Erysichthon was the name first of a son of Cecrops and Aglaurus and, second, of a son of Triopas, king of Dotion in Thessaly. This second Erysichthon dared to invade a grove of Demeter at Dotium, and began cutting down the sacred trees to provide timber for his new banqueting hall. Demeter punished him by making him perpetually hungry, so that he became a street-beggar, eating filth from the ground.

The trouble here is that eryo means both 'to tear' and 'to guard', so his name can mean either 'earth tearer' (with the latter half of his name from chthon, 'earth') or 'earth guardian'. As a beggar he had to 'tear earth' in order to eat and survive, but we are not told how he guarded any land.

Perhaps we can compromise and consider 'ploughman' (one who both 'tears' the earth and guards it). One theory suggests erysibe, 'mildew' as lying behind his name: mildew, after all, devours, and this represents Erysichthon's insatiable hunger.