An Unpublished Byzantine Medical Fragment (Parisinus Suppl. gr. 607): Pharmaceutical Knowledge and Practice in Tenth-Century Constantinople

Philip Rance


The purpose of this paper is to introduce, edit and translate an unpublished fragment of Byzantine medical writing. Parisinus suppl. gr. 607 preserves a short and seemingly acephalous anthology of pharmaceutical remedies.  A consideration of recipe collections as a distinctive but hard-to-define species of Byzantine Fachliteratur seeks to integrate this text into recent scholarship concerning a broad category of informal therapeutic writings, which testify to Byzantine drug lore, clinical practice and medicinal book culture. Investigation of the codicological structure clarifies that a secondary hand copied the fragment onto a blank folio in the mid-tenth century, contemporary with the compilation this manuscript in a high socio-cultural and intellectual milieu in Constantinople. Examination of compositional contexts, embracing philological, textual, literary-historical and medical dimensions, suggests a ‘private’ remedy collection indicative of the use of texts in ‘household medicine’. This fragment draws particular attention as one of the earliest surviving specimens, while the codex has escaped the notice of previous inventories of Greek manuscripts with medical content.


Byzantine Philology, Literature, Codicology, Medical Texts

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