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Sphinx of Naxos - Delphi, Archaeological Museum of Delphi | by Schumata
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Sphinx of Naxos - Delphi, Archaeological Museum of Delphi

"Large Sphinx of Naxos sitting on an Ionic column about 10m tall. circa 560 B.C. It was the people from the Aegean island of Naxos who gave this Sphynx to the oracle of Delphi in the sixth century B.C.


There was a single Sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck, according to Hesiod a daughter of the Chimaera and Orthrus, or, according to others, of Typhon and Echidna— all of these chthonic figures. She was represented in vase-painting and bas-reliefs most often seated upright rather than recumbent, as a winged lion with a woman's head; or she was a woman with the paws, claws and breasts of a lion, a serpent's tail and birdlike wings. Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland (for the Greeks remembered the Sphinx's foreign origins) to sit outside Thebes and ask all passersby history's most famous riddle: "Which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" She strangled anyone unable to answer. The word "sphinx" comes from the Greek Σφινξ, Sphinx, apparently from the verb σφινγω, sphingo, meaning "to strangle". Oedipus solved the riddle: man – he crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age. Bested at last, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. In fact, the exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the story and was not standardized as the one given above until much later in Greek history.


Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a liminal or "threshold" figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the Sphinx, and new, Olympian ones."



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Taken on October 21, 2005