Man the inverted tree

“For a human being is like an inverted tree. That is why he is called ant[h]ropos by the Greeks, that is, ‘turned upside down’. For real trees thrust their roots, as it were the head, downward into the earth, from which they draw their nutriment, but they expand their branches upward. On the contrary, human stretch up their heads, as it were the roots, into the air, from which they breathe.” (William of Conches, A Dialogue on Natural Philosophy, 6.23.4)

As the editor explains,

“As if from ana-trepo… ‘to turn over, upset’: a wrong (‘popular’) etymology going back, via Isidore of Seville, to the notorious Stoic school…” (Ronca and Curr, Dialogue, 204n135)


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