A Fantasy Tip from the Past: Poisons and the Bezoar

Nicholas C. Rossis

A Hard Man to Kill

Mithridates VI (d. 63 BC) was not an easy man to kill. And God knows enough people wanted him dead. According to Roman historian Justin,

During his boyhood his life was attempted by plots on the part of his guardians… When these attempts failed, they tried to cut him off by poison. He, however, being on his guard against such treachery, frequently took antidotes, and so fortified himself against their malice

Mithridates | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Mithridates VI (Louvre). Image: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, being king of Pontus on the southern shore of the Black Sea was a dangerous job. And Mithridates concocted one of the most well-known antidotes in antiquity (possibly with the help of his court physician Crateuas). Experimenting with different formulations and trying them out on condemned prisoners, he compounded various antidotes to produce a single universal one, which he hoped would protect him against any poison. Pliny…

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