The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy

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Princeton University Press, Sep 28, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 472 pages
8 Reviews

Machiavelli praised his military genius. European royalty sought out his secret elixir against poison. His life inspired Mozart's first opera, while for centuries poets and playwrights recited bloody, romantic tales of his victories, defeats, intrigues, concubines, and mysterious death. But until now no modern historian has recounted the full story of Mithradates, the ruthless king and visionary rebel who challenged the power of Rome in the first century BC. In this richly illustrated book--the first biography of Mithradates in fifty years--Adrienne Mayor combines a storyteller's gifts with the most recent archaeological and scientific discoveries to tell the tale of Mithradates as it has never been told before.

The Poison King describes a life brimming with spectacle and excitement. Claiming Alexander the Great and Darius of Persia as ancestors, Mithradates inherited a wealthy Black Sea kingdom at age fourteen after his mother poisoned his father. He fled into exile and returned in triumph to become a ruler of superb intelligence and fierce ambition. Hailed as a savior by his followers and feared as a second Hannibal by his enemies, he envisioned a grand Eastern empire to rival Rome. After massacring eighty thousand Roman citizens in 88 BC, he seized Greece and modern-day Turkey. Fighting some of the most spectacular battles in ancient history, he dragged Rome into a long round of wars and threatened to invade Italy itself. His uncanny ability to elude capture and surge back after devastating losses unnerved the Romans, while his mastery of poisons allowed him to foil assassination attempts and eliminate rivals.

The Poison King is a gripping account of one of Rome's most relentless but least understood foes.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - janerawoof - LibraryThing

Very complete, detailed and readable biography of Mithradates, King of Pontus, during the time of the Roman Republic. The book covers from his boyhood until his death in his 70s, still a fighter till ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Luftwaffe_Flak - LibraryThing

A good overall book but the author got bogged down in the what if's and hypothesizing. She states very clearly when she is simply hypothesizing but I found she did it too much for my taste. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
1 Kill Them All and Let the Gods Sort Them Out
13
2 A Savior Is Born in a Castle by the Sea
27
3 Education of a Young Hero
43
4 The Lost Boys
73
5 Return of the King
96
6 Storm Clouds
123
7 Victory
147
11 Living Like a King
236
12 Falling Star
262
13 Renegade Kings
288
14 End Game
315
15 In the Tower
347
Appendix One
371
Appendix Two
377
Notes
380

8 Terror
169
9 Battle for Greece
188
10 Killers Kiss
206
Bibliography
421
Index
435
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About the author (2009)

Adrienne Mayor is the author of "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World" (Overlook) and "The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times" (Princeton). She is a visiting scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University.

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