Mithradates of Pontus answers the Proust questionnaire

You’ve seen the Vanity Fair version on the last page of each issue, the one adapted from Proust and given to celebrities to answer.  Now check out Dorothy King’s blog where 2009 National Book Award Finalist and POISON KING author Adrienne Mayor channels her  subject and unlocks the key to the Man, the Mith, the Legend.

The gift of nature that I would like to have is: I am already blessed by Nature, with a magnificent physique and superb athletic prowess!”

Nice timing leading up to the April paperback release but hey, Mithradates?  Would a little bit of modesty kill you?

Then again, this royal coinage shows off some luscious locks so maybe Nature really did spend a little more time crafting the king…

Holiday Gift Picks of the Week

It’s Tuesday!  Time to get funky with you inner Elf.  Here are this week’s picks from Julia Livingston, Editorial Associate in Political Science, Ancient History and Philosophy.  Read up!

  • The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor: It seems unfair that this book is by a serious scholar and archaeologist and is quite so entertaining.  Did you know that Mithradates orchestrated the massacre of 80,000 Romans in a single day?  Me either.  Adrienne Mayor reconstructs the life of this figure as well as his presence in popular culture (Mithradates shows up in Mozart, Racine, Machiavelli) and tells a gripping story about this once notorious ancient king.  This book is perfect for fans of 300 as well as those who like a little history with their blood, guts and abs. **-Gift Elf note: National Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction, 2009 – the gift of critical acclaim!
  • Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern: Say what you want, this sh*t is hilarious.  Anyone who has an outspoken or particularly foul-mouthed relative can relate to Justin Halpern’s father’s expletive-embedded wisdom and anyone who doesn’t will still think this book is ridiculously funny.  Prime reading aloud material. Chestnuts, open fire…you know the drill.
  • The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris by Peter Beinart: I’ll be honest and admit that a lot of my recommendation of this book comes from this enormous brain-crush I have on Peter Beinart; I read his Daily Beast columns and New York Review of Books pieces obsessively and appreciate his lucid, impassioned writing.  This book is no different.  In it he explains the “hubris” of three American presidents: Woodrow Wilson, LBJ, George W. Bush and how their Icarus-like flaws affected American foreign policy and how Obama can turn it around.  Also it reminded me of learning about what “hubris” meant in 9th grade re: Beowulf.

Stay tuned for our next installment on Tuesday, November 16.

-Gift Elf Out


“And now, my beauties, something with poison in it.” Cleopatra takes her cue from Mithradates?

Poppies will get them for sure.  At least one famous femme fatale (read: not Dorothy Gale from Kansas) probably succumbed to a lethal dose of opium and not the oft-mythologized serpent of legend.   According to Adrienne Mayor, author of National Book Award Nominee THE POISON KING, Cleopatra ingested poison before drawing her last breath.  New discussion over the Egyptian queen’s demise has stirred up some startling links to other great mixologists in history.  Whether there really was an asp involve remains to be seen but Cleopatra almost certainly took a page out of the Mithradates guide to toxins and most likely downed a potent potable on her way to eternal sleep.

Check out this Discovery News piece where PUP’s very own Mayor weighs in on the cocktail v. snake debate!  So what do you think happened?