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Useful weblinks: Erysichthon

Pictures

Demeter

  • What do you imagine Demeter looked like? Depictions of this goddess range from showing her as an austere, older woman to a beautiful, invigorated younger woman.
  • Here is some information about her life and role as a goddess!

Hunger

  • Consider this personification passage from Ovid:
    quaesitamque Famem lapidoso vidit in agro | unguibus et raras vellentem dentibus herbas. | hirtus erat crinis, cava lumina, pallor in ore, | labra incana situ, scabrae rubigine fauces | dura cutis, per quam spectari viscera possent; | ossa sub incurvis exstabant arida lumbis, | ventris erat pro ventre locus; pendere putares | pectus et a spinae tantummodo crate teneri; | auxerat articulos macies genuumque tumebat | orbis et immodico prodibant tubere tali.

    Hunger was found in a stubborn stony field, grabbing with nails and teeth the scanty weeds. Her hair was coarse, her face sallow, her eyes sunken; her lips crusted and white; her throat scaly with scurf. Her parchment skin revealed the bowels within; beneath her hollow loins jutted her withered hips; her sagging breasts seemed hardly fastened to her ribs; her stomach only a void; her joints wasted and huge, her knees like balls, her ankles grossly swollen. [Translation by A.D. Melville]

    Discuss with students how similar this is to the one in the audio file - what do they think Hunger should look like? 

Greed and gluttony

  • Ivan Boesky, an American stock market trader who was sent to prison for insider trading, famously defended greed in his commencement address at the UC Berkeley's School of Business Administration, in which he said, “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”.
  • This speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street, in which Gordon Gekko, a character based in part on Ivan Boesky says “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
  • Yet the Christian Bible clearly holds a different view! Mark 8.36: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?”
  • Take a look at these two opposing quotes about greed: for and against. Questions for students: What do you think about greed? Is it a positive driving force or a destructive desire?
  • Erysichthon suffers from a specific type of greed when Hunger invades his body – Gluttony.
    Gluttony is seen as one of the seven deadly sins. Discuss these questions with students: What do you think about this representation? Does it fit with your impression of Erysichthon in the myth? What about this picture and poem?
  • Consider these adverts for modern food outlets:

How do they each represent their food? Is the emphasis on the taste, the quantity, the price? Do the adverts make you hungry or want to buy the food? If so, are they encouraging gluttony?

Unbelievers/Hubris:

  • The Oxford Classical Dictionary  defines Hubris as follows: ‘Hubris, intentionally dishonouring behaviour, was a powerful term of moral condemnation in ancient Greece…’ [see the teaching activities page of this tale for a more detailed definition of the term].
  • It is a common element of myths that act as warnings for humans about how they should or shouldn’t behave.
  • The most famous example of a classical tale concerning hubris and disregard or disbelief in the gods is the tale of Pentheus. This is most famously told in Euripides’ Bacchae although Ovid also mentions it at the end of book 3 of his Metamorphoses.

Erysichthon’s daughter, Mestra

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Erysichthon’s daughter is called Mestra and it is actually Poseidon who gives to her the ability to shape-shift (this is because he stole her virginity when she was young and takes pity on her now).
  • This perhaps makes more sense than Demeter imparting the gift since shape-shifting was a skill most often linked to gods with a strong connection to water (e.g. Thetis and Proteus).
  • Questions for students: What do you think about Mestra returning to her father so he can sell her again and again? A perfect example of filial piety? Or is she selfless to the point of stupidity?