A variety of mythical animals appear in the art and stories of the Classical era. For example, in the Odyssey, monstrous creatures include the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis for the hero Odysseus to confront. In other tales there appear the Medusa to be defeated by Perseus, the (human/bull) Minotaur to be destroyed by Theseus, and the Hydra to be killed by Heracles, while Aeneas battles with the harpies. These monsters thus have the basic function of emphasizing the greatness of the heroes involved.
Some classical era creatures, such as the (horse/human) centaur, chimaera, Triton and the flying horse, are found also in Indian art. Similarly, sphinxes appear as winged lions in Indian art and the Piasa Bird of North America.
In medieval art, animals, both real and mythical, played important roles. These included decorative forms as in medieval jewellery, sometimes with their limbs intricately interlaced. Animal forms were used to add humor or majesty to objects. In Christian art, animals carried symbolic meanings, where for example the lamb symbolized Christ, a dove indicated the Holy Spirit, and the classical griffin represented a guardian of the dead. Medieval bestiaries included animals regardless of biological reality; the basilisk represented the devil, while the manticore symbolised temptation.