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The Poison King - The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Anglais) Broché – 5 avril 2011

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The Poison King Claiming Alexander the Great and Darius of Persia as ancestors, Mithradates, the ruthless king and visionary rebel who challenged the power of Rome in the first century BC, inherited a wealthy Black Sea kingdom at age fourteen after his mother poisoned his father. This title tells the story of Mithradates. Full description

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 53 commentaires
34 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Well researched and written work 2 mars 2010
Par Naga - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This book combines two qualities that I find essential in a history work: It is extensively, indeed exhaustively researched, and it is eminently readable and accessible.

I have been primarily a student of Roman/Byzantine history, while naturally developing a fair amount of knowledge about the history of the Gauls/Franks, Persians, Carthaginians, and Persians, among others. I know Hannibal because I know Fabian (and Scipio), Vercengetorix because I know Caesar, and so on, but I knew little about Mithradates prior to reading this work. I was particularly interested to learn that Mithradates was a historical character of considerable fame throughout the middle ages and renaissance. While I have of course previously read of the campaigns of Sulla and Pompey in Asia, this had always been from the Roman point of view, with little effort to provide insight into Mithradates, their primary opponent, and his realm. Apparently the old boy has fallen out of fashion for a hundred years or so.

As I read "The Poison King", I found myself constantly amazed at the wealth, activity, cultures, and leadership in Pontus. While many of the detailed records of his life are lost or colored by their Roman filter, Mithradates remains a compelling and fascinating character based upon what we know and may reasonably infer or surmise. It is surely not overstatement to say that he was Rome's most feared enemy for fifty years. If you are interested in the Eastern theater of Rome's empire prior to the fall of the Republic, I think you have to regard this as a must-read.

Regarding some of the negative reviews: I almost have believe we didn't read the same book. I read the work with care, after reading at least two negative reviews here, and keeping their negative commentary in mind I found no merit in their views. I'd say someone has an axe to grind, or is sufficiently concerned with modern politics to be unable to discern a truly objective, scholarly, and entertaining work of ancient history. I will say that this is primarily a work of history, not merely military history.
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
a long valentine to Mithradates 20 août 2012
Par K. Kehler - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I admit that I had high hopes for this book. It has garnered significant and compelling praise. The author has a good reputation. The book is well written and interesting to read, especially on ancient warfare and the use of poison. The introduction is convincing, what with some smart comments on historiography and historical methodology. There are some less convincing parallels drawn between that age and our own but it's not too annoying. (Superpower gets drawn into guerrilla warfare against insurgents in far-off lands with inhospitable terrain. You get the picture.)

Let me begin by throwing out a couple of hasty questions: Was Mithradates really Rome's deadliest enemy? Were the seeds of Rome's decline -- such as it was -- really sown as a result of changes to the military structure of the army, in the conflicts in Anatolia, etc., against Mithradates? These questions serve to give a sense of some of the other problems. But the biggest problem with the book is the naive and persistent veneration of Mithradates: behaviour that is condemned in others (generally Rome, but also Mithradates' family and local enemies, like Nicomedes) is celebrated as canny and shrewd when done by Mithradates. These include piracy, exploitation, poisoning, incest, infanticide, fratricide, betrayal, assassination, and general colonization etc. If you think I'm exaggerating about the veneration of M., consider that when Rome arrives, it exploits ruthlessly, but M. is described as inventing "co-prosperity" (!) plans (p. 119). When Major writes of Mithradates, she writes (in anodyne language intended to illustrate his benign benevolence) of those who (foolishly) decline to join his co-prosperity plan; whereas when she writes of Rome, she speaks of brutal oppression and exploitation. And when Mayor writes, of Rome, that "perhaps the Great Wolf [Rome] was not so invincible after all" she's just salivating at Rome getting a bloody nose, not doing careful history. This is in the same section where she has to admit that Rome invited the Cappadocians to elect another ruler, whereas in contrast M. just killed the ruler he didn't like.

But also problematic is the speculative, even completely invented, nature of the reconstructed "life" of Mithradates (this includes his inner life too: i.e., his plans, motives and intentions). A sample: "Reflecting on all he has learned in the years away from Sinope, Mithradates ... feels pride mixed with restlessness." (p. 95).

In her desire to provide a view of Mithradates that isn't "Roman-centric", she goes too far the other way. Realistically, we're talking about a charismatic warlord on the outer edges of the empire, not an anti-imperialist hero for the ages; Mithradates was just better at being a charismatic warlord than most. Still, the book is well written and entertaining, and while the perspective taken is almost completely pro-Mithradates, any reasonable reader will be able to compensate for this.
38 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great book but overhyped and biased view 6 janvier 2010
Par lordhoot - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I found The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor to be a highly interesting book, well written and quite informative. Having written that, I would say that she wrote a very strongly biased spin toward King Mithradates VI of Pontus. First of all, she like to compared Mithradates to Alexander the Great, I am sure that this mindset was made to compliment Mithradates although bit insulting to poor Alexander. So how biased was the book in favor of Mithradates? Here is a good example, on page 183 when she wrote "Undefeated but displeased, he (Mithradates) sailed away to the coast of Lycia......" Of course, Mithradates won't have sail away if he was victorious and took the city of Rhodes but since that siege was a total failure on his part, he "sailed away" undefeated according to the book. The book also revealed that Mithradates spent most of his early years preparing for war with Rome but when the wars came, he was constantly defeated, over and over again. Only time he was successful were when Rome were seriously distracted from other crises nearer to their home base. Mithradates appears to be more successful in killing helpless Roman civilians then Roman legionaries.

But despite of what I have written, make no mistake that this is a highly informative book but it would really help if you have some foreknowledge of time period involved. Mithradates, despite of the book's best efforts to paint him as knight in shinning armor against Rome's imperial designs, proves to be another despot ruler who had too much money and time on his hand. Book revealed ironically that Mithradates also had imperial designs of his own and that made him no better then Rome. It is interesting to note here that the book went into details of Mithradates' edict to mass murder 80,000 Romans/Italians under his control when he initially overran Asia Minor. I would like to point out that Hitlerian prose of blaming the victims for their fate is a lousy way to justified such massacre. The book gave Mithradates a nice spin job but couldn't hide the fact that he was just another despot who murder masses with ease. Only Rome's distractions throughout his reign kept him alive and active but he was no Alexander the Great although if I had to make a comparison like the author did, I would paint Mithradates more closer to Darius III. Like Darius, Mithradates had wealth and huge armies of multi-racial/cultural people. And like the way Darius always lost to Alexander's vastly smaller but highly trained army, Mithradates constantly lost to smaller more disciplined forces of Rome whenever they can spare the time and the energy to go after him. Mithradates' survival had nothing to do with him personally but more due to Rome's distractions during this same period.

Despite of my complaints, this book still deserves a three star (3.5 really) rating because I was able to learned so much about Mithradates then ever before. I was able to see through spin jobs on this monarch and read the material presented with a certain amount of grain of salt. But what I learned still surpassed anything previous and the author wrote a very readable book although her spin jobs did make me smiled quite a bit. As long as you know what you are reading, this book does come highly recommended to anyone interested in first century BC history dealing with the Roman Republic and its neighbors.
19 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Interesting 13 novembre 2009
Par pjo4 - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I found the book to be very interesting. She puts together a lot of information that is easy to read. I have several books on the Roman Empire but nothing about Mithradates so I appreciate the author's work and in depth research as it gets me more up to speed on that part of ancient history. A lot of my books I pass on or donate but this one I will keep in my ancient history collection.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Blows Against the Empire (sic Republic) 13 avril 2010
Par Loves the View - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Literature on ancient Rome can overtly or subtly applaud the level of civilization it provided for its people. Little note is made that the beneficiaries were a small percentage of the population. The beneficiary proportion is smaller still when the people of conquered lands are counted. Rome's enemies skirmished and revolted, but Rome's strong aggressive armies fended them all off for centuries.

Adrienne Mayor provides an antidote (pun intended) to the genuine, and highly touted, accomplishments of Rome. Within the context of Mithradates' life you can see the point of view of Rome's enemies, slaves and clients. You see how they mocked Rome's cherished myth of being founded by orphans suckled by wolves. You see sympathy for Jugurtha and other royals humiliated by Rome's triumphs. You see resentment of a former middle class reduced to paupers by taxes and tributes. Feelings obviously ran deep such that thousands of coordinated guerilla attacks on Black Sea based Romans could kill perhaps 80,000 in one day in 88 BCE.

This book describes not only the complex character of Mithradates but also the complex world in which he lived. Mayor takes you through Mithradates life as a wandering youth, to his study and use of poisons, to his benign (for its times) rule, to his raising great armies, to his murder of relatives, to his marriages and mistresses (losing track of the children) to the death that is recorded for him. She also poses some alterntive history, worth considering, of later life for Mithradates and his warrior wife Hypsicratea.

At the end there is a discussion entitled "Hero or Deviant?" with an outline of how Mithradates meets and doesn't meet the criteria for each. I've long wondered psychology as an evolutionary trait. What would be the psychology of the thousands of people vulnerable to total loss of home and family in wars (to say nothing of earthquakes and diseases) for which they know very little about? Are there specific psychological traits that result from being in line for succession to a throne in a world where the winner takes all leadership and wealth? What of the psychology of the soldier who marches thousands of miles sometimes foraging for food before the fight even begins?

This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this period.
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