terrible effects of conquest and colonisation and the fact that so many later empires sought to copy Rome," he said.
He said the trend would make it into lecture halls as a "really important case study".
"I think we are always wondering how people are reacting and interpreting the ancient world, but now with YouTube, podcasts and TikTok, it is a much greater sample," Dr Davenport said.
"We need to think about the problematic legacy of Rome, as well as its achievements."
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