T Nation

Size of Ancient Warriors


I just read on imdb.com that Arnold Schwarzenegger had to tone down his workouts for the movie Conan the Barbarian. The reason being that his chest and arms were too big to wield a sword properly.

I suppose Achilles wasn't that big in real life after all!


I was actually thinking what sort of training the Roman soldiers did 2000 years ago? Their armour weighed a bit I was told.


I remember seeing a thing on the warriors of Mycenae a while ago. When they dug up the tombs of the warrior chieftens they found that the hot shot heros of the city were little 4'9" fat guys.

Early legionaries of actual Roman origin wouldn't have been much bigger. The auxilliaries from the frontiers on the other hand tended to be larger.

Before modern times civilization meant for most people a diet based quite heavily on bread and in the case of the Meditaranean world, wine. People in civilized societies and particularly urban settings didn't get a ton of protein or nutrition in general and tended to be tiny as a result.


Actually Arnold bulked up for the role and got even bigger when the shot the scene where he is old and sitting on the throne.

That is movie swordfighting, even thougth he was taugth by a traditional Kattana Waza master the sword techniques he uses are more show than go, and the weapons used by achiles where not as refined as the type of sword used in the Conan movie.

And Bundy
Check out the Yashai Warcraft site for some Roman Training


Roman soldiers used to practice daily mock fighting with wicker shields and wooden swords that were two times heavier that the real ones. Add to that A LOT of marching and construction work (primarily roads) and you get the picture..

Although the weapons of the Roman legionary weren't spectacularly different from their counterparts - oval/square wooden shield, gladius hispaniensis (short sword for stabbing), pila (javelin) - they were superbly trained and that made the difference on the battlefield.


I visited an art museum displaying arms and armor of antquity and the historian hosting said that Roman soldiers were around 5 feet 2 inches. He also talked of them being quite strong, but sinewy, because of the energy expended over the distances they had to cover.


Just finished a book titled "The Age of the Gladiators" by Rupert Matthews. It's a great read.

He claims the average Roman citizen stood 5'4". The average Gladiator about 5'8". The soldiers fell somewhere in between. Gladiators were chosen for size, strength and agressivness. The Armor, shield and sword of the soldier weighed in about 25 ibs. The Gladiators kit was heavier, about 40ibs.

We humans have grown!


i read that he bulked up and they shot the last scenes first so that he was biggest...

and he lost weight for the fighting scenes???


Spending all day on a movie set, redoing takes of the same scene 50 times is probably the reason for that.


Good post hedo, those height ranges are accurate for romans at the time. However, we humans have NOT grown. Italians are still pretty short. Especially if you go back one generation.

At the time of the Romans, the northern peoples (Germanians, Gauls, scandinavians) were much bigger.

There is plenty of evidence of very big people from those times and earlier, whole races of people who are averaging 6'6" ... I realise some people think that isn't that big, but for an AVERAGE, it is frikkin' huge. Plus there must always have been the freaks who were exceptional, even the ones who were not suffering giantism.

People in general were about the same as now. People got bigger still around the year 1,000 ... then people started shrinking again after about 1350 when this mini ice age kicked in.

People were much smaller from say 1850 to 1920 in industrial places because the food basically stunk and they were poor, and pollution. London for example, you couldn't see the sky for all the smoke in the late 1800's.

From the point of evolution, we have hardly changed one tiny bit in 30,000 years, let alone in 2,000 years. The only thing that has changed is diet, lifestyle and knowledge.

Nobody ever said Achilles was a giant of a man. He was never represented as being a giant of a man, just athletic and very skilled.

Given all the above, and the fact that people at the time would have been doing quite a lot of hard labour their whole life, and not everyone was starving or lacking in good food (meat, unpasteurised dairy etc..) and also their love of the Olympics, it is reasonable to assume SOME people must have been rather big. Could they compare to todays' bodybuilders and all their science? maybe not ... could they compare to the bodybuilders of the 1950's? Quite possibly.


I read in an article that he bulked up for the end scene (the one on the throne) and his Franco suggested that as he was so big he should consider entering the Mr O.

I did read it in an Arnold interview from M and F so dont know if it is true or not. could just be a little anecdote made up for the article.


i imagine the biggest guys back then were about as developed as sandow, some may have had better genetics, and therefore been bigger.

i dont think even the barbarians were as big as arnold, arnold talks about not even running to catch the bus during bulking phases, i dont think the barbarians had that luxury

im not sure i get what the debate is really about, does anyone think these guys were tiny? does anyone believe they were as big as arnold?


I think some are very much arguing that these guys were tiny and thusly "more functional". Otherwise, why the thread?


Some have argued that they looked like this.


I see "Spartan" written all over that.

Or is it "Trojan"?


Yup. That's what the women want. Feminine men.

I missed the whole debate wrt Achilles, but in my readings of Homers Illiad, he came off as "average." By greek standards, that mean hairy. He was not Hercules. He was impervious to mortal weapons due to his dipping into the river styx - except the heel where his momma held him during the dip. The strength of the gods was not apparent muscle-wise. Looking at the pictures and stone carvings of the time suggests that they were not bigger than todays men.

And to a previous post suggesting that there was a race of men averaging 6'6"... Is that some race other than the HUMAN race? You know, Homo Sapiens? Please, clarification is requested.


If we are talking warrior size. Before the influx of European blood (then later Asian) the Ancient Hawaiians average size was 6' foot, including women. Think about that! King Kamehameha was 6'7"-6'9". Their warriors had to be huge, just from their population that the warriors would have come from.


A show on the National Geographic Cannel the other would have interested the people involved in this discussion. It was called the SEARCH FOR THE ULTIMATE SURVIVOR (or something close to that). It was about how home erectus became the dominant human species.

Fossil remains exist of a human sub-species know as Goliath that averaged 6-4. Neanderthals, if I remember my schooling correctly, were also large.


Das Uber Geigh?


I think alot of those old tales of people being huge are usually a bit off...stories of 7 foot giants being really 6'6" it had happened in the 1900's with boxers being promoted as giants do you think over longer periods of time height was more accurately recorded? Fossils are a diff story, those must be real, that is unless they arent...