A Comparative Study of the Sphinx in Achaemenid Art and Seljuk Art

Document Type : Research Article


1 Head of Department Islamic Azad University, Tehran.

2 Ph.D. Student in Comparative and Analytical History of Islamic Art, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.


Issue statement: The Sphinx is one of the types of composite creature’s motif that the ancient man created it with his own mind and imagination and developed it with different concepts and appearances during different historical periods. This motif had also appeared in Iran and were used in ancient and Islamic times. Despite the use and significance of the Sphinx in Iranian historical periods, this motif has been less studied and is still considered to be ambiguous. Therefore, in this research, the Sphinx has been studied as widely used motif in two historical periods of Iran, the Achaemenid in ancient era and the Seljuk in Islamic era. Objective: The purpose of this study is to compare the differences and similarities of the Sphinx in the Achaemenid period and the Seljuk period.
Research Methodology: The images of the Sphinx during the Achaemenid period and the Seljuk period and its related concepts were searched and based on descriptive method, the characteristics of each were described in the tables separately and the most important structural features of motifs were identified. Then, with an analytical approach, the possible reasons and sources of their application have been discussed and analyzed. In addition, from a visual perspective, they were examined and finally matched together.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate the similarities and distinctions of the Sphinx in these two historical periods. In general, it can be said that in the most cases, Achaemenid art and Seljuk art, the Sphinx in terms of structural features are different and in terms of concepts and functional role have many similarities. In the visual examination, it was also found that both of them are similar in terms of composition, rhythm, and type of script. The Sphinx in the Achaemenid period symbolizes the sun, the power of the kingdom, the protector of the tree of life and palace guardian, the prayers on both sides of the tree of life. In the Seljuk period, it is the symbol of the sun, blessing, mystical aspects, constellations, magic, palace guardian, the protector of the tree of life, and the prayers on both sides of the tree of life.


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