Composite mythological creatures with the head and wings of a bird (usually that of an eagle) and the body and hind quarters of a lion. Was a favorite decorative motif in the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean area, probably having originated in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE; the griffin had spread throughout western Asia and into Greece by the 14th century BCE. 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 was often protective. The Greeks believed griffins inhabited Scythia to keep jealous watch over the gold of that country.