Ancient Egypt / Religion / Structures /
In the mortuary temple of Amenemhet 3 in Thebes, the sphinx even had the tail of a crocodile.
The word is from the Greek meaning "strangler" but it may have its origin in the Egyptian "shesep ankh" meaning "living image."
The Egyptian sphinx was associated with both the king and the sun-god.
One mythological background for the sphinx was in a Theban myth where there was a creature terrorizing people by telling riddles for which it demanded answers. But the sphinx represented in Egyptian religion most likely predates this myth.
For the most famous sphinx, at Giza, see below. The oldest sphinx dates back to Redjedef (middle 26th century BCE), of which only the head remains. Among other famous sphinxes were the alabaster sphinx of Memphis and the avenue of sphinxes connecting Luxor Temple to the temples at Karnak. Along the latter, there may have been as many as 900 larger-than-life statues.
The concept and form of the sphinx would spread to other cultures as well, it was introduced in Mesopotamia around 1500 BCE, and in the Levant even earlier, especially with the Hittites. In these contexts, wings were often added to the body. It would also spread to the Greek cultures, but is beyond the scope of this encyclopaedia.
The Great Sphinx
Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Ancient Egypt in
Where to begin?