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Are there any ancient coins that feature drugs medicinal or recreational? - bot thread asked


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Are there any ancient coins that feature drugs medicinal or recreational? 

On the marijuana bot seller  thread @Orange Julius asked Are there any ancient coins that feature drugs medicinal or recreational? 

I know only of Kyrene and the aphrodisiac ( and contraceptive et al) plant the coin features...Silphion

Are there others?


KYRENAICA, Kyrene. temp. Magas. Circa 294-275 BC. AR Didrachm (18.5mm, 7.58 g, 5h). Head of Zeus Karneios right / Silphion plant


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( I'd always assumed the tripod-as-drug- vaporizer story was just that...)


Kroton, circa 480-430 BC
AR Nomos
Tripod, legs terminating in lion's feet; 4ϙ at left, wreaths above, crab to right / Incuse tripod, but wreaths in relief; dolphin to left
8.06 g, 20-21 mm


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I was going to mention silphion, but you already have that. Not sure of any others. 

Not very knowledgeable on Roman coinage, but maybe something there?

I actually purchased a coin from Kyrene recently, a type I've wanted for some time. Mine only has a silphion seed on it though. 

Won't show it though as I haven't received it yet!

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Thanks for posting the question! I couldn’t think of any coins I had… but then I guess alcohol is a recreational drug.

It’s a fun question and I don’t think drugs have been a topic yet. For many peoples drugs were very important parts of their cultures… religious, medical, recreational, etc.

I haven’t heard much about how the Romans/Greeks/Others used drugs besides for medicines.

Edited by Orange Julius
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A number of ancient coins depict the poppy. Because the image depicted is almost always that of the unripened seed capsule from which opium is extracted (not the flower), I think it can be taken as a reference to the drug.






Edited by DLTcoins
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Yep even the NewStyle gets in on the act!


Rare post-Sullan NewStyle poppy and ear of grain. A Elysian Mysteries reference  no doubt. The 2nd magistrate's name means wine lover!

Athens New Style Tetradrachm c 82/1 BC

Obs : Athena Parthenos right in tri-form helmet
29 mm 16.82 gm Thompson issue 83 Thompson catalogue: Obs 1183 Rev: not in plates/ NEW
Rev : ΑΘΕ ethnic
Owl standing on overturned panathenaic amphora
on which month mark K control ΔI below
RF symbol : Poppy Head between 2 Grain Ears
All surrounded by an olive wreath


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A drug addict on the front and an amphora with his drug on the back:


Thessaly, Lamia
AR Hemidrachm, 400-344 BC
Obv.: Wreathed head of young Dionysos left .
Rev.: ΛΑΜΙΕ-ΩΝ, Amphora; ivy leaf above, prochous to right.
Ag, 2.59g, 15.9mm
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 77




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Then there are these nymphs with bong-like thymiateria:

Lucius Verus, AD 161-169.
Roman Provincial Æ assarion, 4.23 g, 18 mm.
Thrace, Augusta Traiana, AD 161-169.
Obv: ΑV ΚΑΙ Λ ΑV-ΡΗ ΟVΗΡΟϹ, bare head, right.
Rev: ΑV-Γ-ΟV-ϹΤΗϹ | ΤΡΑΙΑΝΗϹ, three nymphs, stolate, standing facing, arms draped on each other's shoulders and holding unknown objects (thymiateria? tripods?) at sides.
Refs: RPC IV 10343 (temporary); Schonert-Geiss 89; Varbanov II 909; Moushmov (1912) --; Moushmov Online 2987A; Staal, pl. 2, fig. 12.

People knew about weed in ancient times. Remember, cannabis is an ancient Greek word.


Edited by Roman Collector
Correction of improperly capitalized word
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There are a few other possibilities.

Apologies for the poor state of this coin.  I'd like to blame my photography, but the coin is probably worse than the photo:


Eleusis, 3rd cent BC, AE15, 3.1g
Obv: Triptolemos in chariot drawn by serpents left.
Rev: ELEY; Pig on mystic staff, all in wreath.
(Note: Coinage of the Eleusinian festival)

Wikipedia: "... initiates had a special drink (kykeon), of barley and pennyroyal, which has led to speculation about its chemicals perhaps having psychotropic effects from ergot (a fungus that grows on barley, containing psychedelic alkaloids similar to LSD). ... Ergot fragments were found inside a vase and within the dental calculus of a 25-year-old man, providing evidence of ergot being consumed (Juan-Stresserras, 2002). This finding seems to support the hypothesis of ergot as an ingredient of the Eleusinian kykeon."

This is pure speculation on my part ... but the coin depicts a dude named "Trip" in a flying chair.  It also depicts a pig, a kind of animal famous for mushroom hunting.

Here is another miserable coin:

(Probably you should avert your eyes from the coin below and look at a nicer one in the BCD auction.)


Arkadia, Tegea 4.71g AE23 "bronze hemiobol" 50-25 BC
Rev: On the left, Kepheos, nude but for helmet, holding spear and shield in his left hand and extending his right towards Athena, on the right, standing left, holding spear in her left hand and lock of the Medusa’s hair in her right; between them, Sterope standing right, holding vessel to receive the lock; above and below, monogram.
Bought from ECIN Associates with an ticket dated January 2002 offering it for 100 Swiss Francs saying it was found at a Heraclean temple about 1km east of ancient Cleonae and another ticket offering it at $350 saying it is ex BC... (but it doesn't match the three specimens in the BCD sale)

What was really in the vessel said to contain Medusa's hair?  Adrienne Mayor says poison.  I mention this because there is a story that the the blood of Medusa contained a drug.  "As a surgeon Asklepios became so skilled in his profession that he not only saved lives but even revived the dead; for he had received from Athene the blood that had coursed through the Gorgo's veins, the left-side portion of which he used to destroy people, but that on the right he used for their preservation, which is how he could revive those who had died."

At Tegea, which made this coin, they had a legend that  Sterope, the daughter of Cepheus, used this jar as a protection.  "The sight of it would put the enemy to fight."  It seems very strange to me, and could be a drug as easily as poison.

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I don't know of any ancient coins depicting Zeus and Hera sharing a joint, but I do have this countermark of the Silphion seed on an imitation owl.  That countermark would suggest that this coin passed through Kyrene in its journey.  On the other hand, the countermark might have been applied by a seller of siphion in the Levant, perhaps serving as a validation of the coin's weight and content, as well as an advertisement of his or her products.  It's fun to speculate about these possibilities.

As I recall this coin is from either Israel, Jordan or Syria, which covers a fair chunk of territory.

16.3 grams.  Purchased from an Israeli dealer in 2021.


Edited by robinjojo
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