Orange Alert

Adrienne Mayor to speak on Mithradates at Moses Finley Memorial Lecture Oct. 18

Stanford professor expert in classics and science history

Sept. 28, 2010, by Donna Adamo

Adrienne Mayor, research scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University, will deliver the Moses Finley Lecture at Syracuse University Monday, Oct. 18, at 4:30 p.m. in Maxwell Auditorium. Mayor will present her recent book, “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy” (Princeton University Press, 2009).

The event is part of the Finley Lecture Series, co-sponsored by The SU Humanities Center; the Program in Classics in The College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics; SU Library Associates; and Arts and Sciences alumnus Robert Papworth ‘68.

Mayor is a folklorist/historian of science who investigates parallels between ancient “folk science” and modern scientific methods. “I’m drawn to intriguing topics from the ancient world that have broad interest today, but are neglected by modern historians and scientists,” says Mayor. Her research has been featured on National Public Radio, British Broadcasting Corp., the History Channel and most recently in the New York Times and National Geographic.

“The Poison King” focuses on the world’s first experimental toxicologist, Mithradates, and the potions and poisons he concocted as he began his war against the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. Mayor’s book won a gold medal for biography at the Independent Publishers Book Award 2010. It was also a National Book Award Finalist in 2009.

Mayor became fascinated with Mithradates while writing, “Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs” (Overlook, 2003), which has been featured on the History Channel’s shows about biological and chemical weapons in the ancient world.

“Mithradates perfected a recipe for the ‘universal antidote,’ containing tiny amounts of more than 50 toxins and antidotes believed to protect one from all poisons. The recipe is now lost,” says Mayor. “One of my goals in ‘The Poison King’ was to try to figure out the ingredients in his famous elixir and to understand the scientific principles underlying his experiments and discoveries.”

Mayor will reveal what she found in her lecture.

The Finley Lecture Series honors the memory of Sir Moses I. Finley ’27, who graduated from Syracuse at age 16, the youngest student ever to earn a degree from the University. After completing graduate work at Columbia University, he joined the faculty of Rutgers University. Summoned to testify before the United State Senate Internal Security Committee in 1954, Finley refused to answer question about his personal political beliefs. After moving to England, he became known as one of the 20th century’s most influential historians, and enjoyed a long and distinguished career as professor of ancient history and as master of Darwin College at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of more than 20 scholarly works, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.

Media Contact

Donna Adamo