Having just come back from exploring the Coliseum in Rome, this story captured my interest. Anthropologists have analyzed the diet of gladiators in the city of Ephesus and determined that they mainly lived on a beans-and-grains diet rather than meat. a drink made of plant ashes that was supposed to “fortify the body after physical exertion and … promote better bone healing.”
The findings are from an analysis of the bones of a gladiator in Turkey. The tests measure carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur levels as well as the ratio of strontium (a chemical element that’s found in ash) to calcium.
Gladiators were known as “hordearii,” or “barley eaters” to refer to the low-grade grain that they ate. However, they appear to have had the same diet as other people.
The most interesting was the ash tonic, which seems an early version of supplements of magnesium and calcium that some people take today after exercise.