The Scythians

By David Jenison

The Scythians

Scythia, a region in the Central Asian Steppe, takes its name from the nomadic, horse-riding Scythians. Historical etymologists suggest the name might actually come from an ancient Indo-European word for “archer” as the tribe fought and hunted on horseback using their characteristic bows and arrows. These bows, of course, were likely strung with twisted hemp fiber.

As nomadic herders, the Scythians were a step up from hunter-gatherers in developmental terms, but still retained many similarities in terms of lifestyle. Native to the very part of Central Asia that cannabis originates from, the Scythians were arguably the first to encounter cannabis, the first to become aware of its remarkable properties and the first to bring it to the attention of the rest of the world. In fact, a 2013 archeological find involving cannabis and opium suggested the Scythians might have crafted bong-like devices out of solid gold. The nomadic Bronze Age tribe spread cannabis to South Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. In fact, the Scythians are the subject of the first cannabis mention in western literature.

Around the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote in The Histories about the Scythians’ use of the plant to get high in Macedonia. He noted, “They take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on to the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapor unsurpassed by any vapor-bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much that they howl with pleasure.”

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The Genesis of Cannabis

Cannabis in the Christmas Cave

The French Army Gets High in Egypt

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Asia's Beg-Packers: Misunderstood Miscreants or Privilege Personified?

Nixon vs. Shafer Commission

Nixon vs. Lennon

Prohibition’s Racist Roots

Richard Nixon's Drug War Turns 48

Cannabis and the CSA

The Substance Schedules

Scheduling Conflicts

The Controlled Substances Act