The Sphinx

The sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head. The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face and breast of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless. Those who cannot answer her riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories, as they are killed and eaten by this ravenous monster. Unlike the Greek sphinx which was a woman, the Egyptian sphinx is typically shown as a man (an androsphinx). In addition, the Egyptian sphinx was viewed as benevolent in contrast to the malevolent Greek version and was thought of as a guardian often flanking the entrances to temples.

Generally the role of sphinxes is associated with architectural structures such as royal tombs or religious temples. The oldest known sphinx was found in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey and was dated to 9,500 BC.

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