Chapter 5. Minos

Another significant detail of the Third Cretan Lie is the famous and remarkably obscure description of Aithon’s supposed ancestor, Minos, the king at Knossos:
τῇσι δ’ ἐνὶ Κνωσός, μεγάλη πόλις, ἔνθα τε Μίνως
ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής.
(Odyssey 19.178–179)
And among them there is Knossos, a great city,
where Minos was king in nine-year periods and conversed with great Zeus.
It remains unclear what exactly is meant by ἐννέωρος βασίλευε, ‘ruled in nine-year periods’, and why Minos is designated by the highly unusual term ὀαριστής. Plato apparently took ἐννέωρος, ‘nine-year-long’, with ὀαριστής, ‘conversation partner’, rather than with βασίλευε, ‘ruled’, and explained that Minos went to talk with Zeus every ninth year, and brought back laws for the cities. [1] Nine-year cycles have been attested for Greek festivals and religious observances, the early Pythian games being one obvious example. [2] In the case of Minos’ visits with Zeus, in Plato’s version, this nine-year period seems to be implicitly connected with renewal of a social order through law. In later sources, Minos converses with Zeus in the Idaean cave, presumably the one {82|83} where the god was born. [3] This, again, suggests periodic renewal, since renewal in general is associated with the birth cave of Zeus. For example, according to a myth preserved in Antoninus Liberalis (19), on Crete there is a sacred cave in which Zeus is reported to be born and which is inhabited by the ‘sacred bees’, the nurses of the god. Every year a great fire is seen blazing out of the cave and it is said that this happens when Zeus’ birth-blood ‘boils out’ (ἐκζέῃ). A yearly event in the cave seems to re-enact the birth of the god.
Just as the reference to nine years is suggestive but elusive in its meaning, so too is the term ὀαριστής applied to Minos. This is a rare word, [4] and precisely because of this its usage here deserves further consideration. In what follows I attempt to make some, albeit necessarily hypothetical, suggestions about the meaning and impact of this word in the mouth of Odysseus.
Words derived from the root of ὄαρ, ‘wife’, can carry a mildly erotic connotation, as is well known. For example, when Aphrodite gives Hera her waistband that contains all manner of allurements, including ὀαριστύς, a term conventionally translated as ‘familiar converse’:
Ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στήθεσφιν ἐλύσατο κεστὸν ἱμάντα
ποικίλον, ἔνθα δέ οἱ θελκτήρια πάντα τέτυκτο·
ἔνθ’ ἔνι μὲν φιλότης, ἐν δ’ ἵμερος, ἐν δ’ ὀαριστὺς
πάρφασις, ἥ τ’ ἔκλεψε νόον πύκα περ φρονεόντων.
(Iliad 14.214–217)
She spoke, and from under her breast she loosened the embroidered strap,
ornate, with all manner of charms in it:
it contains affection, and desire, and seductive conversation,
the kind that deceives the mind even of clever men.
The erotic connotation of oaristus is only one side of its meaning, however, and an optional one. It is certainly not present in every word derived from the same root, and even oaristus itself is not always primarily erotic. In the passage just cited, oaristus undoubtedly has to do with love, but it seems to be something more particular than simply an amorous conversation. Instead, it is a dangerous kind of discourse which leads to the loss of one’s mind and therefore delivers one defenseless into the opponent’s hands. Πάρφασις, {83|84} the word with which oaristus is paired, usually designates a speech aimed at winning over the interlocutor and pressing him into a particular course of action. [5] Parphasis, and no doubt oaristus too, can be truthful or not, spoken in love or in hate, but in either case it is a question of one person prevailing over another. This suggests that the type of discourse contained in Aphrodite’s waistband has to do with power and control, in other words, that it is agonistic as well as erotic.
Elsewhere the term ὀαριστύς seems to designate an openly agonistic equal exchange between a man and a woman. In a pseudo-Theocritean poem titled Ὀαριστύς a boy and a girl first tease and taunt each other and then make love in the bushes, parting with a promise of marriage from the boy (Theocritus 27.34–36). The girl insists that she is wooed by many and likes none, that she will escape Eros, that marriage brings grief, and that the shepherd boy with whom she talks is good enough only to kiss heifers. The boy responds that none can escape Eros and Aphrodite, that there is pleasure in marriage, and that the girl should not boast, because her youth will quickly pass. The following is a typical exchange:
ΚΟ. καλόν σοι δαμάλας φιλέειν, οὐκ ἄζυγα κώραν.
ΔΑ. μὴ καυχῶ· τάχα γάρ σε παρέρχεται ὡς ὄναρ ἥβη.
(Theocritus 27.7–8)
[Girl] You are fit to kiss heifers, not an unmarried girl.
[Daphnis] Don’t brag. Youth will quickly flee from you, like a dream.
The whole poem consists of a dialogue equally divided between the two: one line from the boy, one line from the girl. In ancient Greece, most genres of speech and song are either male or female, but in this poem both speakers have equal parts. It is certainly an amorous conversation, but also an antagonistic one: the two are not yet lovers and jostle for a favorable position in their future relationship.
The same notion of even distribution between male and female may be present in the verb ὀαρίζω, from which the noun ὀαριστύς is derived. Thus {84|85} the final conjugal conversation between Hektor and Andromakhe, in which each reacts to the fears and hopes of the other, is characterized by this verb (Iliad 6.516). When Hektor uses ὀαρίζω before his confrontation with Achilles, his very diction iconically expresses the idea of agonistic balance by twice repeating the expression παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε, ‘a girl and a boy’:
οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης
τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι, ἅ τε παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε
παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ’ ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιιν.
(Iliad 22.126–128)
Now there is no way to converse with him from a tree or a rock,
the way a girl and a lad,
a girl and a lad talk together.
Lines 127–128 are an exercise in symmetry: not only is the expression παρθένος ἠΐθεός repeated, but it is put in a chiastic arrangement with two oar-words, ὀαριζέμεναι and ὀαρίζετον, and the whole construction is concluded with the dual ἀλλήλοιιν, ‘to each other’, which expresses the idea of mutuality not only semantically but iconically, being a doubling of allos and reflecting this origin in its repetitive phonetics. The idea of two equal opponents seems to be just as present in Hektor’s syntax as it is evident in Pseudo-Theocritus’ poem, and goes well with the setting of his musings: the confrontation between Achilles and Hektor is contrasted not simply with a love-chat, but, being an agonistic encounter, with an agonistic situation that is its extreme opposite. The logic behind Hektor’s sudden foray into an apparent pastoral is also reflected in the formulaic system itself. The agonistic potential of the genre of oaristus is probably what accounts for its metaphorical use in the Iliad of hand-to-hand combat: πολέμου ὀαριστύς, ‘amorous converse of war’ (17.228), and προμάχων οαριστύν, ‘amorous converse of front-rank fighters’ (13.291). For Hektor and Achilles, however, the evocation of oaristus is especially meaningful because it is a premarital genre. Hektor’s death in the Iliad is pictured as a negation of his marriage, so that it even becomes an occasion for a direct recollection of his wedding. When Andromakhe sees Hektor’s dead body, she faints and loses her headband, which she received specifically on their wedding day:
τῆλε δ’ ἀπὸ κρατὸς βάλε δέσματα σιγαλόεντα,
ἄμπυκα κεκρύφαλόν τε ἰδὲ πλεκτὴν ἀναδέσμην
κρήδεμνόν θ’, ὅ ῥά οἱ δῶκε χρυσῆ Ἀφροδίτη {85|86}
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε μιν κορυθαίολος ἠγάγεθ’ Ἕκτωρ
ἐκ δόμου Ἠετίωνος, ἐπεὶ πόρε μυρία ἕδνα.
(Iliad 22.468–472)
And far off from her head she cast the shining headdress,
the diadem and the cap and the plaited band,
and the head-band golden Aphrodite gave her
on that day when Hector of the shining helmet led her in marriage
from Eetion’s house, after giving countless gifts.
As for Achilles, he is pictured as an ideal bridegroom in traditions outside of the Iliad, such as in Sappho (F 105b V), [6] and the Iliad itself envisages an impossible future in which Achilles will marry Briseis in Phthia (19.295–300). He is also a doomed bridegroom, destined never to become a husband. There are indications both in the Iliad itself and in what survives of the Epic Cycle that Achilles’ identity as a perfect but doomed bridegroom was no less important than his identity as a perfect warrior, and moreover it has been argued that this identity as bridegroom is a matching counterpart to his identity as warrior. [7] If this is so, then the glimpse of oaristus that precedes the duel in Iliad 22 is as meaningful for Achilles as it is for Hektor, since it invites thoughts of marriage at the moment when Achilles is about to seal his fate to die an untimely death at war.
Further, Hektor’s very utterance of the two words together, παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε, ‘a girl and a lad’, evokes another genre where the “girls” and the “boys” play equal parts, this time not a genre of speech, but rather the dance on the shield of Achilles, performed on a dancing ground like the one Daidalos once made for Ariadne in Knossos:
Ἐν δὲ χορὸν ποίκιλλε περικλυτὸς ἀμφιγυήεις,
τῷ ἴκελον οἷόν ποτ’ ἐνὶ Κνωσῷ εὐρείῃ
Δαίδαλος ἤσκησεν καλλιπλοκάμῳ Ἀριάδνῃ.
ἔνθα μὲν ἠΐθεοι καὶ παρθένοι ἀλφεσίβοιαι
ὀρχεῦντ’ ἀλλήλων ἐπὶ καρπῷ χεῖρας ἔχοντες.
(Iliad 18.590–594) {86|87}
And on it [the shield] the famed lame one fashioned a dancing place,
like the one that Daidalos once made for Ariadne in broad Knossos,
where lads and girls who attract bride-gifts of oxen
dance holding each other by the wrists.
This dance is a parallel to an oaristus: most dances and choruses are either male or female, but here the girls and the boys are together, holding hands, and seem to play equal parts. This feature, along with the mention of Ariadne, brings to mind the famous geranos dance. According to Plutarch, when Theseus sailed back from Crete to Athens with the ‘boys and girls’ rescued from the Minotaur, they performed this dance on Delos, after Theseus dedicated an aphrodision he had received from Ariadne. [8] It is a mysterious story: Ariadne has already been abandoned at Naxos, and yet the dedication of the aphrodision suggests that the dance celebrates her love with Theseus. In an attempt to untangle the contradictions of the myth, Calame has suggested that an earlier setting for geranos was in fact not Delos, but Crete itself. [9] This would bring the geranos dance even closer to the dance on the shield, although Calame himself resists the identification of the two proposed by the scholia as worthless on the grounds that the geranos is danced without armor, while the dancers on the shield have daggers. Be that as it may, the two dances, even if they are not the same, are morphologically similar: both have something to do with Crete and Ariadne and both bring together boys and girls. In fact, a scholion on this passage even claims that Theseus’ geranos was the first occasion on which males and females ever danced together:
ἄμεινον δὲ ἐκεῖνο φάσκειν ὅτι πρώην διακεχωρισμένως χορευόντων ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν πρῶτοι οἱ μετὰ Θησέως σωθέντες ἐκ τοῦ λαβυρίνθου ἠΐθεοι καὶ παρθένοι ἀναμὶξ ἐχόρευσαν.
(Scholia (T) on Iliad 18.591)
It is better to say that while previously men and women danced separately, Theseus and the lads and girls who were saved from the Labyrinth were the first to dance together. {87|88}
It is noteworthy that the scholiast uses exactly the same words for boys and girls, ἠΐθεοι καὶ παρθένοι, as Hektor does when he thinks of an oaristus before his confrontation with Achilles. Like the geranos, the dance on the shield of Achilles looks like an erotic and premarital genre. The emphasis is on the physical beauty and ornate attire of the dancers, the dancing floor belongs to Ariadne, the elders stand on the sides and admire the young, and the girls are described as ἀλφεσίβοιαι, ‘attracting bride-gifts of oxen’ (18.593), an epithet that applies to them only when they marry. [10]
By the same token, the Oaristus of Pseudo-Theocritus is a premarital discourse, and it seems likely that this circumstance is what accounts for the unusual equal distribution of male and female roles in both genres: as they meet and probe each other, boys and girls engage in the agonistic discourse of oaristus, and in a mixed dance, as a kind of mutual introduction. After marriage their relationship will presumably change and the balance will shift.
A similar coloring may be present in a related term oaros, which appears in a Hesiodic description of Aphrodite, in a context much like that of the Homeric oaristus:
ταύτην δ’ ἐξ ἀρχῆς τιμὴν ἔχει ἠδὲ λέλογχε
μοῖραν ἐν ἀνθρώποισι καὶ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι,
παρθενίους τ’ ὀάρους μειδήματά τ’ ἐξαπάτας τε
τέρψίν τε γλυκερὴν φιλότητά τε μειλιχίην τε.
(Theogony 204–207) [11]
And from the beginning she received and has this honor,
her share among men and immortal gods:
girlish conversations and smiles and deceits,
and sweet pleasure and honey-sweet affection.
Like oaristus, oaros is associated with deceit, which suggests that it too is first and foremost a self-interested and manipulative way of speaking. Overtly erotic connotations, however, are optional in the case of oaros, and a more persistent connotation associates it more generally with the young and especially with coming to maturity. Pindar uses this term to refer to a song, and in three occurrences out of four in the victory odes it is a song performed {88|89} by young men. [12] In Pythian 1, for example, Phalaris will never be welcomed, in contrast to a victor at the games, by the ‘oaroi of the boys’:
οὐδέ νιν φόρμιγγες ὑπωρόφιαι κοινανίαν
μαλθακὰν παίδων ὀάροισι δέκονται
(Pythian 1.97–98).
And now no lyres resounding under the roof welcome him
in gentle companionship with songs [oaroi] of the boys.
Especially interesting is the use of oaros in Pythian 4, where it refers to a challenging speech Jason addresses to Pelias. The subject is the coming of the new generation. After a period of lawless rule by the usurper Pelias, Jason returns to take the place of his exiled father as rightful king. He addresses Pelias with an oaros:
πραῢν δ’ Ἰάσων
μαλθακᾷ φωνᾷ ποτιστάζων ὄαρον
βάλλετο κρηπῖδα σοφῶν ἐπέων·
(Pythian 4.136–138)
And Jason,
letting fall gentle words [oaros] in a soft voice,
laid the foundation of wise speech.
Jason proceeds to say that he lays no claim to Pelias’ wealth, but has come to take his position as king (139–156), his ancestral scepter (σκᾶπτον μόναρχον καὶ θρόνος, ‘sole ruler’s scepter and throne’, 152–153). His demand is based on his descent, which he measures and finds equal to that of Pelias.
Like the oaristus, the oaros seems to have an agonistic side to it. The contents of the oaroi performed by youths in Pindar and maidens in Hesiod and Callimachus remain unknown, but it seems that like the oaristus, the oaros connotes both the joys and allurements of youth and the conflict-ridden process of confrontation as this youth comes to occupy its place in the world.
A confrontation between a young future king and an older king who is negatively viewed is itself likely to be a traditional theme, since Jason’s confrontation with Pelias resembles on several counts the process that brings Theseus to the throne at Athens, as represented in Bacchylides 17. In both cases, there is a confrontation, an extreme and unfair trial successfully {89|90} undergone by the young man, and his eventual success in becoming a king. In Bacchylides 17, Theseus is on his journey to Crete with the boys and girls chosen for the Minotaur. While at sea he finds fault with Minos (who touches one of the girls) and challenges the older man. Like Jason, Theseus bases his claim on his regal pedigree, which is matched to that of Minos: the Cretan king is a son of Zeus, but Theseus is not inferior, since his father is Poseidon (Bacchylides 17.29–38). No words derived from the root oar- appear in Bacchylides’ poem, but it is worth noting that it captures the same two aspects of coming of age that attach to such words, namely the erotic and the agonistic. Minos is aroused by the ‘gifts of Aphrodite’ (10) when he touches one of the Athenian maidens (11–12). The quarrel is prompted by this threatening touch and thus takes place in a sexually charged atmosphere, and yet it develops into a dispute over Theseus’ worth and powers and results in a test and triumph of the younger man. The poem develops themes typically associated with youth, as indicated also by its transmitted title: Ἠίθεοι ἢ Θησεύς, ‘The lads, or Theseus’.
It seems that terms derived from the oar- root designate genres of speech and song which are associated with the entry of a new generation into adult life. The themes of cyclical renewal and of a new generation’s entry into maturity go hand in hand, just as in the Odyssey the return of Odysseus and renewal of life on Ithaca is accompanied by Telemachus’ coming of age, while Odysseus himself takes on characteristics typical of a maturing adolescent. The same combination of themes may be implied in Minos’ periodic conversations with Zeus. Part of this thematic nexus is signaled by the unusual word oaristes applied to Minos.
When in Iliad 22 Hektor imagines a boy and a girl having an oaristus/oaros, the apparent subject is an old and formulaic one, ‘the tree and the rock’ (ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης, 22.126). The same formula surfaces in the Odyssey, and in the very conversation where Minos appears as oaristes of Zeus. When Penelope invites her guest to reveal his identity she says that he surely does not come ‘from a tree or a rock’:
οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυός ἐσσι παλαιφάτου οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης.
(Odyssey 19.163)
For you are not from an old-renowned tree, nor from a rock.
In contrast to such primordial origins, perhaps the origins of the humankind itself, her guest must have a family and place of birth. But in response Odysseus claims for himself a genealogy which is impressively primordial. {90|91} Not only is he descended from Zeus in the third generation, but his grandfather is named Deukalion, a name that is connected to the very beginnings of the humankind. Nothing is known about this Deukalion, father of Minos, and there is no reason to think that he is the same as the hero of the flood myth, but the name, occurring as it does in close proximity to the tree and the rock, brings to mind the myth of the primordial couple, Deukalion and Pyrrha, who created people out of rocks by throwing these rocks behind them. [13]
It is in any case interesting that twice in Homer the undoubtedly old formula “the tree and the rock” co-occurs with the oar-words, oaristes and oaristus. [14] Jeanmaire speculated that the “tree and rock” conversation held by boys and girls and recalled by Hektor in Book 22 probably refers to “quelque mythe naif expliquant, par un couple primitif, l’origine de l’humanité.” [15] Naive or not, the conversation about the tree and the rock may well have to do with the origins of the humankind, since both a renewal of order and an entry of a new generation into this order are a fitting occasion for a talk about such origins. [16] As a new cycle begins, the ultimate beginnings are revisited. If this is the case, then there may be an old mutual attraction between the tree and rock formula and the oar-words, an attraction that may explain their repeated proximity. This is not something that is made overt in the Odyssey. The tree and rock formula is spoken by Penelope, the oaristes is mentioned by Odysseus, and there is no immediate tangible link between these two elements as there is in Hektor’s speech in the Iliad. Still, these are elements that belong together in a certain context and their occurrence can remind the audiences of such a context, thus setting the mood for the scene. On the surface of the narrative, skeptical Penelope is questioning a wandering beggar about his family, but just below the surface other themes begin to develop, triggered by key words: coming of age, renewal, the coming of the new king, and approaching marriage.
It is also worth noting that Crete has cropped up repeatedly in our discussion, both in contexts where oar-words are used and otherwise in connection with the relevant themes. The dance on the shield of Achilles is compared to {91|92} a Cretan dance performed on a dancing floor of Minos’ daughter Ariadne. The geranos is performed on Delos but forms part of the story of Theseus’ journey to Crete, his confrontation with Minos, and his love story with Ariadne. I have already mentioned above the possibility suggested by Calame that there were non-Athenian versions of the myth in which the geranos was actually performed on Crete. The Cretan journey and the same themes are also part of Bacchylides 17, where, as we have seen, Minos’ descent from Zeus also comes into play. As in the Odyssey, this seems to be the ultimate qualification of a king. It seems that Crete and the family of Minos have a special connection with a nexus of various themes, premarital, erotic, and agonistic, all having to do with the rise of a new generation. If the preceding analysis has some validity, then in the Third Cretan Lie the word oaristes points to this nexus of themes. The bare mention of Minos may bring to mind the notions of kingship and Zeus’ protection, but Minos specifically as oaristes of the god triggers an additional set of associations. If the oar-words do indeed carry agonistic and youth-related connotations, then in what sense can Minos be oaristes of Zeus? It seems that he can be so described if those interactions, at nine year intervals, between the god and the king are imagined in some sense as Minos’ re-becoming king, or perhaps even re-coming of age. The social renewal and reaffirmation that seems to be achieved goes hand and hand with the renewal and reaffirmation of the king himself. This Minos should be very much at home in the Odyssey precisely at the moment when his name appears – at the moment when the household of Odysseus, and Odysseus himself, are about to undergo just such a renewal. {92|}


[ back ] 1. Minos 319b (Minos is said to be ‘educated’ by Zeus) and Laws 624a (laws are set down according to Minos’ conversations with Zeus). The same explanation is given in Strabo 10.4.8, 16.2.38.
[ back ] 2. Russo 1992:85 (ad loc.) with references. Early Pythian games took place every eight years (ἐνναετηρίς, counted inclusively), see OCD s.v. “Pythian games” with references. According to Plutarch, Spartan kings were re-confirmed in their power every nine years (Life of Agis 11). According to Diodorus Siculus (4.61.3) and Plutarch (Life of Theseus 15.1), the Athenians had to send seven youths and seven maidens to the Minotaur every nine years. For more on connections between the Odyssean passage under discussion and the myth of Theseus’ voyage to Crete with the youths, see below.
[ back ] 3. Ephorus FGrH 70 F 14, Etymologicum Magnum 343.25 (s.v. ἐννέωροι), Eustathius 2.198.5–6 (on Odyssey 19.178), Strabo 10.4.8, 16.2.38.
[ back ] 4. The Odyssean instance of oaristes is cited by Plato, Minos 319d, and Timo calls Pythagoras σεμνηγορίης ὀαριστήν in a hexametric distich (fr. 57 Diels).
[ back ] 5. LSJ glosses παραφήμι as ‘advise’, ‘persuade’, and also ‘speak deceitfully’, a range of meaning close to that of ὀαριστύς. Cunliff’s (1963) gloss ‘to induce to a course of action, persuade, prevail upon, win over’ is more precise. The same meaning is evident in the noun παραίφασις/πάρφασις, as it is used, for example, by Nestor at Iliad 11.793: ὣς ἐπέτελλ’ ὃ γέρων, σὺ δὲ λήθεαι· ἀλλ’ ἔτι καὶ νῦν | ταῦτ’ εἴποις Ἀχιλῆϊ δαΐφρονι αἴ κε πίθηται. | τίς δ’ οἶδ’ εἴ κέν οἱ σὺν δαίμονι θυμὸν ὀρίναις | παρειπών; ἀγαθὴ δὲ παραίφασίς ἐστιν ἑταίρου (11.790–793).
[ back ] 6. See Nagy 2007b:21 for discussion.
[ back ] 7. See Nagy 2007b:21 for a discussion of Achilles as ‘equal to Ares’ both as a warrior and as a bridegroom and Nagy 2005:80–81 on erotic aspects of Achilles, which are implicit but understated in the Iliad.
[ back ] 8. Plutarch, Life of Theseus 21.2.
[ back ] 9. Calame 1996:118–120.
[ back ] 10. Edwards 1991:229 ad loc., Lonsdale 1995. On the initiatory aspects of the geranos and its connection to Theseus’ adventure on Crete see Condoléon-Bolanacchi 1989 and Delavaud-Roux 1992.
[ back ] 11. Cf. ὄαροι νυμφᾶν in Callimachus Hymn 5.66.
[ back ] 12. Pindar Pythian 1.98, 4.137, Nemean 3.11; in the fourth instance the oaros is in the poet’s voice, Nemean 7.69.
[ back ] 13. Akousilaos 2F35, Pindar Olympian 9.42–46, Apollodorus 1.7.2.
[ back ] 14. Apart from the two Homeric instances, a variation of the tree and the rock formula occurs in Hesiod Theogony 35 (see West 1966:268 ad loc. for a detailed discussion). On the formula, its Iranian cognate, and Indo-European origin see Watkins 1995:161–164.
[ back ] 15. Jeanmaire 1939/1975:333.
[ back ] 16. Eustathius (4.589, on Iliad 23.126–128) and the Odyssey Scholia (on 19.163) speculate that the phrase has to do either with the practice of exposing children, who were then said to be born from trees and rocks, or with the origins of humankind.