We know gladiators from history textbooks and many movies and series about antiquity. Strong, well-built men with impressive muscles fought extreme battles to the death in ancient arenas. Their lives depended on physical condition and endurance, so we believe they must have eaten a lot of protein-rich meat. It turns out, however, that the gladiators were on a vegetarian diet.
1. What did the strongest men in antiquity eat?
Examination of gladiators’ bones buried in a cemetery in Ephesus (Turkey) revealed surprising facts. Contrary to popular belief, gladiators did not draw energy at all to fight other warriors and wild animals from meat. Their food consisted of vegetables, grains and legumes. They ate barley most often. Gladiators were slaves, therefore they were given inferior quality products. Researchers found that not only gladiators were on a vegetarian diet. Other, more affluent citizens of ancient cities also ate mainly plants.
The results of the research may come as a surprise because modern athletes’ diets are full of protein-rich foods. Of course, cyclists and skiers eat different products than boxers and weight lifters. However, animal protein is considered to be the best building block for muscles. Examination of the remains of gladiators shows that we may be mistaken in believing that strength comes from meat.
2. Ancient isotonic drink
Scientists from Vienna and Bern made another interesting discovery during anthropological research in Ephesus. They analyzed the composition of the gladiatorial bones in which they found large amounts of strontium and calcium. This is what set them apart from the rest of the population, which confirmed the supposition that the ancient warriors used a product rich in minerals.
The gladiators’ diet of vegetables and grains surprises modern people who are used to eating large amounts of meat and taking supplements. It turns out that the vegetarian diet provided the body with enough energy, even for a bloody and exhausting fight to life and death.