From Wikipedia:

Mithridatism is the practice of protecting oneself against a poison by gradually self-administering non-lethal amounts. The word is derived from Mithridates VI, the King of Pontus, who so feared being poisoned that he regularly ingested small doses, aiming to develop immunity.Wikipedia:Mithridatism

Regretfully there is not a lot of actual historic background on this practice - or if it ever actually worked...

Are there any confirmed or at least decently well supported cases where Mithridatism actually saved an individual from a poisoning attempt?

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    Well, if you kill yourself with your "training" you ensure that nobody else will poison you.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 8:42
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    People, especially Roman emperors and European medieval and early modern rulers, certainly believed in it but finding a clear case with solid evidence is likely to be difficult. The only possible example I can think of is Agrippina the Younger (ref: Suetonius in Life of Nero), but it would be a stretch to call this a "decently well supported" case. Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 9:06
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    Nitpick: Strong guess you want to know the outcome of an attempt? "Poisoning" still would occur, but the 'victim' would have been more tolerant to it, thus surviving what you write in the title? Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 11:07
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    Also, it would be hard to tell if the attempt failed because the "training" or because it was poorly executed (the poison was of bad quality/purity, the victim took too little, the victim took too much and vomited it...). It is not as if these things are done in a laboratory setting with precisely controlled conditions "If you will, your Highness, please take exactly an ounce of this white powder so we can see if it kills you. Much obligated"
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 11:15
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    I read of one case where the poisoner did it to their victim out of incompetence. They wanted to be subtle about it, and gave the victim an insufficient dose for their body weight, then slowly ratcheted it up. By the time a hospital got involved, it was up in "How is this person even alive???" territory.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


It's hard to confirm the stories but there are several stories where Mithridatism actually saved an individual.

One of the famous stories of them is about the emperor Chandragupta Maurya. According to the Jain work Rajavalikatha,

Chandragupta's Guru and advisor Chanakya used to feed the emperor with small doses of poison to build his immunity against possible poisoning attempts by the enemies. One day, Chandragupta, not knowing about the poison, shared his food with his pregnant wife, Queen Durdhara, who was seven days away from delivery. The queen, not immune to the poison, collapsed and died within a few minutes. Chanakya entered the room the very time she collapsed, and in order to save the child in the womb, he immediately cut open the dead queen's belly and took the baby out, by that time a drop of poison had already reached the baby and touched its head due to which the child got a permanent blueish spot (a "Bindu") on his forehead. Thus, the newborn was named "Bindusara". Wikipedia:Mithridatism

In many Indian epics and historical books, a group of maidens called vishakanyas (visha = poison, kanya = maiden) is mentioned. Many kings was said to create a squad of vishkanyas to kills rival kings and high ranking official. The squad is made by selecting beautiful girls in their childhood and slowly poisoned them to create immunity to poisoning inside them. It was said that only 3 out of 10 girls is survived to their adulthood. Then they were sent to rival kingdoms. Vishkanyas first tried to seduce the king. When the king calls them to make love with him, they go and mixed the poison with the drink or food presented there. Then they eat the poisonous food to give the trust to the king that the food is not poisoned and give it to the king. This was the most commonly used tactic of the vishkanyas.

There are stories about Russian mystic Rasputin's survival of a poisoning attempt. Some suggested he survived poisoning due to the practice of mithridatism.

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