On Drug Culture in Homer’s Odyssey: Long, Strange Trips

[Today the Almeida Theater in the UK is presenting a live reading of the Odyssey. Duly inspired, we are re-posting some of our favorite Odyssey themed posts]

“…One could imagine the poet deciding that drugs, too, are a part of experience, and maybe one could learn even from them. And, that being granted, given the poem’s frequent points of contact with a drug culture of some kind, it is not altogether implausible that in book 11 the poet conducts his hero on a hallucinogenic trip to the Underworld precisely when and where it will do him the most good. But only then, and for very special reasons, does it earn something like his grudging respect”

-Douglas J. Stewart. The Disguised Guest. 1976, 212.

Stewart makes this conclusion after analyzing drug use in the Odyssey: nepenthe in Sparta (administered to wine by Helen; compared by some to opiates); Lotus (book nine, he calls it “cannabis-like”); Circe’s drug (like LSD, according to Stewart) and Hermes’ antidote moly (book 10); dangerous wine (Polyphemos and Elpenor are undone); The Underworld “trip” (which Stewart suggests might be viewed as a grand hallucination which “shows signs of having been a drug experience”, 208).

5 thoughts on “On Drug Culture in Homer’s Odyssey: Long, Strange Trips

  1. Pingback: Don’t Forget Your Homecoming: Homeric Warnings for #CAMWS2015 in Boulder | Sententiae Antiquae

  2. Pingback: Addiction and Self-Restraint: Are The Scholia Wrong About Drugs? | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

  3. Pingback: The Consent of the Damned: Homeric Scholia and the Lotus-Eaters « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s