The diet of the gladiator

Figs and bread were preserved under the ashes at Pompeii

Moesgaard Museum’s special exhibition ‘Gladiator – Heroes of the Colosseum’ showed examples of the diet that the gladiators ingested in order to stay combat-ready.

Following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the lives of the gladiators were preserved beneath the ashes like a snapshot. In addition to bronze helmets, the exhibition displayed plates, cups and glass jugs, as well as pans and pots made of bronze – all depicting the everyday life in Pompeii. Also, bread, dates, figs and stews mirrored the moment that the catastrophe occurred.

The diet of the gladiators has been subject to extensive research and reveals the same balance between protein and vegetables that present-day sports physicians suggest ahead of athletic feats of strength.

The gladiators were slaves and, thus, objects of investments and their physical constitutions were paramount. Learned scholars and physicians supervised their state of health and produced medicine for the heroes. This exhibition showed an extensive collection of medical equipment from Pompeii.

In addition to the diet, over-all well-being was considered of utmost importance. Therefore, banquets and merry feasts with revered women were held before the combats. Women’s jewelry made of gold, bronze and precious stones were displayed in the exhibition to show the sense of design and craft of the Romans.

‘Gladiator – Heroes of the Colosseum’ was displayed at Moesgaard Museum from April 22, 2016 until September 11. It was curated by Dr. Rosella Rea, Director of the Colosseum, in collaboration with Moesgaard Museum and the Italian exhibition enterprise, Contemporanea.