Gold Guarding Griffins


I have just posted another guest blog for Words & Pictures and its topic is that of the fabulous griffins who guarded gold at the boundaries of the known Classical world. Above is how I coloured up my griffin for the blog pic.

The oldest written myth about griffins is reiterated by John Milton in Paradise Lost, Book II (1667):

As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
Had from his wakeful custody purloind
The guarded Gold … (Lines 943–47)

Milton takes this directly from the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived around 5th century BCE. In his Histories he draws upon a folktale derived from the forgotten poem by Aristeas. This poem describes a journey to the far north where Aristeas encountered the one-eyed people called Arimaspians, who stole the gold guarded by griffins.

It is also worth noting that Blake had drawn a stocky image of a griffin (above) in his truly visionary illustration, Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car, 1824–7.

The illustration for my Words & Pictures griffin blog, however, was inspired by the following images:


1. The Greco-Persian style griffin preying upon an ibex which decorates a felt saddle cover from the frozen tomb of Pazyryk kurgan 1, Altai Republic, 5th century BCE, as seen on display in the Hermitage, St Petersburg.

2. The golden Scythian griffins in Greco-Persian style dating 5th century BCE from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

3. The 16th-century miniature illustration of a griffin with rainbow coloured wings in the Tierbuch (Animal Book) by Petrus Candidus, written circa 1460 for Ludovico Gonzaga.

For further information go to these links

Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car, 1824–7 at the Tate

Pazyryk kurgan 1 felt saddle at the Hermitage Museum

Gold griffins at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tierbuch (Animal Book) by Petrus Candidus (in German)