Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I was very interested to see what the Sphinx looked like/was depicted as. When I googled it, she is described as "The sphinx, like many of the other fantastic hybrid creatures, stands as a pre-eminent threat to Greek society and human culture. As a liminal (threshhold) creature, neither one thing nor the other (as a centaur is neither horse nor man, an Amazon neither woman nor warrior, a Siren neither woman nor bird), it threatens our conception of what belongs and what doesn't, of what can be understood and what cannot, of what can be controlled and what cannot. The sphinx has an additional threatening feature in that it is its intellect that is so overwhelming. It is a typical motif of Greek myths that mythic heroes fight such creatures, which represent metaphoric threats against human culture and Greek society in particular. It is no coincidence that monumental sculpture describing victories over such creatures is found on the temples of archaic and classical Greece (e.g., Lapiths v Centaurs on the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus at Olympia; the Greeks v the Amazons on the Parthenon and others; Theseus v Minotaur on the Hephaesteum...). All are the victory of man's culture over nature gone wild.
The sphinx, too, is such a liminal creature. She has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and horribly, the face and breast of a woman. She is treacherous and merciless: those who cannot answer her riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories: they are gobbled up whole and raw, eaten by this ravenous monster. What greater threat is there to a humanity desperate to leave its mark upon history than to be completely consumed and obliterated?" (http://people.hsc.edu/drjclassics/texts/Oedipus/sphinx.shtm) The Sphinx, like other mythical creatures, is a destructive creature. Oedipus is able to defeat the destruction of the mythical creature, but is unable to run away from his eventual fate. I think it is nice to see boh sides of Oedipus: weak from being unable to avoid destiny, but also brave and cunning enough to kill the beast that is the sphinx.

1 comment:

Ashley Bossier said...

Reading this about the Greek sphinx made me wonder about the Egyptian sphinx. Wikipedia said (I know, I'm sorry, this isn't the best site to use but I thought it was interesting) "Unlike the Greek sphinx, which was a woman, the Egyptian sphinx is typically shown as a man. In addition, the Egyptian sphinx was viewed as benevolent, but having a ferocious strength similar to the malevolent Greek version and both were thought of as guardians often flanking the entrances to temples." I think it is amazing that this mythical creature is known across so many different cultures with mostly the same characteristics. It shows how myths travel from one country to another and barely vary. I just thought it was interesting how the spinx in both countries was basically the same