a Greek word signifying the Squeezer, or Strangler, applied to certain symbolical forms of Egyptian origin, having the body of a lion, a human or an animal head, and two wings attached to the sides. Various other combinations of animal forms have been called by this name, although they are rather griffins or chimaeras. Human headed sphinxes have been called androsphinxes; one with the head of a ram, a criosphinx; with a hawk's head, a hieracosphinx. The form when complete, had wings added at the sides; but these are of a later period, and seem to have originated with the Babylonians or Assyrians. In the Egyptian hieroglyphs the sphinx bears the name of Neb, or Lord, and Akar, or Intelligence, corresponding to the account of Clemens that these emblematic figures depicted intellect and force. The idea that they allegorized the overflow of the Nile when the sun was in the constellations Leo and Virgo appears quite unfounded. In Egypt the sphinx also appears as the symbolical form of the monarch considered as a conqueror, the head of the reigning king being placed upon a lion's body, the face bearded, and the usual dress drapery being suspended before it. Thus used, the sphinx was generally male; but in the case of female rulers the figure has a female head and the body of a lioness.
The most remarkable sphinx is the Great Sphinx at Gizeh, a colossal form hewn out of the natural rock, and lying three hundred feet east of the second pyramid. It is sculptured out of a spur of the rock itself, to which masonry has been added in certain places to complete the form, and measures one hundred and seventy-two feet six inches long by fifty-six feet high. Immediately in front of the breast, Caviglia found, in 1816, a small naos, or chapel, formed of three hieroglyphical tablets, dedicated by the monarchs Thotmes III and Rameses II to the sphinx, which they adore under the name of Haremakhu, or Harmachis, as the Greek inscriptions found at the same place call it — i.e. the Sun on the Horizon. These tablets formed three walls of the chapel; the fourth, in front, had a door in the center and two couchant lions placed upon it. A small lion was found on the pavement, and an altar between its fore paws, apparently for sacrifices offered to it in the time of the Romans. Before the altar was a paved esplanade, or dromos, leading to a staircase of thirty steps placed between two walls, and repaired in the reigns of M. Aurelius and L. Verus, on May 10, A.D. 166. In the reign of Severus and his sons, A.D. 199-200, another dromos, in the same line as the first, and a diverging staircase were made; while some additions were found to have been made to the parts between the two staircases in the reign of Nero. Votive inscriptions of the Roman period, some as late as the 3d century, were discovered in the walls and constructions. On the second digit of the left claw of the sphinx an inscription in pentameter Greek verses by Arrian, probably of the time of Severus, was discovered. Another metrical and prosaic inscription was also found. In addition to these, walls of unburned brick, galleries and shafts, were found in the rear of the sphinx extending northward. The excavations, however, of M. Mariette in 1852 have thrown further light on the sphinx, discovering the peribolos, or outer wall that encircled it; that the head only was sculptured; and that the sand which had accumulated round it was brought by the hands of man, and not an encroachment of the desert; also that the masonry of the belly was supported by a kind of abutment. To the south of the sphinx Mariette found a dromos which led to a temple built, at the time of the 4th dynasty, of huge blocks of alabaster and red granite. In the midst of the great chamber of this temple were found seven statues, five mutilated and two entire, of the monarch Shafra, or Chephren, made of a porphyritic granite. They are fine examples of ancient Egyptian art. While the beauty and grandeur of the Great Sphinx have often attracted the admiration of travelers, its age has always remained a subject of doubt; but these later discoveries prove it to have been a monument of the age of the 4th dynasty, or contemporary with the pyramids.
Besides the Great Sphinx, avenues of sphinxes have been discovered at Sakkarah forming a dromos to the Serapeium of Memphis, and another dromos of the same at the Wady Essebfa. A sphinx of the age of the Shepherd dynasty has been found at Tanis, and another of the same age is in the Louvre; and a granite sphinx, found behind the vocal Memnon and inscribed with the name of Amenophis III, is at St. Petersburg, An avenue of criosphinxes has been found at Karnak. These are each about seventeen feet long and of the age of Horus, one of the last monarchs of the 18th dynasty. Various small sphinxes are in the different collections of Europe, but none of any very great antiquity.
The Theban sphinx, whose myth first appears in Hesiod, is described as having a lion's body, female head, bird's wings, and serpent's tail, ideas probably derived from Phoenician sources, which had adopted this symbolical form into the mythology from Egypt. She was said to be the issue of Orthos, the two-headed dog of Geryon, by Chimaera, or of Typhon and Echidna, and was sent into the vicinity of Thebes by Juno to punish the transgression of Laius, or, according to other accounts, by Bacchus, Mars, or Pluto. This she did by propounding a riddle to everyone that passed by and killing those who were unable to solve it. Oedipus finally gave the solution, and the sphinx thereupon threw herself from the rock on which she had settled. The sphinx was a favorite subject of ancient art, and appears in bas reliefs, on medals of Chios and other towns, and often as the decorations of arms and furniture. In Assyria and Babylonia representations of sphinxes have been found, and the same are not uncommon on Phoenician Works of art.
See Birch, Mus. of Class. Anti. 2, 27; Quar. Rev. 19, 412; Vyse, Pyramids, 3, 107; Young, Hieroglyphics, pl. 80; Letronne, Inscr. Grecq. 2, 460; Rev. Arch. 1853, p. 715; 1860, p. 20; Schol. Euripid. 1, 1, 1134; Hesiod, Theog. p. 326; Creuzer, Symbolik, 1, 495; Millin, Gal. Myth. p. 502, 505; Murray, Handbook for Egypt, p. 193 sq.; Baedeker, Lower Egypt, p. 165, 348. — Chambers's Encyclop. s.v. SEE EGYPT.