Mithridates VI of Pontus Answers Proust Questionnaire

Vanity Fair has long asked celebrities to fill in an adapted Proust Questionnaire, which fills it's last page. But the original Questionnaire that Proust himself developed had as many historical as 'mood' questions. So I thought that it would be fun to ask various people, mostly historians, archaeologists and academics, to fill one in. The rules were simple - pick any of the questions you like, give short answers ... and either answer as yourself or the subject of one of your books.

Adrienne Mayor, author of many books, but most recently The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy, has chosen to answer on behalf of Mithradates VI of Pontus. And he's even answered all the questions. Mithradates interests me personally not just as an enemy of Gaius Marius' but also as the husband of Hypsicratea, a warrior queen.

Proust’s Questionnaire

1.      My Principal virtue is: I have far too many to list here! Perseverance, Charisma, Audacity, Generosity, Honesty, Nobility, Intellectual Curiosity, Gallantry, Leadership, Courage, Mercy, Resourcefulness . . .

2.      The qualities a man should have are:   Riding, Shooting, and Telling the Truth

3.      The qualities a woman should have are:  Intelligence, Bravery, Loyalty

4.      What I appreciate most about my friends is:   Loyalty

5.      My main fault is:   I am too trusting

6.      My favourite thing to do is:  Chariot racing, hunting, feasting, drinking, pottering in my poison gardens, experimenting with toxins and antidotes

7.      My idea of happiness is:  A successful Great Hunt, celebrated by a Splendid Banquet, followed by Thirteen Nights of Love with my beloved Amazon queen, Hypsicratea

8.      My idea of misery is:  To be surrounded by sycophants and traitors

9.      If not myself, I would like to be ...  Alexander of Macedon!

10.  The country I’d like to live in is:  The greensward of my own glorious Black Sea Kingdom

11.  My favourite prose author is:   Xenophon

12.  My favourite poet is:  Homer

13.  My favourite hero in fiction or myth is:  The valiant and noble Heracles, who liberated Prometheus from his chains in the Caucasus, wrongly punished for defying tyranny. 

14.  My favourite heroine in fiction or myth is:  Atalanta—now there was a woman after my own heart—beautiful, strong, and smart!

15.  My hero in real life is:  Besides the great Alexander, I admire Aristonicus, the rightful king of Pergamon, who led the first revolt against the detested Romans in Anatolia while I was a boy, and my ally Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator-slave who challenged the Republic from within

16.  My heroine in real life is:  The bold horsewoman Hypsicratea, whose name means “mountain strength,” my only true love

17.  The character from history I despise the most is:  The evil Prince of Darkness and the Lie, Sulla, who plundered Delphi and destroyed Athens

18.  My heroine from history is: Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus, as beautiful as a goddess of love and as powerful and cunning as Athena: she commanded the Persian fleet of 150,000 men at the Battle of Salamis, 480 BC

19.  What I hate the most is:  The bloodthirsty spawn of the vicious Roman She-Wolf

20.  The military event that I admire most is:  My own spectacular victory over the greedy and arrogant Roman, Manius Aquillius, who invaded my realm in 89 BC

21.  The reform which I admire the most is:  My liberation of slaves, my cancelling of debts, and my expansion of citizenship rights

22.  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!

23.  This is how I’d like to die: A vigorous commander, in my 70s, leading my invincible army along the Danube, over the Alps, and down the spine of Italy, with the certain knowledge that my audacious invasion will smash Rome to smithereens

24.  My present state of mind is:  Optimistic

25.  The faults for which I have the most indulgence are:  I am merciful to young men and women who defy me out of misguided loyalty to corrupt conspirators

26.  My motto is:  Truth and Light Will Conquer Darkness and Deceit!

To find out more about Mithradates IV, pick up a copy of Adrienne Mayor's well reviewed biography of him (the paperback is due next year):

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy - Amazon.com
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy - Kindle Edition (US)

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy - Amazon.co.uk
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy - Kindle (UK)

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