Marina Marren, Kevin Marren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly thought that Dioscorides’s view on medicine is purely pragmatic, focused entirely on the effectiveness of medicines, and derived from trial and error. One reason for this interpretation is that Dioscorides himself wrote little about his theory of medicine. In this article, however, we argue that he would have arranged De Materia Medica in a way that would have been useful only to a skilled practitioner. This argument implies that Dioscorides had a medical theory, as the arrangement of the content could not have fol-lowed a trial-and-error approach. It is only in the sense of having a theory that he is able to claim that his text is more “complete” than others. This article provides a historical over-view of the text from its genesis to its reception and, ultimately, to its falling out of use. This article concludes with a series of hypotheses on the correspondence between theory and arrangement of the treatise, with the aim of narrowing scholarly conjectures about both. In the final analysis, we argue that an arrangement by family resemblance most closely corresponds to the theory that animates Dioscorides’s text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-198
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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