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Gladiator Diet

Pollice Verso (With a Turned Thumb) by Jean Leon Gerome, 1872


Gladiator Diet

I guess everyone has heard of the Paleo Diet – that’s what people ate 10,000 years ago. It’s basically meat, nuts, fruit and vegetables. There’s something a little more current, well, from about 2,000 years ago, the Gladiator Diet. It’s what Roman gladiators ate to stay in fighting condition. And surprisingly, it was almost a completely vegetarian diet.

Gladiator Diet

Barley Gruel

Gladiator Diet

Oat and Seed Cakes

No meat and potatoes for these guys. They ate mostly barley, beans and some pasta too, often flavored with fish sauce, trying to put on enough weight to cushion those sword and spear wounds in the arena. That wasn’t enough to strengthen their bones so they drank a sort of “sports drink,” a mix of wood and bone ash to build up calcium. They also drank goats milk and water but no wine. This combination of food and drink made them fit and tough.

String Beans a la Gladiator   (based on what we know they ate and what was commonly available in Rome back then)


  • 1 lb. string beans
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2  chopped onion
  • 4 tbsp gaurm*

*The Romans used a fish sauce called garum. The modern equivalent is colatura di alici.


Boil the string beans for 5 minutes. In another pot sauté the onion in oil until soft, translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the drained, cooked string beans to the onions, add the colatura di alici and about 1/2 cup of the water you boiled the string beans in. Taste for seasoning. Colatura di Alici can be very salty and you may not need any more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve.

String Beans a la Gladiator

Some more information on the Gladiator Diet here –



Science Daily

Gladiator Diet

Definitely not part of the Gladiator Diet

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