Drug Use in Ancient Greece

Drug Histories
Drug Use in Ancient Greece

In this episode we look at Drug Use in Ancient Greece a period stretching from about 800BC to 323BC. We start off with a brief overview of key developments in medicine in this period; before moving to a discussion of drug use in both therapeutic and non-medical settings. This follows our review of drug use in Ancient Egypt. Here are some snippets from the podcast.

In ancient Greek medicine illness was initially regarded as a divine punishment and healing as, quite literally, a gift from the gods. … Ancient Greek physicians regarded disease as being of supernatural origin, brought about from the dissatisfaction of the gods or from demonic possession. The fault of the ailment was placed on the patient and the role of the physician was to conciliate with the gods or exorcise the demon with prayers, spells, and sacrifices.

By the time we get to the 5th century BC, lasting until about 400BC, the most influential medical views derived from the cult of Asclepius, which was a major provider of medical care. At an Asclepion (one of the temples) a patient would be expected to partake in a number of rituals, which, it was believed, would cure the infirm. In brief these rituals consisted of making sacrifices, bathing and sleeping in the courtyard.

.. The humoral theory states that good health comes from a perfect balance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Each of the four humors was linked to an organ, temper, season and element. Consequently, poor health was believed to result from improper balance of the four humors.

… Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Modern Medicine”, established a medical school at Cos and is the most important figure in ancient Greek medicine. Hippocrates and his students documented numerous illnesses in the Hippocratic Corpus, and developed the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, a form of which is still in use today.

… The World History Encyclopaedia indicates that they used wineopium, and henbane to help with pain and toothache, and they used aloe (originally from Egypt) to cure burns. They used crushed garlic to disinfect cuts, and mint tea to help with stomach aches.

… Greeks used drugs with psychedelic, hypnotic, narcotic, analgesic, suppressive, euphoric and stimulating effects in various ways.

… in Homer’s The Odyssey, .. Helen of Troy dopes wine with a drug “that took away painful memories and the bite of pain and anger. Those who took this drug dissolved in wine could not shed a tear even at the death of a parent. Indeed not even if his brother or son were put to the sword before his eyes” 

ancient greek temple
Ancient Greece: Photo by jimmy teoh on Pexels.com


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