The House of Cleopatra and Dioscorides. Located on the island of Delos, Greece.

 "Cleopatra, daughter of Adrastus of Myrrhinous, set up this image of her husband Dioscorides…“ So reads the Greek inscription written on the state-base. As you may have already noted, these statues, and the house which contained them, were not owned by the famous Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII. Rather, an Athenian couple, offering us insight into residential life on Delos during the 2nd century BC. ‘Cleopatra’, after all, is a name of Greek origin.

The house itself is fairly typical of the larger homes in the town's Theatre Quarter district, with 12 rooms arranged around 2 open courtyards. The placement of these statues within the house may have been significant in relation to visibility from the streets outside, for the pleasure of their owners, or for impact on visitors to the household.

Recommended reading: Lisa Nevett's Domestic Space in Classical Antiquity (2010). Photos courtesy of and taken by: Bernard GagnonHeiko Gorski, and Geraki

A really incredible illustration of sap-tapping from p. 243 of LJS 278, a 16C herbal that originates from India and is a translation (into many different languages!) of Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica.

Manuscript description and digital images can be found here at OPenn, and you can download an ebook version here.


Four Leaves from the Arabic Version of Dioscorides’ De materia medica, W.750 by Dioscordines Pedanius, of Anazarbos and translated by Yuhana bin al-Batriq, Iran ca. 13th century via Walters Art Museum, Creative Commons

Top Row, Left to Right: 1) Mezereon (Spurge-olive) 2) Wild Cucumber

Bottom Row, Left to Right: 1) Thymelaea (Spurge-laurel) 2) A Type of Thymelaea Called ilyusqufinus

At first I thought this might be depicting fennel, because Pliny the Elder wrote about snakes needing to rejuvenate themselves with fennel juice– but maybe it’s just a drawing of two snakes enjoying a romantic dinner of… whatever the plant might be.

Manuscript description and digital images can be found here at OPenn, and you can download an ebook version here.

Canapa domestica e canapa selvatica dal Dioscurides Neapolitanus [Codex ex Vindobonensis Graecus 1] - Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli

Dioscurides, Herbarium (De materia medica) - in greco
Ms. membr. sec. VI ex.-VII in., cc 172, mm 290x250, scrittura greca maiuscola biblica
Segn. Bibl. Naz. Nap. Ms. ex-Vind. Gr. 1

[da qui]


New to our archives: Six 16th-century woodblocks illustrating buttercup, thistle, datura, dropwort, lettuce, and teasel. The woodblocks were first printed in the 1562 edition of Dioscorides, which became the standard reference work on medical botany. These join the Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books.

Woodblock and print of “Teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris),” 1565, Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyer. The Getty Research Institute

Aloe Vera

(Aloe Barbadenis)

For more than 3,500 years, healers and physicians have touted the benefits of this fragrant desert lily. There are about two hundred species of this amazing plant, but the aloe vera, meaning “true aloe” in Latin, is considered the most effective healer. The leaf of aloe contains special “gel” or emollient that is used externally in cosmetics and skin creams. Aloe gel is regarded as one of natures best natural moisturizers. The bitter juice, which is extracted from the whole leaf, may be taken internally for digestive disorders. Two thousand years ago, the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote that aloe vera was an effective treatment for everything from constipation to burns to kidney ailments. Queen Cleopatra regarded the gel as a fountain of youth and used it to preserve her skin against the ravages of the Egyptian sun. The Egyptians were also believed to have used the aloe plant in their embalming process. The Bible is full of references to aloe, and it is still widely used in Africa to heal burns and wounds. Aloe vera has been used successfully in the United States to treat radiation burns. A recent study in the Journal of Dermatological Surgery and Oncology shows that aloe vera significantly speeded the healing process on patients who underwent facial dermabrasion - the removal of the top layers of skin to remove scars.

Possible Benefits:

  • Soothes and promotes healing of sunburn or other kinds of minor burns.
  • Useful for bug bites and mild skin irritations.
  • Helps keep skin soft and supple.
  • Taken internally, aloe is an effective laxative and promotes general healing.

How to Use It:


  • Capsules: Take one capsule up to 3 times a day.
  • Juice or gel: Take 1 tablespoon up to three times a day.


  • Gel: Aloe vera gel may be used liberally as needed.


Do not take aloe internally during pregnancy. Aloe should not be used internally by children or the elderly.

Personal Advice:

There are many so-called aloe vera preparation on the market that contain very little of this precarious herb. Some contain only a minute quantity of aloe; others contain “aloe extract,” or “reconstituted aloe vera,” watered-down versions that are not as beneficial as bona fide aloe gel. A true aloe product should list aloe vera as a primary ingredient - as the first or second ingredient listed on the label - or state that it is 97 to 99 percent pure aloe vera.

Source: Earl Mindell's Herb Bible. Photo source.

Buckthorn (rhamnus spp.) 

Gender: Feminine

Planet: Saturn

Element: Water

Powers: Protection, exorcism, wishes, legal matters

Magical uses: Branches of the buckthorn, placed near doors and windows, drive away all enchantments and sorceries, according to Dioscorides. 

A charming legend concerning the buckthorn vows that if one sprinkles buckthorn in a circle and then dances within it under a full Moon, an elf will appear. The dancer must notice the elf and say. ‘Halt and grant my boon!’ before the creature flees. The elf will then grant one wish. I cannot make any guarantees that this will happen, however. 

Buckthorn is also used in legal matters (carried or worn to court, etc) and as a general good luck generator. 

(Source: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs)