Grim reality of life in ancient Rome revealed: Average worker was DEAD by 30 – having become riddled with arthritis and crippled by broken bones


Grim reality of life in ancient Rome revealed: Average worker was DEAD by 30 – having become riddled with arthritis and crippled by broken bones

By Ekin Karasin May 28, 2016 Daily Mail

The average ancient Roman worker was riddled with arthritis, suffered broken bones and was dead by 30 thanks to a diet of rotting grains and a lifetime of hard labour.

The grim realities of the Eternal City were revealed in a study carried out by an Italian team of specialists that used modern-scanning techniques to analyse 2,000 ancient skeletons.

The majority of the skeletons from the first and third century AD, found in the suburbs of the ancient city, had broken collar bones, noses and hand bones.

The shocking discovery came as they were dug out during construction on a high speed rail line between Rome and Naples over the last 15 years.

While fractured and broken bones were commonplace injuries among poor, working class Romans, high incidences of bone cancer were also found.

And chronic arthritis was found to be rife in the shoulders, the knees and the back of skeletons as young as 20.

Medical historian Valentina Gazzaniga told The Local: 'We can speculate that some of these people would have spent their lives working in nearby salt mines due to the patterns of arthritis they display.

‘What’s interesting is that the average age of death across the sample group was just 30, yet the skeletons still display severe damage wrought by the extremely difficult working conditions of the day.’

The research did show, however, that the city’s ancient dwellers had become skilled at treating such injuries.

The study found that Romans would place a wooden cage over the limb until the broken bones eventually bound back together…


Just finished two books: FOUR WITNESSES by Rod Bennett, and WHEN THE CHURCH WAS YOUNG, VOICES OF THE EARLY FATHERS by Marcellino D’Ambrosio.

In both, I was surprised to learn how many lived into their 80s, 90s, and 100s e.g. St. John the Beloved. Like St. John, some had been imprisoned for years and suffered torture.

What was also interesting was the moral decay present at that time including child prostitution. Adultery was commonplace as was incest.

I think the article quoted concerns those who worked the salt mines. I don’t think it would be expected that they should live as they were sent there to work until they dropped dead.

I would recommend that all read about the Church Fathers. Extremely interesting and informative. :thumbsup:


Well, there’s a reason why the “salt mines” have centennially been a synonym for bodybreaking labor and hardship.

That’s what a preindustrIalized society looked like. And if the environmental and survival subcultures have their way, we will see those broken bodies in society again.



That is a fascinating article! The ancient Roman Empire and the Roman Republic is my favorite historical civilization.


Here we see why it is so very important to maintain and strengthen our laws which protect workers from unsafe and unjust conditions, and why organized labor is one of our most effective means for ensuring workers’ rights and well-being :thumbsup:. Ancient Rome, never again!




Organized labor in today’s age is irrelevant when it comes to working conditions.

I work in manufacturing and was appalled at the working conditions of a competitor I visited (a union shop). My company is non-Union and was a much safer environment.

There are laws in place in the US to protect workers. The unions played a role in making that happen to be sure. But, at this point in our society, it isn’t organized labor keeping it going, it’s established federal law.


I concur. I was security chief in a non-union foundry/factory in which the safety procedures were extremely stringent. Federal regulations played a huge role, but so did regulations handed down from the plant’s overall ownership (Toyota).


If these skeletons were primarily from salt mine workers, I doubt they are representative.


Interesting. Thanks, God Bless, Memaw


Ah, the good old days…


It sounds a bit similar to mentions from the middle ages in Europe. I can remember it has often been mentioned that laborers during those times lived on average into their early 30s.


This shows just how revolutionary and provocative the message of Christ was. In a world where the working poor were thought of as having less worth than a pack animal, the story of Jesus was in effect the biography of the ‘man-god’, transposed on precisely one of the working poor of that age.

The audacity of such a claim is what drove the upper classes of Roman-occupied Jerusalem to incensed violence. The claims about such a man from the dregs of society was a direct challenge to the priviledge enjoyed by the elites.

Even if the works of the Spirit through Jesus supported the divine claims about Jesus, this was something that the elites could not accept.

The existence of a dreg with claims to Divinity changed everything. Those claims deligitimized the right of the elite to oppress, and humanized the oppressed to where all of humanity have the same claims to have being created in the image of the Creator.

That is just common knowledge now, and accepted universally, even among non-Christians. In ancient Rome however, it was virtually incomprehensible that this could ever be the case.

All of a sudden, the lives of the lowest of the low in society mattered as much as the life of even the god-emperor.


Exactly, a bit like finding a gravesite primarily containing the remains of pre-Civil War African-American slaves.


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