Across the history of ancient civilizations, many Emperors and Kings have fallen victim to assassination by poison. This led the 1st century Persian king to adapt the habit of taking small quantities of the known poison to acquire immunity.

Mithradates VI of Pontus lived from 120-63 BCE. He was the ruler of Pontus and Armenia Minor and what is now part of Turkey. Mithradates was known as the Roman’s most daunting enemy during the Mithridatic Wars. He courageously acquired parts of the Black Sea, Syria, and Armenia in a war against Roman generals and statesmen.

Mithridates’ antidote for assassination plots

Mithradates VI’s father was assassinated in his youth and history has it that he tried to live in the wilderness for seven years. During his exile, he tried to take small quantities of sub-lethal poisons to gain immunity. He also brought this habit after his ascension to prevent assassins from poisoning him.

Because he had many enemies, Mithradates feared he would suffer the same fate as his father. He continued with his habit of taking small doses of poison by mixing lethal poisons and administering small doses of his elixir every day.

Roman acquire the habit of drinking poison

The King of Pontus died of suicide, but during the last days of his reign and just as the Romans were laying siege of his empire he sought refuge in the citadel of Panticapaeum.  There he tried to take large quantities of poison, but the years of strengthening his immune system became his own enemy. His plan backfired and nothing happened. He instead took his own life by having a mercenary run his sword through him.

Roman Emperors acquired his habit of taking small doses of poison after MIthridates death in 63 BC. Several versions of his poison elixir were made during the Roman times including Pliny’s mixture of 54 ingredients. Roman physicians also claim to have improved the quality of the original formula which Roman Emperors used.