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A sphinx is a fabled monster. It has a human head and a lion's body. In ancient Egypt, where the idea originated, the head was usually a portrait of the reigning pharaoh. It also represented the sky-god Horus. The Egyptians always pictured their kings as calm and stately, with wide-open, staring eyes. The lion's body -symbolising courage — is crouched with its front feet outstretched. From Egypt the idea of the sphinx spread to the Syrians and Phoenicians and finally to the Greeks. These peoples gave the creature the head and bust of a woman. They added an eagle's wings to represent majesty and a long serpent's tail to indicate wiliness. In later Greek literature, the sphinx was no monster, but a beautiful, wise and mysterious woman. The Great Sphinx at Giza was carved in about 2600 BC. It stands near the three great pyramids, gazing across the Nile, to the east. The head is a portrait of Khafre, a pharaoh of the Old Kingdom. Near the sphinx rises Khafre's tomb, the second of the three great pyramids.

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