The Sphinx was a legendary winged monster of Greek mythology that had the body of a lion and the head of a woman. Her siblings were Cerberus, Hydra, and the Nemean Lion. The Sphinx lived on a rock outside the city of Thebes, where she terrified the local people. Some sources say Hera* sent the Sphinx to punish the king of Thebes for carrying off one of the children of Zeus*. Others claim that Apollo* sent the monster because the Thebans failed to honor him properly.

The Sphinx posed a riddle to any passerby: "I have four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening, but I am weakest when I have the most legs. What am I?" No one was able to solve the riddle, and the Sphinx killed and devoured anyone who failed to answer correctly. Finally, the Greek hero Oedipus* provided the correct answer: "A human being walks on all fours as a baby, on two legs as an adult, and with a crutch as a third leg when he grows old." Upon hearing Oedipus's answer, the Sphinx killed herself.

pharaoh ruler of ancient Egypt

Egyptian sculpture also included a type of figure called a sphinx, which had a lion's body and the head of the pharaoh. Egyptian sphinxes, which guarded temples and monuments, were unrelated to the Greek Sphinx.

See also Oedipus .

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