One of the most intriguing aspects of studying anything historic (in my opinion) is how you are forced to change and manipulate your perspective; in order to understand a specific concept, artifact, or event, you have to look through the eyes of people whose culture make them a practical alien in comparison to yourself. So, with this being said, how do we understand how certain subjects are created, incorporated, and perceived in a society? How do we know what, let’s say, the Ancient Greeks thought and did throughout the Hellenistic time period? Excavations, scientific research, and artifacts may be the most common ways that things are proved and disproved, discovered and explained, but how much do these things really tell us about the mind of a classical Greek citizen? About their virtues, mannerisms, beliefs, and recreation? To comprehend things such as that, wouldn’t it be better to look toward their words? It should be a known fact that we have learned innumerable things through the brilliant works of Plato, Aeschylus, Dante, Homer, and other eminent Greek authors, so isn’t this form of erudition just as credible as the latter? This is exactly how Scholar David Hillman (and various other historians) validates his research concerning the use of recreational drugs Amongst the Ancient Greeks.
It is debatable that the ancient Greeks where highly accepting to the use of drugs “for fun”; while there is no scientific evidence, there is a myriad of texts and other literary sources that insinuate, or plainly state, that this is true. David Hillman, being the most assertive if not the most circumstantiated figure in this subject, mentions a vast assortment of readings explaining a thing or two about the Ancient Greeks and their involvement with narcotic substances. A few examples would be, to begin with, that the Greeks loved wine. Though, their infatuation with the beverage was not purely because of taste; wine was a crucial part of a spiritual event. Some Greeks believed that drunkenness occurred because when one drank wine, they took in the god, or spirit of the wine, and that spirit then assumed control of ones body for a time. Also, Greeks were notorious for often mixing alternative substances in these beverages; a popular one being opium, or, as it was then called, poppy juice. Homer actually described opium’s pleasant effects in “The Odyssey”: “…had a happy thought. Into the bowl in which their wine was mixed, she slipped a drug that had the power of robbing grief and anger of their sting and banishing all painful memories. No one who swallowed this dissolved in their wine could shed a single tear that day, even for the death of his mother or father, or if they put his brother or his own son to the sword and he were there to see it done.” Opium was also commonly used for medicinal purposes from ancient Greece all throughout the time of the Roman Empire. Cannabis is mentioned when Herodotus annotates that the Scythians threw hemp seeds on the hot stones of their steam baths, and, to further demonstrate the literal wealth of street drugs in this era, the ancient oracles of the classical Greek period would ingest psychedelic substances to self-induce their famous prophecy bearing visions.
So, with it being apparent that there was no lack of intoxicating matter in Classical Greece, why then, is there veritably no mention, explanation, or insinuation of addiction in their culture? The Ancient Greeks literally had no word in the Greek language for addiction, or “junkie.” An example that may help to make more sense of the situation is that of Homosexuality; just like there is no mention of addiction in the Greek’s society, there is also no mention of homosexuality. How can this make sense when it is a generally known fact that ancient Greeks partook in gay sex? The answer lies in perception: the Ancient Greeks didn’t have a word for homosexuality or gay sex, because that fact was irrelevant in the