Opium Tripods, The Drug Paraphernalia of the Greco-Roman Empires


The opium poppy is perhaps the most valuable and influencial crop in human history. The above coin is from the region of Damastion in southeastern Europe minted in the 4th century BC. It is one of the earliest numismatic representations of the opium poppy on the reverse. The obverse is the Greek god Apollo. His cult was dedicated to healing and it is no coincidence the coins with Apollo have opium poppy symbolism and snakes on the reverse. At the far right on the reverse is a knife. The poppy bulb in the center is cut with the top overturned to eat the poppy seeds.

Alexander the Great's father, Philip II of Macedon, conquered Damastion for it's silver mines. At the same time he was developing the Greek Phalanx. The Phalanx allowed the Greeks to conquer much of the known world. Unfortunately there was a significant weakness, if men in the center of the formation would panic the formation would fall apart and lose it's effectiveness. It appears Alexander the Great figured out a clear military principle that most military planners understand today. Drugged soldiers perform better in battle. Opium in multiple forms would have reduced panic which was the key objective to route soldiers in ancient warfare. The Romans would have understood these concepts to an even greater degree.

The tripods on Greco-Roman coinage are associated with medicine and healing. The relief of pain was as valuable than as now. The coinage represents these clear and important economic facts.

Apollo obverse, Vaporizing Tripod reverse, minted near Naples Italy 3rd Century BC

Campania. Neapolis Æ14 / Tripod

Photo Marc Breitsprecher, Classical Numismatist

Note ancient opioids would have been vaporized in these tripods for inhalation in religious and medicinal rituals. We even see astronomical representations on coins with tripods which combined prophetical revelations with drug use in the ancient world.

Star or solar eclipse on obverse, vaporizing tripod on reverse, Thrace, Pantikapaion, 90-80 B.C.

Photo Dmitry Markov

Apollo obverse and beaded poppyseed tripod on reverse with appendage for separating poppy pulp from seeds

Thracian imitation, Chalkidian League Type Circa 375 BC, Apollo / Tripod

Photo Aegean Numismatics

Opium poppies in a tripod, coin of Antiochos II (261-246 BC)

Photo London Ancient Coins, LTD

Coin of Athens 42-39 BC, Note the poppy by the tripod on the reverse

MB coins








First Photo, NumisCorner


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