Herodotus did believe in the strong, cruel, gold-hoarding eagle-lion. However, the barbarous, one-eyed Arimaspeans were just a bit too much for him to credit! Pausanias repudiated the notion that gryphons had spots, saying, "Those who like to listen to the miraculous are themselves apt to add to the marvel, and so they ruin the truth by mixing it up with falsehood." We can almost imagine a modern "nuts and bolts" ufologist saying the same thing about the field of study being corrupted and discredited by the publication of the more bizarre reports.
Some people wondered if the gryphons were simply more mundane animals that had been misinterpreted and given a gleam of the fantastical, in the same manner theat some scientists believe the Loch Ness Monster is a pleiosaur or a whole family of them that have survived for millions of years, or a landlocked sturgeon or seal. It is very fascinating that the attitudes of ancient skeptics and believers, in everything from their writings, explanations and class dispersions are very similar to the modern day sceptics and believers in the paranormal.
Dr. Mahalia Way, who received her Ph.D. in Classics at Berkeley, thinks that the ancient attitudes towards the gryphons are so similar that we can use them as a case study for how human beings react to the unknown. Here is a quotation from the final part of Dr. Way's article in the June 2003 article of Fortean Times magazine on page 55: "Say you notice unknown lights in the sky, unfamiliar movements in your house, something in the woods, or that your penis has shrunk (tee-hee presumably she means males only for this one!) -pick your favorite fortean subject. Your mind will naturally seek an explanation (this is the great thing about being human). When you find one, do not forget to ask yourself what has shaped your conclusion. All too often, when confronted with things we cannot explain, we interpret them without reflection."
"We are unaware of the patterns of thought and behaviour to which we are susceptible. For instance, why do certain identifications "make sense" to some, but seem ridiculous to others? How much of this is influenced by a person's attitude toward authority? When people claim that certain information will "change the way people see themselves in the Universe," or "be too threatening to the powers that be," what dichotomies are they thinking with? Do their dichotomies paint an accurate picture of the world? Have certain phenomena become "sacred" or "polluted" simply because they do not fit into the way we mentally recognise the Universe? How influential is "distance" (i.e., the necessity of relying upon the descriptions of others for information?) Does it guide us toward some conclusions and away from others? Can the distancing effect of another person's description make unlikely conclusions more credible? To what extent are past theories limiting what we can see now? Are we unable to see the dinosaur before our eyes because there is a griffin standing in the way?"
I really enjoyed Dr. Way's work in this article and this subject in general. Maybe I can find more information on them in the future. As I go forward with the "mythical" beings series I would like to continue to ask questions such as these. Thanks for your wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent comments!