How often do you think about the Roman Empire?

Probably more often than the Roman Empire thinks about you.

But apparently, according to a recent poll in which women were told to ask the men in their lives – husbands, brothers, fathers – how often they thought about the Roman Empire, at least 14% of men over 18 think about it every month, with 4% saying they think about at least once a day. Whereas with women, it’s 0% once a day and 10% once a month.

This is one of the differences between men and women that they didn’t teach you about in sholom bayis classes.

And this is not a new phenomenon. People have been thinking about Rome for thousands of years.

It changes with the times, obviously. Like during the days of the Roman Empire, I bet people thought about it a lot. Particularly:

  1. The people in the Roman Empire, and
  2. The Jews.

Or maybe they thought about some other dead empire, such as the Greeks.

I don’t really think about the Roman Empire ever. Though I’ll admit, my commute is shorter than most.

But I would say offhand that I think I think about the Greeks more.

And I space out a lot. You’d think sometimes it would be about the Romans. I definitely think about weirder topics than the Romans.

I’ve been thinking about the Romans a lot more since I heard this, though. So it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wait – what qualifies as thinking about the Roman Empire? Does it count if you just think about something they invented or named? Like Roman numerals? Times New Roman? MicROMANaging? PyROMANiacs?

What about expressions that involve the Romans? There are a lot of expressions, such as “When in Rome, do like the Romans,” which is a saying about assimilation, and “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” which is about managing expectations when you hire a contractor.

What if I think about the planets, which were all named after Roman gods?

The Romans had numerous gods, each one in charge of something else. Like if you’d pray to one god, he’d say, “Sorry, that’s not my department. You have to take it up with that other god, and his day of rest is Tuesday,” thus effectively forming a bureaucracy where nothing ever got done.

So when it comes to the planets, for example, there was Mercury, the god of thermometers; Venus, the god of next-door neighbors; Mars, the god of cholov stam chocolate; Jupiter, the god of stupider; Saturn, the god of moderately-priced mid-size sedans; Uranus, the god of adolescent humor; Neptune, the god of long car rides; and Pluto, the god of “Oh, wait; we took a vote and you’re not a god anymore.” Although if you ask me, naming planets after gods is a proof that they didn’t really believe in these gods, because I mean we’re not going around naming things “Hashem.”

I feel like if Yidden did suddenly drift off about the Romans, it would probably be during Shemoneh Esrei. Most likely during the brachah of V’lamalshinim, people would be like, “The Romans…” and then the next thing they know, they’re bowing for Modim.

I feel like the Romans are the one Empire that we never really defeated, yet. (Though I don’t know if they’re really available to defeat anymore. There are still Italians, but I don’t think it’s the same.)

I’ll be honest, though; Lately I’ve been thinking about the Romans a little more than I used to, because I found out that the Romans were the ones who renamed Eretz Yisrael to Palestine after the Plishtim (which technically means invaders), and they did so to spite the Yidden. And because of them, nowadays this has been causing a massive headache for us, even way after they’re gone. Like every once in a while, someone finds a coin that says “Palestine” from before 1948 and goes, “Oh my goodness! Palestine before 1948! See?” without wondering for a second why the coin would say the word “Palestine” in English.

Not to mention alef yud in Hebrew.

On the other hand, if they wouldn’t have renamed it – if they would have still called it Eretz Yisrael – The Palestinians would be calling themselves Israelites. Which would not be better. 

The Romans do come up in Gemara from time to time. And we might think about them because of the Beis Hamikdash. But why do the non-Jews think about Rome? That’s so weird.

And once a day? Do they have like a seder? Or is this an average, where once a week they think about it seven times, probably during their davening? And how does one count seven separate times? Does there have to be a hefsek between, and if so, how long?

Do they devote time to it specifically, or just pause to think about it when it comes up, or what? Is it like, “I can’t go at 4. I have to think about the Roman Empire. I can go at like 4:05 or 4:10”?

But the real questions here are:

  1. Why are they thinking about it so much? and
  2. Why is it a male thing?

Likely this is a sarcastic answer men give when they just don’t want to tell their wives what they’re really thinking about, because what they’re really thinking about is silly, or it’s nothing, or it will start an argument. So they say, “Um… The Roman Empire.”  Something long gone is pretty safe. It’s not like your wife is going to be hanging out with the Roman Empire and say, “So why has my husband been thinking about you?” It’s not going to get back to them.

I don’t understand why there’s a divide between men and women. I think men are just not asking women this question. Men are afraid to ask women, “What are you thinking about?” because a million things are going to come out at once. Men think about one thing at a time.

When asked why they think about it, the men had varying answers. Some men compare it to the United States, saying they’re using it to analyze what we’re doing right and wrong. Some men say, “It was powerful.” Most men are like, “If I would start an empire, how would I do it?” This is the fantasy. “Today we’ll tackle farming systems.”

Whereas I space out about, “What if someone came in here with a gun? What would I do?” I think smaller.

Or maybe it’s because we don’t actually know a lot about the women of Ancient Rome. Were there any women in Ancient Rome? Possibly not. Maybe that’s what led to their downfall.

Or maybe there were, but they were very tzenuah.

Maybe men like harkening back to Rome because men were very macho in the Roman Empire. They didn’t have to worry about what their wives thought about what they were thinking about. As opposed to the Greek empire, where we picture everyone wearing bedsheets with olive branches in their hair in case they feel like a light snack, the Romans wore armor that protected them from head to maybe the upper part of their legs, as well as helmets with brooms on top so they could in a pinch clean up after their horses. They definitely didn’t wear those for camouflage.

Or maybe they think about architecture stuff, such as columns. I think about columns constantly, but not that kind. Did the Romans invent newspaper columns?

But anyway, it turns out architectural columns are Greek. I don’t know. A lot of the things that I normally associate with Rome, I also associate with some culture that I think about more often. Columns! No, that’s Greece. Chariots! No, that’s Egypt.

In fact, if you want to talk about ancient cultures, I think about Ancient Egypt every single day. Multiple times. And not just in davening. That’s weird, right?

In fact, the typical Jewish man thinks about Mitzrayim more than the typical Jewish woman because he spends more time davening, ideally. 

The polls are like, “The Romans are living rent-free in people’s heads.” You know who’s living rent-free in my head? The Mitzriyim. And that doesn’t make sense, because I should definitely be charging them. 

I’ll be honest, though, this may be the answer to some problems in my life. Like a lot of times, I need to make conversation with people in a sustained awkward situation, like if I’m giving someone a ride, but I don’t know what to talk about. “How’s it going?” I don’t remember how it’s going. I blocked it out. So here’s an idea: Should I just talk about the Roman Empire? And he’ll be like, “Oh, I was just thinking about that!” Or, “Sorry, I already did my thinking about that for the day.” Then it will be even more awkward. On the other hand, for all I know, there are other men like me who don’t really think about it, and I’d just be the weirdo who keeps bringing up the Roman Empire. People will stop getting in my car.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.