The Great Sphinx
Sphinx is a Greek word given to a Greek mythological creature, which takes the form of the body of a lion, the head of a man and the wings of a bird. It means (The Strangler). According to the Greek mythology, the sphinx was closely connected to a Greek myth called the Elide and Odyssey. In this myth the Greeks thought that this mythological animal would not allow anyone to enter the city unless he answers one of his riddles, and if he fails this creature will strangle him. So when the Greeks came to Egypt and found the ancient statues that represent the head of the King and the body of a lion they thought that they resemble those Greek creatures in their mythology so they gave them the name Sphinx.
When the Arabs came to Egypt, they gave the sphinx, the name of Abu Elhowl or Father of all terrors.
There are two opinions explaining the origin of the name of Abu Elhowl:
1. When the Arabs came to Egypt, and they saw the sphinx in the Giza plateau, they were terrified from this mythological creature so they gave it the name Abu Elhowl.
2. The sphinx during the New Kingdom was identified by the Syrian God known as Howl so when the Arabs came to Egypt, they added the letter A to the name bow howl so it became Abu El howl.
As for the ancient Egyptian they called the sphinx (šsp ˁnḫ), which means (the living image) as they invented the sphinx to take the form of the body of a lion and the human head. Why especially the lion:
According to the ancient Egyptian mythology the lion was the guardian, as them the sun passes every day through two gates, one in the morning and one in the evening. Two lions known as (ˁkrw) are guarding these two gates: they stand back to back and the solar disc above their backs. That explains why we can see the throne of the King flanked by two lions like the throne of King Chephern whose sides take the form of two lions.
During the Old Kingdom, they wanted the King to be the guardian of his own necropolis so they represented the lion but they replaced its head with that at the King in order to be the Living image or the guardian of his own necropolis.
This mythical creature combines between the human intelligence represented in the head of the king, often wearing the Nemes headdress and royal false beard, and the animal’s power represented in the lion’s body.
The head of king Djedefre which was discovered in his pyramid complex at Abu Roash, and now displayed in the Louvre, is probably the earliest surviving fragment of a Sphinx.
Types of sphinx:
The Royal sphinx (Androsphinx)
1. Traditional sphinx:
Known as early as the 4th dynasty, example of which is the Sphinx of king Chephern at Giza plateau with the body of the lion and the head of the King.
2. Sphinx similar to those found in Tanis:
It dates back to 12th Dynasty, reign of King Amenemhat III. This type at sphinx represents the King with the head, the mane and the body of the lion but with the facial feature of the King. This means that the Kings of the 12th Dynasty represented themselves as a complete lion. Why is that? Because by the end of the Old Kingdom, Egypt was unstable in all social, economic and political levels, also the Egyptians lost their faith in their king’s as the idea of divinity changed forever. That does why the King’s had themselves represented in form at a complete lion expect for the facial feature to try and built their image by emphasizing their power, and authority.
3. Sphinx made tor Females:
This type of Sphinx was very rare in ancient Egypt as sphinxes were only limited to Kings however the earliest female sphinx to be found that of Queen Hetepheres II. Then female sphinxes reappeared during the reign of Hatshepsut who wanted to represent herself in the form of a sphinx in order to convince both the priests and her people that she is capable of ruling the country as much as a male king.
However Hatshepasut was not the only queen from the New Kingdom that represent herself in the form of sphinx as queen Nefertiti also did but she represented herself wearing the hair wig instead of the nemes headdress. She did so because she wanted to show her great authority and power just like her husband, King Akhenaton.
4. The Divine Sphinx:
i. The Crios Sphinx:
It is a term given to describe the sphinx that takes the body of a lion and the head of a ram and this sphinx is connected with God Amen Re and that’s why we found this type of sphinxes connecting the Karnak and the Luxor temples.
ii. The Hieroko sphinx:
It describes the body of the lion and the head of a hawk and this represents God Rehorakhtey and an example of this sphinx was found in Nubia.
iii. The Crocodile sphinx:
It represents the body of a lion and the head of a crocodile, which represents God Sobek-Re. and examples of this sphinx were found next to the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III at western Thebes.
The Great Sphinx:
It is located beside the causeway of the pyramid of Khaefre. It is called the Great Sphinx of Giza owing to the fact that it is the largest and the best known example of such statues. It measures 73m in length and its maximum width at the face measures 13.8 ft. Its height is 20m. It was carved from a knoll of rock left behind after quarrying. Perhaps the builders left it because the quality of the stone in that part of the quarry was poor. In order to conceal its defects it was probably overlaid with a coating of plaster and painted.
Although the face has been severely mutilated, it still gives the impression of being a portrait of King Khaefre, although it has been argued that it may represent his predecessor Djedefre. A figure possibly of Khaefre was carved in front of the chest, but scarcely any trace of it now remains.
The great sphinx was buried by sand and re-cleared on many occasions; the most famous instance was recorded on the ‘Dream Stela’ erected directly in front of the sphinx by Thotmoses IV. It describes a promise made to him by Horemakhet in a dream that if he cleared the sand covering his statue he would become king.
A small Temple:
The temple in front of the Sphinx was excavated by Slim Hassan in 1936. It is now in bad condition. However its principal feature was a colonnaded court paved with alabaster.
The temple probably dates to the 4th Dynasty. It was apparently made from the same stone as the sphinx itself. It was probably intended for the worship of the three forms of the sun (Khepri in the morning, Re at midday, and Atum in the evening, which were probably connected with cult of the Sphinx in the Old Kingdom.
In the New Kingdom, the sphinx was identified with Horemakhet (Horus in the Horizon), and a new temple dedicated to Horemakhet was constructed to the north of the 4th dynasty temple, which would by then have been completely immersed in sand. This New Kingdom temple was also dedicated to the cult of Hauron, a Canaanite desert deity who may have become identified with the Great Sphinx partly because it was buried in the desert. The Arabic name “Abu El Hawl” is probably an altered form of the ancient word “Bow Hauron”