Robert Temple's "The Sphinx Mystery"

In “The Sphinx Mystery” Robert Temple identifies Amenemhet II (of the Egyptian 12th Dynasty) as the pharaoh responsible for the crestfallen countenance of the Sphinx. The basis of this conclusion is an 1897 article, “Concerning the Age of the Sphinx at Giza”, which noted the distinctive 12th Dynasty style of the Sphinx’s headgear. This article was written by German archaeology Ludwig Borchardt. It was located by Temple and translated by him from the German and included as Appendix 2 of his book. A second and more extensive work, “The Louvre Sphinx and Royal Sculpture from the Reign of Amenemhet II”, by Egyptologist Biri Fay, was published nearly a century later in 1996. Fay argued that pharaoh Amenemhet II modeled his personal likeness in statuary, and particularly his sphinx statuary, after that of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Temple inverts the causation and asserts that Amenemhet II instead re-fashioned the Great Sphinx to look like himself.

It has been demonstrated that Amenemhet II was the leading Horus the Elder (“Judah”) figure of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. He was therefore the direct counterpart of Khafre/Chephron of the Old Kingdom and Thutmose IV of the New Kingdom. This pattern strongly suggests that it was the “divine role” of Horus the Elder figures to become intimately associated with the “husbandry” of the Great Sphinx. Thutmose IV could not have been unaware of the earlier history of the Sphinx as Robert Temple claims. On the contrary, he would have been made acutely aware of the Sphinx tradition and his appointed function not only in perpetuating that tradition, but also “reshaping” it. Thutmose IV perhaps did not change the bare face of the Sphinx, but he certainly made other bold alterations, all with the blessing of his still living (albeit “ailing in all his bones” and a “sun-god waning before his time”) father Amenhotep II, yet they were possibly beyond the limits of what should properly have been undertaken, even by a prince of his typecasting. (The inspiration for such a faux pas is laid down in a note below.)

Note: The Egyptian New Kingdom patterned itself closely after the Middle Kingdom. See, Jan Assmann, "The Mind of Egypt" (p 206-7) where he states the Egyptian belief that the sun returns to the "womb" at sunset and is born again in the morning. Assman also states, "The mystery of solar rebirth is in fact the central salvational element in [ancient] Egyptian religion."

In “The Sphinx Mystery” author Robert Temple patronizes his wife, but brutishly represses the feminine aspect of the Sphinx. In his mind, the Sphinx could only have been conceived originally as a dog. Oral tradition from all time periods must have been mistaken. The numerous leonine sphinxes from all the major Egyptian dynasties must also be a perversion of the creator’s vision. Greek tradition, according to Temple, was equally deceived about both the feminine and leonine nature of the Sphinx, as well as the reputation of the Sphinx as a "strangler". Dogs don't strangle their prey. However, Temple overlooks that it is the female lion (sans mane) that bites the neck of its victim causing a swift (if not entirely merciful) death by asphyxiation (before she and her company ensue the devouring).

Note: The Sphinx was considered the daughter of Echnidna, with the father being either Typhon (Set) or Orthrus (Osiris/Zokar).

Robert Temple neglects to mention the many queens that depicted themselves in Sphinx form, including Hetepheres II and Khentkawes of the Old Kingdom, Sobeknofru of the Middle Kingdom, and Hatshepsut and Queen Tiye of the New Kingdom. These were among the most powerful women of Egyptian history. Most if not all of these queens were known for ruling effectively (if not always officially) as a king.

Portrayal in Sphinx form was also a trend among leading Horus figures, notably those of Middle Kingdom pharaohs Senusret III and Amenemhet III (whose typecasting morphed from Ham/Horus to that of a Noah/Obed), and New Kingdom pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenhotep III (who was not only a Noah/Obed figure but also called "Great Hor (Horus)". The Hyksos Period also sported two Horus-styled pharaohs that fancied themselves as Sphinxes, namely Apophis and Khayan (who doubled as a Noah/Obed). The pattern is quite distinct and probably derived from an Old Kingdom (or even earlier) precedent.

In the sixth dynasty, sphinxes were associated with Pepi I and/or Pepi II, as well as Merenra/Nemty-em-sa-f. It is not clear, however, whether one of these pharaohs also played a Noah/Obed role, or whether that precedent was first set by Amenemhet III of the 12th Dynasty. The Sphinx motif seemed to originally only pertain to a queen in the role of Hathor or to a prince in the role of "Horus son of Hathor". In the 5th Dynasty, pharaoh Sahure ("He of Horus") had himself depicted as a Sphinx.

Note: Another prominent “Judah” of the 21st Dynasty, High Priest Menkheperre (a.k.a. Smendes/Nimlot) of the 21st Dynasty, also evidently identified with the Sphinx:

The highly selective use of sphinx imagery (by female and male members of the royal family cast in specific divine roles) presents a riddle: How can the Sphinx represent both male and female? The answer appears to be that the Sphinx represents a female being transformed into a male, both in terms of kingship and in terms of biology. A queen could rule as pharaoh, and a queen could effectively transform herself into a male by producing a son through her own son. A queen could claim the same status of being "self-created" as a king (and as a partner to a son who was producing a son of his own through her).

Note: Thutmose IV failed to produce a son by his mother. Another brother of his had done so, and it was this prince, called Prince Amenhotep, that earned the election of Crown Prince before Thutmose. Amenhotep was however murdered before he could produce other heirs capable of establishing a lasting dynasty. Thutmose IV was raised up in his place, but obviously harbored some anger toward the Sphinx tradition (that seemed crouched at the portal of kingship and lying in wait for him). Before he could succeed his father, Thutmose IV was poisoned and died. A new Great Queen named Tiye came to power and attempted to fulfill the Sphinx tradition with her own son Akhenaten, but with even more tragic consequences.

Note: As an aside, Caesar Augustus also identified with the Sphinx by incorporating it into his official seal. What might that tell us about the nature of his own birth (and his inability to produce an heir)?

Robert Temple decries the blocking of Sphinx passages by former explorers and restorers of the site. However, considering that the Sphinx was a natural sink for run-off water (and this function was even artificially expanded), we should not expect that the site was also used for underground storage or inscriptions of any kind. Other parts of the plateau would have been far better suited for that purpose.

Giza Underground Re-Discovered:

The Great Sphinx sets in one of the so-called valleys that drain the Giza Plateau. There is an obvious contradiction with the god Anubis who is described as “on his hill” (not valley) and shown resting upon a raised platform. In Robert Temple’s partial defense, if there had been a separate shrine of Anubis at Giza it is certainly not to be seen now. The destruction of that site may very well have taken place as early as the end of the Old Kingdom, which could have led to the Anubis cult being consolidated with that of the Sphinx. However, as another reviewer remarked, Robert Temple is guilty of taking the cultic significance of Giza as a whole (in terms of it being home of “The Lake of Fire”, the entrance to Hell as a place of torment for the wicked, etc.) and assigning it to one small portion of Giza, the Sphinx.

Note: The Sphinx would have been stigmatized as a harlot/whore (a play on Hul?) and by extension as a dog (at least in ancient Hebrew culture) due to its association with unbridled (and incestuous) copulation.

But where might the monument of Anubis have been? If the Giza Pyramids represented the Belt of Orion, then we should expect to find one (or two) Anubis shrines to the north of the Pyramids (in the vicinity of Khufu’s Valley Temple), that is, on the same side that Canis Major and Canis Minor are in relation to the Belt of Orion in the Constellation of Gemini. If the Giza Pyramids don’t represent the Belt of Orion, then we might expect an Anubis shrine to be associated with the Third Pyramid, that of Menkhaure, typecast as Horus the Younger (“Benjamin the Wolf”).

Note: The Sphinx, if carved around 10,500 BC (or even earlier) could have accrued many animal associations. The various astrological ages that passed it by may have been Libra, Virgo, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Taurus, and Aries. Certainly in the age of Aries the ram-headed sphinx was popular. The bull is associated with Taurus, but the dog might also have been a prominent “sign of the times” in that Egypt was then the domain of the usurper (i.e., “dog”) Anu/On. Anu/On was the original “bull-dog”, if you will. There is also an obvious similarity between the god Anu and the name Anu-bis. The Patriarchal alias of Anu was Cain. The deity Khenti-Amenti seems to encode the name Cain and was also associated with the dog (or was Cain-ine in nature, if you will). The complex constellation Gemini is called “The Twins” (Set and Thoth) and embodies the twin hunting dogs of Orion. It also includes the double star system Sirius with its male and female aspects (Isis and Osiris). Another star system within Gemini is the fleeing serpent (under Orion’s feet). Like the Sphinx, Gemini represents bad luck, violence and destruction. Earlier ages had other significant associations that could have amalgamated with the Sphinx in their turn. Cancer focuses on the sun and relates well to the Egyptian god Shu/Asher. Leo was of course Horus the Elder/Judah and was symbolized by the lion (or lioness). Before that were Virgo (Isis) and Libra (Libya/Hathor) with their dominant female character. If the Sphinx is as old as some think, its makeup is the product of many influences.

Note: Khenti-Amenti was the Abydos equivalent of Anubis:
(Wikipedia: much maligned by Robert Temple as a sign of scholarly demise in the West.)

Gemini Links:

I’d have to say that "The Sphinx Mystery" is one of the strangest books I've ever read, but perhaps it only goes with the territory. The Sphinx is a very strange beast indeed. Its study also seems to have caused Robert Temple to go stark raving mad.

Throughout the book Temple derides the Academic establishment, yet he also distances himself from alternative researchers. He seems to think of himself as both the paragon of rigid, ultra-disciplined Academia and of free, independent thinking.

Temple has held a position as visiting professor in Beijing for about a decade, and claims that only the Chinese are worthy of being considered scholars any more! This comes across as a shameless kowtow to the Chinese government.

Temple brags about his yeoman work of seeking out rare documents and photographs in little known archives. He may actually deserve some recognition for this, but overall the level of scholarship exhibited by the book (as a finished product) is very spotty. The book could have benefited greatly from academic peer review and editing, but apparently Temple has no peers, either here in the West or in China that are qualified for the job! The logo of his publisher is the god Anubis, but Inner Traditions certainly did little or nothing to guard the author's reputation.

Temple deplores the impact of the Internet on academic standards, but then glibly offers up two Internet sites of his own as a boon-companion for scholars!


More Sphinx Linxes:

Caesar Augustus sphinx seal (Francis Bacon commentary on the Sphinx)

Sphinx of Amenhotep III

A headless sphinx of Queen Tiye also found at Malkatta.

Sphinx of Queen Tiye

Sphinx of Akhenaten (related to him fulfilling the role of Thutmose IV)

Sphinx Overview:

The Sphinx of Queen/Pharaoh Hatshepsut had a mane and false beard.

Sphinx of Thutmose III
(unnamed queen from the reign of Thutmose III)

Egyptian, Canaanite, Hebrew, Phoenician, and Assyrian Sphinxes

Queens as Sphinx: Tiye and (her daughter?) Mutnodjmet depicted as sphinx, plus the wives of Nectanabo I and the “non-existent queen” Ptolemais.