Roman Gladiators ate a plant-based wholefood diet

This kind of research has surfaced before but interesting to see it again and with such thorough investigation behind it. 

What has this international team of anthropologists confirmed for us after using spectroscopy and stable isotope ratios to measure bone density and content?

  • Roman gladiators were vegetarians
  • They ate mostly beans and wholegrains
  • They did not drink wine regularly
  • They drank plant ash to “fortify and strengthen” their bones (just as we do with calcium supplements)
  • They had high levels of strontium in their bones – from a high plant diet 

The anthropological investigations analyzed the bones of many 2nd or 3rd century BC warriors from the ancient city of Ephesos. 

“Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing”
Professor Fabian Kanz, Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, October 2014. 

Study by Lösch S, Moghaddam N, Grossschmidt K, Risser DU and Kanz F “Stable Isotope and trace element studies on gladiators and contemporary Romans from Ephesus (Turkey, 2nd and 3rd ct. AD) - Implications for differences in diet” as published in the journal PLoS One on October 15, 2014. Also; study by Carter MJ (2004) Archiereis and Asiarchs: A Gladiatorial Perspective. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 44: 41–68. Also; study by Carter MJ (2009) Gladiators and Monomachoi: Greek Attitudes to a Roman ‘Cultural Performance’. International Journal of the History of Sport 26: 298–322.

Posted: Monday 3 November 2014