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Extended Audio Sample The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, by Adrienne Mayor Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (333 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Adrienne Mayor Narrator: Paul Hecht Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mithradates should be a household name alongside his fellow rebels Hannibal, Cleopatra, Spartacus, and Attila. This detailed, juicy, entertaining, yet painstaking work of superb scholarship should finally give Mithradates the recognition he deserves.”

    Margaret George, author of Helen of Troy: A Novel

  • “Meticulous in its research, exciting in its narration, ambitious in its conception, The Poison King re-creates an era when much of the Mediterranean world rebelled against Rome. At the center of it all is the fascinating and frightening king who rallied the resistance: Mithradates. Mayor has written a terrific book.”

    Barry Straus, author of The Spartacus War

  • “Thanks to Mayor, Mithradates has emerged from the shadows at last as one of Rome’s most potent and remarkable enemies.”

    Tom Holland, author of Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

  • “A wonderful reading experience.”

    Washington Post

  • “This distinctive and compelling book is sure to fascinate all readers interested in the ancient world or in understanding the historical politics of the Caucasus region.”

    Library Journal

  • Winner of the 2010 Independent Publisher Award Gold Medal for Biography
  • A 2009 Washington Post Best Book
  • A 2009 National Book Award Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tim Fuhrman | 2/16/2014

    " Just got started. I'll have to let you know. Pretty interesting so far. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Charles | 2/9/2014

    " An interesting account of how "the other half" lived during the late republic era of Rome. Interesting to see how the power of myths and legends shaped the actions of ancient leaders. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Nicole | 1/25/2014

    " I thought this was a really entertaining, gripping book. Can't figure out how some people found it dry, but to each their own. Nice to see the Romans from the other side, and great to learn about the history of the area around the Black Sea. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Larry | 1/19/2014

    " I have read about this person many times but this was the first time I specifically read a book about him. His plan to combine many cultures like Alexander the Great was fascinating. Going up against the greatest military power in the world was doomed to disaster but he lived a full and interesting life. "

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About the Author
Author Adrienne Mayor

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