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The gates of the Citadel at Oldtown are flanked by a pair of Sphinxes, a male and a female:

The sphinxes at the Citadel

Do we know anything about why and how they got to be there?

  • They look super cool? – Rebel-Scum Nov 16 '19 at 19:21
  • @Rebel-Scum: Actually, they seem a bit out-of-place for the HQ of the maesters, who rather dislike certain mythical beasts, if you know what I mean, wink wink. – einpoklum Nov 16 '19 at 19:22
  • They appear quite a lot in different places such as the Small Council doors and various Valyrian roads. I imagine Aegon might have put them there as they are Valyrian, as most are, but I don’t think there’s anything actually about them except that they are there. – TheLethalCarrot Nov 16 '19 at 20:05
  • @TheLethalCarrot: Actually, those aren't Valyrian sphinxes. Now, there are some Targaeryan statues on the citadel grounds, but most of the citadel is very old. – einpoklum Nov 16 '19 at 20:16
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    If they represent the same thing as in the real world, their association with riddles and hidden knowledge seems very appropriate. – Adamant Nov 16 '19 at 22:20
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They seem to be common enough ornaments, and certainly apt for a place of study.

There are a few references throughout the books to statues of Valyrian sphinxes appearing in prominent places: outside the council chamber in King's Landing, outside the Citadel in Oldtown, and flanking a road in the Velvet Hills of Essos:

The next evening they came upon a huge Valyrian sphinx crouched beside the road. It had a dragon's body and a woman's face.

"A dragon queen," said Tyrion. "A pleasant omen."

"Her king is missing." Illyrio pointed out the smooth stone plinth on which the second sphinx once stood, now grown over with moss and flowering vines. "The horselords built wooden wheels beneath him and dragged him back to Vaes Dothrak."

-- A Dance with Dragons, chapter Tyrion II

They seem to be "a thing" in the world of Ice and Fire, built by powerful people in certain significant places.

Also, they are certainly associated with riddles just as in the real world:

"The dragon has three heads," [Alleras (nicknamed the Sphinx)] announced in his soft Dornish drawl.

"Is this a riddle?" Roone wanted to know. "Sphinxes always speak in riddles in the tales."

-- A Feast for Crows, Prologue

So it seems apposite enough to place sphinxes outside the Citadel, a place of academic study, fit for those who can solve riddles set by such creatures. In the real world, sphinxes are often seen as guardians, asking questions to test the intelligence of people seeking to enter a place. If the same is true in the world of Ice and Fire - and what little we know about sphinxes there does match with the stories in the real world - then it would make perfect sense to place them outside the Citadel.

  • But all of your examples other than the Citadel are: 1. Valyrian sphinxes. 2. Erected by Valyrians (IIRC, and I may not be). – einpoklum Nov 17 '19 at 21:11

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