Pedanius Dioscorides
Seated Dioscorides writing, an illumination from the Vienna Dioscurides

Pedanius Dioscorides (Greek: Πεδάνιος Διοσκουρίδης; circa 40—90 AD) was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, the author of a 5-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine and related medicinal substances (a pharmacopeia), that was widely read for more than 1,500 years.



A native of Anazarbus, Cilicia, Asia Minor, Dioscorides "practiced in Rome at the time of Nero. He was a surgeon with the army of the emperor, so he had the opportunity to travel extensively, seeking medicinal substances (plants and minerals) from all over the Roman and Greek world."[1]

De Materia Medica

Between 50 and 70 AD[2] Dioscorides wrote a five-volume book in his native Greek, Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς, known in English by its Latin title De Materia Medica ("Regarding Medical Materials") that is a "precursor to all modern pharmacopeias". It remained in use until about CE 1600. Unlike many classical authors, his works were not "rediscovered" in the Renaissance, because his book never left circulation. In the medieval age, De Materia Medica was circulated in Latin, Greek, and Arabic.[3] While being reproduced in manuscript form through the centuries, it was often supplemented with commentary on Dioscorides' work, with minor additions from Arabic and Indian sources. The most important Greek manuscripts survive today in Mount Athos monasteries.[citation needed] A number of illustrated manuscripts of the De Materia Medica survive. The most famous of these is the lavishly illustrated Vienna Dioscurides produced in Constantinople in 512/513 AD. Densely illustrated Arabic copies survive from the 12th and 13th centuries.

De Materia Medica is the premiere historical source of information about the medicines used by the Greeks, Romans, and other cultures of antiquity. The work also records the Dacian[4] and Thracian[5] names for some plants, which otherwise would have been lost. The work presents about 600 plants in all,[6] although the descriptions are sometimes obscurely phrased. "Numerous individuals from the Middle Ages on have struggled with the identity of the recondite kinds"[7] and some of the botanical identifications remain insecure guesses by today's experts.

See also

Later representation of Pedanius Dioscorides


  • De Materia Medica: Being an Herbal with many other medicinal materials, translated by Tess Anne Osbaldeston (2000). (Publisher Ibidis Press: Johannesburg). Downloadable
  • De Materia Medica, translated by Lily Y. Beck (2005). (Publisher Hildesheim: Olms-Weidmann).
  • The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides... Englished by John Goodyer A. D. 1655, edited by R.T. Gunter (1933). Downloadable


  1. ^ Borzelleca, Joseph F.; Lane, Richard W. (2008), "The Art, the Science, and the Seduction of Toxicology: an Evolutionary Development", in Hayes, Andrew Wallace, Principles and methods of toxicology (5th ed.), Taylor & Francis Group, p. 13 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Some detail about medieval manuscripts of De Materia Medica at Ibidis Press
  4. ^ Nutton, Vivian (2004). Ancient Medicine. Routledge. . Page 177.
  5. ^ Murray, J. (1884). The Academy. Alexander and Shephrard. . Page 68.
  6. ^ Krebs, Robert E.; Krebs, Carolyn A. (2003). Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the Ancient World. Greenwood Publishing Group. . Pages 75-76.
  7. ^ Isely, Duane (1994). One hundred and one botanists. Iowa State University Press.

Further reading

  • Allbutt, T. Clifford (1921). Greek medicine in Rome. London: Macmillan. ISBN 1578986311. 
  • Bruins: Codex Constantinopolitanus: Palatii Veteris NO. 1 [3 VOLUME SET] Part 1: Reproduction of the Manuscript; Part 2: Greek Text; Part 3: Translation and Commentary Bruins, E. M. (Ed.)
  • Hamilton, JS (1986). "Scribonius Largus on the medical profession.". Bulletin of the history of medicine 60 (2): 209–216. PMID 3521772. 
  • Riddle, John M. (1984). "Dioscorides". In Cranz, F. Edward; Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Catalogus translationum et commentariorum : Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin translations and commentaries : annoted lists and guides. Washington, DC: Catholic Univ. of America Press. ISBN 0813205476. 
  • Riddle, John M. (1985). Dioscorides on pharmacy and medicine. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292715447. 
  • Sadek, M.M. (1983). The Arabic materia medica of Dioscorides. Québec, Canada: Les Éditions du sphinx. ISBN 2920123025. 
  • Scarborough, J; Nutton, V (1982). "The Preface of Dioscorides' Materia Medica: introduction, translation, and commentary.". Transactions & studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 4 (3): 187–227. PMID 6753260. 

External links

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