Featured The Riddle of the Sphinx

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. J. J.

    J. J. New Member

    It's a great coin, congrats :)

    But why are you so sure that it depicts the Great Sphinx of Giza? There is a statue of sphinx in Alexandria as well. It looks pretty much the same as the one from Giza. And probably there were many other statues of sphinx in many cities of ancient Egypt.
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  3. paddyman98

    paddyman98 Let me burst your bubble! Supporter

    Don't forget the riddle.. ;)
    The Riddle Of The Sphinx.jpeg
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Occam's Razor.
  5. Keith Twitchell

    Keith Twitchell Active Member

    I went to Egypt in fall 2019, and attended the sound and light show at the Sphinx. The narration is probably 30 years old and quite cheesy, but the setting and lighting are incomparable. Here is a photo from that evening. 51.jpg
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  6. Keith Twitchell

    Keith Twitchell Active Member

    Ah yes, man as a baby, an adult, and an old person with a cane. Hadn't dredged that one up in a while!
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  7. Numiser

    Numiser Well-Known Member

    Everyone seems to like the Sphinx and Pyramids, even the Grateful Dead back in 1978.

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  8. J. J.

    J. J. New Member

    My point is that instead of having no doubts, we should rather say perhaps in such cases, which would be more pertinent. There's a difference between a hypothesis and a fact.

    For many people, some of Nero's coins depict the famous Colossus. And these people are as right as the ones who deny that claim (if you checked ancient sources and numismatic evidences, you would probably lean towards the opinion that those coins don't depict the statue).

    When you see an elephant depicted on Roman coins, do you assume that they were minted to commemorate the victory over Hannibal?
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  9. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Well, perhaps ancient coins aren't for you, rarely is there the certitude you seek.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  10. J. J.

    J. J. New Member

    Where did I say that I seek for the certitude? I do seek for the reliability tho.

    You said: "The reclining position, lack of wings, and pharaoh's head leave no doubt that the Giza monolith is indeed what we see on the reverse." Your description matches the Alexandria monolith perfectly (and many other statues of sphinx that we know). I just asked what your statement was based on. And you answered me with the complete irrelevant (and a bit vicious I guess) comment.
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  11. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Yes, perhaps you are correct and the reverse actually depicts an Alexandrian sphinx instead of some obscure monolith on the Giza plateau. The monumental nature of the coinage at the time not withstanding.
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  12. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, and perhaps that's not really Trajan's Column on the reverse of that Trajan denarius. There were lots of different columns in Rome, after all!
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  13. J. J.

    J. J. New Member

    Oh please, you can do better than that! It's obvious that Trajan denarius depicts Trajan's Column and Titus sestertius depicts the Flavian Amphitheatre. They were coins issued by the guys who built those monuments. And what is the link between Domitian and the Giza Sphinx (erected 2,500 years before him)?

    Sphinxes were portrayed in sculptures, hieroglyphs, jewellery, etc. It was a common and well known symbol. The features of the sphinx from the coin are standardized and not unique at all compared to the other images of reclining sphinxes. Perhaps the coin shows just a symbol, nothing more. There were many eagles and she-wolves in the Roman world, and many sphinxes in Egypt.

    And yes, maybe it is the Giza Sphinx on the coin. But I'm not a coin dealer who likes to attach catchy stories to the coins, so I can doubt and seek for some other points of view.

    And no, my comments are not trolling. I truly like your obol David Atherton. I just think that great coins are worth a discussion.
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  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    @J. J. ... what is your coin site that you are a Dealer?

  15. Jim Dale

    Jim Dale Well-Known Member

    Normally, I don't have much to do with threads about antique coins, but this thread went beyond coins with the Sphinx. I enjoyed the coins that had sphinx-like engravings on them. I was fortunate when my father was stationed in Landsthul, Germany in 1953. I had just turned 8 when we took a summer vacation. One of our stops was in Rome. My father took us to the coliseum. At that time, there were no guards or anything other than other tourist. I walked all over it and went down to the bottom that had the supports for the floor that the entertainment was. I picked up several items that my father told me were coins from long ago. At 8, I didn't see the significance. Now, I wish I had kept them. We were going to go to Egypt, but my father was transferred to Korea where he was in a MASH unit. I had a lot of fun when I was a kid, but I wish we did get to Egypt.
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    But it should be indisputable that the Great Sphinx was by far the best-known sphinx of the "man-headed lion" type, both in Egypt and in the Roman world in general -- as opposed to the Greek-style female-headed sphinx with wings -- and that the average Greek, Roman, or Egyptian handling the coin would have recognized the Great Sphinx, not any other statue. (For one thing, many of the smaller sphinx statues, like the one at Memphis, had very noticeable beards, absent from both the Great Sphinx and the coin. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphinx_of_Memphis.)

    As for the two comparatively small sphinxes in Alexandria that you keep mentioning -- and they are, in fact, a pair, rather than a single sphinx -- they are indeed beardless, but can you cite any evidence that they were anywhere near as famous among the Egyptians (and specifically the Roman and Greek Egyptians) as the Great Sphinx was? (Especially given the proximity of the even more famous Pyramids to the Great Sphinx.) Can you explain why the designers of this coin, the very first example of a Roman Alexandrian coin showing a crouching man-headed Sphinx (see Emmett) -- and one of only a small handful overall; see the examples of the Domitian sphinx coin and the crouching sphinx coins of Trajan, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius at http://ancientcoinage.org/the-great-sphinx.html, together with examples of many Greek-style sphinx coins -- would have chosen to portray one of the imitations, rather than the original, on that initial venture? It simply makes no sense. If you see a French coin depicting the Statue of Liberty, do you reasonably assume that it portrays the statue in New York, or do you say, well, perhaps it does, but perhaps it was intended to portray one of the several smaller replicas in Paris?

    Perhaps more importantly, can you cite any ancient Roman author who wrote about any man-headed sphinx statue, including the two at Alexandria, other than the Great Sphinx? (Are you certain that the two at Alexandria were even visible and unburied in Domitian's time?) There's no uncertainty, however, that it's the Great Sphinx that Pliny wrote about in Book XXXVIII, Ch. 17 of his Natural History. See http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/textdoc=Perseus:text:1999.02.0137:book=36:chapter=17:

    In front of these pyramids is the Sphinx, a still more wondrous object of art, but one upon which silence has been observed, as it is looked upon as a divinity by the people of the neighbourhood. It is their belief that King Harmaïs was buried in it, and they will have it that it was brought there from a distance. The truth is, however, that it was hewn from the solid rock; and, from a feeling of veneration, the face of the monster is coloured red. The circumference of the head, measured round the forehead, is one hundred and two feet, the length of the feet being one hundred and forty-three, and the height, from the belly to the summit of the asp on the head, sixty-two."

    Perhaps significantly, although Pliny the Elder published only the first 10 books of his "Natural History" before his death in AD 79 in the aftermath of the Vesuvius eruption, at the outset of Titus's brief reign, the remainder were published by his son Pliny the Younger -- largely in Domitian's reign. And, needless to say, they were all written by Pliny the Elder before 79 AD, reflecting the knowledge extant at the time.

    Furthermore, it's really quite dubious logically to take the numerical relationship between portrayals of Hannibal's elephants and other elephants on Roman coins, to suggest that the relationship is similar to that between the Great Sphinx and other man-headed sphinx statues, and then to conclude that an assumption that crouching man-headed Sphinx = Great Sphinx is just as unreasonable as an assumption that elephant on Roman coin = a portrayal of Hannibal's elephants.

    Elephants other than Hannibal's played a much larger role on Roman coins and in the Roman popular imagination than was the case for lesser man-headed sphinx statues other than the Great Sphinx -- statues that played a role that was virtually non-existent so far as I know, and so far as you've demonstrated. (If man-headed sphinxes in general were as indisputably well-known in the Greco-Roman world, and as commonly portrayed on coins, as Greek-style sphinxes, my opinion might be different.) In fact, I would only assume that an elephant on a Roman coin was intended to evoke memories of Hannibal's elephants when such a coin was issued by one of the several Republican moneyers descended from Lucius Caecilius Metellus, famous for defeating the Carthaginians at Panormus in Sicily in 251 BCE and capturing 120 war elephants. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Caecilius_Metellus_(consul_251_BC).

    Finally, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and accept that you didn't intend to troll @David Atherton. But that's exactly how your posts came across -- especially from a new member who just joined yesterday but decided that it would be a good idea to devote his first posts to this argument. Not a good hill to die on.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  17. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Yes, Yes, "Egypt."
    Were you (or anyone else who's still alive) there?
  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    Agreed. It is thought the Elephant on my Etruria represented Pyrrhus' Elephants... Perhaps, @J. J. you feel the obverse is a bust of Hannibal?

    Etruria 3rd C BCE AE 18mm 4.76g Hd African r Elephant r letter below SNG Cop 48 HNI 69 SNG Paris 138-140 SNG Morcom 44 RARE
  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    If I understand our esteemed new member correctly, he or she would agree that your coin has nothing to do with Hannibal. Their point seems to be that not every one of the many Roman coin-types with elephants on them portrays a Hannibal elephant, and, therefore, you shouldn't assume that every one of the half-dozen Roman Alexandrian coin-types with crouching man-headed Sphinxes portrays the Great Sphinx. What I tried to show is that the analogy is weak, and doesn't really hold together.
  20. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Oh, I got that. :) The further story on mine was that this elephant on the Etruria coin was a HANNIBAL elephant, and the coin being designed as a JAB at Rome. However, other arguments hold that it is a jab at Rome as an elephant from Pyrrhus.
  21. Ryan McVay

    Ryan McVay Supporter! Supporter

    I was curious, does anyone know what period(s) of time that the spinx was buried in sand? Just curious if object was covered in sand during the roman era or not? My apologize if that is juviNILE question. I'm just curious.

    I looked back on my notes that spinx was a solar diety Hor-em-akhet.
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