Mighty gladiators were vegetariansPublished On: Thu, May 3rd, 2007 | Evolution | By BioNews
May 3 : Gladiators were mostly vegetarians, a new study by Austrian pathologists who uncovered the mass grave of 70 gladiators in Ephesus in Turkey, a major city of the ancient Roman world, has revealed.
Professors Fabian Kanz and Karl Grosschmidt from the Medical University of Vienna measured levels of the element strontium in corpses, which shows how much vegetable matter was eaten over a lifetime.
They found that gladiators bulked up on barley and beans and washed it down with a Roman energy drink made from ash and vinegar.
They had meat only the night before the combat, otherwise it was pulses and green vegetables, as they had health properties that healed wounds faster.
According to the two, the graveyard also throws light on the specific type of wounds the gladiators suffered during their bouts and the medical treatment accorded to them in case they sustained injury during the fight.
Many of the individuals, aged 20 to 30, showed signs of healed wounds, which suggested that the fighters were prized individuals getting good and expensive medical treatment, researchers said.
One body shows signs of a surgical amputation, and some of the bodies even suggest of mortal wound, they said.
Written records state that if the defeated gladiator had not shown enough skill or even cowardice, the cry of “iugula” (lance him through) would be heard throughout the arena, demanding he be immediately killed. The condemned gladiator would be expected to die “like a man” remaining motionless to receive the mortal blow.
The researchers said some of the bodies also showed various unhealed wounds on bones, which suggested how executions might have taken place.
The execution involved ramming a sword down the throat into the heart of a kneeling gladiator, which brought about a very quick death, reports the BBC.
â€œTell-tale nicks in the vertebrae or other bones suggest at least some of the bodies suffered this fate. A number of skulls were also found to have sets of up to three holes at odd intervals, consistent with a blow from a three-pronged weapon such as a trident,â€ said Prof. Grossschmidt.
â€œBut not all head injuries found were trident wounds. A number of the skulls showed rectangular holes that could not have been made by any of the known gladiator weapons. Instead, they suggest the use of a heavy hammer. One possible explanation, which is supported by a number of archaeologists, is that there must have been an assistant in the arena who basically gave the gladiator the coup de grace,” added Prof. Kanz.
“I assume that they must have been very severely injured gladiators, ones who had fought outstandingly and so had not been condemned to death by the public or by the organiser of the match, but who had no chance of surviving because of their injuries. It was basically the final blow, in order to release them,â€ Prof. Kanz said. (ANI)