Reflections on cannabis, crowns and kings
The word “cannabis” was invented by the Greeks, who claimed they acquired it from Sakas around the Black Sea, who first discovered the psychoactive effects of smoking the flowers of the hemp plant. The Khotan-Saka word for cannabis was kamha.
When Darius wanted to subjugate the Sakas, he identified three separate tribes spread out from the Ukraine to India: The Saka Tigraauda (pointed-hat Sakas), Saka Haumavarga (haoma-drinking Sakas) and Saka Tayaiy Paradraya (across the [Black] Sea Sakas).
The ancestors of the Sakas were the first to domesticate horses and invented the wheel, along with chariots and war wagons. They were the greatest warriors of their time, having mastered bow and arrow and combat on horseback. They spread horse culture all across Europe and Asia, and wherever the horse appears, so comes hemp and cannabis.
Saka horses wore bronze armor and most of their weapons were bronze, but their body armor and jewelry was all gold. The armor shown here is dated from the 4th century BC, and was worn by a prince or princess, the scientists were not able to tell the sex, and women fought alongside men in Saka culture. I don’t know about the red fabric, although, perhaps that color was reserved for royalty as this is the armor of a very rich person who died young around age 18, perhaps in combat. Golden crowns are just one of the Saka creations that Greeks ended up taking credit for, and a word from which we derive the words “king” and “coronation.”
“The mountaineers themselves live on wild fruits, but they have sheep also, though only a few, and therefore do not butcher them, sparing them for their wool and milk, and they variegate the color of their clothing by staining it with dyes of colors that do not easily fade.”
If you go to the Syr Darya River valley (the area Strabo is discussing), it’s called Fergana today and the markets are filled with splendidly colorful fabrics. Is this evidence of cannabis culture’s long affair with psychedelia? I think so, which I why I think of the Sakas as wearing tie-dyes under the golden armor.