Bone Study Suggests Gladiators Drank Ash Tonic
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
VIENNA, AUSTRIA—Analysis of the bones of gladiators excavated from tombs at the ancient city of Ephesus show that these warriors, who lived in the second or third century A.D., ate a mostly vegetarian diet of beans and grains, as did many other people living in the city. The amount of strontium in the gladiators’ bones, however, suggests that they had access to minerals and calcium that the rest of the population did not. Contemporary reports refer to gladiators as “hordearii,” or “barley eaters,” and mention a tonic made of ashes that scholars now think probably did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” study leader Fabian Kanz of the Medical University of Vienna told Science Daily. “Things were similar then to what we do today—we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.” To read more about gladitorial training, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Gladiator Diet."