Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.
Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 20, pp. 199-200.
What the Ancients have written of Griffins may be true. Griffins mentioned in Scripture. Grypi and Gryphes, Perez and Ossifrage, what?
THe Doctor [denies there be Griffins, that is, dubious animals in the fore part resembling an Eagle, and behind a Lion, with erected ears, foure feet, and a long tail, being averred by Ælian, Solinus, Mela, and Herodotus,]1 Answ. Ælian tells us, That Griffins are like Lions in their pawes and feet, and like Eagles in their wings and head. Solinus saith onely, that they are very fierce fowls; Mela, that they are cruell and stubborn animals; Herodotus onely mentions their names, when hee shewes, the Arimaspi takes away their gold from them: So Philostrates shewes, That in strength and bignesse they are like Lions; So Pausanius speaks of them; but neither he, nor the others named, tell us in plain terms, that they are like Lions behind, and Eagles in the fore-part: For Pliny and some others doubt of this as fabulous.2 2. Suppose they had thus described Griffins, as mixt and dubious animals, yet this is not sufficient to prove them fabulous: for divers such animals there are in the World. Acosta tells us of the Indian Pacos, which in some parts thereof resemble the Asse, in others the Sheep.3 Lerius speaks of the Tapiroussou which resembles both an Asse and an Heifer.4 Many other sorts of mixt animals we read of, as flying Cats, and flying fishes; and some kinds of Apes with Dogges heads, therefore called Cynocephali. 5 Our Bats are partly birds and partly beasts: they flye like a bird with two feet, they walk like a beast with four: They flye with their feet and walk with their wings, saith Scaliger. And which is a greater wonder, there are Plant-animals, or Zoophits, partly plants, and partly animals. But he saith, In Bats and such mixed animals, there is a commixtion of both in the whole, rather then an adaptation of the one into the other. Here he is deceived; for in Bats and such like Animals, it is easily seen what parts are of the bird, what of the beast, which we could not discern if there were a commixtion: it is rather an adaptation then. this is most apparent in that Indian beast which hath the forepart of a Fox, the hinder part of an Ape, the eares of an Owl, and a bag or purse under its belly, wherein its young ones hide themselves in time of danger.6 Neither is it fabulous that these Griffins are greedy of gold, which they preserve & hide in the earth: for I have seen Magpies doe the like: I have observed one which stole money, and hid it in a hole; and perhaps it may be from this that Plautus calls Griffins Mag-pies; Picos divitiis qui colunt aureos mutes super. In Aulul. 7 And yet I am of Ælians opinion, That it is not so much for the gold they fight, as for their young ones, which men use to carry away when they search the Countrey for gold. Neither was Aristæus the first that affirmed these Griffins, as the Doctor saith; for we read of them in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which though Tremellius and wee use not, but the word Ossifrage, yet the Hebrew word Peres is translated Griffi by the Septuagints, by the old Latin, by Jerom and Pagmin, by Arias Montanus, and by the Italian version: And if srp be from qrp to break,8 then may the word Ossigrage be meant of the Griffin: for no bird so fit to break bones, as this fierce and strong animall. Gruy then signifieth properly a Griffin, and not a kind of Eagle with a hooked Bill; for both birds with hooked Bills, and men with Aquilan noses, are called Gryphi, not Gryphes. Hence then it appeares, that the negative testimony of Michovius is not sufficient to overthrow the received opinion of the Ancients concerning Griffins, especially seeing there is a possibility in nature for such a compounded animall. For the Gyraffa, or Camelopardalis, is of a stranger composition, being made of the Libbard, Buffe, Hart, and Camell.9 Besides, though some fabulous narrations may be added to the story of the Griffins, as of the one-ey'd Arimaspi with whom they fight, yet it follows not that therefore there are no Griffins. If any man say, That now such animals are not to be seen; I answer, It may be so, and yet not perished: for they may be removed to places of more remotenesse and security, and inaccessible to men: for many such places there are in the great and vast Countries of Scythia, and Tartaria, or Cathaia, whither our Europeans durst never, nor could venture.
1. Pseudodoxia III.xi.
2. Griffins are thus portrayed; if they are not this creature, but some other that we know --- say a lion --- why call them griffins? If they're not some other creature that we know, what are they? Pausanius, I.xxiv.6 , says that griffins have the bodies of lions and the wings and heads of eagle (he also says, VIII.ii.7, that "he has heard" that they are spotted like leopards; but adds that too much story-making spoils the truth). Pomponius Mela, II.1, in the midst of a fabulous narrative. Herodotus, III.cxvi, says that (it is said that) the one-eyed Arimaspoi of northern Europe steal gold from gryphons, but Herodotus doesn't know whence the gold comes originally. See also IV.xiii, where the story is repeated. Pliny, HN x.136 (englished by Holland, X).
3. d'Acosta describes the Alpaca of Peru, History of the West Indies, xli. Needless to say, Ross is pushing the text to fit his own needs.
4. The great tapir, or tapir-ussu. Jean de Léry, Histoire d'un voyage fait en la terre du Brésil (1578).
5. I.e., the flying squirrel or the flying phalangers of Australia; the flying fish, one of the members of the family`Exocoetidae; and Simia hamadryas, the dog-faced baboon, sacred in ancient Egypt. None of these animals is "mixt" in Ross's sense.
6. Presumably Ross means the wallaby or kangaroo, if he means anything at all.
7. Plautus, Aulularia IV.701, misquoted.
8. I've taken some liberties with what appears in the text here, as the Hebrew seems to have been misset by the printer; the following shows the text as set:
9. I.e., the giraffe, says Ross, is composed of leopard, buffalo (or reindeer), deer, and camel.
This page uses the font Symbol to render Greek and the font SPTiberian to render Hebrew.
This page is by James Eason