The Gryphon:

Legend and Myth

SunBlind 2007
Please do not use this text without my permission. [see footnote below]

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Aelian:

Claudius Aelianus, a Roman author and teacher of rhetoric living circa 175-235 A.D, wrote in his work De Natura Animalium:

"I have heard that the Indian animal the Gryphon is a quadruped like a lion; that it has claws of enormous strength and that they resemble those of a lion. Men commonly report that it is winged and that the feathers along its back are black, and those on its front are red, while the actual wings are neither but are white. And Ctesias records that its neck is variegated with feathers of a dark blue; that it has a beak like an eagle's, and a head too, just as artists portray it in pictures and sculpture. Its eyes, he says, are like fire. It builds its lair among the mountains, and although it is not possible to capture the full-grown animal, they do take the young ones. And the people of Bactria, who are neighbors of the Indians, say that the Gryphons guard the gold in those parts; that they dig it up and build their nests with it, and that the Indians carry off any that falls from them. The Indians however deny that they guard the aforesaid gold, for the Gryphons have no need of it (and if that is what they say, then I at any rate think that they speak the truth), but that they themselves come to collect the gold, while the Gryphons fearing for their young ones fight with the invaders. They engage too with other beasts and overcome them without difficulty, but they will not face the lion or the elephant. Accordingly the natives, dreading the strength of these animals, do not set out in quest of the gold by day, but arrive by night, for at that season they are less likely to be detected. Now the region where the Gryphons live and where the gold is mined is a dreary wilderness. And the seekers after the aforesaid substance arrive, a thousand or two strong, armed and bringing spades and sack; and watching for a moonless night they begin to dig. Now if they contrive to elude the Gryphons they reap a double advantage, for they not only escape with their lives but they also take home their freight, and when those who have acquired a special skill in the smelting of gold have refined it, they possess immense wealth to requite them for the dangers described above. If however they are caught in the act, they are lost. And they return home, I am told, after an interval of three or four years."

The above translation comes from Joe Nigg's Book of Fabulous Beasts. Below is the original Latin version of the same excerpt.

De Natura Animalium


Footnote I just want to clear up when you actually need my permission to use this information. What I generally don't want is for you to simply copy this page and stick it up on your own website without asking me first, especially if you claim to have written it yourself. If you are using it for a school project, that's fine, you don't need to ask me first. Depending on your grade level, you'll know how your teacher wants you to reference the information to avoid plagirism.


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