Traditionally the West's dominant view of Mithradates came from his Roman enemies, and in recent times there has been virtually no view of the forgotten king. Adrienne Mayor does history a great service by countering that imbalanced knowledge. In The Poison King Mayor strips the skewed Roman accounts to present a story closer to the truth. Her story is supported with alternate contemporary sources and modern archaeology. As a result, the reader views Pontus' royal family and Rome's Mithridatic Wars from the probable perspective of the king. Mithradates' intelligence and personality shine through Adrienne Mayor's text. Her writing is highly engaging, appropriate for such a dynamic character.
Regrettably several descriptions of military equipment were in error. Roman swords were not at all like machetes, as the author described them. Armenian and Parthian Cataphracti were more typically armored in lamellar or scale, not chain mail. As annoying as these mistakes are to someone knowledgeable of ancient arms and armor, they have little bearing on the thrust of this book. Mayor intends to convey the general events of Mithradates' battles and their effects on his life. Although I would love to read a detailed description of his troops' armor, weapons, unit types, training, tactics, etc., this specialized subject is outside the scope of The Poison King.
P.S. For a military account of Mithradates' reign I plan on reading Mithradates The Great, by Philip Matyszak.
P.P.S. And what a brilliant book jacket design! You have to see it in person. I love the shimmering metallic ink, the coin's embossed hair is a great effect, and the overall classical imagery contrasted with modern typography is appealing. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award. That's lovely for the author, but the large ugly seal on the cover is an unfortunate distraction.