A National Book Award finalist for this epic work, Adrienne Mayor delivers a gripping account of Mithradates, the ruthless visionary who began to challenge Rome’s power in 120 B.C. Machiavelli praised his military genius. Kings coveted his secret elixir against poison. Poets celebrated his victories, intrigues, and panache. But until now, no one has told the full story of his incredible life.
©2010 Adrienne Mayor (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
Love to learn, love to share
I was very excited to read about the poison king/alleged first toxologist, but this book was a severe disappointment. The content was dull and extremely repetitive, as was the voice, which I feel can best be described as a monotone grey. I thought I should tough it out, as the author made this historical figure out to be of great importance, but while that may be true, his portrayal of him leaves me wanting a straightforward story on the "known" facts of this man, not a repetition of, as he puts it, the opposite of historical fiction(bull).
This was a fascinating biography of one of the most remarkable characters in ancient history. I had learned about Mithradates from Colleen McCullough's Great Men of Rome series, and was thrilled that he finally got his own biography. While the book is scholarly non-fiction which is well sourced, the author is so skillful that it reads like a thrilling novel. I especially enjoyed his speculation at the end about whether or not Mithradates really died in a tower as recorded by history, or was it just a ruse to fool the Romans? There was also some fascinating speculation about the fate of his Amazon queen. And the narration is first rate!
I appreciate the effort to flesh out the story of Mithradates, a fascinating character. The book falls short on several points. There are long stretches devoted to speculation about Mithradates childhood and lifestyle in court. These passages take up a lot of air time for something that is unverifiable. In the meantime his descriptions of the battles, in particular of the third Mithradatic War are incomplete and don't give a clear picture. It also seems as though he is using some inflated numbers.
I also found the reader monotone and hard to listen to at times.
Overall the book is ok, it has good moments, the author does a good job of describing the political climate. It could have done with less speculation and more description of actual verifiable events.
Absolutely. In fact a couple of my friends have also listened to it and we had a good time discussing the book. We noticed that a couple of ideas are borrowed by George R.R. Martin for his famous A Song of Ice and Fire series. Anyone who is remotely interested in history, specifically the Roman world, would love this book.
A great job of combining historical accounts and personal accounts to “bring history to life,” as the saying goes. Mithradates is surrounded by some mixture of legend and fact; the author does a good job of presenting both while labeling each as such. Reading the book, you really get a feeling of what it was like to try oppose the Roman Empire at the height of its power. If you’ve ever studied this period from the Roman history side of things, this will be a great counterpart to your understanding.
Historical facts seemed well researched and accurate but I take exception with Mayor's "speculative" history. If you want to speculate about history, why not write historical fiction?
Don't think so.
Yes. Lots there I did not know but all I want from my histories are facts. No need to speculate. I can do that for myself, thank you.
There's a ton of repeated 'Rome is bad and Mithradates is perfect'. I get why it's like that, I just wish that there were a lot less of it. Was Mithradates a real wizard? I can't say for sure, but sources say that yes, without a doubt, Mithradates was a strong, glorious wizard.
Great book, amazing story, well researched and well written.
Can be a little dry and academic the first hour or so, but well worth it. Helps you understand how the book was researched and the story written.
What a learning experience! It has rounded-out my comprehension of Roman and Persian and nomadic cultures at that time. Hannibal's hatred of Rome influenced Mithradates VI so entirely, that The Mithradatic Wars (three) should have equal historical billing with The Punic Wars, IMO.
This is a richly detailed tapestry of a brilliant man, his loves, losses, and the creation of poisons and antidotes still being studied today. I highly recommend this book to any history buff. The voice matched the man.
no; see below
Adrienne Mayor has obviously done a great deal of research and it is upon this fact the book is getting any stars from me. Its failings are primarily based on the fact that Mayor's treatment of Mithradates is similar to the modern main stream media's treatment of Obama. In listening to this book, I advise caution for if you are not well read in this period of history, the totally skewed presentation will lead to gross misinformation. If Mithradates were drowning babies in the Euphrates, Mayor would report it that he was trying to teach them to swim.
"Great book, probably not best suited for audio"
The story of Mithradates is truly legendary and encompasses some of the most turbulent times in the formation of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately this exciting and intriguing story is damaged by a slow, dull narration full of mis-pronunciations. If you are interested in this subject I would recommend buying the book and get the full use of maps, glossary and references.
works well as an audio book, amazed by the mans life. usually he his mentioned in passing or irritates the romans etc. good to see the story from the other side of the fence.
"too much speculation but still a fine read"
too much speculation, however still an interesting and informative biography
Overall I would recomend this book because its subject matter (The Poison King of Ponthus) is little understood - outside of a narrow Roman perspective. However be careful of the author's habit to make up or speculate about facts that we don't have exact information for from the sources.
Hecht provides an interesting voice.
Despite it's faults, yes I would say this is a book that I found (very) hard to get away from and I almost did end up listning to it in one sitting
The first part of the biography is fillied with the author's own theories that mostly fall into the dangerous 'what if?' category...This is the same for the last few minutes or so of the book which sort of damages it's factual biographical nature. However everything else is laid out in fact with an overall sympathetic but not overly-flattering view of our main player - the King himself and his struggle against the Roman Republic.
"A significant life worth listening to"
Not that many people will have heard of Mithradates today, yet if you are interested in the late Roman Republic then he is a colossus of the period. Nothing if not energetic and colourful, this Anatolian king was one of Rome's most constant enemies who ranks with Hannibal in his potential threat to the Latin empire. His life-long fight with Rome is only half the story however, as his various scientific experiments - particularly poisons - and his unorthodox private life all combine to make this a life well worth knowing more about.
This was an interesting book that told the story well. Inevitably we know less about his life than we would like, and at times the book does wander into peripheral subjects or simply goes off at a tangent in order to fill the pages. However this is true of many ancient biographies, and there is plenty of actual facts and background information to paint a pretty vivid picture. The reader does a pretty good job if a little monotone, but I found the pace of the book was mostly good enough to keep me interested in the next twist and turn.
While not brilliant (hence only 4 stars) this recording is certainly worth listening to if this is your area of interest, and if the only figures from pre-Imperial Rome that you can name are Hannibal and Julius Caesar then you will certainly find this book enlightening, and a good story to boot.
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