Archaeological scholar to discuss the Sphinx in ancient literature

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or

2013-09-05 08:18:59 - General

Archaeological scholar Kristian Lorenzo will discuss "The Sphinx's Tragic Tale: from Egyptian Solar Deity to Greek Cannibalistic Femme-fatale" at Coe College on Monday, Sept. 16, beginning at 6 p.m. at Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Monsters have always excited the human psyche. The Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations freely imported monstrous creatures such as the sphinx, a human lion hybrid, from the iconography of Egypt and the Near East. Once in the Aegean, the sphinx eventually gained a Greek mythological pedigree in Hesiod's Theogony (ca. 700 B.C.). Later, Greek authors made the Sphinx an essential element in Oedipus's elevation to the Theban throne. Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the three great fifth-century Athenian tragedians, all dealt with the myth of Oedipus and through their language created a "tragic image" of the Sphinx.

Lorenzo will begin this talk with a brief yet illuminating history of the sphinx's imagery, from her Eastern origins to her many appearances on fifth-century B.C. Greek painted pots. This sets the scene for an in-depth analysis of the "tragic image" of the Sphinx, in which he argues that this image of the Sphinx is both complementary to, and at points at variance with, her image as it was conveyed on fifth-century B.C. Greek painted pots.

Professor Lorenzo received his bachelor's degree in Mediterranean archaeology from the University of Buffalo in 2003, his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005, and his Ph.D. from the same institution in 2011 with his dissertation, "Ancient Greek and Roman Naval Victory Monuments." He currently serves as the ACM-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Classical Archaeology at Monmouth College. For this fellowship, he teaches courses focused on archaeology and material culture, directs the Monmouth College Archaeology Research Laboratory, and curates the laboratory's collection of over 5,000 Native American artifacts.

The scholar's current research interests center on the commemoration and remembrance of naval victories in the ancient Mediterranean, particularly in Rome, Cyprus and the Aegean Island of Astypalaea, and the sphinx, which as either the quasi-oracular femme fatale of the Oedipus myth or as a triple-breasted figure on a Roman altar, offers fertile ground for his future academic endeavors.

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