Griffin, Gryps, or Gryphus — a fabulous, bird-like species of animals, dwelling in the Rhipaean mountains, between the Hyperboreans and the one-eyed Arimaspians, and guarding the gold of the north. The Arismaspians mounted on horseback, and attempted to steal the gold, and hence arose the hostility between the horse and the griffin. The body of the griffin was that of a lion, while the head and wings were those of an eagle. This monstrous conception suggests that the origin of the belief in griffins must be looked for in the east, where it seems to have been very ancient.

Hesiod seems to be the first writer that mentioned them, and in the poem Arimaspae of Aristeas they must have played a prominent part.1 At a later period they are mentioned among the fabulous animals which guarded the gold of India.2


The figures of griffins were frequently employed as ornaments in works of art; the earliest instance of which we have any record is the bronze patera, which the Samians ordered to be made about 640 BCE.3 They were also represented on the helmet of the statue of Athena by Phidias.4



  1. Scholiast on Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, 793.
  2. Philostratus. Life of Apollonius of Tyana iii, 48.
  3. Herodotus. Histories iv, 152; comp. 79.
  4. Pausanias, l.c.


  • Aelian. History of Animals iv, 27.
  • Herodotus. Histories iii, 116; iv, 13, 27.
  • Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 24.6; viii, 2.3.
  • Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia vii, 2; x, 70.
  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.