Mithridates VI (131-63 BCE)



Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI, also known as Mithridates the Great, was the King of Pontus in Asia Minor 120 BC to 63 BC. The ambitious Mithridates engaged Rome three times in three seperate Mithridatic Wars, fighting against the great Roman generals Sulla, Lucullus,and Pompey the Great, proving to be one of their most competent adversaries. He is also said to have been guarding himself against poisons from an early age by taking increasing sub-lethal doses of poison until he felt he could tolerate lethal doses. This experimenting later produced a universal antidote, his Antidotum Mithridaticum, which consisted of several ingredients. It is rumored that when Mithridates was finally defeated by Pompey in the Third Mithridatic War, he attempted suicide by poison but failed due to his accumulated immunity to the poison and was forced to make one of his servants kill him by sword. The Antidotum Mithridaticum was used for the next 1900 years under the name theriac.

Toxicological Perspective


Mithridates continually tried smaller amounts of different poisons in hope of acquiring immunities that would allow him to withstand assassination attempts. His experiment also led him to construct a universal antidote, antidotum mithridatacum (antidote of Mithridates) which was used extensively.


Mithridates, also known as Mithridates the Great, was the son of Mithridates V who died when Mithridates the Great was still a boy. His mother ruled throughout his childhood but he eventually deposed and imprisoned her while simultaneously killing off numerous siblings to better consolidate power. He conducted numerous battles in which Rome intervened against him. This made war against Rome inevitable.

He conducted three separate wars on and off from 88 BC to 65 BC. He was nearly defeated in the first by Lucius Cornelious Sulla until Sulla was forced to return to Rome to encounter more pressing issues, namely a march on Rome by Marius. Next, Rome sent two more outstanding generals, Lucullus and then Pompey the Great. The latter proved too formidable and finally defeated Mithridates the Great. Mithridates was one of the most formidable foes of the Roman Empire.

When he was finally defeated by Pompey he attempted to poison himself but was unsuccessful because he had built up such an immunity to poisons.