The Sphinx, a mythical half-lion-half-man, is considered a symbol of secret knowledge and the desire of man to comprehend the unknown. Unlike many fellow legends, the Sphinx has not lost its popularity today: it flaunts on advertising tourist booklets, guards the bridges of St. Petersburg.
Sphinx in different cultures
The mysterious creature with a lion's body does not have a specific culture or gender. The most famous Egyptian sphinx guarding the pyramids of Giza is male.
In Egyptian mythology, the heads of the sphinxes were not only human. The falcon-headed sphinxes were dedicated to the god Horus, and the ram-headed sphinxes were dedicated to the sun deity Amon. There are even sphinxes with the head of a crocodile, obviously glorifying Sebek, the god of the Nile. All Egyptian sphinxes are depicted on the walls of temples or guard tombs, sacred places for people. It can be concluded that the Egyptian male Sphinx was a positive figure, protector and guardian of the mysterious world of the gods. The hieroglyph used to designate the sphinx also meant "master", "ruler".
A contemporary of the Egyptian Sphinx is a monster from the Sumerian legend, whom the supreme goddess Tiamat gives birth to to avenge the death of her husband. Here the sphinx is the embodiment of anger, anger and horror.
The image of the Sphinx, which migrated from Egypt to Greece, has undergone significant changes. First, he changed sex and instead of the crown of the pharaoh acquired a naked female breast. Secondly, it has grown wings. It is such a sphinx that has become widespread in world culture, along with the owner from Egypt. Even the word "sphinx" itself comes from the Greek "sphincter" - to squeeze, "sphinga" - strangler. According to legend, the Greek Sphinx was the daughter of the ancient monsters Typhon and Echidna, a product of the abyss and chaos.
A riddle for the future king Oedipus
The well-known image of the sphinx as a creature speaking in riddles also came from Greece. Hera, the supreme goddess of Olympus, decided to punish the Theban king Lai for his crimes and sent the sphinx to the gates of Thebes. He, sitting on a roadside stone, began to ask the travelers a riddle, which the muses suggested to him. For an incorrect answer, the punishment followed - death.
Gradually, the road to the city became depopulated, no one wanted to risk their lives, guessing the ingenious riddle of the Sphinx. Only Oedipus, during his fateful journey to Thebes, was able to solve the riddle, which sounded like this: "What creature walks on four legs in the morning, on two in the afternoon, and on three in the evening?" Oedipus replied that this is a man - as a child he crawls on all fours, growing up, walking on his feet, and in old age he leans on a cane. The defeated sphinx threw himself into the abyss from Mount Fikey.
Legends have not preserved other mysteries of the Sphinx. Some philosophers, studying ancient myths, suggested that the Sphinx asked each person a riddle intended only for him. The riddle about the age of a man hinted at the sad fate of Oedipus, who in ignorance killed his father and married his own mother.