There are few more important figures in history than the warrior, soldier, or fighter. Ever since the first Mesopotamian civilizations, the brave warrior was held with the highest esteem, sometimes almost to the point of worship. And it’s no wonder, because many an Empire spread its influence across continents by having a strong warrior class, armed with the weaponry of the era, to intimidate and crush the enemy. Thousands of years later, we still hear the stories of the Spartan and Persians warriors, the Roman army, and the brave Samurai of Japan.
We know that they were trained to be the best fighters and armed with chariots, swords, spears, and all the latest weapon technology. But what did they eat? With so much focus on diet in the modern day, we might wonder what the strongest, most physically capable people in history ate every day to stay healthy, strong, and full.
The Spartan Diet
Sparta was a city-state in ancient Greece that was known for its disciplined soldiers. Spartans cared more about dominating on the battlefield than anything else. Their training was unparalleled, and started at a very young age.
So what did they eat? Well, the Spartans believed in simplicity, and their diet was no exception. In training to be a soldier, the Spartans ate “the plainest diet, so as to be able to consume anything that came to hand, they thought made the youths’ bodies more healthy owing to the scanty food” – The Ancient Customs of the Spartans.
We don’t know all that much about Spartan diet, but one thing is for certain: the Spartans were no vegetarians. Roman author Aelian once claimed that “Spartan cooks were prohibited from cooking anything other than meat”.
Plutarch famously wrote about the Spartan’s “black soup” of which they’re best known for as far as diet. It was a soup made from pig legs and blood, salt and vinegar.
So to eat like a Spartan, think paleo, or anything that emphasizes a lean, simple diet.
The Samurai Diet
The Samurai warriors were Japan’s elite, fighting class originating in the 9th century and remaining a powerful and significant force for many centuries onward, acting as special guards for royalty and aristocracy. They were some of the finest fighters in the world.
The Samurais also focused on a diet of simple ingredients. This was partly due to the fact that Samurais came from peasant roots, and maintained a similar diet. Unlike the Spartans, the Samurai may have been had a much more vegetarian diet. The Buddhist and Shinto religious philosophies during periods of that time prohibited eating meat.
The Samurai would likely have had meals heavily dependent on rice, a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Additional ingredients would include potatoes, radishes beans, chestnuts, nuts, tofu, and yams – Samurai Archives.
How do you eat like a Samurai warrior? Try a traditional Asian vegetarian diet with rice as your staple grain, and add any delicious fruits, vegetables, and nuts that suit your fancy.
The Gladiator Diet
Though perhaps not technically a “warrior”, the Roman gladiators from around the 3rd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. were well-trained fighters that fought for the entertainment of spectators in arenas. Often these fights were to the death, so it’s safe to say that a gladiator would want to be as tough as humanly possible.
Unlike the lean diet of the Spartans, the gladiators sought a diet that would essentially fatten them up. Being fatter would mean a better chance of surviving the blows and staying alive. Plus, it looked better for the spectator.
Gladiator’s diets were believed to be vegetarian and consist of mostly simple carbohydrates such as barley, legumes, and beans. combined with, of course, vegetables. They were called “barley men” for this reason.
Want to eat like a gladiator? Eat your veggies, and pack on those carbs!
In modern times it can be difficult to know what the best diet is, and looking back at ancient history, it’s clear to see that there was never any perfect standard. It comes down to factors such as what’s available, what the cultural norms are, and what kind of body type you want. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a little advice from the most badass warriors on the planet!
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