What was the average life span of a roman plebs person?

Aug 2019
571
North
I believe the standard enlistment for a Roman legionary was 25 years. This seems to indicate a fairly long lifespan was normal. The biggest dangers in ancient times were childhood disease and for women, childbirth. if you survived these there was was every chance you would live a reasonably long life, subject to the hazards of the times like death due to warfare, by accident or disease.
The army would have enlisted you at 25, which meant that you were though enough for the life ahead of you, so it doesn't mean much longetivity-wise.
 
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Aug 2019
571
North
From what I remember, legionaries tended to enlist around the age of 18 and retired in their early-mid forties.
18 would've maybe been too early. But then again it might make sense -after their service the legionaries would be granted farm land; it's hardly likely that an older man could take proper care of such a concession.
 
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fascinating

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,421
I believe the standard enlistment for a Roman legionary was 25 years. This seems to indicate a fairly long lifespan was normal. The biggest dangers in ancient times were childhood disease and for women, childbirth. if you survived these there was was every chance you would live a reasonably long life, subject to the hazards of the times like death due to warfare, by accident or disease.
A bronze document was found in Germany lists the names of legionnaires who had reached 50 that year and were therefore to be awarded the discharge bonus. I can't remember the details but a commentator was astonished at how few names were on it, ie relatively few reached age 50.
 
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Oct 2018
1,873
Sydney
18 would've been too early. But then again it might make sense -after their service the legionaries would be granted farm land. It's hardly likely that an older man could take proper care of such land.
I remember 18-19 being the average age of enlistment. This is based on the attestations of tombstones.
 
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Aug 2019
571
North
A bronze document was found in Germany lists the names of legionnaires who had reached 50 that year and were therefore to be awarded the discharge bonus. I can't remember the details but a commentator was astonished at how few names were on it, ie relatively few reached age 50.
Oh, those teutonic pests :D
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,102
The average life expectancy was probably near forty, but you need to take that with a grain of salt. Infant and childhood mortality rates were very high. For every infant who died in his or her first year of life, someone else had to make it to eighty for the average to be forty. If a person survived childhood, they had a pretty good chance of making it past fifty. If a person made it to forty, they had a pretty good chance of making it to at least sixty. There were older people in Paul's day. Perhaps as much as ten percent of the population was over sixty. You can't just assume that because the average life expectancy was forty that everyone died just before turning forty-one.
I dont think it was that straight forward.... Making it past forty, there are plenty of health conditions that appear after 40 which roman medicine could not really deal with....
Probably children that survived infancy were healthier on average than current children, and could thus be expected to live till around 40 (this from a health perspective, but then of course there were wars, famines etc...)... After 40, considering they had a much tougher life than we do, it would have been difficult....
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,102
A quick google has it at 25 to 30.


Good links

Here is a short extract from the second one

Inhabitants of the Roman Empire had a life expectancy at birth of about twenty-five years. Although the figure relies more on conjecture than ancient evidence, which is sparse and of dubious quality, it is a point of general consensus among historians of the period. It originates in cross-country comparison: given the known social and economic conditions of the Roman Empire, we should expect a life expectancy near the lower bound of known pre-modern populations. Roman demography bears comparison to available data for early twentieth-century India and rural China, where life expectancies at birth were also in the low twenties.
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
Just one point to clarify, average life *span* and life *expectancy* are different things. Life expectancy is how long you can generally expect to live if you survive childhood. Life span is an average over the entire population and includes the high infant mortality rate, so it is a much lower number. Be careful not to confuse these statistics!

Also, you could enlist in the Roman army at age 16, though that wasn't as rigid a number as it might be today. The youngest known recruit was 14. From what I've read, it seems that about half the men are surviving their 25 years to retirement, which really isn't much worse than the civilian population. It wasn't battle that killed them, but normal diseases, accidents, etc.

Matthew
 
Aug 2019
571
North
It wasn't battle that killed them, but normal diseases, accidents, etc.

Matthew
Yes, germania and northern britannia had severe weather, so tbc, pneumonia, and even common flue could be fatal. Inconsistent frumentum was also there to plague men. Many ancients must've been happening while working in the woods, building castrum etc.
 
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