Roman gladiators ate their greens and drank ashes

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  • Published: Oct 26, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Atomic / Base Peak
thumbnail image: Roman gladiators ate their greens and drank ashes

A study of the stable isotope ratios in gladiator bones has revealed that they had a vegetarian diet, supplemented by a drink based on plant ashes.

These are the conclusion of a research team from the medical University of Vienna who reported their findings in PLOS ONE. They compared the isotope ratios of bones excavated from a gladiator cemetery with those from contemporary non-gladiator males and females. The values for carbon, nitrogen and sulphur were similar for everyone and confirmed that they regularly ate C3 plants like barley and wheat.

The gladiator strontium and calcium isotope ratios that were also measured were consistent with the consumption of a drink based on ashes. This fits with the writings of Pliny the Elder which report that gladiators drank a beverage containing stove ashes after fights to help ease the pain and fortify the body.

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