Beast

Sources : Phoenix

Herodotus [c. 484 – c. 425 BCE] (Histories, Book 2.73) Another bird also is sacred; it is called the phoenix. I myself have never seen it, but only pictures of it; for the bird comes but seldom into Egypt, once in five hundred years, as the people of Heliopolis say. It is said that the phoenix comes when his father dies. If the picture truly shows his size and appearance, his plumage is partly golden but mostly red. He is most like an eagle in shape and bigness. The Egyptians tell a tale of this bird's devices which I do not believe. He comes, they say, from Arabia bringing his father to the Sun's temple enclosed in myrrh, and there buries him. His manner of bringing is this: first he moulds an egg of myrrh as heavy as he can carry, and when he has proved its weight by lifting it he then hollows out the egg and puts his father in it, covering over with more myrrh the hollow in which the body lies; so the egg being with his father in it of the same weight as before, the phoenix, after enclosing him, carries him to the temple of the Sun in Egypt. Such is the tale of what is done by this bird. - [Godley translation]

Ovid [1st century CE] (The Metamorphoses, Book 15, 391-417): Yet these creatures receive their start in life from others: there is one, a bird, which renews itself, and reproduces from itself. The Assyrians call it the phoenix. It does not live on seeds and herbs, but on drops of incense, and the sap of the cardamom plant. When it has lived for five centuries, it then builds a nest for itself in the topmost branches of a swaying palm tree, using only its beak and talons. As soon as it has lined it with cassia bark, and smooth spikes of nard, cinnamon fragments and yellow myrrh, it settles on top, and ends its life among the perfumes. They say that, from the father’s body, a young phoenix is reborn, destined to live the same number of years. When age has given it strength, and it can carry burdens, it lightens the branches of the tall palm of the heavy nest, and piously carries its own cradle, that was its father’s tomb, and, reaching the city of Hyperion, the sun-god, through the clear air, lays it down in front of the sacred doors of Hyperion’s temple. - [Kline translation]

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 6, verse 791-805): "Then copious poisons from the moon distils / Mixed with all monstrous things which Nature's pangs / Bring to untimely birth ... nor ashes fail / Snatched from an altar where the Phoenix died".

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 2): The phoenix, of which there is only one in the world, is the size of an eagle. It is gold around the neck, its body is purple, and its tail is blue with some rose-colored feathers. It has a feathered crest on its head. No one has ever seen the Phoenix feeding. In Arabia it is sacred to the sun god. It lives 540 years; when it is old it builds a nest from wild cinnamon and frankincense, fills the nest with scents, and lies down on it until it dies. From the bones and marrow of the dead phoenix there grows a sort of maggot, which grows into a bird the size of a chicken. This bird performs funeral rites for its predecessor, then carries the whole nest to the City of the Sun near Panchaia and places it on an alter there.

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 6, chapter 58): The Phoenix knows how to reckon five hundred years without the aid of arithmetic, for it is a pupil of all-wise Nature, so that it has no need of fingers or anything else to aid it in the understanding of numbers. The purpose of this knowledge and the need for it are matters of common report. But hardly a soul among the Egyptians knows when the five-hundred-year period is completed; only a very few know, and they belong to the priestly order. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 33.11): Among the same people the phoenix bird is born. It is the size of an eagle, and has plumes projecting from an imposing head into a cone shape. It has tufted cheeks and it neck is a brilliant gold. Its hinder parts are purple, except for the tail, which is of roseate feathers, interspersed with shining sky-blue. [12] It has been proven that the phoenix lives for 540 years. It builds its funeral pyre with cinnamon; it puts it together near Panchaea, and places the heap above the altar in the city of the Sun. [13] Authorities are convinced that its life coincides with the cycle of the Great Year, although many of them say a Great Year lasts not 540 years, but 12,954. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Saint Ambrose [4th century CE] (Hexameron, Book 5, chapter 23.79): In the regions of Arabia there is reported to be a bird called the phoenix. This bird is said to reach the ripe old ,age of 500 years. When the phoenix realizes that he is coming to the end of his life, he builds himself a casket of incense, myrrh, and other aromatic plants, into which he enters and dies when his time has come. From the moisture proceeding from his flesh he comes to life again. In the course of time this bird puts on 'the oarage of his wings' until he is restored to his primitive form and appearance. - [Savage translation, 1961]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:22): The phoenix is a bird of Arabia, which gets its name from its purple (phoeniceus) color; or because it is singular and unique in the world and the Arabs call singular and unique phoenix. It lives for 500 years or more. When it sees that it has grown old it builds a pyre for itself from spices and twigs, and facing the rays of the rising sun ignites a fire and fans it with its wings, and rises again from its own ashes.