Proteins & Laughter

The Gladiator – 2000 directed By Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe


The Gladiator – 2000 directed By Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe
 The Gladiator – 2000 directed By Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe 

Nothing but meat! Nothing but proteins!

The typical diet of the gladiators consisted of legumes, barley and a particular “supplement” to recover strength.

The gladiators are real myth of ancient Roma, symbol of strength and masculinity what they ate? Contrary to how can think their diet was mostly plant-based rich of cereals and legumes.

In 1993 during a study by the department of Forensic Medicine at  the MedUni of Vienna, in cooperation with the Anthropology department of the institution of Forensic Medicine of University of Berna, were analyzed remains of a cemetery. The bones belonged to 53 individuals lived (and died) between the second and the Third century D.C, at time when Ephesus was the capital of the roman province of Asia and came to count beyond 200.000 of people.
The results have confirmed that the gladiators had a predominantly vegetarian diet.

Hordearii – The barly eaters.

The historical texts tell us about a specific diet called gladiatorian saginam for the gladiators which included barley and beans, infact it was named Hordearii (barley eaters).

The analysis showed that people ate cereals such as barley, spelt millet and legumes.
What surprised is that in the bones of gladiators were the low nitrogen values, that according to the researchers indicates the consumption of few animal proteins like meat, fish and milk products.
Infact the consumption of products of animal origin in large quantities is a modern history, the animals were utilized for farm works, only that he was dedicated to sheep farming or the activity of hunting had the easier possibility of eating meat, also need to eat in a short time as it does not the possibility of preserving foods.

Moreover the gladiators used a revitalizing and energetic drink based on ash of medicinal plants. The infusions of greek hay were the most used. This drink cited by Pliny the Elder, was used to reinforce the body after exercise and to promote better recovering after the combat.

According to the researchers that these ashes dissolved in water, also provided other minerals such as calcium, magnesium in particular zinc of which the diet of gladiators had be poor. In conclusion of the published study on PlosOne indicates the concrete possibility that the diet of the gladiators was mostly vegan.



Inch towards, painting of 1872 by Jean – Leon Garome.
                   Inch towards, painting of 1872 by Jean – Leon Garome.


The gladiators were vegetarian

The typical gladiator all muscle like Russel Crowe in the famous film of Ridley Scott in 2000 is obsolete, judging by the results of a research conducted by a group of medical anthropologist of the Medical University of Vienna on a tomb of Ephesus (in Turkey) about 2000 years ago from which it emerged that the gladiators were mostly vegan.
Anything but Adoni from the abs sculped and the muscles carved and the turned muscles, the gladiator were mostly like a “men of substance”, who translated into Italian significant that they had a little belly. Therefore the energy to fight hours to hours drew it mostly from legumes and cereals: moreover the wheat was introduced in Europe only many century later and the food that best suited their job was barley and beans.

The meat was almost absent from the gladiators’ diets not so much because of the conditions of poverty in which they lived, but because it was more effective, in order to win the battles, have a softer layer of fat like armor rather than the enviable abdominal: the fat on the belly softens the blows, the nerves were less exposed and the wounds were less deep.

Gladiators and the strange vegetarian supplement to regain strength
Because gladiators were depicted as muscular, slender and physically attractive men is soon said: even ancient Rome Photoshop was used…. Or rather idealized the beauty of the subject to make it a perfect body, whether it was a gladiator or a philosopher. To recover their strength and regain their energy after a fight, the fighters used to take a kind of ash supplement, rich in strontium and calcium, obtained from plants: a tonic that can make them forget the labors of arena battles comparable – very remotely – to the calcium and magnesium tablets that we take to combat fatigue.


“Gladiators in the circus”, mosaic of the imperial age, Galleria Borghese, Rome
  “Gladiators in the circus”, mosaic of the imperial age, Galleria Borghese, Rome


A body fit for the fight

A frugal diet was not the consequence of the social condition of gladiators, very often (though not always) prisoners or slaves, but rather of a precise will.
Gladiatorial schools were a source of income and employment of great proportions during antiquity, they cloud be compared almost to today’s football teams. A winning fighter was a valuable asset, not to be overlooked.
A diet so rich in carbohydrates covered the muscles of a layer of fat, and in fact Galen defines the gladiators as “soggy”.
The fat, although today considered unsightly, played an important role during the battles, because it partially protected the organs and muscles of the fighter.  Wounds and superficial cuts were less debilitating than those with a sculpted physique, and a heavy body mass was an additional weapon that could be decisive in the arena.
A mighty and massive gladiator, when wounded, gushed blood at will, maintaining unchanged their ability to fight.

The blood of gladiators, at the time of the Romans, was considered a remedy for impotence (a kind of Viagra of antiquity), and “gladius”, as well as indicating the sword, was a vulgar term for defining the penis. It’s easy to imagine the madness of the people in the arenas for mighty gladiators dripping blood still capable of reversing the outcome of battle

Harvard professor Kathleen Coleman not involved in the research team at the University of Vienna, agrees that the gladiator diet could be carefully considered and not the result of the sole desire to save money.
Since everyone wanted the best fight possible, he states:” I assume they knew the link between diet and performance well [and] they certainly wanted to fatten gladiators”.
Also, although a little overweight (certainly not fat), gladiators were far from out of shape.

Studies have shown that the bones were as dense as those of today’s athletes, and that the muscles were well developed evenly between arms and legs. The gladiators then spent their time training and eating, so that become giants able to fight for a long time to the death against each other.





Gladiators like Sex Symbol

Giovanale tells us, who in an epic poem makes a senator’s wife run away with a gladiator. Or in the graffiti of Pompeii, where one reads of “Crescentius, the one who at night hoards young women”, or of “Caladus the Thracian, three times winner and three times crowned, idol of young girls”.

The business linked to the Gladiators was enormous, and can be found in the number and grandeur of the gladiatorial schools, whose most famous was the “Ludus Magnus”, connected to the Colosseum by an underground tunnel, but also in the schools of Pompeii, Capua and Ravenna, the three most prestigious beyond the Roman.

The gladiators were often prisoners of war, but they could also be free men, who voluntarily chose to join a prison with different comforts.
They lived in structures organized with doctors, heating, baths, a cemetery and several other types of comfort, a series of luxuries not comparable to the death for osteoarthritis that afflicted the most miserable social classes of the Empire. The probability of dying was very high, however in a violent way as gutted by an animal during the “Venetiones” or killed by another gladiator, but the dream of glory and high remuneration attracted men like bees to honey. Rather than the athletic Massimo, played by Russel Crowe in the movie “the Gladiator”, the Roman wrestlers had to resemble his opponent, a Gaul of impressive size.



The Ludus Magnus in Rome with, in background, the Colosseum, a fountain, source Wikipedia
The Ludus Magnus in Rome with, in background, the Colosseum, a fountain, source Wikipedia



  Proteins & Laughter

Let us return to our statement of the beginning.
Laugh at what ?
Laugh at the current craze to proteneized at all costs the food and therefore the whole food. We saw that the roman gladiators ate very little protein, especially those animals, but they were able to sustain for hours and hours the fights they had as their own life.
Lead them with all the energy in their bodies.
So what?
And so this exasperated search for a super – proteneized diet is the result of yet another fashion, far from real and well founded nutritional needs. But this is another story… and we will tell you about it soon.