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Σφίγξ, “the throttler”). A monster borrowed from Egyptian religion and symbolism, orig

Winged Sphinx of Greek Art. (From a fragment of pottery found at Daphnae. Drawing by Petrie.)

inally represented with the body of a winged lion and the breast and head of a human being, and subsequently in still more wonderful forms, as a man or woman with the breast, feet, and claws of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the wings of a bird; or as a lion in front and a human being behind, with vulture's claws and eagle's wings. The Egyptian sphinxes are oftener male rather than female, and the Great Sphinx was intended to represent the god Hor-em-khu or Horus.

The Great Egyptian Sphinx. (From a photograph by Flinders Petrie.)

It is older than the Fourth Dynasty, which began about B.C. 3700.

According to Hesiod, Sphinx was the daughter of the Chimaera and Orthrus; according to others, of Echidna and Typhon. Heré (or, according to others, Ares or Dionysus), in anger at the crimes of Laïus, sent her to Thebes from Ethiopia. She took up her abode on a rock near the city and gave every passer-by the well-known riddle, “What walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?” She flung from the rock all who could not answer it. When Oedipus explained the riddle rightly, as referring to man in the successive stages of infancy, the prime of life, and old age, she flung herself down from the rock. See Oedipus.

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