The image of griffin, the winged lion with an eagle's head, belongs together with the image of the lion to the earliest motifs on coins. As the lion was traditionally considered the king of beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. It was believed to avert harm and was thus the emblem of many towns – like for instance of Teos, a city in Ionia (Asia Minor).
The origin of the myths around the griffin could have been the find of a fossil Protoceratops. That was a horned dinosaur common in the cretaceous age, with an oversized beak and a large neck frill.