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.
This work does an excellent job of giving life and color to the life and world of Mithradates and regions which he travelled and ruled. Adrienne Mayor's descriptions of place, clothing, and customs were a clear kernel around which my mind's eye could build the scenes she described. She occasionally aids the reader by employing some speculative narration of an event or action where the historical record is absent or too muddled to trust. These speculations are always clearly noted and she uses the technique well. The life of Mithradates contains so many extraordinary, almost incredible, events as recorded by the ancients that she could be forgiven if she had indulged too much in these narratives, but she avoids doing so and the work is the more engaging for it.
There are many details: names, places, relationships, troop movements, and the like and to some these might seem a distraction but to me they were indispensable details that brought the many events over the long years of Mithradates life into a single astounding tableau. This is a fascinating life in a fascinating time and I enjoyed this book very much.
Paul Hecht's performance was similarly engaging and well paired to the subject matter and style.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful