For 4/20, Homer’s Original Stoners

Odyssey 9.82-97

“From there for nine days I was carried by ruinous winds
over the fish-bearing sea. On the tenth we came to the land
of the Lotus-Eaters where they eat the florid food.
There we disembarked to the shore and we drew water;
soon my companions made dinner around the swift ships.
But after we had shared the food and drink
I sent out companions to go and discover
whatever men there were who ate the fruit of the earth.
I chose two men and sent a herald as a third.
They went and met the Lotus-eating men.
The Lotus-Eaters didn’t bring any harm to my companions,
but they gave them their lotus to share.
Whoever ate the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus
no longer wished to report back or return home,
but just longed to stay there among the Lotus-eating men
to wait and pluck the lotus, forgetting his homecoming.”

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖσ’ ἀνέμοισι
πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα• ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν
γαίης Λωτοφάγων, οἵ τ’ ἄνθινον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν.
ἔνθα δ’ ἐπ’ ἠπείρου βῆμεν καὶ ἀφυσσάμεθ’ ὕδωρ,
αἶψα δὲ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο θοῇς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἑταῖροι.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σίτοιό τ’ ἐπασσάμεθ’ ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,
δὴ τότ’ ἐγὼν ἑτάρους προΐην πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας,
οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες,
ἄνδρε δύω κρίνας, τρίτατον κήρυχ’ ἅμ’ ὀπάσσας.
οἱ δ’ αἶψ’ οἰχόμενοι μίγεν ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισιν•
οὐδ’ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι μήδονθ’ ἑτάροισιν ὄλεθρον
ἡμετέροισ’, ἀλλά σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι.
τῶν δ’ ὅς τις λωτοῖο φάγοι μελιηδέα καρπόν,
οὐκέτ’ ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν ἤθελεν οὐδὲ νέεσθαι,
ἀλλ’ αὐτοῦ βούλοντο μετ’ ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισι
λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι μενέμεν νόστου τε λαθέσθαι.

18th Century Engraving (French)

“…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).


“Then in turn Zeus’ daughter Helen made different plans.
Straightaway she tossed a drug into the wine they were drinking,
A drug which dispels pain, calms anger, and makes men forgetful of troubles.
Whoever drinks this one it has been mixed in the bowl
Would feel a tear down his cheek for a whole day,
Not even if his mother or father were to die
Or even if someone should cut down his brother or dear son
With an ax as he looked on with his own eyes.
Zeus’ daughter had such cunning drugs
Good ones, which Thôn’s wife Polydamna gave her
In Egypt where the fertile earth produces the most drugs—
Many a good once mixed, many are harmful
And each man there is a healer beyond all other men,
Since they descend from the race of Paiêon.”

ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἄλλ’ ἐνόησ’ ῾Ελένη Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα·
αὐτίκ’ ἄρ’ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον,
νηπενθές τ’ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.
ὃς τὸ καταβρόξειεν, ἐπὴν κρητῆρι μιγείη,
οὔ κεν ἐφημέριός γε βάλοι κατὰ δάκρυ παρειῶν,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ κατατεθναίη μήτηρ τε πατήρ τε,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ προπάροιθεν ἀδελφεὸν ἢ φίλον υἱὸν
χαλκῷ δηϊόῳεν, ὁ δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῷτο.
τοῖα Διὸς θυγάτηρ ἔχε φάρμακα μητιόεντα,
ἐσθλά, τά οἱ Πολύδαμνα πόρεν, Θῶνος παράκοιτις,
Αἰγυπτίη, τῇ πλεῖστα φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
φάρμακα, πολλὰ μὲν ἐσθλὰ μεμιγμένα, πολλὰ δὲ λυγρά,
ἰητρὸς δὲ ἕκαστος ἐπιστάμενος περὶ πάντων
ἀνθρώπων· ἦ γὰρ Παιήονός εἰσι γενέθλης.

But, lest Helen’s oblivion or the Lotus-Eaters’ lives seem attractive, remember that those who partake never make it home.  A modern morality tale caps the Homeric lesson:





15 thoughts on “For 4/20, Homer’s Original Stoners

  1. This is very interesting post for me personally. I and another participant covered pretty much the same thing, adding visual images such as the statue (broken) of Demeter holding poppies, and of course Poppy Goddess of Crete.

    The history of the poppy and of opium and their expansion in antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean area UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) report by P. G. KRITIKOS , S. P. PAPADAKI (1967)

    (part 1 pages 5-10)

    (part 2 pages 17-38)

    The Use of Opium in the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean C. PEDRO BEHN
    Listy filologické / Folia philologica Stable URL:
    Roč. 109, Čís. 4 (1986), pp. 193-197, I-III

    Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion by Christopher A. Faraone (Editor), Dirk Obbink (Editor) and other books.

    Archaeological Museum of Heraklion Publications

    We covered other drugs, too, and added references.
    Also added the trailer for the Movie Deer hunter

    All this in heroesX Cafe. except the trailer.

    My PH. D. thesis (which I could not defend, due to problems crossing the border and staying there 1 year to satisfy residency requirements were too problematic for me at that point.) was on anaethetic drug called ketamine a dissociative drug. I had just been approved and had interesting properties. So, this area is also an interest of mine–the ancient’s understanding of consciousness/ altered state/ unconsciousness/ death.

    If you are interested, I can send you more by mail or post here again.

  2. This led to interesting focus on Eleusinian Mysteries

    Beautiful flowers. For a minute I mistook them for Papaver (poppies in Greek?) somniferum. I suppose they do not grow wild in Greece any more, if they ever did? They are the opium poppies, and some wonder (me included) if the plants were not used for the rites in the Eleusinian Mysteries. It seems there are some evidences the Great Mother Goddess who bore the names Rhea and Demeter/Persephone brought the poppy with her from her Cretan cult in Eleusis to Mainland Greece. Some of us wondered because of the statue of Poppy Goddess in Crete, and some statues of Demeter holding poppies in Greece..
    Sorry, maybe this is not an appropriate topic at Cafe!!

  3. I also added the Golden Scale of Zeus, because what it weighed changed from keres to Psychostasia,

    Memnon is one of my favorite heroes. I tried to discuss him more in connection with Zues’s Golden Scale. Zeus in the Iliad seems to be weighing “doom” or something equivalent-but the passages are very interesting. In Aeschylus’s fragment, Hermes? seems to be weighing their “souls”–perhaps suggestion the ancient Greeks views evolving from something strictly external, such as Fate, to something more internal. A very interesting transition I would like to follow up on when I get the chance.

    On Keres from
    The Weighing of souls (psychostasia)

    The comment in wiki about Aeschylus’s lost trilogy, and Plutarch’s comment apparently are referring to the below.

    The trilogy consisted of The Memnôn, Psychostasia, The Weighing of Souls (the order is disputed), and a third play unknown, but probably dealing with the death of Achilles. In the Psychostasia Zeus was represented as holding aloft the balance, in the scales of which were the souls of Achilles and Memnon, while beneath each stood Thetis and Eos, praying each for the life of her son. Comparing the passage in the Iliad (X 210), in which Zeus weighs the fates of Achilles and Hector, Plutarch (How a Young Man ought to hear Poems 2. p. 17A) says that Aeschylus accommodated a whole play to this fable. Fragments 155, 161, 181, 183 have been referred to the Memnon.

    I could not find a suitable vase image that is copyright free, but I do have flicker page.

    Here’s an interesting article on the Golden Scale of Zeus.
    Judgement of Zeus by B. C. Dietrich Rhodes University B. C. Dietrich Grahamstown, South Africa Rhein. Mw. f. Philol. N. F. CVII

    Again, Memnon is one of my favorite, favorite heroes–mirror image but identical to Achilles, both having goddesses as mothers.

  4. Not linked to the above topic, I also started a thread Mad Men, i.e. altered state of consciousness on Herakles (him again!), Ajax and Pentheus. Especially Herakles, Bacchae, and Ajax in Greek tragedies

    I was going to connect them all (ambitious!) and have a couple of books on the subject.

    Whom Gods Destroy: Elements of Greek and Tragic Madness – Ruth Padel, Princeton University Press (1995)

    In and Out of the Mind: Greek Images of the Tragic Self – Ruth Padel, Princeton University Press (1994)

      1. That is fine. I just like sharing ideas. Please use them if any of them is any good.
        Thank you.

      2. I like to share them with people I like and respect. I don’t want to share or have them stolen, whatever they are worth. They would need my permission first.

  5. This led me to an interesting vase currently at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

    Wine -cooler-psykter-with-the -death-of-pentheus (Museum of Fine Arts Boston)

    The painting has words Pentheus and Galene (one of the Maenad?) written on it.

    An untroubled mind is “calm” in language that belongs to the sea. “Peaceful thought” is “windless, galene [sea-calm].” Plato, talking of pleasure and pain as “movement,” freedom from them as peace (besuchia), pointed the way to psychic galene, inner tranquility, a central concept in Hellenistic philosophers who value the stillness of a soul “undisturbed” by passion. Passion muddies, ruffles. An untroubled mind is clear fluid at rest.

    From Jenny March’s article in:
    VASES AND TRAGIC DRAMA: Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ lost Tereus Jenny March page 119-154 (35 pages)
    Word and Images in Ancient Greece Edited by N. Keith Rutter and Brian A. Sparkes EDINBURGH LEVENTIS STUDIES I Edinburgh University Press (2000) 273 pages

    She believes the dismemberment of Pentheus in Bacchae is Euripides’s poetic innovation. I don’t know. I have a couple of books on the subject==the maddening and dismemberment of Pentheus

  6. The ancients must have used hallucinogenic and other psychoactive drugs, especially before the battle.

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