Sphinx

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, a sphinx is a zoomorphic figure, usually depicted as a recumbent lioness or lion with a human head, but occasionally with the head of a falcon, hawk, or ram. The figure had its origin in the Old Kingdom and is associated with the solar deity Sekhmet, who also was the fierce war deity and protector of the pharaohs. She remained a strong figure in Egyptian religion throughout its history, even during the Amarna period's temporary exploration of monotheism. The sphinxes were often described as Sekhmet's children. The use of heads of other animals atop the lioness body followed the titular deities of the city or region where they were built or which were prominent in the Egyptian pantheon at the time.

Later, the sphinx ima
ge, or something very similar to the original Egyptian concept, was imported into many other cultures, albeit often interpreted quite differently due to translations of descriptions of the originals and the evolution of the concept in relation to other cultural traditions. Perhaps the first sphinx, Hetepheres II from the fourth dynasty (Cairo Museum) Generally the role of sphinxes was as temple guardians; they were placed in association with architectural structures such as royal tombs or religious temples.


Perhaps the first sphinx was one depicting Hetepheres II, of the fourth dynasty that lasted from 2723 to 2563 BC. The largest and most famous is the Great Sphinx of Giza, sited at the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile River and facing due east, is also from the same dynasty. Although the date of its construction is uncertain, the head of the Great Sphinx now is believed to be that of the pharaoh Khafra.


Avenue of ram-headed sphinxes at Karnak in Luxor dating to the eighteenth dynasty What names their builders gave to these statues is not known. At the Great Sphinx site, the inscription on a stele erected a thousand years later, by Thutmose IV in 1400 BCE, lists the names of three aspects of the local sun deity of that period, Khepera - Re - Atum. The inclusion of these figures in tomb and temple complexes quickly became traditional and many pharaohs had their heads carved atop the guardian statues for their tombs to show their close relationship with the powerful deity, Sekhmet.

Other famous Egyptian sphinxes include one bearing the head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, with her likeness carved in granite, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the alabaster sphinx of Memphis, currently located within the open-air museum at that site. The theme was expanded to form great avenues of guardian sphinxes lining the approaches to tombs and temples as well as serving as details atop the posts of flights of stairs to very grand complexes. Nine hundred with rams' heads, representing Amon, were built in Thebes, where his cult was strongest.


From the Bronze Age the Hellenes had trade and cultural contacts with Egypt. Before the time that Alexander the Great occupied Egypt their name, sphinx, was already applied to these statues. The historians and geographers of Greece wrote extensively about Egyptian culture. They sometimes called the ram-headed sphinxes, criosphinxes and the bird-headed ones, hierocosphinxes. The word "Sphinx" comes from the Greek Σφιγξ — Sphingx, apparently from the verb σφιγγω — sphinggo, meaning "to strangle". This name may be derived from the fact that the hunters for a pride of lions are the lionesses, and they kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die. The word "sphincter" derives from the same root. There was a single Sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck.


According to Hesiod she was a daughter of Echidna and Orthrus; according to others, she was a daughter of Echidna and Typhon. All of these are chthonic figures from the earliest of Greek myths, before the Olympians ruled the Greek pantheon. She was represented in vase-painting and bas-reliefs most often seated upright rather than recumbent, as a winged lion with a woman's head; or she was a woman with the paws, claws and breasts of a lion, a serpent's tail and eagle wings. The Sphinx was the emblem of the ancient city-state of Chios, and appeared on seals and the obverse side of coins from the sixth century BC until the third century AD.

The Sphinx's Riddle

The Sphinx is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travelers to obtain passage. The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the stories about the sphinx, and was not standardized as the one given below until late in Greek history.

It was said in late lore that Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland (the Greeks always remembered the foreign origin of the Sphinx) to Thebes in Greece where, in the writings of Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, she asks all passersby history's most famous riddle: "Which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus solved the riddle: answering, Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age. Bested at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. An alternative version tells that she devoured herself. Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a liminal or "threshold" figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx, and the rise of the new, Olympian deities.

(Source : 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy; Gale Encyclopedia of Unusual and Unexplained and Wikipedia)

Pics Source : Wikipedia
Sphinx Sphinx Reviewed by Tripzibit on 17:22 Rating: 5

2 comments:

  1. I like sphinx....since I was a kid.
    I hope I can visit there and get a picture of sphinx by myself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The sphinx also has no nose.
    So how does it smell?
    Awful!

    (old joke)

    ReplyDelete

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