Ancient Romans Swore by the Health Benefits of Gladiator Body Fluids
Ancient Romans had mixed feelings about gladiators. On the one hand, gladiators were despised as slaves, trained under extremely brutal conditions, marginalized, and generally segregated from free Romans. On the other hand, gladiators, especially the most successful ones, were admired and celebrated as if they were a cross between modern rock stars and star athletes. The gladiators’ constant training turned them into impressive physical specimens, well proportioned, with rippling muscles glistening in the arena before spectators. Understandably, that made gladiators the objects of fantasies for many Roman women, and for quite a few Roman men, for that matter. If the gladiator fantasy could not be gratified directly – and huge, although not insurmountable, social barriers stood in the way – it might be gratified another way.
Gladiator bodily fluids, especially their sweat, were highly sought after commodities in Ancient Rome. Rich women were willing to pay a hefty price for sweat and dirt from the bodies of famous gladiators. The Romans used a curved metal blade, called a strigil, to remove dirt, perspiration, and oils from the skin before bathing. That is how they scraped sweat and dirt from gladiators’ skins. It would then be collected in vials, which were offered for sale outside the gladiatorial games. The buyers would often apply the gladiators’ sweat and grime directly to their faces, as a type of facial cream. Others mixed it with cosmetics and perfumes – which in Ancient Rome were usually the preserve of women of status.