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sphinx

sphinx (sfĬngks), mythical beast of ancient Egypt, frequently symbolizing the pharaoh as an incarnation of the sun god Ra. The sphinx was represented in sculpture usually in a recumbent position with the head of a man and the body of a lion, although some were constructed with rams' heads and others with hawks' heads. Thousands of sphinxes were built in ancient Egypt; the most famous is the Great Sphinx at Giza, a colossal figure sculptured out of natural rock, near the pyramid of Khafre. It was considered by the ancients one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Sphinxes, however, were not peculiar to Egypt; represented in various shapes and forms, they were common throughout the ancient Middle East and Greece. In Greek mythology and art the Sphinx was a winged monster with the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a lion. In the legend of Oedipus she acts as a destructive agent of the gods, posing the riddle of the three ages of man: "What walks on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?" She killed all who failed to answer her question until Oedipus solved the riddle by saying, "Man crawls on all fours as a baby, walks upright in the prime of life, and uses a staff in old age." The Sphinx then killed herself.

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Sphinx

Sphinx in Greek mythology, a winged monster of Thebes, having a woman's head and a lion's body. It propounded a riddle about the three ages of man, killing those who failed to solve it, until Oedipus was successful, whereupon the Sphinx committed suicide.

The name sphinx was later used for the sculptured or carved figure of an imaginary creature with a human head and breast and the body of a lion, in particular, an ancient Egyptian stone figure having a lion's body and a human or animal head, especially the huge statue near the Pyramids at Giza.

The word is recorded from late Middle English (and comes via Latin from Greek, apparently from sphingein ‘draw tight’); from the early 17th century, the name is used for a person held to resemble the sphinx, in posing difficult questions, or in being of a mysterious or inscrutable nature.

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Sphinx

Sphinx

The Sphinx was a legendary winged monster of Greek mythology that had the body of a lion and the head of a woman. Her siblings were Cerberus, Hydra, and the Nemean Lion. The Sphinx lived on a rock outside the city of Thebes, where she terrified the local people. Some sources say Hera* sent the Sphinx to punish the king of Thebes for carrying off one of the children of Zeus*. Others claim that Apollo* sent the monster because the Thebans failed to honor him properly.

The Sphinx posed a riddle to any passerby: "I have four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening, but I am weakest when I have the most legs. What am I?" No one was able to solve the riddle, and the Sphinx killed and devoured anyone who failed to answer correctly. Finally, the Greek hero Oedipus* provided the correct answer: "A human being walks on all fours as a baby, on two legs as an adult, and with a crutch as a third leg when he grows old." Upon hearing Oedipus's answer, the Sphinx killed herself.


pharaoh ruler of ancient Egypt

Egyptian sculpture also included a type of figure called a sphinx, which had a lion's body and the head of the pharaoh. Egyptian sphinxes, which guarded temples and monuments, were unrelated to the Greek Sphinx.

See also Oedipus.

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sphinx

sphinx. Ancient Egyptian sculptured figure of a recumbent lion's body with a male human head (androsphinx), often with the Nemes headdress. Sphinxes in the Egyptian style were often made by the Romans, and the form was revived in the Renaissance, though by then they were female as often as male, and were commonly used in Neo-Classical architecture, especially during the Egyptian Revival. Other types include the Egyptian criosphinx (ram-headed) and hieracosphinx (hawk-headed), and the seated winged Greek sphinx on upright front legs, with the head and breasts of a woman.

Bibliography

J. Curl (2005);
Demisch (1977);
Dessenne (1957);
Roullet (1972)

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Sphinx

SPHINX

Mythological human-headed lion carved from rock at the pyramids of Giza.

The Sphinx is 190 feet (27 m) long and 66 feet (20 m) tall at its highest. It probably represents the pharaoh Khafre (c. 2550 b.c.e.), whose pyramid is nearby. Arabs called it Abu al-Hawl, "father of terror." Like the pyramids, it has become a symbol of Egypt, first appearing on postage stamps in 1867 and replacing the bust of King Farouk (19361952) on coins in the 1950s.


Bibliography

Hassan, Selim. The Sphinx: Its History in the Light of Recent Excavations. Cairo: Government Press, 1949.

donald malcolm reid

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sphinx

sphinx / sfingks/ • n. 1. (Sphinx) Greek Mythol. a winged monster of Thebes, having a woman's head and a lion's body. It propounded a riddle about the three ages of man, killing those who failed to solve it, until Oedipus was successful, whereupon the Sphinx committed suicide. ∎  (the Sphinx) an ancient Egyptian stone figure having a lion's body and a human or animal head, esp. the huge statue near the Pyramids at Giza. ∎  (usu. sphinx) an enigmatic or inscrutable person. 2. (also sphinx moth) another term for hawk moth.

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sphinx

sphinx Mythical beast of the ancient world, usually represented with the head of a person and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx of Thebes, so destroying the Spinx's evil power. Although found throughout the Middle East, images of sphinxes were especially popular in Egypt, where thousands were built. The most famous is the Great Sphinx near the Pyramids at Giza.

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sphinx

sphinx (Gr. myth.) hybrid monster which propounded a riddle; figure of creature having a human head and breast with a lion's body; inscrutable being. XVI. — L.- Gr. Sphígx, presumably f. sphíggein (see prec.)
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sphinx

sphinxcrux, dux, flux, lux, luxe, tux •afflux • efflux • Benelux • conflux •bollocks, Pollux •flummox, lummox •Lennox • barracks • Trossachs •circs, Merckx, Perks •gasworks • steelworks • printworks •waterworks • calx •Franks, Hanks, Manx, Shanks •Fairbanks • phalanx • Gollancz •spindleshanks •jinks, jinx, lynx, methinks, minx, sphinx •larynx, pharynx •Bronx, Tonks, yonks •Monks • quincunx

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