While people’s opinion on marijuana today is divided between people who think it’s totally cool to use and others who think you’ll become a dangerous killer if you use it, that wasn’t really the case in the past. For thousands upon thousands of years, ancient cultures used cannabis as a medicine, a building material and even just to get rid of the blues.
Here are eight ancient cultures that enjoyed using cannabis:
Babylonia may best be known for being the first civilization to create codified laws with Hammurabi’s code around 1800 BC. But they were also known for using marijuana, with the word azullu being their word for it. They imported cannabis in from the area around modern day Afghanistan and used it to treat depression as well as an ingredient in medical recipes.
The first mention of cannabis in Egypt is from around 2350 BC, and they hieroglyphic symbol shemshemet as their word for it. It was used often in Egyptian medicine, and was even sold in their version of pharmacies. It was also a known cure for women with “bad humor.”
Ancient Indians imported cannabis from the same traders that the Babylonians did. In fact, you may recognize the word the Indians used for marijuana: Ganjha. Ancient texts dated to around 1600 BC mention them using marijuana for treating anxiety and other conditions.
Ancient Greek cultures were also aware of the cannabis grown in the Middle East, and their god of wine and intoxication Dionysus was even said to have originated there. They were also known for taking part in steam bathes, except the steam was often not water vapor, but rather cannabis smoke filling up a room to get people high. It’s basically an ancient form of hot-boxing.
The Romans were very into marijuana, and there’s tons of evidence talking about them using it. One famous Roman scientist Pliny mentions the “laughing-weed” known to get people intoxicated, and the Roman doctor Galen wrote about how cannabis was used for anything from burns to tumors to inflammation, but also that it was cooked into desserts and served at parties.
The Chinese were one of the first people to become major exporters of cannabis. Ancient Chinese people grew hemp for paper, baskets and various textiles, but also grew cannabis for medicinal purposes. And cannabis was one of the most traded commodities on the Silk Road during ancient times. The Chinese emperor Shen Nung wrote about using marijuana as medicine in 2737 BC.
The oldest cannabis product ever discovered is a rope made of hemp that was found in 1997 in the Czech Republic that dated back to 26,900 BC. It’s not quite clear if Czech cultures used cannabis other than hemp, especially since most other documents show eastern cultures introducing marijuana to what we now know as Europe, but they definitely knew about hemp.
Ok, this technically isn’t “ancient” history, but it’s still cool. When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were getting restless because the Islamic country did not allow alcohol. So the troops began using hashish and cannabis as a replacement. So when Napoleon and his troops returned from Egypt, they also brought a ton of cannabis with them.