Sphinx – Greek Mytholigical Creature that is Half Lion and Half Woman

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Original ink and pen drawing, winged Sphinx on white background.Although most of us associated the Sphinx with Egyptian mythology, she was present in Greek mythology, as well. The Sphinx has its roots in Ancient Greece in Anatolia, in fact, and since archaeologists know that both the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians encountered each other in matters of trade, it makes sense that both cultures would have similar creatures, such as the Sphinx, in their lore. Here’s more information about this creature:

Facts About the Sphinx

The sphinx, like many creatures in Greek mythology, was a mix of two creatures. In this case, the sphinx showed the head of a woman but the body of a lion. Despite her animal body, however, she was considered to be mostly a woman.  Her other features include the tail of a serpent, the wings of an eagle, and she also was depicted as having long hair. 

The Greek mythology states that Sphinx used to live in Ancient Thebes. She would spread bad luck and destruction to the whole district. Part of the reason for this was that there was an ancient crime that Thebes had committed. Therefore, the monster came to Ancient Thebes to punish the people for that crime. 

Travelers Needed to Answer a Riddle

The Sphinx was from Thebes, and she enjoyed making life difficult for travelers. She positioned herself where the travelers were passing by and confronted them with a riddle. She asked about a particular creature which had a single voice, four feet during the morning, three feet during the night. The monster heavily punished the travelers who hesitated on the answer or did not know it. 

A significant number of people were sacrificed due to their failure to solve the puzzle of the monster. Due to their suffering, the people proceeded to consult the Oracle at Delphi. The oracle stated that there was only one way to escape the predicament: solve at least one of the two riddles. 

Oedipus Answers Correctly

Oedipus, who traveled to the Oracle of Delphi in order to learn about his birth parents, encountered the Sphinx on his journey to Thebes. He answered the riddle he was asked correctly and as a result, was able to continue his journey into Thebes.

Not only that, but the act of answering the riddle also made him the King of Thebes. However, the Sphinx didn’t expect that anyone would ever answered her riddles and this ultimately proved to be her downfall. After Oedipus got both questions right, unexpectedly, the sphinx killed herself due to desperation. It is not clear how she did it. There are two possible explanations on this: she could have devoured herself, or she could have thrown herself on a rock – it all depends on the source.

As mentioned above, the Sphinx appeared in both the Egyptian and Greek mythology. Today, we know that both civilizations interacted a lot and had some things in common, such as the story of the sphinx. However, there were some differences in the way the creature was depicted depending on the source.


Wikipedia – Sphinx

Wikipedia – Oedipus

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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