The Greek sphinx
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea off the Anatolia coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait.
The coinage of Chios featured as its badge the sphinx, a winged hybrid monster with the body of a lioness and a female head.
In some versions of Greek mythology, the sphinx was the offspring of the monster Echidna (half nymph and half snake) and Orthos (the hound of Geryon). The Greek sphinx (which means strangler) became famous for the tale of “The Riddle of the Sphinx”. There are several versions of this story but the most recounted (and shortest, Apollodoros 3.53-54) one is that Oedipus came to the city of Thebes where the city was in a state of distress. The city’s king was dead and the citizens were plagued by a monster sent by Hera, the Sphinx. This creature had learned a riddle from the Muses, which it would ask the Thebans. Failure to answer the riddle correctly resulted in being ate by the Sphinx, and it was prophesied that Thebes would only be free of the Sphinx when the riddle had been solved.
The riddle was: “What is it that has one name that is four-footed, two-footed, and three-footed?” As no Theban had been able to answer the riddle, the regent of Thebes, one Creon – brother of the widowed queen, offered both the throne and his sister as wife to anyone who could solve it. Oedipus was the first to do so.
He replied to the Sphinx that: “Man is the answer, for as an infant he goes upon four feet; in his prime upon two; and in old age he takes a stick as a third foot.” Defeated, the Sphinx threw itself off the Theban acropolis, Oedipus became king of Thebes and husband of the widowed queen, whom he later learned to be his mother.
Photo source: Greek Culture Ministry