Do You Think About Ancient Rome Every Day? Then Browse a Wealth of Videos, Maps & Photos That Explore the Roman Empire

This month, more than a few Tik­Tok-using women have asked the men in their lives how often they think about the Roman Empire. And to the aston­ish­ment of these women, more than a few of these men have respond­ed that they think about it on a dai­ly basis, or even more often than that. By now, this par­tic­u­lar man­i­fes­ta­tion of mutu­al incom­pre­hen­sion between the sex­es has swept sev­er­al social-media plat­forms, and accord­ing to reportage in the New York Times and Wash­ing­ton Post, it actu­al­ly began on Insta­gram. “Ladies, many of you do not real­ize how often men think about the Roman Empire,” post­ed a Swedish ancient-Rome reen­ac­tor who calls him­self Gaius Flav­ius. “Ask your husband/boyfriend/father/brother — you will be sur­prised by their answers!”

Even if you’re not a hus­band, boyfriend, father, or broth­er, you may count your­self among these Rome-enrap­tured men. You may think about Rome prac­ti­cal­ly all day, every day, and not be a man at all. Or per­haps you’re one of the women who, hith­er­to unaware of the appar­ent­ly wide­spread Roman intel­lec­tu­al pro­cliv­i­ties among the oppo­site sex, have begun to feel a twinge of curios­i­ty about the sub­ject.

If so, you could do worse than start your his­tor­i­cal jour­ney to antiq­ui­ty’s might­i­est empire — the ances­tor of today’s West­ern civ­i­liza­tion — with this twen­ty-minute primer nar­rat­ed by Suc­ces­sion’s Bri­an Cox. Con­sid­er also accom­pa­ny­ing it with this ani­mat­ed map visu­al­iz­ing both the Roman Empire’s rise to cov­er half the known world and its sub­se­quent fall — or this ver­sion with a scrolling time­line of the face of every emper­or.

The word “Rome” com­mon­ly stands for the Roman Empire, but, of course, it can also refer to the great cap­i­tal itself. Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured vir­tu­al tours and fly­overs, as well as a phys­i­cal scale mod­el, of the ancient city of Rome at its peak. You can also watch a re-cre­ation of the destruc­tion of Pom­peii, whose ash-pre­served ruins have taught us a great deal about life in the Roman Empire. That empire could hard­ly have extend­ed as far as it did with­out the tech­no­log­i­cal mar­vel of Roman roads, which you can learn about through videos on their con­struc­tion, sub­way-style maps, and even a trip-plan­ning web appli­ca­tion. Even the con­crete used to build those roads — not to men­tion the Roman Empire’s for­mi­da­ble aque­ducts — has been an object of fas­ci­na­tion, not least because the secret of their dura­bil­i­ty has only recent­ly come to light.

If Rome was about noth­ing but con­quer­ing emper­ors and sprawl­ing infra­struc­ture, it would be easy to explain its being a pre­dom­i­nant­ly male inter­est. But we’ve also fea­tured numer­ous oth­er aspects of its cul­ture, from the sound of Roman music and the Latin lan­guage to the col­ors of its stat­ues. Like all human beings, ancient Romans ate food — whether by fol­low­ing recipes at home or going out to “snack bars” — and wore shoes (and san­dals, alas, with socks). Our own fas­ci­na­tion with its civ­i­liza­tion has its own his­tor­i­cal roots, as under­scored by these nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry pho­tographs of Roman ruins. Nor does that fas­ci­na­tion know cul­tur­al bound­aries. I live in Korea, and recent­ly a man told me about his younger days as a sol­dier in KATUSA, the Kore­an Aug­men­ta­tion to the Unit­ed States Army. Why did he enlist in that par­tic­u­lar pro­gram? “I want­ed to know what it would be like to serve the mod­ern Roman Empire.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Most Dis­tant Places Vis­it­ed by the Romans: Africa, Scan­di­navia, Chi­na, India, Ara­bia & Oth­er Far-Flung Lands

When Iggy Pop Pub­lished an Essay, “Cae­sar Lives,” in an Aca­d­e­m­ic Jour­nal about His Love for Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1995)

The Ups & Downs of Ancient Rome’s Economy–All 1,900 Years of It–Get Doc­u­ment­ed by Pol­lu­tion Traces Found in Greenland’s Ice

The Splen­did Book Design of the 1946 Edi­tion of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

11-Year-Old Mar­tin Scors­ese Draws Sto­ry­boards for His Imag­ined Roman Epic Film, The Eter­nal City

What Life Was Like for Teenagers in Ancient Rome: Get a Glimpse from a TED-ED Ani­ma­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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Comments (3)
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  • Dr Adrian Richard Richard Marsh PhD says:

    The most pop­u­lar his­to­ri­ans of Ancient Rome include the mar­vel­lous Mary Beard, the bril­liant Bethany Hugh­es and the cre­ator of the best pod­cast about the imperi­um, the mag­is­te­r­i­al Mike Dun­can. Clear­ly women and men think about the Roman Empire on a dai­ly basis, regard­less of gen­der or ridicu­lous social media pop vox (a Roman con­cept of course) sur­veys…

  • Garth Henning says:

    These are some great resources, thank you. Have you also seen our dynam­ic Roman maps over at Run­ning Real­i­ty? https://www.runningreality.org/#01/01/30&41.85607,14.76775&zoom=5

    We’ve also been work­ing on the street map of Rome itself through the Repub­li­can and Impe­r­i­al peri­ods, try­ing to fill in the chang­ing streets and build­ings start­ing from the 700’s BCE.

  • DANIEL THALER says:

    THE COLISEUM LOOKS SO TRANQUIL. I WONDER IF THEY JUST LET THE GALLONS AND GALLONS OF HUMAN BLOOD JUST REMAIN ON THE GROUND, ADDING TO THE HORROR OF HAVING TO GO IN THERE TO FIGHT LITERALLY TO THE DEATH OR GET EATEN BY STARVED WOLVES, LIONS, WHATEVER. I THINK THE SMELL WOULD BE OVERWHELMING SO THEY MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING BUT THE TOTALLY SOAKED AND BLOOD STAINED GROUND CAN STILL BE SEEN, AND TO SOME EXTENT SMELLED. THE SMELL OF DEATH. WHAT A PLACE. I WONDER WHICH EMPEROR CAME UP WITH THIS IDEA? I’M SURPRISED THAT ONE OF THE GREAT EMPERORS, THEY WEREN’T ALL WACKED, DIDN’T PUT A STOP TO IT.

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