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Illustrated Guide to Mythology

Sphinx


The Sphinx is a terrifying creature, with the body of a lion, the head of a woman, and eagle’s wings. She terrorizes the city of Thebes until Oedipus solves her riddle.

Sphinx
Sphinx

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The Sphinx was a creature who terrorized the city of Thebes, not allowing anyone to enter or leave the city until they could solve her riddle. The only man who was able to solve her riddle was Oedipus, a man who was trying to run from his fate after hearing an oracle that said he would kill his father and marry his mother.

He ran away from home and continued until he reached the city of Thebes, where the Sphinx asked him: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?” Oedipus correctly solved the riddle: man (as a crawling toddler, a healthy youth, and an elderly person with a cane). The Sphinx lifted the curse on the city.

The name “Sphinx” in Ancient Greek translated into “strangler”, which is how the Sphinx would kill her victims before devouring them. The word “sphincter”, which is a circular muscle in the human body that contracts to close openings between organs and capillaries, comes from the Greek Sphinx’s ability to strangle or squeeze her victims.

Sphinx Quick Reference

Parents

Orthus and Chimera


Notable Myths


Attributes and Symbols

The body of a lion, the head of a woman, and eagle’s wings


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•   (English) Sphinx   •   (Español) Esfinge   •   (Français) Sphinx   •   (Deutsch) Sphinx   •   (Italiana) Sfinge   •   (Nederlands) Sfinx   •   (Português) Esfinge   •   (עברית) ספִינקס   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) أبو الهول   •   (हिन्दी) गूढ़ व्यक्ति   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Сфинкс   •   (Dansk) Sphinx   •   (Svenska) Sfinx   •   (Suomi) Sfinksi   •   (Norsk) Sphinx   •   (Türkçe) Sfenks   •   (Polski) Sfinks   •   (Româna) Sfinx   •   (Ceština) Sfinga   •   (Slovenský) Sfinga   •   (Magyar) Szfinksz   •   (Hrvatski) Sfinga   •   (български) Сфинкс   •   (Lietuvos) Sphinx   •   (Slovenščina) Sphinx   •   (Latvijas) Sfinksa   •   (eesti) Sfinks