It's not just a TikTok trend - Shows set in Ancient Rome tend to have more male audiences

27 September, 2023

Image: Spartacus, STARZ

The discussion surrounding the Roman Empire has significantly permeated online platforms recently, especially fueled by a trend that emerged on TikTok in early September. This trend consists of many women asking their boyfriend/husband how frequently they think about the Roman Empire and getting surprised by the answer.

The modern perception of the Roman Empire is chiefly molded by various forms of media content. Films such as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and 1959’s Ben-Hur have become timeless pieces, crafting the visual and conceptual images of Ancient Rome for contemporary audiences. Based on demand data from Parrot Analytics, Gladiator has experienced an exceptional demand level in the US, reaching more than 10.9 times the demand for an average show in August 2023, a distinction achieved by less than 2.7% of movies.

In the realm of television, Spartacus, a production of Starz in 2010, stands out as the most recognized show set in Ancient Rome. Drawing inspiration from historical occurrences of a major slave uprising against Rome, Spartacus captivated audiences with its unfiltered depiction of the era, emphasizing the prevailing violence and hedonism. Although its miniseries prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, didn’t attain the same success, it nonetheless maintained substantial demand.

The show Domina, a relatively recent Italian and British production, has also witnessed outstanding demand. It unfolds Rome’s intricate power dynamics through the lens of one of its empresses. Not far behind on the demand ranking, HBO’s/BBC’s Rome has received acclaim for its meticulous portrayal of the lifestyle and landscape of Ancient Rome.

Several recent productions diverge by narrating not from the Roman viewpoint, but from those who opposed them. The British production Britannia explores the resistance of the British Isles’ inhabitants against Roman invasions, while Netflix’s German title Barbarians depicts the conflict between Germanic tribes and the Romans.


The aforementioned TikTok trend primarily suggests a male inclination towards the Roman Empire. Looking at the audience demographic breakdown of some of the shows mentioned above, we can see that their audiences are comprised mostly of men, but not overwhelmingly. Besides Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and Britannia, shows that men made up almost two-thirds of the audience, the shows have a balanced gender breakdown. In the case of Netflix’s docudrama Roman Empire, the audience is even slightly female-skewed.

Analyzing the generational demographics, it is evident that the majority of these shows attract an older audience. While RomeDomina, and Britannia appeal more to Generation Z+, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and Roman Empire are more popular among millennials.

This array of demographic insights delineates a broad spectrum of interest in the Roman Empire, substantiating that not only men are thinking about (and consuming content related to) the Roman Empire.


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