Social media is constantly evolving, and some challenges, memes, and videos go viral instantly. Some social media trends stick around for the long haul, while others blow up and vanish in a couple of months.
Trends move so quickly that their longevity is impossible to predict, but while they’re in the spotlight, we can examine how they got there and why we love them.
Let’s take a look behind our next trend, which exploded onto the scene in September: Women asking the men in their lives how often they think about the Roman Empire. The answers were often a source of great surprise.
How It Started
The Roman Empire is defined as the period between 31 B.C., when Octavian defeated MarkAntony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium, and 1453, when the city of Constantinople fell. So why is it all over social media in 2023, 570 years later?
Blame @gaiusflavius, whose real name is Artur Hulu. The 32-year-old history creator and Roman reenactor from Sweden—whose content mix includes comedy sketches of him posing as a gladiator and videos of him as a Roman legionnaire—posted Aug. 19, “Ladies, many of you do not realize how often men think about the Roman Empire. Ask your husband/boyfriend/father/brother. You will be surprised by their answers.”
Hulu told The Washington Post he was reacting to the predominantly male interest in Roman history, adding that his reenactment society is made up of 16 men and just two women.
While 1453 predates the internet by several centuries, there was a 10-year high in Google searches for Roman Empire in September, while the #RomanEmpire hashtag has tallied more than 1.8 billion views on TikTok.
So, How Many Times DO Men Think About It?
This video compilation, which topped 2 million likes on TikTok, featured several men admitting that they think about the Roman Empire every day, every other day, or once every couple of weeks.
TikTok creator @jordan.bunning shared a not-safe-for-work response from her father: “Every time I take a shit, I think about sewers and how the Romans invented the modern-day sewage system.”
The boyfriend of TikTok creator @idkhowyoufoundme got defensive when she laughed at him for thinking of it three or four times a month.
And yet another creator’s boyfriend copped to thinking about the Roman Empire every day, with the significant other of @georgiaferraris_ saying, “If you speak English, you’re thinking about the Roman empire.”
Celebrities and other mega-creators got into the act, as well.
The fiancé of podcaster Hannah Brown practices martial arts, and he said, “Every time I fight people, I think about walking into the Colosseum.”
Actor and singer Kira Kosarin was stunned to discover that her fiancé thinks about the Roman Empire three times per day because, “There’s so much to think about.”
And Paris Hilton’s husband, Carter Reum, may be a big Animal House fan, as he thinks about the Roman Empire all the time because of togas.
Brands Get Roman
Socially savvy brands monitor and react to trends, and the Roman Empire trend was no exception.
“I think the reason why so many brands are hopping on the Roman Empire trend so quickly is because it’s becoming increasingly rare for memes and trends to transcend categorical and demographical boundaries enough for the majority of a brand’s audience to understand the reference,” Open Influence Creative Strategist Zachary Honer said.
“Taking advantage of these rare trends that achieve near-monoculture status has to be done with expediency, before the novelty has fizzled,” he added. “The Roman Empire trend will be stale by the next round of Super Bowl commercials, but brands can garner attention with trend-reactive TikTok posts or limited-time promotions and products.”
Fast-casual restaurant chain Panera created a Roman Empire menu for online ordering, offering “a selection of products you just can’t stop thinking about.”
United Airlines wants to help people get up close and personal with the remains of the Roman Empire, kicking off a sale on round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome.
Other brands used the trend to drum up engagement, such as Wheat Thins, which saw its post on Instagram Threads draw replies from other popular brands like Columbus Meats, Honda Racing, Mattress Firm, the New York Mets, Nivea, Rite Aid, and Ritz Crackers.
Arby’s ran a poll on X for “male Arby’s followers,” in which 55.1% of respondents said they were thinking about Beef ‘N Cheddar, while the rest were divided among three identical “The Roman Empire” choices.
Fellow fast-food chain Sonic also took to Threads, posting an image of tater tots rolling around ancient ruins like tumbleweeds, captioned, “Apparently, a majority of men think about the Roman Empire a lot. I just think about tots a lot.”
And could you even have a Roman Empire without Little Caesar’s?
“Sometimes trends come along that baffle us, but this doesn’t mean that brands can’t capitalize on the moment,” Open Influence Senior Creative Strategist Gem Garcin said. “When it comes to virality, trendspotters know that weird and relatable can be key success metrics. From airline sales on trips to the modern Roman Empire itself, to simply poking fun—’Apparently, a majority of men think about the Roman Empire a lot. I just think about tots a lot’—brands are entering the conversation in relevant and creative ways.”
Open Influence is a global creator marketing agency that always has a vast knowledge of current social media trends and how to seamlessly weave them into your brand campaigns. Reach out to Open Influence today for a creator marketing agency’s perspective on how to discover and take advantage of the latest social media trends.