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Old March 26th, 2012, 06:10 PM   #1

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Fat people in the ancient world?


Overweight nowadays is a big problem in our society, I'll cite some phrases of Wikipedia on this subject.
"Excess weight has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults being either overweight or obese.[1]
As much as 64% of the United States adult population is considered either overweight or obese, and this percentage has increased over the last four decades.[16]"
So the question is what was the percentage of people with overweight in the ancient world? Where they mocked or critized about it? What was the public opinion on overweight?
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Old March 26th, 2012, 06:13 PM   #2

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Fatness would have been the exception, not the norm in most or all ancient societies. One of the Egyptian Ptolemies was nicknamed 'Physkon' (Fatty) for his obseity and was mocked by the people of Alexandria.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 09:38 PM   #3

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The ancient Greeks were mad about physical fitness. In The Naked Olympics, Tony Perrottet writes:

Few cultures have been quite so shamelessly vain and superficial in their worship of physical pefection as the Greeks. Flabbiness and pale skin were subjects of derision, and vase paintings show fat boys being mocked by their peers.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 11:31 PM   #4
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Even at the time of rationing in Britain there were still overweight people around.

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old March 28th, 2012, 06:15 PM   #5

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Overweight people existed in all periods of history. However due to the high expense of food it would simply be rather difficult for people to be able to afford to be overweight.

Most people spend like 60-70% of their income on food. Wages in Roman Egypt for unskilled workers were equivalent to 14,000 calories of wheat per day. So to feed a family with only wheat would cost 57% of the daily income of the Egyptian worker and assuming that he works every day.

Perhaps in the wealthiest societies in antiquity, such as Athens, people could afford to be overweight: An Athenian unskilled worked made 40,000 calories per day. However, the Greeks were obsessed with fitness.
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Old March 28th, 2012, 08:06 PM   #6

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Thank you all very nice information especially you Guaporense!
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Old March 29th, 2012, 08:38 AM   #7

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I do remember reading a story in the bible -- 1st or 2nd kings, I believe -- that featured a king being assassinated. The monarch was so fat that the assassin supposedly couldn't retrieve his sword when it came time for him to make his escape.

As has been mentioned, I think it's safe to assume obesity was exceptional and most likely restricted to the top of the upper echelons. Several medieval Kings were described as fat: William I, Louis VI, etc -- but I don't recall any other folks, from common stock or the normal aristocracy, being called fat.
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Old March 29th, 2012, 03:34 PM   #8
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Of course there were fat people in the ancient world. Although they didn't have sugar, they had honey and all sorts of honey cakes were made. Anyone who eats too much gets fat, and just because someone may have lived 2,000 years ago, doesn't mean they weren't gluttons around. Also, as frescoes of ancient Pompeii homes show, exercise played a part in people's lives, but as in todays world, some people are health conscious, and some are not.
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Old March 29th, 2012, 03:50 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by david II View Post
I do remember reading a story in the bible -- 1st or 2nd kings, I believe -- that featured a king being assassinated. The monarch was so fat that the assassin supposedly couldn't retrieve his sword when it came time for him to make his escape.

As has been mentioned, I think it's safe to assume obesity was exceptional and most likely restricted to the top of the upper echelons. Several medieval Kings were described as fat: William I, Louis VI, etc -- but I don't recall any other folks, from common stock or the normal aristocracy, being called fat.
I wonder if Nero was fat as all he did was play music and watched blood sports while eating food. I think he eat to much food and had too much wine to exercise. I am sure he would be obese.
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Old March 29th, 2012, 03:55 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystal Rainbow View Post
I wonder if Nero was fat as all he did was play music and watched blood sports while eating food. I think he eat to much food and had too much wine to exercise. I am sure he would be obese.
He was. We have statues and coins showing his chubby little face:

Click the image to open in full size.


Click the image to open in full size.

The second-century biographer Suetonius describes him as follows:

"He was about the average height, his body marked with spots and malodorous, his hair light blond, his features regular rather than attractive, his eyes blue and somewhat weak, his neck over thick, his belly prominent, and his legs very slender." (Suet, Life of Nero 51).
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