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The Poison King: The Life and Legend of…
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The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest… (2009)

by Adrienne Mayor

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3291033,583 (3.78)19
  1. 10
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland (statmonkey)
    statmonkey: Rubicon gives the other side of the story, telling how the Republic that Mithradates fought came to be. The Poison King details how Romes biggest rival came to be a threat and what was really going on in Pontus before and after Sulla. The books complement each other very well.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Last Generation of the Roman Republic by Erich S. Gruen (bookfitz)
  3. 00
    Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Both offer an outsider's (and antagonist's) perspective on Roman history.
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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This is an excellent book with fascinating facts that help you understand the life and times of Mithradates. I enjoyed the biography and learned alot about the history of Rome and the surrounding areas. I found myself feeling the struggle of Mithradates and felt for his losses and admired his persistence. I strongly recommend this book. ( )
  GlennBell | Oct 20, 2016 |
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 the last. Raised among court intrigue: Persian and Greek, he early on began a lifelong study of poisons and their antidotes, testing them on criminals and each day of his life ingesting a bit, to render himself immune to their effects. He supposedly came up with a theriac [also called Mithridatium], a universal antidote; the formula for that has been lost. So far there has been no comprehensive biography of this man who led an amazing life: expansion from Pontus into a Black Sea Empire, and three wars attempting to ward off Romans and subjugation to them. Successful at first against Aquillius, Sulla and Lucullus, he finally succumbed to Pompey. His life was a series of highs and lows, victories and defeats, betrayals and loyalties. Cicero called him "the greatest king since Alexander." I could not believe the extent of his vengeance against people from the Italian peninsula in Asia Minor in 88 BC: fully 80,000 people were slaughtered, as revenge against unfairness of taxes and cruelty of Romans.

My only quibble was the amount of speculation: "perhaps", "it could have been this way....", "maybe". But this work seemed well researched as far as it went, with incomplete primary sources. ( )
  janerawoof | Aug 15, 2015 |
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. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 7, 2014 |
An --on the whole-favorable life of Mithradates of Pontus, who fought a series of bitter wars against first-class Roman generals - Sulla, Lucullus, Pompey and came close to setting up a Hellenistic/Persian kingdom in Asia Minor. It is useful as being the first full-length biography in a long time, and almost the first favorable one They author came to Mithradates from an interest in ancient science and Mithradates' experiments with poisons which supposedly produced a universal antidote. ( )
  antiquary | May 30, 2013 |
No doubt Mithradates is a fascinating figure in history. But, little is known of him, but that does not stop Mayor from writing a detailed biography. This is really historical fiction dressed up as a real biography. Mayor couches his choices by presenting two sides of what may have happened then to seem unbiased chooses to support a version of events that includes all the most exciting elements but tempers them with minor adjustments. For example there is evidence that Mithadates stayed home after his father's death rather than go on the solo adventure described in accounts written by his ancients era spin doctors after his rise to prominence. So we are faced with a biographical detail that has little support for having happened. That does not stop Mayor from having an entire chapter written in novel level of detail including whispering to his trusted friend, his reasons for leaving his brother at home, even the route he took and the a description of his horses, packs and dogs. All of this for journey that it is not even known happened. He puts in phrases like "perhaps" "would have wanted to" "like other travelers of that time."

An interesting book but the presentation borders on academic dishonesty. ( )
1 vote yeremenko | Apr 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
"I read this biography as a layperson, not a scholar, but I can say without reservation that it's a wonderful reading experience, as bracing as a tonic, the perfect holiday gift for adventure-loving men and women."
added by bookfitz | editWashington Post, Carolyn See (Nov 20, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
Que les Romains, pressés de l'un à l'autre bout,
Doutent où vous serez, et vous trouvent partout.
- Racine, Mithridate, 1673
Dedication
for Gerry; 1941 - 2006
First words
Long ago and far away, in a little kingdom by the sea, a dazzling comet in the East foretold the birth of a remarkable Prince who would dare to make war on the mightiest empire.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
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A new account of one of Rome's most relentless but least understood foes. 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.--From publisher description.… (more)

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