109. Erysichthon eats up his own body

Once upon a time, Theseus and his friends, while staying as guests in the house of the river-god Achelous, heard Achelous relate the story of Erysichthon, an impious person, who gave no honor to the Gods.

Erysichthon went to the sacred grove of Ceres, where there was a massive, ancient oak tree, around which laughing Dryads whirled in festive dances. In defiance of the Gods, Erysichthon felled the sacred tree. The grieving Dryads told the dreadful incident to Ceres, who summoned bony Famine from the icy region of Scythia. Ceres commanded Famine to make Erysichthon suffer unending hunger. At midnight, the emaciated Famine, obeying the command of Ceres, breathed her poisonous breath at the sleeping Erysichthon.

In the morning Erysichthon felt a strong hunger. He ordered his servants to lay up a banquet for him. As a fire never refuses fuel, but upon its receipt, blazes even more fiercely; similarly, his stomach never refused food, but upon receiving the food, hungered even more intensely. The more he ate, the more hungry he became. He went on eating until all his wealth was spent on food. Having no other resources left to procure food, the honorless Erysichthon, sold his daughter Mestra, as a slave. Mestra, with extended arms, implored Neptune, who had earlier deprived her of her virginity, to save her. Neptune gave Mestra the power of changing her form, at her will. Mestra quickly changed herself to a man. The person who had bought Mestra, found no woman and he departed. When Erysichthon learnt that Mestra could escape slavery, he sold her several times. Each time, Mestra saved herself by changing to a bird, a cow, or any other form. In this manner, Erysichthon bought food to soothe his burning hunger. But the cursed hunger could never be soothed, and his insatiable gluttony forced him, to gnaw at his own flesh. Erysichthon ate up his own body and died.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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