Mithradates’ Antidote: A Pharmcological Ghost
By Laurence Totelin
Early Science and Medicine, Vol. 9:1 (2004)
|A silver coin depicting Mithradates VI of Pontus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Introduction: By attempting to develop an antidote to protect himself against the threat of poisons, Mithradates VI Eupator, King of Pontus (120-63 B.C.), originated a tradition that would last more than twenty centuries: the tradition of the Mithridatic antidote or Mithridatium. Initially designed to counter poisons and venoms, the antidotebecame used to prevent—or even cure—a series of afflictions anddiseases. Andromachos the Elder (first century A.D.), physicianto Nero, transformed the recipe of Mithridatium by adding viperflesh and increasing the amount of opium, creating the famous“Theriac.” Mithridatium and Theriac survived as panaceas throughthe Middle Ages and the Renaissance, still figured in the German,French and Spanish pharmacopoeias in the nineteenth century, and may still be purchased on markets in the Middle East.
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