Sphinx  (sfingks ).—A she-monster, who proposed a riddle to the Thebans, and murdered all who failed to guess it (see “Œdipus”). In works of art she is represented with a woman's bust on the body of a lioness. The word Sphinx (Gr.) means the Throttler, from her manner of killing her victims.

The Sphinx  is familiar in the first place as the monster, half woman, half dog, which vexed the city of Thebes till slain by Oedipus; this story is often alluded to on vases, but many groups of a man and a Sphinx have probably no special meaning. The Sphinx has sometimes a sepulchral reference,and is grouped with other figures, such as Atlas or a Seilenos (the latter probably a scene from a Satyric drama). Like the Siren, she is exceedingly common as a decorative figure, especially in the friezes of animals and monsters so dear to the early vase-painters. Her invariable form is that of a winged lion or dog with a woman's bust.