USA The NEw Rome

Rome is considered the greatest ancient empire that the world has ever seen. And similarly, the USA is currently one of the greatest modern empires. When one looks into the similarities of the two empires' military strength, cultural dissemination, and technological advancements, the two seem closer than originally thought. However, there is one similarity that is often overlooked: athletics, specifically the similarities between gladiator matches and football.

Similarities between USA and the Roman Empire

Dissemination of Culture

Art & Literature

Rome has always been a hub for artists and authors like Virgil, Juvenal, Caravaggio, and Myron. Similarly, the USA has become a hub for distributing popular art and books. 57 of TIME Magazine's 100 Best Books of All Time were written by American authors.

Entertainment: Music & Theater

Hollywood is a world power that disseminates the ideals of modern America through movies and music. Ancient Rome also dispersed values through music, theater and drama.

Religion & Philosophy

America was established as a country of religious freedom and free thought. While ancient Rome had its own official religion, they allowed the people they conquered to simultaneously practice their own religions alongside the official Roman practices. And Virgil and Seneca were leading philosophers that still hold relevance today.

Military Power

"The Romans understood that the world needed to practice imperialism, namely the art of winning wars and invading territories." The foreign policy that the United States employs is similar to Rome's. America understands that the "world needs to practice [democracy.]"

U.S. Military Spending

"The (MOAB) bombing made headlines around the world as an example of American military might. Observers said it also sent a message to potential adversaries, such as North Korea, that U.S. commanders under President Donald Trump are more willing to deploy deadlier weapons."

Roman Empire Conquests

Rome had great military power and was one of the biggest empires of the ancient world.

"The Roman army, famed for its discipline, organization, and innovation in both weapons and tactics, allowed Rome to build and defend a huge empire which for centuries would dominate the Mediterranean world and beyond. The Roman army was arguably one of the longest surviving and most effective fighting forces in military history."

Advancement of Technology










Atomic bomb





American Football and Gladiators

Stadiums & Arenas

The Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum held up to 80,000 people, by far the highest capacity venue in ancient Rome.

Football Stadiums

Today the highest capacity venues are still colosseums in the form of football stadiums, the largest of which can hold over 100,000 spectators.

Violence as a Spectacle

"Looking across the landscape of history we have to admit there's something bigger going on, a consistent appetite for violence as spectacle." - Garrett Fagan, associate professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History at Penn State

“Everyone loves a fight. It's in our DNA ... if you're in an intersection and there's a basketball game on one corner, a soccer game on another, a baseball game on the third, and a fight on the fourth, everyone will go watch the fight.” Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White

“How does football explain America? It’s the violence of the sport, the violence of the sport attracts us to the game.” -Troy Aikman

Fan Violence is Increasing

Champions Live Like Kings


"Gladiators often became celebrities and sex symbols." Despite being seen as lower class, they were treated with many resources reserved for the upper class: food, entertainment, prostitutes, lodging, etc.

Football players like Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning are all celebrities worth more than $100 million. Many football players have also become sex symbols as shown in articles like "The 24 Sexiest Guys of the NFL" or "The 50 Hottest Men in the NFL."

"If one were to create from scratch a sport to reflect the sexual, racial, and organizational priorities of the American power structure, it is doubtful that one could improve on football.”

Athlete Deaths

In ancient Rome, athlete deaths were obvious. Gladiators were killed as a result of competing and everyone watched. In modern day America deaths resulting from football still occur, albeit more hidden.

CTE has influenced and caused many deaths of former football greats. Even though those deaths may not be occurring on screen for us to see, they are still a result of the violence in football.

One vice that led to Roman downfall was violence. If you look at obvious U.S. violence—military, personal fights, murder rates—there are many similarities. Even our entertainment, particularly football, thrives on brutality.

What can we do to change the culture of violence?


When the dominant groups ideology supersedes ideology of other groups

The glorification of violence over the criticism of violence: As shown in League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, faux research performed by the NFL was used to cover up Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research on concussions in the NFL. The ideas of the NFL commissioners were valued above a foreign doctor's.

How can we fight negative hegemonic influences?

  • We need to make ourselves aware by staying up to date and keeping ourselves informed.
  • We can share relevant research with those around us

Functionalist Social Theory

Sports can teach children important skills like time management and discipline, but are also a creative outlet where children can be themselves and have fun.

What can we do to make sure sports are uplifting, organic, and fun for kids?

  • Teach our children to play sports spontaneously as a fun, creative outlet and game
  • Teach children sports are not a win at all costs competition
  • As parents, don't overstep your bounds by being too involved like having intense drive home talks (Conflict/Cultural Theory)

If our children learn to play sports for playing's sake rather than for competing's sake, the intense competition that breeds violence and injury may decrease. Even though that could take generations, it has to start somewhere.

Our Deep Insight

Unless U.S. society changes its violent vices by decreasing the hegemony that pushes down nonviolent ideology and teaches children the true value of sport, we are doomed to repeat history.


  • Rome: The Greatest Empire of the Ancient World (Prime Time History)
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
  • League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis
  • Real, M.R. (1975). The Super Bowl: Mythic spectacle. In M.R. Real (Ed.), Mass-mediated culture (pp. 170-203). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Ernest Renan, What is a Nation?
  • Henson, Marketing to Sports Fans
  • Pew Research Center: View of U.S. Standings in the World
  • For more information:

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