Jan 29, 2023Liked by Alaric The Barbarian

Excellent article. All reasonable points and well thought out.

So many professional historians tend to find a bit of data and come to the conclusion that, "because of this scrap of evidence, 'X' must have been the norm." Meanwhile excluding common sense and reason.

The Romans were above all pragmatic, and recognized what worked and what didn't. They weren't some alien species that ignored human realities and did things willy-nilly.

So it seems likely, that just as modern MMA fighters are treated, the untested fighters at the bottom would have existed on the edge of poverty, i.e. barley and sardines being the modern equivalent of canned tuna and ramen noodles.

But it also seems reasonable the championship contenders would be given the finest meats, women, trainers, doctors, etc. by their owners.

Common sense tells us that you can't build a winner by starving and mistreating them. Heck, that even applies to horses and show dogs, let alone champion fighters.

Expand full comment
Mar 23·edited Mar 23

Subcutaneous fat would provide NO additional protection from edged weapons. A gladius certainly doesn't care whether you have extra fat or not. The gladius Hispaniensis and Mainz gladius were cut and thrust swords capable of delivering devastating shearing blows. It's not going to be bothered by fat. Later types were designed primarily for thrusting, which again, won't care if you have extra fat.

ANY cut by an edged weapon that breaks the skin has the potential of being dangerous. Fat isn't going to make a bit of difference.

We also have the writings of period physicians which directly contradict the idea of gladiators having extra fat (Galen wrote disparagingly of the notion, and surviving training manuals explicitly call for lean bodies without excess fat).

Expand full comment