Thursday, November 05, 2009

BOOK: Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates (

Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates
Princeton University Press

Interviewed by Meehan Crist >>>

Adrienne Mayor ( is an independent folklorist/historian of science who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. Her research looks at ancient "folk science" precursors, alternatives, and parallels to modern scientific methods. Mayor's two books on pre-Darwinian fossil traditions in classical antiquity and in Native America have opened up a new field within geomythology, and her book on the origins of biological weapons uncovered the ancient roots of biochemical warfare. The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy is Mayor's latest book. It is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist! It is the first biography in a century of the world's first experimental toxicologist, the brilliant rebel leader of a Black Sea empire who challenged Roman imperialism in the first century BC. Mayor is active in classical folklore, and is also a Visiting Scholar in Classics. Her research has been featured on NPR and BBC, the History Channel, and other popular media, most recently in the New York Times and National Geographic; her books are translated into Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Polish, and Modern Greek. For fun: the History Channel's "Ancient Monster Hunters" is based on Mayor's first book, and popular novelists frequently draw on her findings, for example, Helen of Troy and Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George; The Gryphon's Skull by H. Turteltraub; Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom; and Brad Thor's thriller Blowback. Current project: a study of Amazons, ancient women warriors in history and legend.

Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates the Great, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press, 2009)
Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Princeton University Press, 2005.
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. Overlook Press, 2003.
rev ed 2008, new introduction.
The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, 2000.

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