The story

My hero is an average European city boy of the 21th century. Eighteen years old, doing a bit of sport, eating well, with a job that doesn't require much physical efforts. He would appears just as normal as you, or I, do. For the sake of the story, he will be white of color with blue eyes.

By a series of spectacular events, he winds up through time up to the years ~200 A.D. where he meets with a local village between Macedonia and Gaul in the Ancient Rome. It is a really small entity, composed mostly of farmers and perhaps few blacksmiths or carpenters, which is an average in the countryside... and naturally, the people of this village will react to the newcomer.

The question (s)

How do this guy appears to the local residents, physically speaking? Is he seen as a well-built male, a weak boy or a totally normal resident? Does he appears young and ugly, or old and wise? Will he be able to do the work of a farmer, or will he collapse on the first day?

...and more importantly

Does he have a chance to join the auxiliary troops of the roman legion?

PS: This is not about his clothes. To avoid confusion, let's imagine he managed to find local clothes that won't make him look weird to the people.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Where does he come from? Where does he go? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Apr 3, 2018 at 8:30
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T thanks for the earworm >.< $\endgroup$
    – Kreiri
    Apr 3, 2018 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T hopefully not looking for that cotton $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2018 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ 200 AD is some three hundred years before the beginning of the Middle Ages. And it's a very bad time to choose to appear in the Roman Empire -- the 3rd century crisis looms, and won't be over until 270 AD or so. You may want to consider moving him to the 2nd century. And why join the auxiliaries? He is in the Empire, he may join a legion as a regular, with the advantage the after completion of his term he will be a citizen and most likely receive some land. And in that time 18 year olds were not "boys", they were adults. "Boys" were 12 year old or younger. How good are his Greek and Latin? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ The year 200AD is late Classical Antiquity, not Medieval. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 3, 2018 at 12:04

4 Answers 4

  1. As This Q/A suggests, he would probably be one of the taller ones, with the average male being under 1.70 meters.

  2. He would probably have some problems with his body adjusting to much more endurance based tasks. For example I work in an office job and do regular workouts. Does not prepare me for going into the forest and making my own firewood - muscle soreness is guaranteed every year.

  3. He would have to adjust to a completely different diet. Probably have some problems with his digestive system. Compare this to a European boy going to the third world of today.

Given that he would probably be perceived as sickly during his struggles to adjust for the first few months. His physique would change during that time, possibly quite dramatic to leaner and more sinewy appearance.

He will have a hard time joining the auxiliary troops. I have first-hand experience in some medieval-style fighting and can tell you it is nothing we "modern" Europeans are used to. He will considerably lack the stamina to survive even the first five minutes. He needs at least half a year of mentoring and training to get to anywhere near the level he needs to be.

My experience in that regard is: I used to run 10 km twice a week and had superior stamina to most of my peers, then. During my first fight - all out, only attacking an experienced sparring partner who would just defend - after 3 minutes I had to force myself to keep moving with all my will. After 5 minutes I was all but concentrated on breathing into my burning lungs and not collapsing.

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    $\begingroup$ Also add for the fighting part that a change in climate will have a big affect - that 3 minutes goes to about 30 seconds on a hot July afternoon if you're wearing armour and gambeson. Just something to remember if your hero gets moved. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2018 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Darren Bartrup-Cook: Good point. Wearing Armor also has that effect - it just drains your energy-reserves a lot faster. I that example I wore about 10-15 kg (Chainmail, gambeson and helmet) $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Apr 3, 2018 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ And once there it's better to continue the fight on your knees while begging for mercy - brings them in closer and you can get the groin shot in then which always gets a big laugh from the public.... going off topic now though. :) $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2018 at 12:13

How do this guy appears to the local residents, physically speaking? Is he seen as a well-built male, a weak boy or a totally normal resident?

He is probably 10 cm (~4 inches) taller than anybody else. His diet has been richer in protein than the people around him (who eat mostly cereals), and for that reason he has probably wider shoulders and chest than the average Ancient Roman. The few bits of armor from the era found show people being strong but quite lean (While rich people got fat). One of the main problems is that probably his muscles are built for strength and not endurance. I mean: people were used to walk two or three hours if they had to go to a place, now, even some people think that walking more than 30 minutes is tiring. He will also discover he walks different than the people around him, using more the heel (being used to good shoes with cushion there) while people around him steps first with the sole and then with the heel. Also, he isn't used to harsh materials, so he doesn't have the necessary calluses. Having blue eyes will probably make him quite attractive. Historical emperors were described with blue eyes for that reason.

Does he appears young and ugly, or old and wise?

Probably younger (and dumb, he doesn't know anything). If he has taken a bit of care of himself, he won't have so many pimples and scars in the face. Romans offered their first beard when they were 16-17 years old and many people now doesn't get a beard at that age.

Will he be able to do the work of a farmer, or will he collapse on the first day?

I think he will be able to work for a while, although the heat/cold, the lack of protection from sun in the eyes and people only eating twice a day (with only one strong meal) will make his life more miserable.

Does he have a chance to join the auxiliary troops of the roman legion?

The new recruits had to pass an exam called probatio. It was more important for citizens, while the auxiliaries only cared if the recruit was trying to land a priviliged post, like being in administrative functions. However, the lack of ties to the community and knowledge of the local language will make a lot of people think he is a slave (slaves were usually carried far away from their origins and not taught Latin for that reason). Fugitive slaves sometimes joined the army, but will he avoid any people enslaving him during his time?

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    $\begingroup$ With this guy's lack of manual labor experience before he time travelled, he is bound to have soft hands and no calluses. I had friend who lived on a farm make such a comment about my town hands. That along with his lack of endurance mentioned by you and others, would seem to counter the argument that he could be mistaken for a runaway slave.... Unless he was mistaken for some sort a soft sex slave? $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2018 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps Slaves in bath houses, personal shavers and artists (singers, musicians) would be "soft". Citarists, for example, must have looked like "pretty boys" because they had to be celibate, which means people lusted after them with intensity. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2018 at 19:21

The average Roman at the time was about 5'6", while the Gauls were 5'8" to 6'2". "Macedon to Gaul" was a very wide path of land inhabited by different people, and he would likely be taller than local people, but by no means too tall. His appearance (and probable accent) would suggest that he is likely a barbarian, and his healthy look might give an idea that he's hailing from barbarian nobility.

His physical fitness might be inadequate for day-to-day physical work, as well as the rigors of military life, but that can be improved, and his prospects as an auxiliary recruit should be bright. As far as a full legionnaire goes, he would have hard time convincing Romans that he's a full roman citizen and eligible to be a legionnaire.


If the townspeople are imports from the Empire or the city of Rome, they are likely to be short, but the local people of Gaul were known to be especially tall, and physical fitness was culturally emphasized. The people of the region became much shorter as the classical era gave way to the medieval era, but in 200 AD locals would have been quite tall, the population being smaller and the quality of the food being higher.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Tall for those times is still pretty short for today standards $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 3, 2018 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ So true. Also worth noting locales have their own standards of "tall & short". I grew up on the Channel Islands, just off Brittany, and we've older building and ancient statuary there from those times - and I can tell you they were short - like 5'-0"./ $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2018 at 21:31

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