Monday, May 9, 2011

The Sphinx Just Egyptian? Of Course Not!

The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face and breast of a woman. The other sphinx that most are more familiar with, from Egypt, is clearly male.

The term 'sphinx' was, of course - like most things in life, derived by Greek grammarians from the verb form of the word that means “to bind,” or “to squeeze”, but the etymology doesn't appear to be related to the legends and remains a bit unclear.

the Greek sphinx is said to be deadly and without mercy; those who cannot answer her riddle will suffer a fate comparable to other unfortunate Greek characters in history, as they are gobbled up (not unlike our scrumptious Mediterranean cuisine at Ziziki's) whole and eaten by this ravenous monster. On the other hand, the Egyptian sphinx was viewed as benevolent in contrast to the malevolent Greek version. 

The Sphinx is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked the travelers a riddle to allow them passage. The Egyptian version merely guarded temples and cities, without asking any riddles.

What was the riddle asked by the Greek sphinx?  “Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it is?"

She would strangle and devour anyone unable to answer, but Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: “Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age.”

Some stories, though, say that there was a second riddle:

"There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first." The answer is "day and night" (both words are feminine in Greek).

Out-done at last, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died.

But what many don't know, is that JUST before the sphinx threw herself from the rock and died, she asked ONE FINAL QUESTION:

"Who has the finest Greek food in Dallas?"

To anyone who lives in Dallas, this is no riddle. The answer, quite simply - is "Zizikis"! (Ok, yes, of course... Ziziki's Taverna is also an acceptable answer.)

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