Eat Like a Gladiator – Go Vegetarian

The gladiators of Rome are known for being tough, strong warriors, apart from the average Roman. Historic sources also report that the gladiators’ diet was different from what the “normal population” ate. Some reports refer to gladiators as “hordearii.”

So what exactly is a hordearii? The word translates to barley eaters, and a new study indicates that name was likely literal. Gladiators followed a vegetarian diet.

The Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna and the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern worked together in a study to determine what the gladiators ate. They examined bones found in a gladiator cemetery that dates back to the 2nd or 3rd Century in the ancient Roman city of Ephesos (now in Turkey) which was the capital of the Roman’s Asian province.

By studying the bones, researchers could conclude that gladiators at a mostly vegetarian diet. Further, from what the researchers could tell, there was virtually no difference in terms of nutrition when comparing the gladiator diet to that of normal Roman citizens.

For the gladiators, meals would have consisted of grains and other meat-free options. The name hordearii likely came from the low-quality grain provided to the gladiators.

In addition to a mostly vegetarian diet, the gladiators also consumed something that added much higher amounts of strontium to their systems. Based on that finding, the researchers concluded that gladiators must have had a higher intake of minerals. Literature often refers to gladiators consuming an ash drink, and now research indicates it likely really existed.

“Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” said study leader Fabian Kanz from MedUni Vienna.

“Things were similar then to what we do today – we take magnesium and calcium following physical exertion.”

When it comes to the gladiators, it seems like they got their needed nutrients from mostly meat-free diets. That’s a pretty compelling argument for at least giving a vegetarian lifestyle a try.


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Nicolette Lyons
Nicolette Lyons3 years ago

Already a vegetarian and proud of it.

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

Elsa O.
Elsa O.4 years ago

vegan 4ever!

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you

Karen P.
Karen P4 years ago

I'd have to agree with Steve M, they probably didn't get to sit at a restaurant table with a menu and say "I'll have the pulled pork sandwich thanks".

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago


Donnaa D.
donnaa D4 years ago


Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik4 years ago

Amazing! Thank you you for sharing

Julia H.
Past Member 4 years ago

@ Christine S.

"Julia H- MANY more people have severe illnesses from eating a diet full of saturated fats from excessive meat consumption- i am quite sure more people would be healthy if they reduced or even stopped their consumption of meat."

You assume anyone who eats meat, eats excessive amounts and that is an ignorant assumption. It also makes a huge difference as to what kind of meat one eats and where it comes from. If you are talking about lunch meat such as bologna, etc. then I would agree - that stuff is bad for everyone and I do not eat it. But there are a lot of healthy choices as far as meat goes. Local, organic, and grass-fed meat are great for a person's health.

Like I stated, ONE diet will not work for ALL. A vegan diet might work for you, but it certainly did not work for me. You can't say you are quite sure more people would be healthier if they quit eating meat. You couldn't possibly know that because of all the different factors involved and you are not privy to those factors in everyone else's life. To each their own!

Milos Stojanovic
Milos Stojanovic4 years ago

Great article, thanks.