Modern Mithridatium

In ancient times, Mithridates VI was ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus, and was known as a great defender of the Greeks from the Roman Empire. He was a genius – a great battle commander to defeat the Romans many times, as well as a polyglot who could speak all the languages of the 22 nations in his kingdom.

King Mithridates is best known, though, for his immunity to poison. His father, Mithridates V, was killed by poison, so he was a bit paranoid about suffering the same fate. He would take sub-lethal doses of common poisons every day to build up immunity, and created a complex antidote that supposedly worked against all types of poisons. That antidote became known as mithridatium and was in use through the 18th Century!

Unfortunately, after his eventual defeat by the Romans, King Mithridates found that his crazy preparations worked against him. In prison, he tried to kill himself by poison, but his immunity foiled this attempt at suicide, so he had to convince a former bodyguard to deliver a coup de grace.

Like Mithridates, Batman also takes small amounts of poison on a regular basis to build up a resistance. When facing off against Poison Ivy, Joker, or Scarecrow, it is a necessity! After defeating them, Batman also collects samples of poisons used by his enemies to make antidotes in case they ever use the same poisons again.

My sister likes to justify her nail-biting habit by saying that she is bolstering her immune system by exposing her body to the crud under her nails. Personally, I would want to take a slightly more scientific approach to the matter, since many people who tried to imitate Mithridates ended up killing themselves.

However, when my friends and I had dinner in San Luis Obispo on our last night in Pismo, we wandered around the downtown area afterwards and ended up at Bubblegum Alley, a local curiosity. It is literally a small alley where people have been sticking gum on the brick walls since at least the 1950s. Friends that have seen it before mentioned that it is not that interesting – you just see it and say, “Yes, that is a lot of gum.” To make things more interesting, Michelle dared me – for a dollar! – to take a piece of gum off the wall and chew it. So I did.

This is actually one in a series of shots of me contemplating the dare, picking a piece of gum, and accepting my prize. Sadly, the “money shot” is not available because the photographer was “too grossed out” to remember to keep taking pictures when I actually put it in my mouth.

Afterwards, Eddie took me to the nearest bar and bought me a shot of liquor for medicinal purposes. I was reminded by many there to swish and gargle before swallowing the shot.

In case you were wondering:

  • I tried to pick the softest and cleanest piece of gum I could find.
  • Yes, I chewed the gum.
  • It tasted generically fruity, like Juicy Fruit.
  • I did swallow some of the flavor while chewing.
  • I spit the gum into a trashcan instead of putting it back on the wall.

I am not sure what sort of poisons I gained resistance to, but my act did repel friends for the rest of the night.


5 thoughts on “Modern Mithridatium

  1. Should’ve buried the gum underneath your nails and consumed it over time! Scientific or not, I haven’t even caught a cold, let alone the flu, since freshmen year in college, so clearly I’m doing something right!

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