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Sphinx


Sphinx

Sphinx.---This fabled monster, according to the myth of the Greeks, born of Typhon and Echidna, had the head and face of a young woman, with the wings of a bird; the rest of the body resembling that of a dog.  This fictitious animal, whose mysterious origin is associated with the most remote antiquity, is said to have had its haunts in Mount Sphincius, near Thebes, and to have been accustomed thence to assail and destroy wayfarers.  Apollo having been consulted in this matter, the oracle assumed that there was no other way to rescue the country from its fury than some one's solving the enigma of the Sphinx  (allusive to man in his infancy, youth, and old age).  Oedipus guessed this riddle, and the monster flung itself from its rocky seat and perished.---On numismatic and other ancient monuments, the Sphinx is represented in two ways, that of the Greeks and that of the Egyptians.  The former has wings and breasts, the latter has neither.  The early mint of Rome adopted, as usual, the Greek model.  On denari of the Carisia and Rahinia families (says Morell) is a figure of the Sphinx, sitting on its hind legs; it has wings, and a virgin's head, displaying the paps of a woman in front and the dugs of an animal of the canine species beneath the belly.
On coins of Augustus the Sphinx occurs ofter; in one instance it is accompanied by the legend ARMENIA CAPTA.---According to Suetonius, that emperor was accustomed to seal his diplomatic papers and private letters with a figure of this aenigmatical nondescript.  Vaillant (Pr. i 176), and Banduri, describe a first brass of Volusianus as having a Sphinx for the type of its reverse.  But neither those writers, nor Eckhel, who quotes their authority, attempt to give any explanation on the subject of its appearance, so little to be looked for on a medal of that Emperor.




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