Ava Caudle ’25
The grandeur and achievements of the Roman Empire can captivate, sparking human curiosity with its iconography and far-reaching legacy. Rome’s influence on art, architecture, law and Western governance continues to shape our modern world, whether one is enjoying central heating or walking along wide paved streets. This allure extends beyond history documentaries and into, apparently, the minds of modern men. A new TikTok trend emerged earlier this month with users asking the men in their lives how often the Roman Empire pops into their minds — answers have predominantly ranged from a couple of times a week to multiple times a day. Fathers, boyfriends, brothers and sons alike seem to agree that this historical topic deserves heavy contemplation.
While the question itself is, of course, a joke, it brings up valuable connections to our modern societal patterns and constructs. This merits a breakdown of what may be so intriguing about the Romans to the point of thinking about them daily. By studying the Roman Empire, anyone (men included) can deepen their understanding of politics, governance and the complexities of the human condition as they may apply to America’s tumultuous climate today.
A common thread between the United States and the Roman Empire is imperial overreach, which is one of the reasons the story of the Romans can be so enticing. Both civilizations experience(d) expansion to a point of overextension. The Roman Empire grew rapidly, stretching its resources and administration thin as its borders widened. Similarly, the American government has been involved in numerous interventions or military conflicts (in both state formation and global wars) to stretch our political influence, with the side effect of economic strain.
The Roman Empire was also plagued by internal divisions, with a stark divide between the wealthy elite and the lower socioeconomic classes. This, much like the United States, further contributed to widespread corruption within its political and social institutions. Public mistrust from Roman civilians became a prevalent part of its political culture with bribery running rampant, another shared cue our government has taken. A decline of trust in public officials or confidence in the government can weaken a civilization from within, breaking an otherwise strong power structure.
These factors become especially relevant to consider when mapping the prospective direction of our nation in years to come. Will future societies discuss the meteoric ascension and decline of the United States of America, brought up by idealism and down by falling prey to the same patterns that history is doomed to repeat? The Roman Empire serves as an all-encompassing remembrance, especially for our young country, of the potential rise and fall of powerful civilizations.
Many people may think about the Roman Empire often due to its significance to modern sociopolitical issues. From increasing class stratification to public corruption, the parallels between the Roman Empire and the United States resonate with current events and debates. By reflecting on these similarities, one can gain insights into the potential consequences and lessons that can be learned from history. Its story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked expansion and the sustenance of governmental institutions. In this context, the Roman Empire’s chronology becomes a reminder of the state-building traps we have fallen and can avoid falling into… a hyper-relevant idea worth considering on the regular (yes, even multiple times a week).