Sculptures & Fountains Tour: Sphinxes

Location: The Birthday Garden

The pair of lead sphinxes are copies from Greek sculptures and were purchased by Henry Scripps Booth in 1963 in England. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is a monster with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the head and upper torso of a human female. She sat on a high rock by the road to Thebes and would not let any travelers pass who could not answer her riddle: "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?"

Answer: man—crawls on all fours as a baby; walks on two legs as an adult; and uses a cane, the third leg, in old age. If the travelers couldn't answer correctly, she devoured them. Many travelers tried, but could not answer the riddle. Finally, Oedipus answered correctly and the Sphinx was so angry, she threw herself off the rock to her death. Oedipus was rewarded when the people of Thebes made him their king.