Definition of Dioscorides

Dioscorides: Dioscorides of Anazarbus. First century Greek physician, botanist and pharmacologist whose encyclopedia of materia medica was used for centuries after his death.

Born in southeast Asia Minor in the Roman Empire in the first few decades C.E. During his lifetime, Dioscorides traveled extensively seeking medicinal substances from all over the Roman and Greek world. He benefited greatly from the ease of travel across wide stretches of territory under the control of the Roman Empire at the height of its growth.

Between about 50-70 C.E., Dioscorides wrote his fundamental work, known in Latin as "De materia medica." This five book study focused upon "the preparation, properties, and testing of drugs" and became the most central pharmacological work in Europe and the Middle East for the next sixteen centuries.

As was the case with many Greek medical texts, De materia medica was treated as dogma for many years. By the mid-16th century, however, his message that investigation and experimentation were crucial to pharmacology began to emerge and modern research into medicines began.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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