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The riddle of the St. Petersburg sphinxes
The riddle of the St. Petersburg sphinxes

The Sphinxes on the University Embankment, before arriving in St. Petersburg, stood in the courtyard of the funeral temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Thebes, on the western bank of the Nile.

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is considered the product of the chthonic monsters Typhon and Echidna. This is a monster with the body of a lion, bird wings and a woman's head. In Greece, the sphinx was feminine. She was sent to Thebes by the Hero as punishment for the crime of the Theban king Lai. Trapping travelers, the Sphinx asked them a riddle and killed everyone who could not answer.

In Greece, the sphinx was feminine

The riddle was this: "Who has four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, three in the evening and is the weakest when he has the most legs?" Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx, and she threw herself from the top of the mountain into the abyss. The answer is simple: this is a person who crawls in childhood, walks on two legs in his prime, and in old age leans on a cane.

Some researchers believed that the Greeks borrowed the Sphinxes from the Egyptians. If so, then the Egyptian word for this mystical creature is unknown to us. The medieval Arabs called the Egyptian Sphinxes, and in particular the Great Sphinx, “the father of horror”.

The appearance of the sphinxes


On the heads of the sphinxes there are royal shawls with ureas and high crowns "pa-schemti"; ritual beards are “tied” to their chins, their backs and breasts are decorated with imitations of blankets made of pleated fabric. On the chest and shoulders of each sphinx there is a wide usekh necklace with cut “beads”. A massive tail is curled around the right thigh of each monument. On the chest, between the front paws of the sphinxes and along the entire perimeter of the basement of the monuments, hieroglyphic inscriptions with a brief title of Amenhotep III are carved, most of which are well preserved.

When loading one of the sphinxes, the cables broke and he fell

False beards from the sphinxes were beaten off in ancient times after the death of the pharaoh. When loading one of the sphinxes, the cables broke and it fell, breaking the mast and the side of the ship to pieces. Petersburg Sphinxes can rightfully be considered one of the best images of Amenhotep III. Each of them, weighing 23 tons, is 5.24 meters long and 4.50 meters high.


The Sphinxes were “born” in the turbulent and fateful times of the brilliant (according to historians) New Dynasty of the Pharaohs of Egypt. The son of Amenhotep III - Amenhotep IV challenged the omnipotence of Amun, the “king of the gods”, overthrew his priests, destroyed his temples and the temples of all other ancient Egyptian gods (included in the pantheon of Amun), and established the rule of a single cult of Aten, taking the name Akhenaten ("Pleasing to Aton"). He was married to the legendary Nefertiti ("Beauty is Coming"), the daughter of the king of fierce fire-worshipers from the Mesopotamian state of Methanni, who worshiped the sun deity.

For the first time, the monuments were described by the adventurer and antiquities seeker Janis Atanazi, who worked in Luxor in 1819-1828. It was he who first undertook excavations on the territory of the funeral temple of Amenhotep III, which was badly damaged by an earthquake in ancient times.

Among the monuments discovered during the excavations, a special place was occupied by two colossal sphinxes made of pink granite. The monuments lying on the western bank of the Nile, not far from the famous colossi of Memnon, were examined by Jean-Francois Champollion on June 20, 1829 during his travels.

In his letter to his brother on June 20, 1829, he wrote:

Champollion tried to find funds to buy sphinxes, but the venture ended in failure. Despite all its perfection, there was no buyer for the sphinxes; one of the sphinxes on rafts was sent to Alexandria in order to accelerate the sale of monuments abroad.


The acquisition of the sphinxes on the University Embankment in front of the Academy of Arts St. Petersburg owes to Andrei Nikolaevich Muravyov. After the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829, a young Russian officer Andrei Nikolaevich Muravyov set off to travel across Syria and Egypt. In Alexandria, Muravyov saw the sphinxes brought for sale. The statues created by sculptors in antiquity made such a strong impression on him that he immediately sent a letter to the Russian ambassador in which he offered to purchase them.

From the embassy, ​​the traveler's letter went to Petersburg. There, his addressee, Nicholas I, forwarded the message to the Academy of Arts. In the end, such a purchase was considered expedient, but by this time the French government had already acquired the sphinxes, but with the start of the revolution in July 1830, it had no time for sculptures and it ceded them to Russia for 64 thousand rubles.

After Napoleon's campaign in Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century, a fashion began in Europe for everything oriental and, first of all, for works of art and architecture. St. Petersburg, too, did not stay away from this new trend. An Egyptian bridge appears in the northern capital, an Egyptian pyramid in Tsarskoe Selo, and an Egyptian lobby in Pavlovsk.

At the end of May 1832, values ​​weighing 23 tons each were loaded with great care on the Italian sailing ship Buena Speranza, which means Good Hope, and from hot Egypt a year later the Sphinxes arrived in St. Petersburg.


The Sphinxes "did not want" to leave their homeland. During loading, one of them collapsed to the deck due to a malfunctioning hoisting machine: “the rope covering his head was displaced by a sudden jolt and tore off three small pieces of granite from the right side of his cap, which were neatly collected in a cassette, transferred to storage to the captain.

The installation of the second sphinx was without incident, as was the placement of both bulky crowns of the sphinxes (whether they fell from their heads, or were, for the sake of convenience, removed, remains unclear) and a piece of red granite, bought in order to repair some damage on the crowns ". Unfortunately, today the location of the flakes from the claft on the head of one of the sphinxes, which has never been restored, is unknown.

It is also difficult to determine which of the crowns was eventually restored with the help of a stored piece of stone; it seems that the crown of the eastern sphinx, consisting of several pieces of stone and not distinguished by an excellent degree of polish, unlike the monuments themselves, can be partially supplemented when the sphinxes are installed in their present place in St. Petersburg.


In 1832, the sphinxes arrived in St. Petersburg. They spent the first two years in the courtyard of the Academy of Arts. It took so much time to create a pier at its walls, the architect of which was Konstantin Ton. Initially, it was planned to install bronze compositions "The Taming of a Horse by a Man" by Pyotr Klodt to decorate it. But this work did not fit into the allocated estimate, and in April 1834 Egyptian statues were installed on granite pedestals near the pier on the University Embankment.

Between the sphinxes, it was proposed to install a colossal statue of Osiris

In 1843, on the pedestal itself, the inscription was made: "The Sphinx from Ancient Thebes in Egypt was brought to the city of Petrov in 1832".

The first work devoted to the sphinxes and their history was published by Academician V.V. Struve. The brochure "Petersburg Sphinxes", published, as stated on the title page, "by order of the Russian Archaeological Society on August 12, 1912".

V.V. Struve reports that the architect Montferrand, who finished the Alexander Column on Palace Square in the same 1834, proposed sculpting and installing a colossal statue of Osiris between the sphinxes, but the project of the pier had already been approved earlier (December 16, 1831) by the imperial decree of the emperor and they did not revise it.


Secrets of the Sphinxes

It is not surprising that the sphinxes are surrounded by many legends and mystical speculations. The traditional title of the pharaoh "lord of both kingdoms" from the commemorative inscription on the pedestal is called a prophecy of moving to a new empire.

So, at the turn of 1996-1997, a sensational report appeared in St. Petersburg newspapers that the Sphinxes, which are located next to the Academy of Arts, have an abnormal effect on people. Like, in 1996, the most talented, promising graduates of the state university, not to mention the teachers, fell victim to the "energy attack" of the Sphinxes. Cases were cited when walks to the Sphinx caused mental illness in the inhabitants of the city, destroyed families, and provoked suicide.


According to the historian and expert on Ancient Egypt V.S. Gerasimov, the impact on people is as follows: “Usually the victim is drawn to walk along the embankment. In the area of ​​the academy, this desire intensifies, the person almost runs to the sphinxes. The only thing he sees is the face of the statue, which occasionally turns into the face of a lioness. He feels psychological pressure that escalates into a state of anxiety. Coming out of stupor, a person will not remember what happened to him during those few minutes, but he will still feel the power of the Sphinx over himself."

The pharaoh's beards, broken back at home, are explained by both the fatal fall during transportation and the sabotage of the distraught watchmen.

The traditional title of the pharaoh "lord of both kingdoms" is called the prophecy of moving to a new empire

Archaeologist Janis Atonazis, who found the Sphinxes, died under mysterious circumstances. The fate of Andrei Muravyov, who organized the transportation of the Sphinxes to Russia, was also tragic - his close relatives died … They said that within a couple of years the captain and the crew of the ship "Good Hope", on which the Sphinxes were transported, died.


The subtle smile of mythical animals and their mysterious gaze have given rise to many legends about them. The expression on the face of the sphinxes changes during the day. From morning to noon, it is calm and serene, and then becomes ominous and threatening. Some Petersburgers want to see the moment of mood change and go to the Sphinxes before sunset. But impressionable people are better off not doing this - they can go crazy.

There is a story that in 1938, during the restoration work, a Komsomol member who saw the true look of the Sphinx, armed with a sandblasting pistol, threatened reprisals against his colleagues from Lengorstroytrest and cursed Stalin. In the reports of the NKVD about the incident, there is allegedly a postscript: "acted under the suggestion of a mystical idol." During interrogation, the bully confessed that during lunchtime he "studied" the Sphinxes, then felt that "something took possession of his mind", and then a subtle but insistent order followed - "to make a sacrifice."

They also say that the sphinxes, since ancient times associated with the Nile, softened the character of the Neva. The most plausible of the legends - that drowned people emerge next to the sphinxes - most likely has a rational hydrological explanation.

There is a legend according to which the sphinxes should not be disturbed and whoever disturbs their peace is in danger of inevitable death.


It is also impossible to tear them away from their native territory, which manifested itself with special force in St. Petersburg - the city of ghosts and shadows. And walks to the sphinxes can lead to mental disorder and mental disorders.

So what is the reason for this behavior of the Sphinxes? Mystics and esotericists explain this by the fact that Pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose appearance reflects the faces of the Sphinxes, was overly keen on magic. With his passion for magic, the pharaoh aroused the discontent of the priests who were called to protect the laws of Truth and Harmony.

After the death of Pharaoh, his name was cursed for centuries

After the death of Pharaoh, his name was cursed for centuries. But the pharaoh managed to leave a dangerous message to his descendants, commanding to carve hieroglyphs on the pedestal of his Sphinx images.These hieroglyphs are a spell that can plunge the world into chaos if you read it on certain days. Translated into Russian, the text reads as follows: “I am the one who will close the path to Light and open the path to Darkness. With the exodus of one hundred thousand moons, the peace of the rulers of silence will be disturbed and the plans of the gods will be destroyed. Those whom I saw will open = their eyes and come out, and the kingdom of Darkness will come. May it be so!"

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