The Sphinx: Human face and lion's body

Posted On : 20/02/2023 Kate Clark 50
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The ancient story of the great sphinx of giza 2500 BC

Who among us does not know the Sphinx ``The father of terror and the symbol of ancient Egypt"? The famous mythological being with unmistakable characteristics: depicted as a monster with a leonine body and a human head (androsphinx), falcon (hieracosphinx) or goat/ram (criosphinx), sometimes with wings.

The statuary theme of the sphinx first appeared in Egypt at Giza during the 4th dynasty period of the Middle Kingdom. The first king to whom it was dedicated was Djetef Ra, successor of Cheops .


The statutory form of the sphinx and how it was built

The meaning of the name «sphinx» could be traced back to the Greek term which in turn is an adaptation of the ancient Egyptian name "Sps Ankh", or "living image"; in fact the hieroglyph of this word depicts the lion (or dog) which is often replaced by the image of the Sphinx itself. The concept of sphinx refers to the king and his physical and mental power, represented respectively by a human face placed on a lion's body. 

The sphinx in Egyptian mythology was a monument that was built near the great  Egyptian pyramids as a protective symbol for the pyramids, to wish a peaceful afterlife to the pharaoh. It is believed that the male human head depicted the very pharaoh it was supposed to protect.

During the 4th dynasty the statues depicting the sphinx were placed in front of the sacred places, as guardians of the funeral places, or placed to protect the connecting roads between the various temples, as can be seen at the Karnak temple and at the one dedicated to the god Ptahand of ancient Memphis.

One of these streets houses nine hundred sphinxes with ram heads, representing Amon. The avenue is located in Thebes, where in fact the cult of Amon was strong.

As is known in the statuary form of the sphinx of Egypt which is without the nose and this happened thanks to the Napoleonic soldiers who destroyed the nose of the Sphinx with a cannon shot, however it is said that the nose did not already exist in the drawings made in 1735.

If you want to discover the secrets of the ancient pharaonic civilization and learn more about their history, you can book a classic Egypt tour to visit most of the tourist sites that depict the history of Egypt such as the pyramids, the sphinx, the Egyptian museum , the market of khan el khalili and the great egyptian museum etc...

The Enigma of the Sphinx and Greek mythology

The sphinx in ancient Egyptian history has several difficult myths to understand and there are so many debates made to understand, discuss and answer questions that did not have satisfactory answers.

It is said that Hera and Ares had sent the sphinx from its homeland to Thebes in Greece and this fact has created some questions regarding this enigma "which creature could walk on 4 legs in the morning, on two at noon and in the evening out of three? But the answer came from Oedipus who announced that man crawls on all fours as a child, then walks on two feet as an adult and then walks with a stick in old age”.

The value of the sphinx

According to the history of our ancient pharaohs, it is said that the sphinx had a very historical and cultural value, sacred to most of the kings who ruled Egypt.

Since the second half of the 12th dynasty, most of the queens and princesses wanted a sphinx dedicated to them personally, therefore female statues also began to be represented.

The most famous of the female statues found to date is the statue of Queen Nefertiti , discovered in the eastern part of the Karnak complex, near the temple dedicated to the god Aten. Furthermore, it is assumed that the first Egyptian sphinx was the one depicting Queen Hetepheres II of the fourth dynasty.

The Sphinx par excellence, the largest and most famous, is a statue with the body of a lion and a human head built by the pharaoh Chephren (Khafra), one of the rulers of the 4th dynasty. Although the date of its construction is uncertain, the head of the Great Sphinx is thought to be his.

The Sphinx is part of the Giza necropolis, it is 73.5 meters long, 20.22 meters high and 6 meters wide (the head measures 4 meters). It is located on the west bank of the Nile and faces east, it is located in the northern part of the pyramid complex at the foot of these.

The Great Sphinx has become an emblem of Egypt, and is frequently represented on stamps, coins and official documents used in Egypt.


The Nile and its terrible beauty in Egypt especially in Luxor and Aswan has been able to amaze the visitors who take an Egypt Nile cruise, for those who want to try a Nile cruise , they can safely check our different Nile cruise offers  .

Sphinxes continued to be built up to the Greco-Roman period and many emperors wanted sphinxes dedicated to them, which would then reach Rome and decorate the cities and palaces of the empire.

Many pharaohs also had their heads carved on sphinxes to show their close relationship with the powerful solar deity Sekhmet, a lioness. Famous Egyptian sphinxes include the one bearing the head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, which is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the sphinx of Memphis, inside the open-air museum of Memphis.

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By Kate Clark

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