Cannabis in the Roman Civilization

 When we think about the Ancient Rome, the image of a warlike, but also cultured and refined world-dominating civilization that has bequeathed to mankind an enormous amount of knowledge, culture, and development comes to mind. The world would not be the same without the ancient Roman civilization.

Nowadays we know many details about the Roman age: Their cults and gods, their emperors and politics, their gladiators, their gastronomy, even about their sexuality.

But what about the cannabis use in Ancient Rome?

During the Roman period, the fiber of hemp was used mainly to make garments and gums (thick maras to bind anchors) and sails from ships, as can be seen from some brief annotations by Lucilius, Pliny, and Celsus (2nd century).

The Carthaginians knew hashish very well. Two amphoras filled with hashish were found in a Carthaginian Trirreme (a kind of war ship) from the 3rd century BC which was brought to the surface in 1969 during archeological research. According to experts, this hashish would be used to keep the sailors morale high (never better said) during difficult times.

The kiphy, which is a ceremonial incense of certain psychoactivity, among whose ingredients there is a “ream” (probably of hemp), were already part of the meetings of the rich. This product used to be very expensive and it was imported from Egypt.

In the famous book “Metamorphosis” of poet Ovid, we can read the story of a man named Glaucus who ate a very aromatic green herb, whose leaves had the shape of a palm, and which gave him great joy, euphoria … and hunger. No doubt that Glaucus ate cannabis.

According to Galen (129 – 200 BC), a famous doctor of the imperial court, we know that during Roman Empire it was very common to offer hemp flowers at social gatherings to encourage hilarity and enjoyment (a custom that romans learned probably from Athenian or Celtic societies). He also mentions that the infused cannabis wine was used for parties.

At the beginning of the fourth century, in 301, Diocletian’s edict on prices fixed the “modius militarii” (an anphora with a capacity of 17.5 liters) of opium in 150 denarii, an amount that remains extremely modest when compared to the 80 Denarii that a kilo of hashish used to cost during that days. Egyptian hashish smoking was almost an eccentricity, while opium was considered a basic commodity for the Roman household.

Other sources, such as the texts that are preserved written by the Imperial physician, Discorides, show us that in Rome there was no problem of public safety by the consumption of marijuana. The big problem was the excessive consumption of wine, which used to trigger fights, crimes, and murders.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the barbarian invasions that sacked Rome on several occasions, and the definitive implantation of Christianity, the consumption of cannabis disappeared almost completely.

By the way, Ministry of Cannabis will be present in Rome, at the “Canapa Mundi 2017” held in Palaca Vicchi on 17, 18, and 19 February 2017.

We hope to see you there!