The Sphynx

"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his breast up

to his necke, pilde and smooth without hayre: the face is very round,

yet sharp and piked, having the breasts of women, and their favor, or

visage, much like them: In that part of the body which is bare with out

haire, there is a certaine red thing rising in a round circle, like

millet seed, which giveth great grace & comeliness to their coulour,

which i
the middle part is humaine: Their voice is very like a man's,

but not articulate, sounding as if one did speake hastily, with

indignation or sorrow. Their haire browne, or swarthy coulour. They

are bred in India, and Ethiopia. In the promontory of the farthest

Arabia neere Dira, are Sphinges, and certaine Lyons, called

Formicae, so, likewise, they are to be found amongest the Trogloditae.

"As the Babouns and Cynocephali are more wilde than other Apes, so

the Satyres and Sphynges are more meeke and gentle, for they are not

so wilde that they will not bee tamed, nor yet so tame, but they will

revenge their own harmes; as appeared by that which was slayne in a

publike spectacle among the Thebanes. They carrye their meat in the

store houses of their own chaps or cheeks, taking it forth when they are

hungry, and so eat it.

"The name of this Sphynx is taken from 'binding,' as appeareth by

the Greek notation, or else of delicacie and dainty nice loosnesse,

(wherefore there were certain common strumpets called Sphinctae,

and the Megarian Sphingas was a very popular phrase for notorious

harlots), hath given occasion to the poets to faigne a certaine monster

called Sphynx, which they say was thus derived. Hydra brought foorth

the Chimaera, Chimaera by Orthus, the Sphynx, and the Nemaean

Lyon: now, this Orthus was one of Geryon's dogges. This Sphynx

they make a treble formed monster, a Mayden's face, a Lyon's legs, and

the wings of a fowle; or, as Ansonius and Varinus say, the face

and head of a mayde, the body of a dogge, the winges of a byrd, the

voice of a man, the clawes of a Lyon, and the tayle of a dragon: and

that she kept continually in the Sphincian mountaine; propounding

to all travailers that came that way an AEnigma, or Riddle, which

was this: What was the creature that first of all goeth on foure

legges; afterwards on two, and, lastly, on three: and all of them that

could not dissolve that Riddle, she presently slew, by taking them,

and throwing them downe headlong, from the top of a Rocke. At last

Oedipus came that way, and declared the secret, that it was a man,

who in his infancy creepeth on all foure, afterward, in youth, goeth

upon two legs, and last of all, in olde age taketh unto him a staffe

which maketh him to goe, as it were, on three legs; which the monster

hearing, she presently threwe down herselfe from the former rocke, and

so she ended. Whereupon Oedipus is taken for a subtill and wise opener

of mysteries.

"But the truth is, that when Cadmus had married an Amazonian woman,

called Sphynx, and, with her, came to Thebes, and there slew Draco

their king, and possessed his kingdom, afterwards there was a sister

unto Draco called Harmona, whom Cadmus married, Sphynx being yet

alive. She, in revenge, (being assisted by many followers,) departed

with great store of wealth into the mountaine Sphincius, taking with

her a great Dogge, which Cadmus held in great account, and there made

daily incursions or spoiles upon his people. Now, aenigma, in the

Theban language, signifieth an inrode, or warlike incursion, wherfore

the people complained in this sort. This GRECIAN SPHINX robbeth us, in

setting up with an AENIGMA, but no man knoweth after what manner she

maketh this AENIGMA.

"Cadmus hereupon made proclamation, that he would give a very

bountifull reward unto him that would kill Sphinx, upon which occasion

the Corinthian Oedipus came unto her, being mounted on a swift

courser, and accompanied with some Thebans in the night season, slue

her. Other say that Oedipus by counterfaiting friendshippe, slue her,

making shew to be of her faction; and Pausanius saith, that the former

Riddle, was not a Riddle, but an Oracle of Apollo, which Cadmus had

received, whereby his posterity should be inheritors of the Theban

kingdome; and whereas Oedipus, being the son of Laius, a former king

of that countrey, was taught the Oracle in his sleepe, he recouvered

the kingdome usurped by Sphinx his sister, and, afterwards, unknown,

married his mother Jocasta.

"But the true morall of this poetical fiction is by that learned

Alciatus, in one of his emblems, deciphered; that her monstrous treble

formed shape signified her lustfull pleasure under a Virgin's face, her

cruell pride, under the Lyon's clawes, her winde-driven leuitye, under

the Eagles, or birdes feathers, and I will conclude with the wordes of

Suidas concerning such monsters, that the Tritons, Sphinges, and

Centaures, are the images of those things, which are not to be founde

within the compasse of the whole world."