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Sphinx and Oedipus Painting Information
Oedipus and the Sphinx Mythological Statue
Sphinx at the Gates of Thebes
Based on the painting by Gustave Moreau
The Sphinx and Oedipus

Oedipus' travels brought him to the place where guarding the gates of Thebes (in Greece) was a terrible monster with the body of a lion and the head and torso of a woman. She allowed no one to enter or leave the city without answering the riddle that she posed. If the traveler could not answer correctly, she would kill and devour him.

As no one had yet come up with the right answer, the sphinx was well-fed, and the city of Thebes was effectively cut off from all trade and all contact with the world outside the city walls.

When Oedipus reached the gates of the city, the creature posed her riddle:

What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?

Oedipus solved the riddle, answering that man crawls on all fours in infancy, walks upright on two legs in adulthood, and uses a cane as a third leg in old age.

The sphinx was so frustrated that Oedipus had answered her riddle that she threw herself from the city walls, and died there on the road in front of the city that she had terrorized for so long. The Thebans were immensely grateful to Oedipus for having rid them of the monstrous sphinx.



Based on the painting Oedipus and the Sphinx, (1864)
by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) -- French Painter

Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y.
Oil on canvas.

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