Dioscorides, Pedacius or Pedanios 40-90

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Dioscorides was a Greek physician who lived in the first century of the Christian era. He became a military surgeon under the Roman Emperor Nero and was a contemporary of Pliny. He wrote De Materia Medica (about 77 A.D.) which gave medicinal properties and some botanical information for about 600 plants. This book was not scientific as were those of Theophrastus. However, for about 1500 years, it was the supreme authority due to the practical nature of its contents, and it has been called the "most successful botanical textbook ever written." Dioscorides was believed to have had his medical training in Alexandria. He traveled widely and made observations on plants from the standpoint of their medical uses.

He described roots, stems, leaves and sometimes flowers. His work was in reality a herbal and was the first one to be illustrated. For centuries no drug plant was considered genuine unless it could be identified by the descriptions given by Dioscorides.

The earliest copies of De Materia Medica were probably not illustrated but a magnificent manuscript dated about 512 A.D. called the Juliana Anicia Codex of Dioscorides (Codex Vindobonensis), contained in the Vienna State Library has been called "a splendid monument of botanical art" (Blunt). The plant drawings contained therein were not surpassed in quality for about 1,000 years. This work was presumably written in Constantinople. It is of greatest importance for the interpretation of plant names used by Dioscorides and it contains almost 400 full-page paintings of plants and small ones of birds. These plant drawings are believed to have been derived much earlier at least as far back as the 2nd Century A.D. They resemble the actual designs of Krateuas, the great early plant illustrator. Many other illustrated Greek manuscripts of Dioscorides have survived, one of the most important of which is the 7th Century Codex Neapolitanus in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples, Italy.

Gunther, Robert T. The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides. Haftner Publishing Company, 1959. Examine this classical work "compiled during the lst Century A.D. by Dioscorides of Anazarba in Cilicia." Read preface pages V-VII. Note reference to Krateuas. Examine contents in order to note type of information presented for the various plants. Select certain species or types in which you may be interested - as for example: turnip, page 147; radish, page 148; shrubs and trees, pages 61-67; roses, pages 69-70; fruit trees, pages 79-87. No reference given in this course has any greater importance than this one.