Gladiator diet
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2014-10-21 16:15:38 UTC
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For the herbivores in the crowd. -Stephanie Budin

From < http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020090006.htm>:

Roman Gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank a tonic of
after training
Anthropology unlocks clues about Roman gladiators' eating habits

Roman gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank ashes after
training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological
investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during
in the ancient city of Ephesos.

Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This
comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as
"hordearii" ("barley eaters").
In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna
in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of
Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a
gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd
century BC in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day
At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and
had over 200,000 inhabitants.

Using spectroscopy, stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen and
were investigated in the collagen of the bones, along with the ratio of
strontium to calcium in the bone mineral.

The result shows that gladiators mostly ate a vegetarian diet. There is
virtually no difference in terms of nutrition from the local "normal
population." Meals consisted primarily of grain and meat-free meals.
word "barley eater" relates in this case to the fact that gladiators
were probably given grain of an inferior quality.
Build-up drink following physical exertion

The difference between gladiators and the normal population is highly
significant in terms of the amount of strontium measured in their
This leads to the conclusion that the gladiators had a higher intake of
minerals from a strontium-rich source of calcium. The ash drink quoted
in literature probably really did exist. "Plant ashes were evidently
consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote
better bone healing," explains study leader Fabian Kanz from the
Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna. "Things were
similar then to what we do today -- we take magnesium and calcium (in
the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical
exertion." Calcium is essential for bone building and usually occurs
primarily in milk products.

A further research project is looking at the migration of gladiators,
who often came from different parts of the Roman Empire to Ephesos. The
researchers are hoping that comparison of the bone data from gladiators
with that of the local fauna will yield a number of differences.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Medical University of
Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference:
Sandra Lösch, Negahnaz Moghaddam, Karl Grossschmidt, Daniele U. Risser,
Fabian Kanz. Stable Isotope and Trace Element Studies on Gladiators and
Contemporary Romans from Ephesus (Turkey, 2nd and 3rd Ct. AD) -
Implications for Differences in Diet. PLoS One, October 15, 2014 DOI: