Blogs > Cliopatria > Glaiators Were Vegetarians

Mar 4, 2004 7:13 pm

Glaiators Were Vegetarians

Tom Leonard, in the Daily Telegraph (March 2, 2004):

ROMAN gladiators were overweight vegetarians who lived on barley and beans, according to a scientific study of the largest gladiator graveyard discovered.

Analysis of the bones of more than 70 gladiators recently found near Ephesus, the Roman capital of Asia Minor, puts paid to traditional Hollywood images of macho carnivores with the physique of boxers.

The dietary findings of the scientists from the University of Vienna are detailed in a forthcoming documentary on Channel Five. They may give vegetarians a new, harder image.

But the vegetarian stereotype is shattered by the finding that gladiators did not wear sandals but fought in bare feet.

The mass autopsy at the graveyard site on the western coast of Turkey has challenged assumptions that gladiator training was almost as brutal as the contests.

Ancient Roman mosaics depict gladiators as stocky, heavy men but historians have tended to assume this was a tribute to their macho image rather than a literal depiction of their size....

Karl Grossschmidt, a forensic anthropologist at Vienna University, used chemical testing on the bones to reveal that gladiators stuck to a diet of barley and beans to bulk out.

It was a boring diet, he admitted. "They got enough of this food every day to make them very fat and strong," he said. He concluded that they devised the diet primarily to protect themselves from slashing wounds and damage to nerves and blood vessels, with the layer of fat supplementing their scant armour. Dr Grossschmidt noticed from the bone analysis that, contrary to the normal effects of intensive training, the gladiators put on weight before a fight rather than lost it.

Bone samples were subjected to chemical analysis. While a normal meat and vegetable diet will show balanced levels of zinc and strontium, the gladiators' bones were very high in strontium and low in zinc - another indication of vegetarianism.


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bobby chan - 8/12/2004

channl 5 where can i get a copy of that documentery ??