Many of us learn about the history and politics of ancient Rome in high school, but few of us continue caring about the iconic city after we leave the classroom. But for Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire technology entrepreneur, the fascination with Rome and its leaders is lifelong -- and for good reason.
Despite the entertainment and literary worlds' obsession with Roman icon Julius Caesar -- his persona has graced the pages of books, movie scripts, and even Las Vegas hotels -- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg actually finds himself obsessed with Julius's great-nephew (and adopted son), Augustus.
Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar, transformed the republic into an empire, and as Zuckerberg details in a recent interview with the New Yorker, established 200 years of world peace "through a really harsh approach."
Of course, 200 years of world peace comes at a cost. While Augustus conquered large parts of central Europe, northern Spain, and Egypt, he also eliminated more than a few political opponents, banished his daughter for being promiscuous, and was even suspected of setting up his grandson's execution. Augustus's successful journey toward something typically unattainable like peace reminds us that with every major achievement comes major trade-offs, and we have to make sacrifices that can affect both ourselves and others.
Centuries after Augustus Caesar's rule, one of the world's wealthiest and most successful people became acutely interested in the Roman leader. Zuckerberg named his second daughter August, and also spent his honeymoon in Rome: "My wife was making fun of me," says Zuckerberg. "...she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus."
But perhaps it is no surprise that Zuckerberg is fascinated with such a powerful figure. After all, for many years, Zuckerberg did half-jokingly end Facebook meetings by exclaiming "Domination!"
The strategies of Augustus most likely play a part in how Facebook pursues user growth. In 2007, after Facebook stopped growing at 50 million users, Zuckerberg installed highly assertive and tactical practices, like creating a "Growth Team," adding more languages to reach new territories, and opening the platform to outside developers. Much like Augustus, Zuckerberg seeked to grow and conquer at all costs.
The Roman leader once said, "I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble." Zuckerberg most likely once thought similarly of the Internet, and has since then built a social network that completely dominates the rest.
Ask yourself, what is your city of bricks? And what do you hope to leave as a city of marble?
If the last time you thought about ancient Rome was during your high school history class, you may want to now revisit some of your old textbooks. There may be a Roman emperor from two thousand years ago who may inspire your future success.