- Egyptian (culture)
- Domestic (attribute)
- Friendly (behaviour)
The Sphinx is a living statue from ancient Egypt that has the body of a lion but the head of an animal. This head is sometimes a man like the statue in Giza or of a Ram as in the temple of Amun. There are in fact three types of Sphinx: the Androphinx which had the body of a lion with the head of a human, the Criosphinx which had the body of a lion with the head of a ram and the Hierocosphonx which had the body of a lion with the head of a hawk.
The most common Egyptian Sphinx was the Androsphinx which usually had the head of a man. In contrast the Greek Sphinx had the head of a woman and in some cases, the wings of an eagle. Both of them wear a headdress of a Pharaoh. The name is originally Greek as a translation of the ancient Egyptian ‘shesep-ankh’ meaning ‘living statue’. Other sources claim that hte name derived from ‘sphingo’ which means to strangle'. The Greek Sphinx was a symbol of deathand bad luck and posed riddles to travellers and asked one to Oedipus:
“What goes on four legs, on two and then three, But the more legs it goes on the weaker it be?”
Oedipus answered ‘Man’ as he goes on four as a baby, then two as an adult and finally on three using a walking stick in old age. This answer satisfied the Sphinx and then it helped Oedipus to kill the Grecian Sphinx.
The nomadic arabs who came across the Sphinx statues whilst travelling through Egypt referred to it as the ‘Father of Terrors’. However the Egyptians saw it as a solar symbol and is associated with the sun god Ra, Horus in the Horizon and Harmakhis the Lord if the Two Horizons (who represents the setting sun rebirth and resurrection).
The most famous statue of the Sphinx is the one built in the 4th dynasty (2723 - 2563 B.C.E.) in Gizeh at the western bank of the Nile. The head is of the Pharaoh Khaf-Ra (Chephren).
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Background Illustrations (Left top-bottom, right top-bottom): Medusa by Gonzalo Ordonez, Loch Ness Monster by dyb,
Basilisk by JustMick, Shuck by Serphire, Ts Um A Kas - Illustration of a rock painting (from Dover publications).