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A sort of three-way cross between Fantasy Counterpart Culture
, Inexplicable Cultural Ties
, and Planet of Hats
, a Space Roman society is a human or Human Alien
culture that, in an amazing coincidence, resembles a culture from Earth's history. This trope does not exclusively describe only those based on Rome, but any implausibly Earth-like society. Space Romans provide a handy way for the beleaguered writer to populate the galaxy with a variety of different, believable alien societies, but disbelief can easily be stretched to its limit if the writer isn't careful, or doesn't consider how the culture in question would be altered by being transplanted to space.
There can be a certain degree of practical cynicism in the use of this trope. In older film and TV portrayals, especially ones on tight budgets, these kinds of societies might crop up as a way to have something different and sort-of sci-fi that week, while at the same time recycling stock props and costumes from other shows. It also takes a lot less creative time effort to use off-the-peg "Romans in Space" than to build a convincing alien society and aesthetic from the ground up.
An inoffensive version of Space Jews
. See also United Space of America
. Contrast with Culture Chop Suey
Two common variants are the Space Amish
, a society of technological dropouts, and the Space Cossacks
, rebels and/or exiles from mainstream society.
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Anime and Manga
- The Galactic Empire in Legend of Galactic Heroes is very German (more specifically, Prussian) in its style and influences. Some fans meanwhile call the Free Planets Alliance "Space Americans."
- The various antagonist factions and nations in the Universal Century Gundam works tend to have very Germanic and Axis-inspired aesthetics.
- In DC Comics the Daxamites have been established as being "Space Mexicans". The human-like natives of the planet Daxam had a distinctly Mesoamerican racial appearance and culture. They were colonized by the pseudo-European Kryptonians, with whom they subsequently interbred and established a distinct culture, including things such as buildings resembling step pyramids. When the Kryptonian's intergalactic empire collapsed, the Daxamites became independent. They now exhibit some attributes of being Space Amish. While they have and use advanced technology, they are very isolationist to the point of xenophobia and have strong cultural taboos against certain technologies, such as anything related to space travel.
- Meanwhile over at Marvel Comics the Kree warriors - from whom Captain Mar-Vell descended - quite literally look like Space Romans due to their Roman style helmets.
- The Wolrog Empire in Strontium Dog is modeled on pre-World War II Japan. The entire thing is ruled by a single Emperor who the rest of the people obey immediately and without question. Captives are regularly press-ganged into becoming soldiers and slaves to fuel the war effort. They also readily utilise kamikaze tactics; to participate in one of these is seen as the greatest honour that can be obtained.
- Star Wars' presentation of a republic falling and giving way to empire has obvious parallels with Rome; the Republic Senate gets a vote of no confidence, and Chancellor Palpatine becomes Emperor by popular acclaim. Alas, his acclaim came from a False Flag Operation, he failed to deliver on his campaign promises, he was actually a Sith Lord, and he ended up a 0% Approval Rating Big Bad to the setting.
- Planet 51 takes place on a planet that heavily resembles the United States in the 1950s.
- Given the ambiguity of whether it should be considered science fiction or fantasy, it's hard to tell if examples from Dragaera fit here or under Fantasy Counterpart Culture (perhaps both). In particular, there are the Fenarians, seemingly the dominant group of human culture, who speak Hungarian and have various Hungarian cultural traditions. More generally, Dragaera has a marked similarity to late medieval Europe, although given that supposedly the "Dragaerans" were genetically engineered from humans, there is likely some kind of Days of Future Past scenario going on.
- Arkonides of Perry Rhodan' being mixture of predominately roman and british imperialism making them sort of albino Centauri.
- The Empire in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of novels is very, very Roman by design. Asimov was inspired to write the Foundation series as a parallel to Gibbons's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. To wit, it starts out as the Kingdom Trantor, then is for some time the Republic of Trantor, and later becomes the Galactic Empire. In its decline, it even gets its own Belisarius stand-in, Bel Riose.
- The Abh Empire in Crest of the Stars are an aversion: a Tall, Dark and Snarky Feudal Future fond of Luxury Tropes and good living in general, but enthusiastic conquerors, largely indifferent to their conquered peoples, and well able to knock you into next week. They kind of resemble the French, but not quite: pre-Revolutionary France wasn't all that good at warfare and oppressed its peasantry, while Revolutionary France was revolutionary (the Abh are not known for their guillotines), and Napoleon was hardly feudal.
- If anything they come off as subtly alien in something akin to the Uncanny Valley but entirely through the mannerisms which appears deliberate and rather well thought out. This is justified of course since well they are aliens but were originally bio-engineered humans created by humans and used for space travel making them some of the Blue and Orange Morality disposition. One character even notes that while they're very respectable, honorable and kind to those they conquer he can't trust them because they're just too alien. Ironically his justification is derived from human cynicism and the acceptance that Humans Are Bastards, thus the fact these aliens are not bastards squicks him out.
- Past Doctor Adventures: Dreams Of Empire has the second Doctor encountering the Haddron Republic, which are essentially a giant, "What if Caesar had crossed the Rubicon unsuccessfully?" IN SPACE!
- A couple of examples in the Vorkosigan Saga: Barrayarans are Space Ruritanians; Komarrans are Space Venetian Merchants; the planet Athos is made up solely of men, everyone is gay, and reproduction is done through science - as the name suggests, they are like futuristic Ancient Greeks; Beta Colony is Space Freestate Amsterdam, although with a lot of Blue State America as well.
- Ascended Fan Fic is in play here, as the author describes the first version of Cordellia's Honor she was working on for her Fanzine being with the Barrayarans as Klingons and Beta Colony as The Federation. Over time she's considered Beta Colony to be mostly American descended, but with the culture being firmly Californian. Most of the rest of the countries have listed their group of colonists, although the Jackson's Whole is closest to a standard pirate state mixed with corporate state.
- Take a wild guess at what the British Space Empire resembles in Space Captain Smith.
- Tour of the Merrimack explicitly has Space Romans who were descended from the original ones. They survived as a secret society in America before breaking off to form their own colony.
- According to Sonic the Hedgehog in Robotnik's Laboratory the planet Mobius has Romans, who unlike Earth Romans are afraid of Lions. They apparently build the ruins we see in Aquatic Ruin Zone.
- In the Setee series by Jack Williamson, the Solar System is in a cold war involving the Earth good guys versus the Jovian Soviet, the Martian Reich and Venusian Japanese (who talk of forming a greater Asian co-prosperity sphere).
- Jim Butcher's Codex Alera is Romans With Magic, right down to calling their own ancestors' works "Romanic." Subverted when you find out they are ACTUAL Romans, descended from a lost legion who crossed into Alera from Earth in an unknown fashion.
Live Action TV
- The Romulans from Star Trek; heck, their homeworlds are even named Romulus and Remus, their politicians are Senators and Praetors, and their soldiers are Centurions and Legions.
- Explained in some potentially cannonically source or another as being the result of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens having formed the basis for the Roman pantheon and culture and those same aliens doing the EXACT SAME THING with the Romulans. The Romulans just took to it better/with better technology.
- It does raise the question as to where THOSE aliens first got the whole Togas and Senators and Bowl Cuts and Empire ideas from to begin with.
- Star Trek even had actual Roman space Romans in the original series, complete with slaves and gladiators, as well as 1920s Chicago Gangsters, Native Americans, Nazis, the Yangs (Yanks) and Kohms (Commies) of "The Omega Glory", and even an exact duplicate of Earth in "Miri".
- The space Romans from TOS episode "Bread and Circuses" also had "son-worshippers" as counterparts to the persecuted Christians.
- The Yangs even had their own Constitution with the EXACT SAME WORDING and an old flag identical to the 50 starred US flag.
- The 1920s Chicago Gangsters averts the amazing coincidence part of this trope: the entire reason why the Enterprise is there is to attempt to fix the cultural contamination that happened the last time the Federation sent a ship to the planet. As it turns out, that cultural contamination consisted of leaving a book about the mobs of Chicago in the 1920s in the hands of a highly imitative culture... the Nazis, similarily were a direct consequence of someone's meddling (a mad historian deciding to use the Nazi model to uplift a primitive civilization), rather than the species just happening to develop Nazis on their own.
- Interestingly, the Space Greeks in "Plato's Stepchildren" actually were imitating Earth's Greeks. They had visited Earth during that period and liked the culture.
- The Mintakans are an odd variant: they are a society of Vulcan Aliens that in an amazing coincidence resembles a Vulcan culture that did not exist at their level of technological development — that is, rather than Space Romans, they are Stone (Age) Surakists.
- They are shown to be quite emotional, although not to the extent that Vulcans really are on the inside. Basically, they found the middle ground between total logic and raw emotion (like any sane person).
- Such cultures appear over and over again in Stargate SG-1. Most of them were transported by the Goa'uld from Earth, making them descendants of the actual peoples they resemble.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The End of the World", the Doctor mentions that a "New Roman Empire" exists on Earth in the year 12'005. Given all the countless stories showing humans in space in the future, this New Roman Empire is almost certainly a space-faring civilization.
- The Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000 is the unholy fruit of a foursome between ancient Rome, 19th century Prussia, Nazi Germany, the Crusader states, and the Inquisition-era Catholic Church, complete with Byzantine double headed Eagles, the Iron Cross, the Inquisition, Enormous Cathedrals, the God Emperor, and Latin. They aren't called Catholic Space Nazis for nothing.
- Within the Imperium itself, various Space Marine homeworlds seem to each have their own Earth counterpart: The Space Wolves are Norse / Russian, the Ultramarines are Classical Grecoroman, the White Scars are Mongol. Thousand Sons had an Egyptian theme going on, the Word Bearers took after the three monolithic religions of the Middle East, and Emperor's Children had something resembling French and Italian high culture before they were corrupted by Chaos.
- More obvious in the Imperial Guard: The Valhallans, Praetorians, Catachans, Death Korps of Krieg, Attilans, Armageddon and others all descendants or counterparts of Earth culture.
- Taoist Space Communists? The Tau.
- The Eldar are at times Japanese Space Greeks, but show elements of being Space Tuatha Dé Danann.
- More minorly, the Orks are a species of green British football hooligans, replacing enthusiasm for football as the reason for collectively sowing chaos with just loving violence.
- The Necrons began as the Tomb Kings IN SPACE!, which in turn are the Theme Park Version of Ancient Egypt.
- The Third Imperium in Traveller is a lot like The British Empire Recycled In Space especially in the noble classes. However in some aspects of culture it also resembles a United Space of America. Justifiable by assuming that much of it was a deliberate Shout-Out to tradition.
- For literal "Space Romans", there's the Marian Hegemony which deliberately styles itself after ancient Rome to the point of structuring their armies in their own idiosyncratic way rather than following the more standard pattern used elsewhere in most of the Inner Sphere and Periphery and being ruled by a Caesar. They are the only faction in the Periphery to practice slavery.
- And of course the Draconis Combine is basically the theme park version of Imperial Japan at its most warlike in space. Justified in this case by the personal obsession of its founder (of actual Japanese descent) who just so happened to be able to make it stick while going around conquering planets that would one day belong to his descendants' realm. Other Inner Sphere nations also show distinct Earth-national cultural influences, but the Combine readily stands out as the most blatant example.
- Mass Effect
- Turians are Space Romans for a variety of reasons:
- They possess the most powerful navy in the (known) galaxy. They even have their units organized into legions, with records of their deeds for each one. In fact, some records go back to the Turian iron age!
- Their names are often Latin-based, such as Septimus and Adrien. The name of the race itself is an obvious reference to (Cen)turians.
- Strict tiers of citizenship and mandatory military service. The third is formal citizenship attained after leaving boot camp. Which starts at the equivalent of the child's 15th birthday. This all mirrors similar customs of ancient Rome.
- Client races (like the volus) as compared to the Romans' client kingdoms (independently ruled kingdoms, except for international affairs and they must pay tribute to Rome).
- They jump at any perceived issue as a reason for war (the First Contact War for the turians, pretty much every war ever for the Romans, but particularly things like the Second Punic War, started after the Romans perceived the Carthaginians' expansion into Spain as a threat).
- The Protheans are also very similar to the Roman empire, as revealed in Mass Effect 3.
- The Asari are heavily based on the Ancient Greeks: city states, a pantheon of varied gods, advanced technology compared to other civilizations, democratic governance rather than a republic, Crystal Spires and Togas aesthetic and a (mostly) undeserved reputation for promiscuity.
- Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas, despite not being in space, are very heavily influenced by Roman culture (specifically that of their military). They have repurposed old football equipment and painted it to resemble the ancient Lorica Segmentata armor, use Roman military rank structure (Legionary, Decanus, Centurion), and see all other cultures outside themselves as "Profligate". The Big Bad leading Caesar's Legion founded it using knowledge he had found in the post-nuclear apocalypse regarding ancient Roman culture. They also use grammatically correct and correctly pronounced Latin.
- For some reason, the Terrans in StarCraft are dead ringers for the Confederate States of America; Southern accents, Black laborers, powerful "Old Families," a strange mix of redneck and gentlemenly mannerisms, and even the title of "Confederacy." Oh, and they have the same flag. According to the manual, they are the descendants of humans exiled from Earth because they had the potential to develop psychic powers, which were the political scapegoat of choice at the time; and they apparently developed a bad case of Future Imperfect.
- Blizzard's office in Texas even composed a country western song to play in Starcraft II, which is on the playlist for the jukebox in the campaign.
- The Cabal in Destiny are a race of giant rhinoceros men with an empire spanning many planets, and their subtypes are named after Roman military units.
- In Civilization: Beyond Earth, taking on the Purity affinity results in your units gaining Roman-like designs; for example, your Humongous Mecha and Powered Armor look like legionaries. Their Tier 4 basic infantry is even called Centurion.
- EVE Online:
- The Amarr Empire is a space-faring version of Renaissance-era Spain. Their Knight Templar attitudes and descent from a Catholic splinter sect both bring to mind the Inquisition, while their conquest and enslavement of other peoples in order to bring them "closer to God" isn't so much reminiscent of Spanish behavior in their American colonies so much as it is a largely accurate description.
- The Caldari State is an exaggerated, sci-fi version of 1980s Japan. They're high-tech, insular, and xenophobic, with a grindingly ruthless corporate culture and little room for individuality amongst their salaryman workforce. However, they're also one of the most meritocratic societies in the New Eden galaxy.
- The Gallente Federation are descended from French colonists, but they're otherwise pretty much the United Space of America, with a system of government overtly based on that of the US. Going by their hedonistic pop culture, there's also a dash of Freestate Amsterdam in space! as part of that mix.
- The Minmatar Republic is a pastiche of the post-colonial Third World, having defeated the Amarr in a bloody war of liberation but still struggling to pull together a modern state, with many of their best and brightest leaving to find better prospects across the stars. The fact that the Amarr are the Space Spaniards, that the favored destination of those best and brightest tends to be the United Space of America, and their problems with organized crime and drug cartels all bring to mind Latin America, especially Mexico.
- The Blood Raiders, between their kidnapping of children for ritual sacrifice, their "breeding" camps to ensure a steady supply of blood and sacrifices, and the nature of their beliefs, bear a number of surface similarities to the pop culture conception of Satanism, of both the '80s "Satanic Panic" variety and the pseudo-Nietzschean philosophy popularized by Anton LaVey.
- The Jovians are Space Elves. They're an extremely advanced race whose genetic modifications mean that they're no longer quite human, and they live in isolation from the rest of the galaxy (there are no jump gates connecting to Jove space), with only limited contact.
- The Dhuvalians of My Life At War have a very French feel to them in their names and mannerisms. It's worth noting that Duval is a common French surname. Additionally the Free Market feel a lot like the American south.
- The author of Terra admits to drawing a lot of inspiration for the Azatoth from ancient Rome. The names are Roman-derived, they practice slavery, the government structure is Romanesque, and so on.
- The trolls from Homestuck are largely space Spartans, practicing mandatory universal conscription, culling of weak citizens, and "trials" for children that leave only a relative handful of physically superior survivors each generation. However, being a large unified empire covering multiple territories, they also have a strong Roman influence.
- The Super Friends was fond of this trope. Planets they visited included Camelon, the medieval planet; Zaghdad, the Arabian Knights planet; and Texacana, the cowboy planet.
- One episode featured this as in inversion of Ancient Astronauts: an alien culture was an exact copy of Ancient Egypt because they learned about pyramid construction and space travel from the Ancient Egyptians.
- A minor example, a planet called "Space Rome" was mentioned as one of the planets that fell victim to the brainspawn.