the-sphinx

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Sphinx of Naxos

Delphi, Greece

~ 560 BCE

12.5 m in height


The Naxian Sphinx is a colossal statue of a mythical creature with the head of a woman, the body of a lion and impressive feathers of a prey bird turned upwards, set up on a stele as an offering to the temple of Apollo by Naxos, one of the richest Cycladic islands at the time.

The famous Sphinx of the Naxians stood on a column which culminated in an Ionic capital.

The statue of this mythical creature with its eerie demonic form stood on a towering Ionic column, which may have been the oldest Ionic construction project in the site of the Oracle of Delphi. It had been set up close to the Halos, the most sacred spot of Delphi, where Apollo had presumably killed the python. According to tradition and its mythological representation, the Sphinx had a female face with an enigmatic smile, a lion body and prey bird wings. It was carved from a large piece of Naxian marble. The solid construction combined elements that gave the statue a character of motion and vitality, such as the decorative details to depict the hair, chest and especially the wings that were the most impressive. The monument was made entirely of marble. The monument created awe to the visitors and constituted a typical example of Naxian sculpture in its peak period, i.e. in the 6th century B.C.

On the base there is an inscription dated to 328-327 B.C., renewing the promanteia for the Naxians: «ΔΕΛΦΟΙ ΑΠΕΔΩΚΑΝ ΝΑΞΙΟΙΣ ΤΑΝ ΠΡΟΜΑΝΤΗΙΑΝ ΚΑΤΤΑ ΑΡΧΑΙΑ ΑΡΧΟΝΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΛΥΤΟΥ ΒΟΥΛΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΕΠΙΓΕΝΕΟΣ» (Delphi accorded the Naxians the right of Promanteia as before, at the time of archon Theolytos and Epigenes the Bouleutes). 

A light elf’s face is pretty hard to reach considering how tall they are, but with determination (and shapeshifting) anything is possible!