I'm assuming the average life expectancy of a Roman did not change very much between 500 BC - 500 AD (?), as there was probably no significant progress in medical knowledge or nutrition. Do historians have accurate estimations/sources, how old a Roman got? I don't mean soldiers, who of course had a much shorter average life expectancy than non-soldiers. I assume, if a child managed to survive typical childhood diseases, the chance to reach the normal average life expectancy increased. Rome needed many young men for successful expansion, did they manage to decrease mortality rate of children?

Can anyone quote some numbers here, showing the mortality rate for children and adults(men/women/soldiers)? Apart from average age, how old got the oldest humans at that time?


The oldest human could still live to be over 100 just as they do today. This was of course much rarer. Here's some data from the University of Texas on the matter. Infant Mortality by that page was 31.9% considerably worse than even the worst of the world 60 years ago. This was skewed by infanticide and such.

  • Heavily skewed by infanticide, which was regularly practices and not considered immoral in the day. I'm curious which period of Roman antiquity these stats come from, and also which geographical region. Some urban areas of Italy in the heydey of the Empire (say, 100 A.D. or so) would have had rather high life expectancy, I'd bet (compared to the barbarians). Also worth noting is the very high lead consumption, especially by the aristocracy, due to its ubiquitous use in cookware and plumbing. – Noldorin Oct 16 '11 at 23:10
  • I suspect this may be below average as this data appears to be at least partially collected from Egypt at the time. – World Engineer Oct 16 '11 at 23:18
  • Don't you mean above average death rate? I wouldn't care to guess any. – Noldorin Oct 16 '11 at 23:25
  • Not sure about infanticide but I recall an article in Archeology magazine awhile back about an herb that was basically made extinct by the Romans because of its use as an abortificent. – MichaelF Oct 17 '11 at 18:21
  • Ok, the herb I was looking for was Silphium - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silphium and I can't get the Archaeology magazine article but there is some information here - temehu.com/Cities_sites/cyrene-cyrenaica.htm as well. – MichaelF Oct 20 '11 at 12:21

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