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The Sphinx (sometimes spelled Sphynx) is an ancient Egyptian statue of a male lion with a human head. Some sphinxes have wings. Most of them referred to simply as The Sphinx, represented a king or pharaoh in his aspect as a sun-god.

The most famous is the Great Sphinx of Giza, which is on the west bank of the Nile River. The Great Sphinx is not a true sphinx; it is the head of King Chephren with a crouching body. It was built in the Fourth Dynasty (2723 BCE-2563 BCE)

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Avenue of Sphinxes at Karnak, Egypt

In Assyria, sphinxes guarded the entrances to temples.

In Greek mythology, there was one Sphinx. She was a demon of destruction and bad luck, a daughter of Typhon and Echidna. She was a winged lion with a woman's head; or she was a woman with the paws, claws and breasts of a lion, a snake tail and bird wings. She sat outside Thebes and asked all passersby a riddle: "Which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" She strangled anyone who couldn't answer. Oedipus solved the riddle: man, crawls on all fours as a baby then walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age. The Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died.

The word "sphinx" comes from the Greek Σφιγξ, Sphinx, apparently from the verb σφιγγω, sphingo, meaning "to strangle".