History and Historiography

The Diet of Slaves

Time marches on, and the more things change the more they remain the same. Whether people learn from the mistakes of history is up to them knowing of them in detail, both in cause and effect. Today we’re going to discuss the many slightly varied diets of slaves throughout the world. Despite the geographically unique foods of the world, the diets of many slaves across different locations and eras have remained strikingly similar, Even today, the diet of modern slaves has remained true to their ancient counterparts.

In ancient Greece many slaves were fed a diet consisting of beans or legumes, vegetables, grains, and in very special events the offal of their masters. Offal if you’re wondering are the various organ meats deemed unworthy of being eating.

In ancient Rome the slaves were fed mostly bread, vegetables, porridge, some local fruits, and the occasional cheap wine to keep them sated and docile, with meat again being very rare for consumption.

The gladiators of ancient Rome were almost entirely forces of slaves forced into the colosseum for various combat events. The slaves had roughly a 1 in 8 to 1 in 10 chance of dying each time they fought, so the stakes were high and conditions were brutal. These gladiators had the nickname of barley men or barley eaters, and you guessed it, primarily consumed barley, wheat, and beans. The diets of gladiators was a bit unique, since in their case they were fed food not as a bare minimum, but at an excess to make them fatter so as to protect their deeper veins from fatal wounds from combat, as these slaves were seen as an investment of entertainment. So in short, they were fed a vegetarian diet so they could be beaten upon and suffer for longer.

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