After asserting that man’s physiology bears witness to the three kinds of “worlds” that exist and the kinds of knowledge that correspond to them, Zanchi notes that natural philosophy is useful for two of them (the lower and the middle), he adds–in reliance on the Platonici–that there are three kinds of men that correspond to these three kinds of knowledge, and tosses in a learned allusion to Hesiod’s Theogony to boot with respect to the first kind of men, to which this post is limited.1
Since these things are so, it is fitting that man, because he is a μικρόκοσμος [microcosm] and in him are contained the three remaining worlds, know the remaining worlds and himself. And yet it is natural philosophy that hands on the knowledge of this lower world, and also in large part the knowledge of the middle one–namely, the heavenly. Who, then, could not see that this study of natural philosophy is worthy of man? What the Platonists say can also be adduced here–namely, that there are three kinds of men. Of these, they call some sons of earth, namely those who are wise only in earthly things, and are not bound by any desire for virtue or philosophy. Some hand on the tradition that the giants [gygantes] were of this kind, whom Hesiod also called children of earth; even the very letters of the name indicate their being ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς [“from the earth”].2 Since they are wise only in earthly things, they are stooped downward toward food and sex.3
- The translation is my own.
- Zanchi refers to the mythical account of the origin of the giants in Hesiod’s Theogony and to the corresponding etymology of the word “giant” (γίγας); for the giants were born from the earth (γῆ, γαῖα). In the myth, Kronos castrates his father Ouranos, and the refuse from the mutilation is perversely fertile: “And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round  she bore the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless earth” (in Greek: ὅσσαι γὰρ ῥαθάμιγγες ἀπέσσυθεν αἱματόεσσαι,/ πάσας δέξατο Γαῖα: περιπλομένων δ᾽ ἐνιαυτῶν/ γείνατ᾽ Ἐρινῦς τε κρατερὰς μεγάλους τε Γίγαντας,/ τεύχεσι λαμπομένους, δολίχ᾽ ἔγχεα χερσὶν ἔχοντας,/ Νύμφας θ᾽ ἃς Μελίας καλέουσ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν).
- Perhaps a further reference to Hesiod. The word Zanchi uses for “sex” here is Venerem < Venus, the Roman name for Aphrodite–who was also born from Ouranos’ abscission: “And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea,  they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass  grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus,  and Philommedes because she sprang from the members. And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods.”