Monday, May 05, 2008

Roman Gladiators: Diet Made Them Fat

An interesting article in News in Science, Ancient Worlds - Roman Gladiators Were Fat Vegetarians - gives insight that their diet, heavy with carbohydrate, made them fat.

"Tests performed on bits of bone taken from the skeletons of some 70 gladiators buried at Ephesus seem to prove that they ate mainly barley, beans and dried fruit," said Dr Karl Grossschmidt, who took part in the study by the Austrian Archaeological Institute "This diet, which has been mentioned in the oral history, is rather sad but it gave the gladiators a lot of strength even if it made them fat," said Grossschmidt who is a member of the University of Vienna's Institute of Histology and Embryology." [emphasis mine]


  1. People who have a family history of diabetes as well as diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Also referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes, type 2 diabetes is a condition wherein the body, over time, becomes resistant to insulin.

  2. Anonymous12:19 AM

    They weren't "fat" exactly, the gladiators needed a layer of fat over the muscles as protection from blows and cuts. Looking "ripped" was not functional.

  3. The ancient world's version of sumo wrestlers?

  4. The gladiators in the movies all like beef and beer!

  5. Read more people..
    As a full contact TKD fighter and body builder, i can only say this to you: Don't get bullshitted into believing fat people can make good fighters. Not even my ancestors, Germanic tribes, were fat, although they consumed fat...

  6. Derek3:17 AM

    Sorry but Grossschmidt's conclusion that "it made them fat," is a complete myth and he literally made that up. While he did get the part right about gladiators being mostly vegetarian, his conclusions of it making them fat has zero backing to it and as well as his speculation that it "made a better show." Look through any ancient art and see if you find ANY gladiators depicted as fat. On top that, gladiators were pretty much working out all day most of the week, and needed the energy that high carb diets give you. Look at Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for example, who was claiming 8-10K calories A DAY, and was still lanky and ripped. He needed those calories because the amount of energy he was expending every day.

    Bottom line is that Grossschmidt is simply trying to confirm his own bad biases.