Female Egyptian Sphinx
The sphinx archetype appeared in various forms, notably in Mesopotamia, Greece,
and Etruria. Wings were often added to the leonine body, and female sphinxes
were also created, especially in Greece in the 8th-6th century BC.
The Sphinx is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and
to have asked a riddle of travelers to allow them passage.
The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the
stories, and was not standardized as the one given below until late in Greek
It was said in late lore that Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian
homeland (the Greeks always remembered the foreign origin of the Sphinx) to
Thebes in Greece where she asks all passersby the most famous riddle in history:
"Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in
the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?" She
strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer.
Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: Man - who crawls on all fours as a baby,
then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age. By
some accounts (but much more rarely), there was a second riddle: "There are
two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the
first." (answer: day and night—both words are feminine in Greek.) Bested
at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock