A SHORT GRAPHICAL HISTORY
GREECE & ROME
2.8.2 - HERODOTUS [The Greek Historian] 490 - 425-BC
To our knowledge, Herodotus (the Greek Historian) was the first to make any mention of Cannabis in Western literature. He was supposed to have been born at Halicarnaffus (490 AD), and traveled throughout much of Greece, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Thrace, Scythia, Arabia, Palestine etc. And while he probably knew little about medicines, and thus wrote little about the subject, his are one of the few historical works from that era, that have come down to us today.
For better or worse, he was certainly one of the most widely quoted (or actually mis-quoted) Greek historians during the Reefer Madness Era of the 1930’s. With the following quotation by Herodotus, being used, over and over, again
“The Scythians put the Seeds of this HEMP under the bags, upon the burning stones; and immediately a more agreeable vapor is emitted than from the incense burnt in Greece. The Company extremely transported with the scent, howl aloud. “
Again, the above statements were used, over and over again, by the narcotics police as proof that Medical Cannabis (a.k.a. Marihuana, the Weed of Madness), ever since antiquity, had the power to turn its users into cold blooded murderers, etc. However, if one were to read the paragraphs just before and after the above quotation, a totally different picture begins to appear. [Some spelling changed due to the awkward English]
“The HISTORY of HERODOTUS” -- Translated from the Greek by Isaac Littlebury  “
Looking at the more complete quotation, these are the facts that way the author sees them:
“[PAGE 380] [description of a funeral] . . . And this is the Manner of the King’s Funeral. But when any other Scythian dies, his nearest Relations carry him about in a Chariot among his Friends; who receive and entertain the whole Company, in their Turn, setting the fame things before the dead Man as before the rest. In this Manner all private Men are carried about forty Days, before they are buried: And those who have assisted at these Funerals, purify themselves thus. When they have cleansed and washed their heads, they set up three pieces of timber leaning to each other, and laying a good number of Woolen Bags close together, throw burning Stones in to a hollow space left in the midst of the wood and bags. In this country a sort of HEMP grows, very like to flax; only longer and thicker; and much more excellent than ours, whether sowed or produced by Nature. The Thracians cloth themselves with garments made of the HEMP; so well resembling Flax, that a man must have great experience in those materials to distinguish one from the other: And he who had never seen this HEMP, would think their [PAGE 381] their Cloths were wrought out of Flax. The Scythians put the Seeds of this HEMP under the bags, upon the burning stones; and immediately a more agreeable vapor is emitted than from the incense burnt in Greece. The Company extremely transported with the scent, howl aloud; and this Manner of purification serves instead of washing: For they never bath their bodies in water. But their wives grinding the wood of cypress, cedar, and incense upon a rough stone, and infusing the powder in water, compound a thick substance, which they spread over all the parts of the body and face. . . . . “
However, getting back to the world of Medical Antiques, other than those who believe in aroma therapy, (hemp seeds taste a little like walnuts, so I’m assuming that they would smell that way too), Herodotus simply makes no mention of any Medical Uses.
- The Hemp Plant in question, given its size and description as a source of clothing, seems to have been an industrial grade (what we would now term Industrial Hemp) plant and thus would have has little Medicinal or recreational uses.
- That the incense vapors were used as part of a religious ceremony for the dead, similarly to the use of the use of frankincense by the Roman Catholic Church today. Herodotus even talks about other incenses.
- That Herodotus was writing in the CONTEXT of a funeral. Hey, what do you think the deceases friends are suppose to do at a funeral? Howling, Weeping, Crying all seem in normal to me, and in keeping with the situation. Additionally, other translations from the Greek, use the word Yell as oppose to Howl.
- That the Reefer Madness Era conspirators, obviously and deliberately took Herodotus writings, way out of context, in order to distort the facts and thus get their agenda through.
Once more, he made little mention of any medicines, period. Which doesn’t mean that the Scythians did not utilize it that way, only that he simply didn’t write anything one way or the other.
THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS Title Page
THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS Pg. 344
THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS Pg. 380
THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS Pg. 381
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