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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.

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Sphinx

Sphinx

See our: mythological jewelry.

The sphinx in is originally an Egyptian mythological figure, depicted as a recumbent lion with a human head to which the ancient Greeks applied their own name for a female monster, the "strangler" one of their many hybrid creatures.

A hybrid is a composite of two or more species of animal and/or human. Strange as they may appear, the Greeks were endlessly fond of fabricating these creatures, one will recognize hybrids in the earliest myths and legends, not to mention inhabiting numerous works of art. For the Greeks especially, these beings of the imagination must have had great significance, in that they represented the uncivilized forces in nature that opposed mankind.

The seven most known hybrids are:

  • The centaur - In Greek mythology and art, the centaur has the torso of a human combined with the body of a horse.
  • The cockatrice - this creature was also known as a basilisk ("king of serpents"), and its very glance could kill; the cockatrice was composed of a dragon's tail and assorted poultry parts.
  • The giants (gigantes) - These fierce and frightening beings were the offspring of Gaia (the Earth).
  • The griffin - According to myth, the griffin was a creature with a lion's body attached to the head, wings, and claws of an eagle.
  • The harpy - Harpies had female torsos melded with vulture parts; the name harpy is derived from the Greek word that means "snatcher".
  • The satyrs (faun) - Satyrs were often the companions of Dionysos, and these creatures were depicted in myth and art with the legs of goats and bestial natures.
  • The sirens - Women with bird-like bodies; sirens were legendary for luring sailors by singing their enchanted songs.

The Greek mythology tells us the story about Oedipus (a king from Thebe) and his confrontation with the Sphinx in his search for the truth. The Sphinx had the head and breasts of a woman, the body of a lion, the tail of a snake and the wings of an eagle. This monster asked all Thebetan travelers the enigmatic question: »which creature with a voice walks in the morning with four legs, in the afternoon with two and in the evening with three. The Sphinx destroyed everyone who answered incorrectly.

Are you wondering now what the correct answer was by which Oedipus destroyed the Sphinx?

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