What if I told you guys that the fall of the Roman Empire, didn't necessarily result from the invasion of barbarians and the eventual split of the empire into the East and West? What if instead, food, was one of the main causes of roman decline?
Let us start by listing some of the staples of an average Roman citizen's diet. It consists of: "cereals, olives, wine, as well as fruits and legumes like chickpeas and lentils. Fish was a luxury and rarely eaten, and the primary source of met came from pigs," as stated by Linda Gigante, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Louisville. Now consider the fact that she stated, average, Roman citizen. The professor also stated that not everyone lived rich, lavish lives. About 5% lived at a decent to rich lifestyle, whereas the remaining 95% lived from average to poor. Think about that. If an almost overwhelming percentage of the Roman society were living in poor conditions, who can't even enjoy some of the basics of food we enjoy today, manage to survive.
Arguably the best lifestyle one can have to maintain one's family is to be a Roman soldier. They made as much as 30 times the wage of a normal laborers. Of course, many may argue that this was an ideal time to become a soldier given that Rome was in constant war, thus the demand for soldiers were always constant. If you are a Roman soldier, then yes, you do get paid more than half the population in Rome, assuming that you make it out of the war alive! Keep in mind, that we are humans and that our lives aren't guaranteed (even with life insurance, which I'm sure Romans did not have back then). Not only did the soldiers not have a guaranteed income for his family, but during times of war, the family had to survive alone. War was not waged in 1-2 days. Soldiers sometimes spent months, sometimes years out on the frontier. During those long journeys over vast deserts and mountainous terrains, one cannot expect the commander, much less the soldiers to eat fancy, dine-in, steakhouse level foods all the time. The army most likely had to ration during times of lengthy wars, and even then most of the succulent foods were saved for the general. Still, others might say, well what about after the Romans conquered a city, or even an area? Won't they eat much better and have much more rest then? Well yes, but there is something else people take for granted. Do you guys know what that is? I'll give you a hint: it has to do with traveling. Well, in case you didn't get it, the Romans did not have the same diet as everyone they conquered. Therefore, when they ate foods of other cultures and ethnicities, they no doubt got sick and went to the restroom a few times (don't even get me started on the Roman's bathroom sanitation). And then when the Roman's needed water to wash down the food, where did they drink from, the Tiber River and other various water sources of course. They didn't have time to boil water and make sure it was clean in the midst of war. With this unsanitary lifestyle, diseases that accumulated overtime led to the overall plummet in health and the result fewer babies, weaker if any were had.
With the husbands or fathers fighting for the glory of the empire, who could forget the wife and children. During the time when the children had no father figure and the mother no husband, who cared for the families at home? The families themselves, of course. And without the lovely income of the father or husband, how will the families support themselves with food? They most likely can't, which is why 95% of the population live average or poor lives, living off only the measly, nutrition of poorer foods.
If it wasn't for the poorly kept diet and the diseases that followed malnutrition, would the Romans have been defeated so easily? Even if a nation had the strongest army and defense in the world, if they are not eating properly, death can come faster than the decline of one's own nation and empire. That's why, remember to eat your protein, but also your vegetables!