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For other uses of the name Phoenix, see Phoenix (disambiguation)

The phoenix is a mythical bird, sacred in ancient Egypt. Said to live for 500 or for 1461 years, the phoenix is a solitary male bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix would arise. The new phoenix will embalm the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposit it in Heliopolis ("the city of the sun" in Greek), located in Egypt.

The phoenix also appears in the mythologies of other cultures; although descriptions (and life-span) vary, the phoenix became popular in early Christian art and literature as a symbol of the resurrection, of immortality, and of life-after-death.

The phoenix had associations with the sun and with sun-gods, such as Egyptian Ra and the Greek Apollo.

The Greeks claimed the phoenix lived in Arabia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well and the sun-god (Apollo) stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen.

In Shakespeare's play The Tempest, this myth is famously referred to:

that in Arabia
There is one tree, the phoenix' throne; one phoenix
At this hour reigning there.

The Egyptians described it as being similar to a heron, but the Greeks and Romans likened it to a peacock or to an eagle.

The word "Phoenix" sometimes appears spelled "Phoinix". It is etymologically similar to the word "firebird."

See also