Roman Gladiators Were “Mostly Vegetarian” Study Suggests


By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

According to a study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, it was found out that gladiators had a vegetarian diet. This comes to light after the excavation of bones in the cemetery where these fighters were cremated. 

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Their diet mostly included grains and had a distinct lack of meat. They also consumed a drink that was primarily made out of the ashes of plants. The drink was supposedly used as a health supplement to help them recover from injuries after fights.

Fabian Kanz from the Medical University of Vienna mentions that the plant supplement was extremely useful to enhance muscle and bone recovery after exerting oneself in physical combat and strenuous exercise. 

The present equivalent would be calcium and magnesium pills, which we take post-exertion, as effervescent tablets. The experts came to the conclusion about this tonic after studying the high strontium levels in the bodies of the gladiators. This study from 2014 was conducted in Ephesus, a Turkish town that was once under the Roman empire. The grave had 22 bodies of gladiators, dating 1800 years back.  

Interestingly, gladiators have always been referred to as ‘barley men’, which sheds light on the diet that they had. Since the diet that the gladiators had consisted of wheat, barley, and grains- the name is warranted.

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But there are anomalies in the study itself. Bones of two gladiators have been found which had a much higher content of protein and dairy products. These bone structures also had a distinct lack of pulses and other cereals in them. 

This could be a signal that some gladiators were from a different part of the Roman Empire, which was spread out far and wide. The next point of contention would be analyzing the bones to see if a geographical location could be determined. 

Also, there have been multiple debates regarding who constituted the gladiators. While conquered people, slaves, and registered offenders fit the bill, there were many other enthusiasts who trained with the gladiators and lived the same life. It has been calculated that every time a gladiator walked into the colosseum to fight, he carried with him a one in nine chance of dying. 


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