King Poisoned Himself Regularly and Used Honey to Destroy Armies

Interesting Engineering

Mithridates the Great, is literally one of the weirdest kings ever. His phobia caused him to be the one who used honey as the first chemical weapon in the history. He is the only king who poisoned himself regularly for years and created an antidote.

Mithridates VI, also known as Eupator Dionysius, was the king of Pontus in the northern Anatolia, (Now in Turkey) between around 120–63 BC. As a king, he describes as one of the most powerful enemies of Roman Empire. And he truly destroyed the Roman troops by using mad honey as the first chemical weapon in history.

mithridates-honey-black-seaBlack Sea Region, Turkey
[Image source: Korhan Özyıldız]

For fear of being poisioned like his father, he spent his years researching poisons and paved the way for new medical knowledge about the immune system, antidotes and herbalism as well. His fear obviously became an obsessive phobia but presented the first theriac, called Mithridate. It was a semi-mythical remedy made with 65 ingredients and was used as an antidote for poisoning. We still have the recipe for his mixture, and it is still beneficial nowadays. Records says that Mithridate has been used to treat peanut allergies.



His practice, known as Mithridatism, is based on a principle to poison yourself by regular self-determined doses to help develop the immune system. Sounds crazy, but his work had an important role in medicinal history; it still has. According to records, Mithridates had a big trauma caused by his father's death by poisoning, by his mother's order. This trauma shaped his life and forced to him work on medical research until he ascended the throne. Unfortunately, the throne gifted him new enemies, who would possibly try to poison him as well.


But there is another big historical record that he used the first chemical weapon on a Greek army after hearing about a potential attack his kingdom. That was a sort of honey, called 'Mad honey' or 'Deli Bal' in modern Turkish. According to Professor of Anthropology Vaughn Bryant, the first report came from Xenophon of Athens.

“In his chronicle Anabasis, Xenophon wrote that in 401 B.C.E., a Greek army he led was returning to Greece along the shores of the Black Sea after defeating the Persians. The Mithridates decided to feast on local honey stolen from some nearby beehives. Hours later the troops began vomiting, had diarrhea, became disoriented and could no longer stand; by the next day the effects were gone and they continued on to Greece.”


Mad Honey is a local honey in Turkey and Georgia. The nectar is collected by caucasian bees from a local poison flower called Rhododendron. The honey is still in use by local South Caucasian people. Less than half a teaspoon is taken once a year to develop the immune system. To protect themselves against to the psychotropic and hallucinotic effects, locals are warning the people to be really careful and only eat a really small amount.

SEE ALSO: Mad Honey, the Sweetest Way to Get High

Historians claim that the Mithridates has tried to kill himself, to not be killed by his enemies. He could not find any poison that would have an effect on him and ordered his soldiers to kill him with a sword in the end.