Today's story is all about Hashish and the French Army during the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.
For twenty years Napoleon had led his loyal minions against the armies of Europe. His spectacular victories, often against overwhelming odds filled France with pride. No matter that the cost of victory had been two million French casualties.
Despite his ultimate defeat and the terrible price of the transient glory he gave France, Napoleon would always be remembered for what he did on the battlefield and for what he accomplished on the domestic front, especially in the area of civil liberties.
Although it had not been his intention to do so, Napoleon's military exploits were also responsible for introducing thousands of French soldiers to hashish. The initiation came about as a consequence of the French invasion of Egypt in 1798 and caused Napoleon some concern that his troops might become dissipated and unruly because of their indulgence in the drug.
Back in the days as well as now, army life was basically a series of endless routines and insurmountable boredom (except when they had to fight wars). To pass the time, some men drank themselves into oblivion, for other men like those in Moslem Egypt, alcohol was not the intoxicant of choice. The Egyptians preferred another drug, and that drug, of course, was hashish.
So widespread did the hashish habit become amongst his men that in October 1800 Napoleon issued the following ordinance to the French army of occupation:
"It is forbidden in all of Egypt to use certain Moslem beverages made with hashish or likewise to inhale the smoke from seeds of hashish. Habitual drinkers and smokers of this plant lose their reason and are victims of violent delirium which is the lot of those who give themselves full to excesses of all sorts."
The soldiers heard the order, probably nodded in agreement, and went right on using hashish. Along with the soldiers, three French scientists—Silvestre de Sacy, Rouyer, and Desgenettes- whom Napoleon had brought with him to study the country and its people, also began using hashish, in order to see for themselves what this drug did to the human body. Intrigued by their experiences with hashish, they sent some back to France for their colleagues to conduct further experiments in their laboratories.
Soon after the army's return, the French began hearing about the incredible effects of hashish from both the soldiers who had used it themselves and from the country's scientists who had had an opportunity to study the drug and its mystique while serving with the army in Egypt. It was shortly after the army's return to France, for instance, that Silvestre de Sacy, the foremost Arabic scholar in the world at that time, announced that he had at last solved the long-baffling mystery of the origin of name of the Assassins—the Arabic gang of cutthroats who had terrorized the Middle East during the time of the Crusades.
In an address to the Institute of France in 1809, Silvestre de Sacy claimed that the word "assassin" was derived from hashish, a common term for herbage or grass in the Arab world.
This article contains documentation from “Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years”, by Ernest L. Abel