A note on the Vienna Dioscorides

The cover image above is an illustration of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) from a 6th century AD manuscript commonly known as the Vienna Dioscorides. Created for Juliana Anicia, daughter of the Western Roman emperor Anicius Olybrius, the manuscript consists of a copy of Pedanius Dioscorides’ pharmacological text De materia medica (On medical substances) as well as a copy of Rufus’ Carmen de herbis (Poem about plants), both of which date to the first century AD, as well as two texts about animals.



In the uncropped image, you can see the old name of the plant — Artemisia hetera polyklonos – written in several Greek and Arabic hands. The notations on this page suggest that despite the manuscript’s excellent condition it had been used as a reference work by Byzantine Greek and then Muslim physicians in the millennium between its presentation to Juliana Anicia and its purchase, in Istanbul in the 1560s, by a member of the court of Ferdinand I.


More illustrations from the Vienna Dioscorides can be found here.

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