We started with the Latin geographer Pomponius Mela, who wrote at the end of the first half of the 1st century AD, and read from Pliny the Elder, only slightly later, as well. As we will soon learn, though, these are but accounts of accounts. Gryphons are attested in Greek all the way back to Aeschylus in the 5th century BC in Prometheus Bound.
[Credit to the Greek Mythology Link for the textual pointers.]
ἄλλην δ' ἄκουσον δυσχερῆ θεωρίαν·ὀξυστόμους γὰρ Ζηνὸς ἀκραγεῖς κύνας γρῦπας φύλαξαι, τόν τε μουνῶπα στρατὸν Ἀριμασπὸν ἱπποβάμον', οἳ χρυσόρρυτον οἰκοῦσιν ἀμφὶ νᾶμα Πλούτωνος πόρου·
And hearken now another unpleasant sight; keep watch for the sharp-beaked unbarking creatures of Zeus, the gryphons, and the one-eyed people, the Arimaspoi, who live around the gold-bearing water of Pluto's river.
Herodus too was an early “observer.” It is his account in the Histories, it seems, which Mela's most closely mirrors.
Πρὸς δὲ ἄρκτου τῆς Εὐρώπης πολλῷ τι πλεῖστος χρυσὸς φαίνεται ἐών. Ὅκως μὲν γινόμενος, οὐκ ἔχω οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀτρεκέως εἶπαι, λέγεται δὲ ὑπὲκ τῶν γρυπῶν ἁρπάζειν Ἀριμασποὺς ἄνδρας μουνοφθάλμους
Toward northern Europe, there is clearly the most gold by far. As to how it is produced, this I cannot say exactly, but it is said that the Arimaspoi, one-eyed men, steal it from the gryphons.
Τὸ δὲ ἀπὸ τούτων τὸ κατύπερθε Ἰσσηδόνες εἰσὶ οἱ λέγοντες τοὺς μουνοφθάλμους ἀνθρώπους καὶ τοὺς χρυσοφύλακας γρῦπας εἶναι, παρὰ δὲ τούτων Σκύθαι παραλαβόντες λέγουσι, παρὰ δὲ Σκυθέων ἡμεῖς οἱ ἄλλοι νενομίκαμεν, καὶ ὀνομάζομεν αὐτοὺς σκυθιστὶ Ἀριμασπούς· ἄριμα γὰρ ἓν καλέουσι Σκύθαι, σποῦ δὲ ὀφθαλμόν.
To the north of these things are the Issedones, who say that there are one-eyed men and griffins, defensive of their gold; the Scythians tell it thus, having taken it from those men, and we have adopted it from the Scythians. We also call the same men, in the Scythian fashion, the Arimaspoi; for the Scythians use the term “arima” for “one,” and “spou” for “eye.”
Onward to the 2nd century AD, we have a particularly amusing bit from Pausanias. His wrath appears to fall upon those who cast doubt on the perfectly valid reports of gryphons with wild flights of fancy and silly exaggerations.
ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἄλλα ἤκουσα, τοῖς γρυψὶ στίγματα ὁποῖα καὶ ταῖς παρδάλεσιν εἶναι, καὶ ὡς οἱ Τρίτωνες ἀνθρώπου φωνῇ φθέγγοιντο· οἱ δὲ καὶ φυσᾶν διὰ κόχλου τετρυπημένης φασὶν αὐτούς. ὁπόσοι δὲ μυθολογήμασιν ἀκούοντες ἥδονται, πεφύκασι καὶ αὐτοί τι ἐπιτερατεύεσθαι· καὶ οὕτω τοῖς ἀληθέσιν ἐλυμήναντο, συγκεραννύντες αὐτὰ ἐψευσμένοις.
I have even heard other things, that the sort of spots are on griffins as on leopards, and that the Tritons speak with the voice of a human, but men also say that they are blowing through a bored-through shell. As many men who, hearing a myth, enjoy it, themselves naturally exaggerate it in some way; thus they besmirch the truth, mixing it with falsifications.
He also writes:
τούτους τοὺς γρῦπας ἐν τοῖς ἔπεσιν Ἀριστέας ὁ Προκοννήσιος μάχεσθαι περὶ τοῦ χρυσοῦ φησιν Ἀριμασποῖς <τοῖς> ὑπὲρ Ἰσσηδόνων· τὸν δὲ χρυσόν, ὃν φυλάσσουσιν οἱ γρῦπες, ἀνιέναι τὴν γῆν· εἶναι δὲ Ἀριμασποὺς μὲν ἄνδρας μονοφθάλμους πάντας ἐκ γενετῆς, γρῦπας δὲ θηρία λέουσιν εἰκαςμένα, πτερὰ δὲ ἔχειν καὶ στόμα ἀετοῦ. καὶ γρυπῶν μὲν πέρι τοσαῦτα εἰρήσθω·
In his writings, Aristeas of Proconnesus says that these gryphons fight over gold with the Arimaspoi beyond the Issedones, that the gold, which the gryphons guard, comes up from the earth, that the Arimaspoi are all one-eyed men from birth, and that gryphons are beasts resembling lions, but have wings and the beak of an eagle. And about gryphons, let only so many things be said.
I feel like this is a pretty good place to leave off our discussion. There really are only so many things to be said about gryphons*. Nevertheless, the spirit of these gryphons will live on here, for there are countless oddities which have yet to observed, documented, and commentated, etc., and so we will forge on ahead here at DeGrypis.
*nota bene: Pausanias wrote this in Book 1, and clearly he returned, albeit briefly, to his subject in Book 8 (above). I will take this, then, as a license to talk about gryphons any time I damn well please.