THE other day the thought below appeared on Viz Comic's X profile.
This northern England publication is no longer readily available in printed form in South Africa after a few happy-clappy stormtroopers made the CNA nervous at the time. But it's an online must if you like your humour with the same flavour as me: nihilistic, childish and overly hasty to include bedroom and/or toilet action in the punchline.
So, there's a craze on TikTok these days where women ask their guys how often they think about the Roman Empire. The mostly dazed men seem to think about it surprisingly often, but then again: what is a man to do when his other half suddenly points her phone at him and asks: “How often do you think about the Roman Empire?"
You stammer and stutter and try guessing, and before you know it your stammered, stuttered answer has gone viral.
Until now, I have thought relatively little about the Roman Empire, it seems. Definitely not more than once every two weeks. But that door has now unfortunately been kicked wide open.
Respondents' first explanation usually closely resembles Monty Python's hilarious skit above.
Because I can't help myself, I sometimes pick a quarrel with stupid Americans on social media. (Yeesss, I know. I said I can't help myself.) And yep, this mostly self-obsessed bunch chirp that they think about it a lot.
One of these guys reckons if you don't think about the Roman Empire daily, you can't be Christian because the New Testament takes place in the Roman Empire. That may be, but this loses sight of the fact that many modern Christians stop reading the Bible beyond Deuteronomy and all the cursing of dissenters.
According to that kind of logic, I have to think about the Roman Empire every time I'm on a toilet, because sanitation.
But most Americans think they think so much about the Roman Empire because they are so much like the Roman Empire.
Even the great Francis Ford Coppola, one of my favourite film directors, is joining in; his next film apparently makes the very point.
My favourite film director? The Roman maestro Federico Fellini, and when I think of the Roman Empire I think first of all of his Satyricon. If you find this trailer interesting, it's an absolute must; however, if it makes you cringe more than is almost pleasant, stay far away from it:
The fact is that most Americans think of the Roman Empire as a virtuous thing because Western cultural history of the time was largely written by Romans and afterwards maintained by the Roman Catholic church.
One favourite trick at the time was to dismiss everyone other than Romans as “barbarians", in the same way that selective historiography is something America and Rome have in common.
Speaking of Monty Python, their Terry Jones made a great BBC series called Barbarians. All four episodes are available at www.dailymotion.com.
“Barbarians" refers to the Romans, not their prey.
The Thracians of modern Bulgaria, for example, had excellent sanitation and roads and whatnot at the time, but unfortunately also so many gold reserves that Rome first denounced them as subhuman for a long time and then descended on them like a pack of wolves and massacred them.
As a modus operandi (see what I did there?) it rings many bells that sound a lot like today's self-appointed world policeman. When the latter barged into Iraq more than two decades ago and summarily condemned the 21st century to the emergency care unit, the Bush gang indeed started referring to themselves as the new Romans. And everyone knows what eventually happened to the ancient Romans; lead poisoning was the least of their problems.
Even magazines such as Fortune devote serious articles to the phenomenon; characters like Jordan Peterson and Andrew Tate are mentioned. Which of course makes one wonder if America and Rome's biggest common denominator isn't perhaps plain and simple small penis energy.
Tate, collector of expensive sports cars and cheap prostitutes, apparently sees himself as a stoic follower of Marcus Aurelius, one of the Five Good Emperors who ruled Rome AD 96-180. Five Good Emperors is what Niccolo Macchiavelli dubbed them 14 centuries later; it is unlikely that their murdered Thracian contemporaries thought of them that way. Here's an old Thracian harvest song just to piss me off again:
At least it's not only men who think of the Roman Empire so often; there are women experts such as Mary Beard who are paid to do this, and even she has been asked about TikTok's Roman craze. Her opinions are much more interesting and better informed.
Things get out of hand, of course, once you start thinking about the fact that men think about the Roman Empire surprisingly often.
Then the painful realisation follows that you have now started thinking about the fact that you have started thinking about how many men think about the Roman Empire a lot. Then of course that you have now started thinking about the fact that you have started thinking about the fact that you have… (repeat to fade). You have known this story since childhood.
The maelstrom of insanity that this could possibly lead to made me cut off all unnecessary levels of contemplation and now, well, here it is.
The Roman Empire.
I have to confess, now I think about the Roman Empire a few times a day.
As it is, there's so much sport on TV and society is perceptibly wrecked.
Bread and circuses, I mean to say.
Panis Et Circenses in Latin, as sung by my favourite Brazilian rock band:
♦ VWB ♦
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