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For the city in Arizona, see Phoenix, Arizona. For the air-to-air missile, see AIM-54 Phoenix. For the spacecraft, see Phoenix lander.

Mythical Background

The Phoenix is a mythical bird, the myth of which was very popular in Ancient Egypt, and which perhaps had its origin even before the proto-dynastic period. Blessed with an extremely long life, at the end of its life, the phoenix would spontaneously combust into a pile of ashes, before rising from the ashes as a new, baby phoenix to begin its life again. The myth of the Phoenix is an example of the powerful theme of rebirth, so popular in mythology, which can be seen (especially in Egyptian mythology) in the tale of Isis and Osiris.

Despite its Egyptian origin, the phoenix appears in some early Christian art as a symbolic representation of Christ much as a dragon is used as the symbolic representation of Satan.

Herodotus mentioned the phoenix in his History of the World, but considered many reports regarding the creature to be incredible.[1]

Popular Culture

A phoenix on the seal of Atlanta.

The myth of the phoenix is familiar to schoolchildren throughout the world as a pivotal sub-character in the Harry Potter series, as a companion to Albus Dumbledore.

Also, the phoenix is the symbol on the great seal of the city of Atlanta. Captioned with the Latin phrase, "resurgens" (being reborn), the phoenix symbolizes Atlanta's transformation from a casualty of the Civil War to a great American metropolis.


  1. Herodotus History II. Accessed May 3, 2007.