Sphinxes, however, were not peculiar to Egypt; represented in various shapes and forms, they were common throughout the ancient Middle East and Greece. In Greek mythology and art the Sphinx was a winged monster with the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a lion. In the legend of Oedipus she acts as a destructive agent of the gods, posing the riddle of the three ages of man:
What walks on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening? She killed all who failed to answer her question until Oedipus solved the riddle by saying,
Man crawls on all fours as a baby, walks upright in the prime of life, and uses a staff in old age. The Sphinx then killed herself.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion