Reprint Granted: April 13, 05
Dr. Colette M. Dowell ND
Moving Forward Publications
Note: This is a historical article.
Aryballus from Eretia (British Museum): The solstices (lion and lioness), the
equinoxes (sphinxes). Courtesy: Copyright 1994,Christine Rhone from 'Sacred
Geography of the Ancient Greeks' Jean Richer, ZUNY Press, 1994.
By Christine Rhone © 1996
Few things are more convenient than taking a book, opening it up literally at random and finding, as the very first sentence seen on the page, the exact information one was looking for. These coincidences are little gifts of the library angel, who is known to haunt libraries and bookshops, but who like many spirits, chooses her own time to appear. The library angel may have guided my hand to open Bauval and Hancock's, Keeper of Genesis to page fifty-nine, where the authors state that the Great Sphinx of Giza is a marker of the equinox.
More than just marking it in an ordinary way, they say, the Sphinx is an excellent equinoctial marker, because it lies exactly along the east-west axis of the Giza necropolis and its eyes are gazing straight ahead at sunrise on the equinox of spring. This reading of the Great Sphinx's archeo-astronomical meaning happens to coincide exactly with Jean Richer's decoding of star symbolism in art and architecture.
In all his work, and not only in Sacred Geography of the Ancient Greeks, he interprets the image of the sphinx as a symbol of the equinoctial axis and in particular of the spring equinox. While he did not make a detailed study of Egyptian antiquities or geomancy, he did propose that the Great Sphinx was an equinoctial marker. This equinox sphinx equation is consistent with his studies of many other sphinx representations, found on architectural pediments and portals, coffers, statuettes and pottery throughout the ancient world.
The choice of imagery in the art of antiquity was not arbitrarily chosen for pictorial or decorative effect, but for cosmological reasons. From colossal monuments to small vases and jewelry, both imagery and layout functioned as symbolic referents to space on earth and among the stars. The knitting together of these kinds of space in the work of art was an act of cosmological significance that was central to the stability of ancient societies.
Richer's tables of symbolic interpretation may be applied fruitfully to most of western art through to the Byzantine period. The underlying system of star symbolism in art and architecture was so widespread and consistent because astral beliefs, manifested in religion, art, and
landscape engineering were a common denominator among all the great ancient civilizations.
The image of the sphinx was used to represent the equinox, and especially the spring equinox, all the way through to the 5th century AD, when, in Byzantine art, it was replaced by the peacock.
By Christine Rhone
I have placed some links into the article that are interesting and
will give you some insight of Jean Richer and other goodies.
I received my copy of 'Sacred Geography of the Ancient Greeks' by Jean Richer.
The book is wonderful. I have thoroughly enjoyed paging through the book,
catching glimpses of chapters and viewing the abundance of photographs and
graphics. The entire book is filled with valuable research and richly defined
history of various myths and topographical alignments. This is a book you can
definitely use as a resource for further studies; I tease myself with tasty bits
here and there. Christine Rhone did a very good job translating the original
version into English. The book is available through SUNY Press: $24.95 +
shipping. State University of New York Press, State University Plaza, Albany,
New York, 12246, (518) - 472 - 5036.
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