- also spelled griffon , or gryphon
composite mythological creature with a lion's body (winged or
wingless) and a bird's head, usually that of an eagle. The griffin was
a favorite decorative motif in the ancient Middle Eastern and
Mediterranean lands. Probably originating in the Levant in the 2nd
millennium BC, the griffin had spread throughout western Asia and into
Greece by the 14th century BC. The Asiatic griffin had a crested head,
whereas the Minoan and Greek griffin usually had a mane of spiral
curls. It was shown either recumbent or seated on its haunches, often
paired with the sphinx; its function may have been protective.
the Iron Age the griffin was again prominent in both Asia and Greece.
Greek metalworkers evolved a handsome stylized rendering, the beak
open to show a curling tongue and the head provided with horses' ears
and a large knob on top. Apparently the griffin was in some sense
sacred, appearing frequently in sanctuary and tomb furnishings. Its
precise nature or its place in cult and legend remains unknown.
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