While browsing an out-of-print history book "Romans and Aliens" (no, not the kind from outer space) I came across an interesting comment made about the "Germans" (obviously the ancestors of modern day Germans as their were no Germans then): this author wrote that when any German would come south into the Roman Empire and take up a Roman lifestyle, their bodies quickly went "flabby."
The northern Europeans alive at the time of the Roman Empire were not a Paleolithic people as they did drink beer but surely they were not too far removed from the lifestyle of their Paleolithic ancestors. When they adopted a completely foreign Roman diet which consisted of agricultural products their bodies quickly reacted ... badly.
The ancient German was far taller than the ancient Roman but the Romans could outfight any German army. This author also noted that the Germans could not tolerate the sun and dust of the Mediterranean and would be often found lounging in the shade of the nearest tree. No wonder the Romans considered them complete wimps.
This reminded me of a quote I had read on Paleohacks a while back. Here's how Caesar summed up the Germans:
The nation of the Suevi is by far the
largest and the most warlike nation of
all the Germans.... They do not live
much on corn, but subsist for the most
part on milk and flesh, and are much
[engaged] in hunting; which
circumstance must, by the nature of
their food, and by their daily
exercise and the freedom of their life
(for having from boyhood been
accustomed to no employment, or
discipline, they do nothing at all
contrary to their inclination), both
promote their strength and render them
men of vast stature of body. And to
such a habit have they brought
themselves, that even in the coldest
parts they wear no clothing whatever
except skins, by reason of the
scantiness of which, a great portion
of their body is bare, and besides
they bathe in open rivers.
Their whole life is occupied in
hunting and in the pursuits of the
military art; from childhood they
devote themselves to fatigue and
hardships. Those who have remained
chaste for the longest time, receive
the greatest commendation among their
people; they think that by this the
growth is promoted, by this the
physical powers are increased and the
sinews are strengthened.... They do
not pay much attention to agriculture,
and a large portion of their food
consists in milk, cheese, and flesh.
Military success of armies is often based more on training and strategy than on individual prowess and health. The Romans were well organized and well trained. Ironically, a stable permanent economy and agriculture probably is what allowed that to happen in the first place. However, keep in mind that they did eventually fall..
The Gladiators killed millions of animals in the games not because they were forced to, they were hoping to get a little meat. When the Romans ran out of local game they brought back exotic beasts from as far off as Africa to spice up the contests. But it was bread that did them in. Bread makes you lazy. That's where the word "loaf" or "to loaf"comes from. It's Latin root is "loafacles" which means "eater of wheat not flesh". What about the "Roman Meal" bread connection? Coincidence? I think not!