The griffin was a creature that appeared in the mythology of Greece and the ancient Near East. A popular figure in art, it had the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle or other bird. Sometimes the griffin is shown with the tail of a serpent. With its eagle's head and lion's body, the griffin represented mastery of the sky and the earth. It became associated with strength and wisdom.
According to Greek mythology, griffins pulled the chariots of Zeus* and Apollo*. They also guarded the gold that lay near the lands of the Hyperboreans and the Arimaspians, mythical peoples of the far north, and represented Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance. To the ancient Hebrews, the griffin symbolized Persia because the creature appeared frequently in Persian art.
The griffin appeared in Christian art and mythology as well. At first, it symbolized Satan and was thought to threaten human souls. But the griffin later became a symbol of the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ. During the Middle Ages, Christian myths often spoke of the magical powers of griffins' claws, which if made into drinking cups were said to change color when they came in contact with poison. The griffin was also thought to prey on those who persecuted Christians.
persecute to harass or punish individuals or groups