The Enigma of the Sphinx: Myth and Mystery

The Sphinx is a mythical creature that has captured the imagination of people across different cultures and mythologies. While various civilizations have their own interpretations of the Sphinx, two prominent depictions can be found in Greek and Egyptian mythology. These depictions differ in their appearance, symbolism, and roles. By exploring the characteristics and legends associated with the Greek and Egyptian sphinxes, we can gain a deeper understanding of these enigmatic creatures.

Greek Sphinx

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is described as a creature with the head of a woman, the haunches of a lion, and the wings of a bird. This hybrid form is a testament to the Sphinx’s otherworldly nature. Greek literature portrays the Sphinx as a treacherous and merciless being, sent by the gods to punish the town of Thebes for an ancient crime. The Sphinx’s modus operandi involved posing riddles to those who encountered her.

The Sphinx’s riddles were notoriously challenging, and failure to answer them correctly had dire consequences. Those who failed to solve the riddles were met with a grisly fate: being killed and devoured by the Sphinx. The severity of these consequences underscores the Sphinx’s role as a formidable and ruthless adversary.

Egyptian Sphinx

In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx takes on a different form. Known as the androsphinx, the Egyptian Sphinx is depicted as having the body of a lion and the head of a man. This representation symbolizes strength and ferocity, often associated with pharaohs and their divine authority. Unlike its Greek counterpart, the Egyptian Sphinx is typically portrayed without wings.

The Egyptian Sphinx is often seen as a guardian figure. It is commonly depicted as a statue flanking the entrances to temples, serving as protectors of sacred places. These statues were believed to ward off evil and defend against trespassers. The absence of wings in the Egyptian Sphinx may reflect its role as a grounded sentinel, firmly rooted in its duty to protect sacred spaces.


One of the most intriguing aspects of the Sphinx’s mythology is the riddles she posed to those who crossed her path. These riddles challenged the intellect and wit of those who dared to engage with the Sphinx. The most famous riddle associated with the Sphinx is as follows: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?” This riddle, known as the Riddle of the Sphinx, tested the wisdom and problem-solving abilities of its recipients.

It was the hero Oedipus who famously answered the riddle correctly, leading to the defeat of the Sphinx. Oedipus’s answer, “Man,” referred to the stages of human life: crawling as a baby, walking on two legs as an adult, and using a cane in old age. By solving the riddle, Oedipus freed the city of Thebes from the Sphinx’s reign of terror.


Both the Greek and Egyptian sphinxes are associated with the role of guardianship. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx served as a guardian of Thebes, terrorizing the city until someone could outsmart her. In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx statues flanking temple entrances acted as protectors of sacred spaces, deterring any who would defile these hallowed grounds. The presence of the Sphinx as a guardian figure highlights its role in safeguarding the sacred and warding off malevolent forces.


In conclusion, the Sphinx is a captivating creature that has left an indelible mark on mythology. The Greek Sphinx, with its hybrid form and riddle-posing nature, represents a treacherous adversary that demanded intellectual prowess. In contrast, the Egyptian Sphinx, depicted as the androsphinx, symbolizes strength and serves as a guardian figure, protecting sacred spaces. By exploring the characteristics and legends surrounding these mythical creatures, we gain insight into the rich tapestry of ancient mythologies.



Did the Sphinx kill herself?

There is no mythological account or historical record indicating that the Sphinx killed herself. The concept of the Sphinx taking her own life is not a part of the provided information or the commonly known myths. The fate of the Sphinx varies depending on the mythological tradition and the specific story being told.

What is the fate of the Sphinx in Greek mythology?

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was defeated by the hero Oedipus, who correctly answered her riddle. Following her defeat, the Sphinx met her demise and was no longer a threat to the city of Thebes. However, there are no accounts of the Sphinx killing herself in Greek mythology.

What is the fate of the Sphinx in Egyptian mythology?

In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx is not associated with self-destruction. The Egyptian Sphinx, known as the androsphinx, is commonly depicted as a guardian figure. Its role is to protect sacred places, such as temple entrances. There are no known myths or legends suggesting that the Egyptian Sphinx killed herself.

Are there any other versions or interpretations of the Sphinx’s fate?

The Sphinx appears in various mythological traditions, and different versions of the Sphinx’s fate can be found. However, the information provided does not include any accounts of the Sphinx taking her own life. It is important to note that myths and legends can vary across cultures, and there may be alternative interpretations of the Sphinx’s story in different mythologies.

What are the main characteristics and roles of the Sphinx?

The Sphinx is commonly depicted as a creature with the head of a human or woman and the body of a lion, often with the addition of wings. The Sphinx is known for posing riddles to those who encounter her, and the consequences for failing to answer these riddles correctly were severe, often resulting in death. Additionally, the Sphinx is associated with the role of guardianship, protecting sacred spaces or cities.

Can the Sphinx be found in other mythologies?

While the Sphinx is most commonly associated with Greek and Egyptian mythology, similar hybrid creatures with riddle-posing characteristics can be found in other mythological traditions as well. For example, in Mesopotamian mythology, there is a creature known as the Lamassu, which has the body of a lion or bull and the wings of an eagle. These variations highlight the widespread fascination with and the enduring legacy of mythical creatures that combine human and animal features.