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In Greek mythology, Erysichthon (/ˌɛrɪˈsɪkθɒn/ Ἐρυσίχθων ὁ Θεσσαλός, "earth-tearer"), also anglicised as Erisichthon,[1] was a King of Thessaly. He was sometimes called Aethon.[2][3][4]


Erysichthon was the son of Triopas[5][6][7][8] possibly by Hiscilla, daughter of Myrmidon and thus, brother to Iphimedeia[9] and Phorbas.[10][11] In some accounts, however, he was called instead the son of Myrmidon[12][13] possibly by Peisidice, daughter of Aeolus and Enarete, and thus, brother to Antiphus, Actor,[14] Dioplethes,[15] Eupolemeia[16] and Hiscilla.[11]

Greek Mythology

Erysichthon Sells His Daughter Mestra. Engraving by Bauer for Ovid's Metamorphoses Book VIII, 823-878


Erysichthon once ordered all trees in the sacred grove of Demeter to be cut down. One huge oak was covered with votive wreaths, a symbol of every prayer Demeter had granted, and so the men refused to cut it down. Erysichthon grabbed an axe and cut it down himself, killing a dryad nymph in the process. The nymph's dying words were a curse on Erysichthon.

Demeter responded to the nymph's curse and punished him by entreating Limos, the spirit of unrelenting and insatiable hunger, to place herself in his stomach. Food acted like fuel on a fire: The more he ate, the hungrier he got. Erysichthon sold all his possessions to buy food, but was still hungry. At last he sold his own daughter Mestra into slavery. Mestra was freed from slavery by her former lover Poseidon, who gave her the gift of shape-shifting into any creature at will to escape her bonds. Erysichthon used her shape-shifting ability to sell her numerous times to make money to feed himself, but no amount of food was enough. Eventually, Erysichthon ate himself in hunger. Nothing of him remained the following morning.[17][18]
Rationalization of the myth

Palaephatus, who was trying to rationalize the Greek myths in his On Unbelievable Tales (Ancient Greek: Περὶ ἀπίστων ἱστοριῶν), wrote that Erysichthon was a rich Thessalian man who became poor. He had a beautiful daughter, the Mestra. Men who wanted to marry her gave horses, cows, sheep or whatever Mestra wanted. The Thessalians seeing the livelihood of Erysichthon piling up were saying "from Mestra came horse and cow and other things" (ἐγένετο ἐκ Μήστρας αὐτῷ καὶ ἵππος καὶ βοῦς καὶ τἄλλα), and this how the myth developed.[19]
See also

Charles Domery
Erysichthon of Attica


Bulfinch, Thomas. Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne. T. Y. Crowell Company. Madison, WI. 1913. p. 169
Ioannis Ziogas, Ovid and Hesiod, p. 141
Lycophron, Alexandra 1396
Achaeus, Aithon (TrGF 20 FF 5a-11)
Hellanicus fr. 122 (Fowler 2013, p. 158)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.751
Callimachus, Hymn 6.31-2 & 96-100
Scholia on Lycophron, Alexandra 1393
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.7.4
Homeric Hymns to Apollo, 3.211
Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.14.5
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 10.9b
Aelian, Varia Historia 1.27
Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.7.3
Scholia on Homer, Iliad, 16. 177
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 54
Ovid. Metamorphoses VIII, 738-878
Callimachus, Hymn to Demeter, 34 ff

Palaephatus, On Unbelievable Things, 23

Primary sources

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica translated by Robert Cooper Seaton (1853-1915), R. C. Loeb Classical Library Volume 001. London, William Heinemann Ltd, 1912. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica. George W. Mooney. London. Longmans, Green. 1912. Greek text .
Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophists or Banquet of the Learned. London. Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. 1854. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
Athenaeus of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae. Kaibel. In Aedibus B.G. Teubneri. Lipsiae. 1887. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
Callimachus, Callimachus and Lycophron with an English translation by A. W. Mair ; Aratus, with an English translation by G. R. Mair, London: W. Heinemann, New York: G. P. Putnam 1921. Internet Archive
Callimachus, Works. A.W. Mair. London: William Heinemann; New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1921. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
Gaius Julius Hyginus, Astronomica from The Myths of Hyginus translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
Lycophron, The Alexandra translated by Alexander William Mair. Loeb Classical Library Volume 129. London: William Heinemann, 1921. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
Lycophron, Alexandra translated by A.W. Mair. London: William Heinemann; New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1921. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, The Library with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. ISBN 0-674-99135-4. . Greek text .
Publius Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses translated by Brookes More (1859-1942). Boston, Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
Publius Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses. Hugo Magnus. Gotha (Germany). Friedr. Andr. Perthes. 1892. Latin text available at the Perseus Digital Library.

Secondary source
Hunter, Richard, ed. (2008). The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Constructions and Reconstructions. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521069823.

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