Sphinx of Pharaoh Amasis II

Inv. Scu 35

The sphinx, carved from a single block of brown basanite, with the body of lion and human head, is depicted as usual crouching with its front paws (now missing) stretched forward and its hind paws under its body.

The head, showing the facial features of the Pharaoh Amasis II, wears a nemes decorated with parallel stripes which once was surmounted by the uraeus; the hair is tied back in a long braid. The shpinx wears a richly decorated necklace (usekh), beneath which is a square cartouche containing a hieroglyphic inscription.

The inscription describes Amasis II as son of the Sun (Ra) and beloved of Osiris and refers to the dedication of a temple in the city of Sais in Lower Egypt; originally the sphynx was displayed there and was transferred to Rome in the early imperial age. The name of the Pharaoh is in large part erased; this is perhaps related to the damnatio memoriae, the damnation of memory, of which Amasis II fell the victim soon after the Persian invasion of Egypt of BC 525. According to Herodotus, in fact, Cambyses, the King of Persia, had ordered the desecration of the tomb of Amasis.

The work is believed to have been made during the Saitic XXVI Dynasty (6th century BC).

The sphinx was found in 1883 in Via di Sant’Ignazio (now Via del Beato Angelico), near Santa Maria sopra Minerva, in the area of the Iseum Campensis.