MINIATURIST, Byzantine
(active 510s in Byzantium)

Vienna Dioscorides

c. 512
Manuscript (Codex Vindobonensis Med. gr. 1), 380 x 310 mm
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

From amongst the rich variety of scientific manuscripts of late antiquity, the Vienna Dioscorides, which survived only in part, stands out by virtue of its artistic quality and the number of illustrations. Written in Greek, it is a compendium of six pharmacological and scientific works; an herbarium, minor medicinal works, a book of birds. It consists of 392 full page miniatures, 66 pictures of venomous animals, 47 pictures of birds.

The manuscript, named after one of the authors, Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century AD), was made for Princess Anicia Juliana of Byzantium (462-527).

Folio 120 recto illustrates an elecampene (Inula helenium L). This plant was said to possess various properties. The fluid remaining when the root was boiled was a diuretic, and also speeded up menstruation. The root itself was useful for coughs, narrow-chestedness, camps, flatulence and venomous bites. The leaves alleviated the pains of sciatica.

Alongside the miniature is a transcription of the description on the previous page, in Greek minuscule. The transcription was made in 1406 by a Byzantine intellectual when the codex was being restored and newly bound.




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