The courts of the Italian Renaissance states have long been notorious for the deployment of poison by those wishing to take over power. This image comes to us from writers such as Stendhal and historians such as Burckhardt. Alessandro Pastore, dealing with ‘poisoning as politics’, confirms, from a wide range of sources, that poisoning was indeed a political weapon in Renaissance Italy, in the courts of local rulers and of the papacy. He shows that diplomatic correspondence of the time had as many rumours of poisoning as valid reports on poisoning. Doctors and political theorists were concerned with how rulers should keep away from harm and familiarise themselves with antidotes, and some rulers such as Cosimo I de’ Medici had a ready supply of condemned men on whom to experiment. The papal court was far from immune to poisoners and plotters.