The Sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion, most often with a human head and sometimes with wings. The creature was an Egyptian invention and had a male head - human or animal. However, in ancient Greek culture, the creature had the head of a woman.

The ancient Greeks saw the sphinx as a troublesome creature. The sphinx created drought and famine, and would only leave the Thebans alone if they solved her riddle. Anyone who dared to answer the riddle and failed to do so correctly was killed and devoured by the sphinx.

When the sphinx killed his son Haimon, Kreon, the king of Thebes, became so desperate at the situation that he offered his kingdom and his daughter, Iokaste, to anyone who could answer the riddle. Oedipus took up the challenge and gave the correct answer. In frustration and anger, the sphinx leapt to her death from the acropolis of Thebes.



  • Photo: Sphinx. Attic red-figure pyxis, 2nd half of the 5th century BC. From Nola (Italy). Oppermann Collection, Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, France. Source: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2010), CC BY 2.5.
  • Sphinx at the Ancient History Encyclopedia (Retrieved on October 21, 2017).