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cinzia8

Roman Recreational Drugs

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Hi, all:

Did the Imperial Romans use any kind of drug? I write novels set in Late Antiquity and I'm always looking for flaws to inflict upon my characters. :-)  I started thinking did they 'party' with anything other than wine? I don't know if I've ever seen any reference to this habit for these times. I will probably research the topic, but I thought I would start here. There had to be something, right? Poppies grew in ancient Rome. Were there opiates?

Cinzia

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In a nine-part (!) 1997 article in Substance Use & Misuse, which was enticingly entitled "The Rules of Drug Taking: Wine and Poppy Derivatives in the Ancient World," Paolo Nencini came to a downer :D conclusion: 

Quote

The widespread therapeutic use of opium and its probable ritual use is faced with the absence of any explicit description of cases of opium dependence. It is possible that this was due to a lack of diagnostic capability. However, even the attempt to uncover cases of opium dependence by systematically analyzing the literary passages in which poppies, opium, and meconium are quoted are unsuccessful. The only two cases of suspected opium addiction that can be selected in this way are those of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Ovid. The most parsimonious interpretation is the lack of an hedonic use of poppy derivatives, being that this kind of use is the most frequently connected with the development of addiction. 

Speaking of ritual use:

Quote

Several literary and iconographic sources, in particular of the early Roman imperial age, are here interpreted as evidence that poppy derivatives were ingested during mystery rites.

Given that "[t]o defend the old faith the high aristocracy, not content with Roman tradition and the Latin classics, fell back in retreat on 'haruspicina', on portents and prophecy, on the folly of magic and theosophy" (Syme), I think an author can have a couple of late 4th century pagan senators up in smoke. B)

Edited by Flavius Inismeus

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Definitely! :) I imagine in an empire of such magnitude that some people knew very well how to alter their consciousness not only for spiritual reasons but also for respite from physical pain and their reality. Can you imagine living in those times? You might need a good buzz now and then. Ha! ha!

I will have to research if I can use the word 'opium' (did the process exist in the far east in the 5th century? Was it something smuggled to market or openly sold?). Maybe it was manufactured in the Western Empire. Euphoric powders. ?? Hmm. I have a new challenge! I write romantic historical adventure-mystery in the 5th century (Outlander meets Late Antiquity). Many readers (although it's fiction) will take the history presented as fact. I do my best to portray as accurately as possible. If I deviate, I will include this in my Author's Note. But I really like to represent the history as we understand it today. 

Thanks again for your help and thoughts.

Cinzia

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24 minutes ago, cinzia8 said:

Definitely! :) I imagine in an empire of such magnitude that some people knew very well how to alter their consciousness not only for spiritual reasons but also for respite from physical pain and their reality. Can you imagine living in those times? You might need a good buzz now and then. Ha! ha!

I will have to research if I can use the word 'opium' (did the process exist in the far east in the 5th century

The Far East, as in China? Pliny the Elder has a description here http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D20%3Achapter%3D76, "opium" is a good Latin word.

24 minutes ago, cinzia8 said:

Was it something smuggled to market or openly sold?). Maybe it was manufactured in the Western Empire.

The only Roman list of controlled substances I can think of right away is an excerpt from Aelius Marcianus in the Digest on the Cornelian Law of Assassins and Poisoners. No opium there, I suppose it was openly sold for medical use.

Quote

It is provided by another Decree of the Senate that dealers in ointments who rashly sell hemlock, salamander, aconite, pine-cones, buprestis, mandragora, and give cantharides as a purgative, are liable to the penalty of this law.

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1 hour ago, Flavius Inismeus said:

The Far East, as in China? Pliny the Elder has a description here http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D20%3Achapter%3D76, "opium" is a good Latin word.

The only Roman list of controlled substances I can think of right away is an excerpt from Aelius Marcianus in the Digest on the Cornelian Law of Assassins and Poisoners. No opium there, I suppose it was openly sold for medical use.

What an interesting name for the digest. I almost think it would make an intriguing book title: The Law of Assassins and Poisoners. That's good news about opium (the name and availability).  This is great information!

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27 minutes ago, cinzia8 said:

What an interesting name for the digest. I almost think it would make an intriguing book title: The Law of Assassins and Poisoners. That's good news about opium (the name and availability).  This is great information!

It's rather my inelegant phrasing, I should've said 'an excerpt from Aelius Marcianus on the subject of Cornelian Law of Assassins and Poisoners in the Digest', the Digest here being https://droitromain.univ-grenoble-alpes.fr/Anglica/digest_Scott.htm :)

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Hardly inelegant. I like how the phrasing sounds, (writers are about the rhythm of words. I will remember this perhaps for a title) and what a great resource. :-)  All the information you've given me will really help a lot. :)

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A related post from a long, long time ago. (The initial link to the article is dead, however):

 

http://www.cannabis-med.org/index.php?tpl=journal&id=192&lng=en&fid=2002:2&red=journallist

http://www.cannabis-med.org/data/pdf/2002-02-3.pdf

CleoA.gif.b33ee740fbc4e09ad08229cfa842fb26.gif

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy
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17 hours ago, guy said:

A related post from a long, long time ago. (The initial link to the article is dead, however):

 

http://www.cannabis-med.org/index.php?tpl=journal&id=192&lng=en&fid=2002:2&red=journallist

http://www.cannabis-med.org/data/pdf/2002-02-3.pdf

CleoA.gif.b33ee740fbc4e09ad08229cfa842fb26.gif

 

guy also known as gaius

Guy, was this dramatization taken from a movie? From the sources you listed, there seems to be some evidence that hemp seeds were used for medicinal purposes. Thanks for putting this up.

Cinzia

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5 hours ago, cinzia8 said:

Guy, was this dramatization taken from a movie? From the sources you listed, there seems to be some evidence that hemp seeds were used for medicinal purposes. Thanks for putting this up.

Cinzia

Sorry. I should have referenced the film clip. It is from HBO's "Rome," depicting Ms. Cleopatra's descent into decadence and depravity. 

 

guy also known as gaius

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On 5/12/2018 at 11:37 PM, guy said:

Sorry. I should have referenced the film clip. It is from HBO's "Rome," depicting Ms. Cleopatra's descent into decadence and depravity. 

 

guy also known as gaius

Guy: Is it documented that Cleopatra was a cannabis smoker? From what I read on those links, there isn't a lot of evidence for its use by smoking it.

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On 5/17/2018 at 6:55 AM, cinzia8 said:

Guy: Is it documented that Cleopatra was a cannabis smoker? From what I read on those links, there isn't a lot of evidence for its use by smoking it.

 

No, only in the fantasy world of HBO.  :rolleyes:

 

 

guy also known as gaius

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10 hours ago, guy said:

 

No, only in the fantasy world of HBO.  :rolleyes:

 

 

guy also known as gaius

I tend not to think of the queen as Cleo the pothead, but anything is possible in this world. :lol:

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