Mark Zuckerberg Wants To Be Like Augustus Caesar. How Close Is He?

We scored it based on five categories: the stars, their youth, rise to power, general vibe and popularity, and effect on the world.

Do you see the resemblance? Credit: Mashable illustration / Ian Moore

Have you ever looked at Mark Zuckerberg’s hair? Like really, really looked at it? If you did, you might get the first whiff of the Facebook CEO’s long-held obsession.

Mark Zuckerberg wants to be just like Augustus Caesar.

Zuckerberg told The New Yorker in a 2018 profile that he started studying Latin in high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. It was there that Ancient Rome became his Roman Empire — a subject that has continued to fascinate him. 

“You have all these good and bad and complex figures. I think Augustus is one of the most fascinating,” Zuckerberg told The New Yorker. “Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established two hundred years of world peace.” 

In case you aren’t up to date on your Roman history, Augustus is not the worst of the Caesars — that would be his great uncle and adopted father, Julius. While Augustus had room to be worse, that didn’t make him the best. He did a lot of conquering: Egypt, northern Spain, and a great deal of central Europe. He killed people. He banished his allegedly promiscuous daughter. His heirs kept mysteriously dying.

“What are the trade-offs in that?” Zuckerberg told the magazine. “On the one hand, world peace is a long-term goal that people talk about today. Two hundred years feels unattainable.” On the other hand, he said, “That didn’t come for free, and he had to do certain things.”

He told the magazine that he liked the Latin language because it reminded him of coding or math. He named his second daughter August. He took his honeymoon in Rome where his wife, Priscilla Chan, told him that there were three people present: him, her, and Augustus. “All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus,” he told the magazine.

Clearly, Zuckerberg is emulating the infamous ruler. But how close are they? Let’s score it, based on five categories I have completely made up: the stars, their youth, their rise to power, their general vibe and popularity, and their lasting effect on the world. Each category is worth one point.

The starsCaesar was born on September 23, 63 BC making him a Libra. Mark, a Taurus (and Scorpio moon), was born on May 14, 1984. Their signs are not particularly compatible. The only thing they have in common is their shared ruler, Venus, making them lovers of art, luxury, and romance, according to InStyle. Caesar was famously born in Rome, while Zuckerberg was born in the far less glamorous White Plains, New York, making them worlds apart both astrologically and geographically.

The pair is not a match for the stars. No points.

Score: 0

Subtotal: 0/5

Their youthBoth Caesar and Zuckerberg learned their trades at an early age. Zuckerberg’s father hired a private tutor to teach him how to code and, in high school, he built “ZuckNet,” a software program that connected all the computers between his family’s house and his father’s dental office. He also created a music player called Synapse Media Player, kind of like an earlier version of Spotify. 

When Caesar was 15, he had a ceremony that made him a man in the eyes of the law and was elected to the College of Pontiffs, a body of the state responsible for public and private sacrifices, among other responsibilities. The following year he took charge of the Greek games.

I’m giving the duo a full point for this section.

Score: 1

Subtotal: 1/5

Rise to powerTiming-wise, this is pretty spot-on. Both Zuckerberg and Caesar found their power while they were studying, the former launching Facebook, then called TheFacebook, while at Harvard and the latter taking his spot as heir to the throne while studying and undergoing military training in Illyria. They both faced some initial pushback — Zuckerberg by his co-founders and Caesar by Mark Antony. The big difference here is that we all knew Caesar was going to become the big boy in charge — but we thought Zuckerberg was just some nerd who wanted to remake MySpace. Our unfortunate preconceptions aside, they aligned on this one.

You get a point.

Score: 1

Subtotal: 2/5

General vibe and popularityPeople respected Augustus. When he died, he was declared a god. He didn’t have the same swagger and charisma as his great uncle Julius, but the reform he implemented made him pretty beloved by the Roman people. He transformed Rome from a republic to an empire, brought peace to the Roman world, and made constitutional and financial reforms that won him some pretty significant popularity.

People do not like Mark Zuckerberg. Only 23 percent of Gen Z respondents in one study found Zuckerberg trustworthy and, according to a study from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of all Americans have “little or no trust in leaders of social media companies.” People don’t trust him, don’t think he’s charismatic, his hobbies give us the ick, and his creation makes us wonder if it’s destroying everything good we’ve come to love.

No points.

Score: 0

Subtotal: 2/5

Effect on the world as we know it todayBoth Augustus and Zuckerberg have had lasting effects on the world as we know it. Of course, this is easier to say about Augustus than it is of Zuckerberg. Caesar ruled for over half a century, set up institutions and a template that lasted 200 years after that, and quite literally transformed Rome from a republic into an empire, restoring peace and prosperity to the Roman state and changing nearly every aspect of Roman life.

Zuckerberg has also changed nearly every aspect of modern life. While it’s debatable whether it’s been a change for the better, we can’t ignore that we communicate, work, vote, participate in society, love, and live in a different world because of the social media ecosystem Zuckerberg made.

Points all around.

Score: 1

Total: 3/5

In the end, the two are somewhat similar. They’re both leaders who got early starts and who wield terrifying power. And both of them seem to be or have been, at peace with the trade-offs of those decisions. According to my math, Mark Zuckerberg is 60 percent Augustus Caesar. But there’s still room for improvement. 

Christianna Silva is a Senior Culture Reporter at Mashable. They write about tech and digital culture, with a focus on Facebook and Instagram. Before joining Mashable, they worked as an editor at NPR and MTV News, a reporter at Teen Vogue and VICE News, and as a stablehand at a mini-horse farm. You can follow them on Twitter @christianna_j.

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