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Chemical Muse, The: Drug Use And The Roots Of Western Civilization

by D. C.A. Hillman Ph.D.
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • Publishing date: 22/07/2008
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312352493
  • ISBN: 0312352492

Synopsis

?The last wild frontier of classical studies.” ---The Times (UK)
The Chemical Muse
uncovers decades of misdirection and obfuscation to reveal the history of widespread drug use in Ancient Rome and Greece. In the city-states that gave birth to Western civilization, drugs were an everyday element of a free society. Often they were not just available, but vitally necessary for use in medicine, religious ceremonies, and war campaigns. Their proponents and users existed in all classes, from the common soldier to the emperor himself.
Citing examples in myths, medicine, and literature, D. C. A. Hillman shows how drugs have influenced and inspired the artists, philosophers, and even politicians whose ideas have formed the basis for civilization as we know it. Many of these ancient texts may seem well-known, but Hillman shows how timid, prudish translations have left scholars and readers in the dark about the reality of drug use in the Classical world. 
Hillman’s argument is not simply ?pro-drug.” Instead, he appeals for an intellectual honesty that acknowledges the use of drugs in ancient societies despite today’s conflicting social mores. In the modern world, where academia and university life are often politically charged, The Chemical Muse offers a unique and long overdue perspective on the contentious topic of drug use and the freedom of thought.

D. C. A. Hillman earned an M.S. in bacteriology and an M.A. and Ph.D in classics from the University of Wisconsin. His research has been published in the academic journal Pharmacy in History. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and children.

The Chemical Muse uncovers decades of misdirection and obfuscation to reveal the history of widespread drug use in Ancient Rome and Greece. In the city-states that gave birth to Western civilization, drugs were an everyday element of a free society. Often they were not just available, but vitally necessary for use in medicine, religious ceremonies, and war campaigns. Their proponents and users existed in all classes, from the common soldier to the emperor himself.

Citing examples in myths, medicine, and literature, D. C. A. Hillman shows how drugs have influenced and inspired the artists, philosophers, and even politicians whose ideas have formed the basis for civilization as we know it. Many of these ancient texts may seem well-known, but Hillman shows how timid, prudish translations have left scholars and readers in the dark about the reality of drug use in the Classical world.

Hillman’s argument is not simply ?pro-drug.” Instead, he appeals for an intellectual honesty that acknowledges the use of drugs in ancient societies despite today’s conflicting social mores. In the modern world, where academia and university life are often politically charged, The Chemical Muse offers a unique and long overdue perspective on the contentious topic of drug use and the freedom of thought.

?The role of psychoactive drugs has been airbrushed out of the conventional picture of Western civilization. The academics who have created this drug-free Greco-Roman world have found their nemesis in Dr. Hillman’s The Chemical Muse. With clarity and directness the author gives us back a lost chapter of our Classical heritage and by doing so restores our understanding of this past.”?Richard Rudgley, author of Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age

?In addition to demonstrating the importance of medicinal botanicals and chemicals in alleviating the sufferings of humanity in the ancient Greco-Roman world, Dr. Hillman unveils the role that many of them played as recreational drugs, not for the lunatic fringes of society, but as sources of knowledge and religious sacraments by the leading artists, thinkers, and politicians, central to the very formation of what we admire and enshrine as the Classical tradition. The Chemical Muse inspired democracy itself and the greatest minds of antiquity.”?Carl A. P. Ruck, author of Sacred Mushrooms: The Secrets of Eleusis

?David Hillman has given us a penetrating insight into our permanent romance with altered consciousness.  This important work is a myth-buster.”?Mike Gray, author of Drug Crazy and The China Syndrome

?At once defensive and pugnacious, classicist Hillman uses this book to get back at the ?overly conservative’ academics who forced him to delete from his doctoral dissertation a chapter on the widespread recreational drug use in antiquity. The world was rife with disease, war and natural catastrophes, Hillman reminds readers, and ?extreme suffering demands extreme relief.’ Ancient Greeks and Romans used substances from plants and animals to heal the body, but also, Hillman says, to heal the mind and as a source of creative inspiration. Taking up an old thesis of such scholars as Morton Smith and John Allegro, Hillman contends that ancient poets and playwrights from Homer to Aristophanes, and philosophers from Pythagoras to Empedocles, featured the use of mind-altering drugs in their writings. Despite being tiresomely polemical throughout, Hillman ends with a peroration on the roots of the Western notion of freedom in ancient Greece and on the right to use recreational drugs as a core freedom.”?Publishers Weekly

?In ancient Greece and Rome the right to use recreational drugs was not just accepted, but an important aspect of personal freedom. Conservative academics don't want this to get around, claims debut author Hillman, asserting that he was told to delete material on recreational drug use from his dissertation for a doctorate in classics from the University of Wisconsin. That incident provided the incentive for this book, which argues that psychotropic drugs played a crucial role in the history of Western intellectual development. The earliest Greek philosophers, Hillman avers, ?flourished in a society that embraced the intellectual, social, and political freedoms associated with recreational drug use.’ They understood the value of mind-altering substances in assisting creativity and advocated their use. In the ancient world, he continues, such botanical medicines as opium and belladonna were a comfort and a source of hope; they were often mixed with wine, or inhaled, or applied as suppositories to provide relief from pain and illness. Knowledge of their powerful effects?euphoria, sedation, states of altered perception, temporary psychosis?was widespread, and ancient myths are replete with instances of their power. The author combs the writings of Homer, Virgil and Ovid for references to narcotics and the effects of various stimulants, seeking to demonstrate their familiarity to those authors and their audiences. Among the personal freedoms valued highly by the founders of Western civilization, he contends, was the right of the individual to use drugs of any kind; Hillman views the loss of this right as deplorable. Apparently still stinging from his academic experience, he claims that classical scholars have a moral bent that has led them to ignore this subject, making ?the Greco-Roman fascination with narcotics, stimulants, and depressants . . . the last unexplored frontier of ancient history.’ If the movement to legalize marijuana is looking for an irate classicist as spokesman, Hillman is it.”?Kirkus Review


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  • A New Look on the Mysteries
    From Amazon

    This book is an Eye-Opener! It opens up the Ancient World and its Mystery Religions. It also lets us look at the stress and hard lives the people who came before us lived,and how they dealt with their worries and strain on them. Religion and the Mystery Cults were very important, not just for the average person,but the rich & poor alike. In these Mysteries, they moved into the World of the SuperNatural, with a little help of mind-altering herbs. This use of herbs to enhance the senses & open up the mind are still used in some religious pratices around the World. Also, due to their lives being affected by diseases, stress, & hard living conditions then,the use of herbs let people of that time,(like now also) relax and be open to joy and letting their spirits be free. This book is a treasure, read it, and understand that we are no different in dealing with stress and hard-living. Native Americans used & hopefully still use their special plants to be in the World of the Spirits, to shed their human skin, and touch the Divine. Read, learn & enjoy, Donna Swindells

  • Disappointing
    From Amazon

    I was looking for some scholarly works on the current and past use of psychoactives for a course I am creating. I personally found this work to be lame. The author relates his perceived persecution by his thesis committee in having to remove aspects of his thesis, then proceeds to present ancient Greece and Rome as a society with open and accepted drug use (poisoning to medical to recreational). The author may well be correct that these cultures were well versed in the use of botanicals, but the information is presented in such a personally opinionated way that it is distracting. The information contained may serve as a starting point to find further information; however, I do not feel I can use it as a reference for anything that I present to my students.

  • Essential Reading!
    From Amazon

    This is an essential read for those who are not familiar with the drug use within the western roots of our civilisation. The issue of drugs is an important one in todays society, not only are we so drug depent pharmaceutically, but also recreationally. Politians and scholars throughout history have taken recreational drugs in one form or another which people may find suprising. It also brings to question an important one that is, How can we make something that is grown in nature illegal? With the increasing awareness and popularity of herbal medicine i feel this is a very important book, taking a non judgemental look at history of herbs in the Greek and Roman times.

  • Hypothesis instead of unambiguous facts.
    From Amazon

    Although the premise is very interesting, the result is disappointing. Until the end of the 19th century the use of drugs was allowed and yes the Ancient probably used drugs. This is not the problem. The problem is that Dr. Hillman claims that translations are avoiding evidence of drug use. Read a translation written in the 19th century ( when the use of drugs wasn't a problem ) and compare it with a contemporary translation. The only differences are style and the use of metrics. Apart from Eleusis, the author seems to suggest - although not in an explicit way - that the use of drugs stimulates new political, intellectual, and artistic ideas - the building stones of Civilization. These three basic ideas ( politics, intellect, and art ) can't be sustained by drugs. Every psychologist and psychiatrist will tell you that on the contrary, the use of drugs diminishes your intellectual and artistic abilities. I myself witnessed a person under the influence of drugs while he was 'working' on a colored drawing. He sincerely thought that he was drawing a masterpiece while in fact it was more like a doodle by a five-year-old. This leads to only one conclusion. If we want to develop our Civilization, let's hope that we will do that by far more better ways than the use of cocaine or drugs based upon mushrooms.

  • The Chemical Muse
    From Amazon

    This book is great! It's a fascinating history of how the use of various mind-altering drugs by the ancient Greeks and Romans was widespread and how that fact has been suppressed by scholars in modern times. The author is doing excellent and groundbreaking research in a field almost totally ignored by the academic community. It's a great read and gives new insights into the roots of our civilization and lessons for how we should view drug use today.

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