They are most commenly found in Greek Mythology but can also be
found in Egyptian myth.
(Greek: γρύφων, grýphōn, or γρύπων, grýpōn, early form γρύψ, grýps;
Latin: gryphus) is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and
the head and wings of an eagle. As the lion was traditionally
considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the
birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and
majestic creature. The griffin was also thought of as king of the
creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless
possessions. Adrienne Mayor, a classical folklorist, proposes that
the griffin was an ancient misconception derived from the
fossilized remains of the Protoceratops found in gold mines in the
Altai mountains of Scythia, in present day southeastern Kazakhstan.
In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the
divine. Some have suggested that the word griffin is cognate with
While Griffins are most common in Ancient Greece, there is
evidence of Griffins in Ancient Egyptian art as far back as 3,300
Most statues have bird-like talons, although in some older
illustrations griffins have a lion's forelimbs; they generally have
a lion's hindquarters. Its eagle's head is conventionally given
prominent ears; these are sometimes described as the lion's ears,
but are often elongated (more like a horse's), and are sometimes
feathered. The earliest depiction of griffins are the 15th century
BC frescoes in the Throne Room of the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos,
as restored by SirArthur Evans. It continued being a favored
decorative theme in Archaic and Classical Greek art. In Central
Asia the griffin appears about a thousand years after Bronze Age
Crete, in the 5th-4th centuries BC, probably originating from the
Achaemenid Persian Empire. The Achaemenids considered the griffin
"a protector from evil, witchcraft and secret slander".
The modern generalist calls it the lion-griffin, as for example,
Robin Lane Fox, in Alexander the Great, 1973:31 and notes p. 506,
who remarks a lion-griffin attacking a stag in a pebble mosaic
Dartmouth College expedition at Pella, perhaps as an emblem of the
kingdom of Macedon or a personal one of Alexander's successor
The Pisa Griffin is a large bronze sculpture which has been in
Pisa in Italy since the Middle Ages, though it is of Islamic
origin. It is the largest bronze medieval Islamic sculpture known,
at over three feet tall (42.5 inches, or 1.08 m.), and was probably
created in the 11th century in Al-Andaluz(Islamic Spain).
From about 1100 it was placed on a column on the roof of Pisa
Cathedral until replaced by a replica in 1832; the original is now
in the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum), Pisa.
Infrequently, a griffin is portrayed without wings, or a
wingless eagle-headed lion is identified as a griffin; in
15th-century and later heraldry such a beast may be called an alce
or a keythong. In heraldry, a griffin always has forelegs like an
eagle's; the beast with forelimbs like a lion's forelegs was
distinguished by perhaps only one English herald of later heraldry
as the opinicus.
See provided link for further information.