Biography of Pedáneo Dioscórides (ca. 40-90)

Greek physician that his date of birth is unknown (probably took place towards the year 40 of our era) and who died about the year 90. His full name was Pedaneo Anarzabeo Dioscorides.

In addition to medicine he/she cultivated the pharmacy, Botany, and chemistry, as it is shown by the references of some of his contemporaries and allusions of the own Dioscorides. Among the most famous of those commentators of Dioscorides is Galen, who considered the work of him as the best of its kind. Apparently was born in Anarzabus (hence the nickname), near Tarsus in Cilicia. He/She led a "life of soldier" at the service of the Roman army, and it is possible to study in Tarsus and in Alexandria. He/She was doctor of the Roman Emperor Nero.

Of the many works attributed and written by Dioscorides only preserves material medica, a treaty that includes the description of six hundred plants, animal products thirty-five and ninety minerals, including more than eight hundred entries (which included not only the synonym in Greek, but the names in other languages of Asia, and North Africa) and he/she said a hard work of data collection to form what is considered the largest pharmaceutical guides of the antiquity. To write it, it was worth its own observations and studies during his travels, from data obtained from other people and the consultation of several authors that preceded it or were his contemporaries, which include Quintus Sixter Niger, Ioalas, Hexaclides, doctor Andreas, Bassus, Diodotus, Crateaus and others.

Information covering this work is diverse, referring to (classified in trees, shrubs and grasses) plants and parts thereof (roots, stalks, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds), of giving multiple data that relate, for example, the class or type, number, size, shape, color, flavor, density, texture or lenosidadbeauty and medicinal use. It also explains how and when to collect plants or parts of them, in accordance with the habitat, stations, altitude, status or development are plants or parts thereof; and other various endorsements, as altitude and climatic agents and mesologicos (marshy, windy, shady areas, etc.) that produce different variations in the patterns of these living beings. Also, are they linked or related plants with others pointing out their similarities and differences. Adds, moreover, how to prepare drugs, keep them according to their characteristics (in paper, vessels of glass, silver, glass, Horn, Tin, etc.) and employment of the same, with information for its healing properties, such as harmful, as well as dietary advice and ways to discover fraudulent drug preparations. Castor, sabina, elderberry, Sycamore, Hellebore and other many plants are collected in the great work of Dioscorides, many of which were illustrated with drawings and engravings. Many of these drugs, among them the oil of almond, ginger, pine bark, aloes and others are preserved in the modern pharmacopoeias.

The works of Dioscorides greatly spread through different translations, book reviews, copies and extracts that were specially made from the 6th century. A famous version is julienned call, which occurred in that century in Constantinople, as a wedding gift to Anicia Juliana, daughter of Emperor Olybrius. Also refers to a gift copy by Roman, Emperor of Constantinople in the 10th century, the cordoban Caliph Abd al-Rhaman, means by which enters aẓ botanical medicine. This specimen had gold letters and was illuminated with miniatures of plants. As there is no translator in Cordoba, Emperor (at the behest of al - Rhaman), sent the Byzantine monk Nicolás to translate the Latin names that was in Greek on the book by Dioscórides, while other physicians, as Hasdai Ben SaprutJew, translated it turn to the Arab.

Later, already in the 16th century, would be translated again, this time by the doctor and Spanish humanist Andrés Laguna (1510-1559); an edition of it appeared in Salamanca in 1566, and carries the title of Pedacio Dioscórides Anazarbeo, about the medicinal metaria, and deadly poisons, translated from Greek language, in the vulgar Castellana & illustrated with clear and substantial annotations of many exquisite and rare plants...; in her Laguna scored, said and updated the work of one. Since then it had different translations. Also a famous version of the material medica of the 16th century is that of Benedictus Textor, who taught Dioscorides in the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, between 1550 and 1556.

Dioscorides are attributed works such as De herbis feminis, who describes seventy-one plant (now called as the Pseudo-dioscorides), on the stones of Dioscorides, whose author is Damigeron, as well as other treaties on drugs.


LAGUNA, A. Pedazio Dioscorides Anazarbeo (1555). Madrid: Instituto of Spain, 2 vols. (preliminary study of Teófilo Hernando)

MALDONADO, j. L., and García, to. The Spain of the art and the Science: Madrid, accent, 2002.

PESET, V., "A Spanish version of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides", in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, X, 1, 1954.

VALDERAS, J. M. "Benedictus Textor and the teaching of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides" in Asclepius, 47 (1), 101-122, 1995.

VERNET, J. Spain due to Islam. Barcelona, the Antilado, 1999.

Armando García González