Lesson #317: Botulinum

Sometimes, I come about my lessons in very, very indirect ways. I got to botulism by way of Mithridates VI of Pontus who, according to Appian’s Roman History, attempted suicide by poison in 63 BCE only to find that this lifelong paranoia and subsequent ingestion of small doses of a variety of poisons left him immune to the poisons’ effects. In the end, one of his bodyguards beheaded Mithridates at his request.*

This got me to wondering what the most deadly toxin is. I was hoping for something exciting and different. I got botulism. Which is neither exciting nor different.

It’s not all glamour.

*On the other hand, Cassius Dio’s Roman History describes Mithridates’ death as murder, but I prefer the one that immediately makes me think of the man in black’s immunity to iocane powder.




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