Phoenix, Myth of Immortality and Renewal


"Burnt and reborn again", is a phrase usually said to describe a mythical creature with a wide fame in the ancient folklore of many nations including the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Romans and Chinese as a symbol of renewal and immortality. This creature was called the phoenix in the European traditions or the (Rook) in the Arab heritage where it was a hero in many tales and legends such as: the “Sinbad the Sailor” and the “Fire Bird in Japan”.

According to the legend, 'Phoenix' is a giant unique bird with a long neck,  living between 500-1000 years. At the end of its life, the bird perches with ambiguity on its nest and sings sadly in a low voice for the last time in his life. When the sun rises, the bird burns and turns into ashes, from which a small larva emerges, creeps diligently closer toward a shady spot and turns quickly into a new phoenix.

In Greek mythology:

Phoenix was mentioned in the legends of the goddess of the Alps, when Prometheus revealed  the secret of fire to mankind so the great Greek god Zeus wanted to punish him. He hung Prometheus between two mountains and ordered the phoenix to devour his liver every day.


In the stories of Sinbad the Sailor:


Phoenix is also mentioned in the stories of "Sinbad the Sailor" in the name of the Rook. It is described as a giant bird having the head and wings of an eagle.  According to the stories, each wing is 20 km long and the bird is said to be very strong that it can carry a giant elephant by its claws.

In Arab heritage books:

The supernatural creature was mentioned a lot in Arab literature which describes the 'Rook ' as a large bird facing the threat of extinction in the 17th century. It is considered as member of  the eagle’s huge family. Its large eggs are found in the island of Madagascar.

The Rook was also mentioned  in the "Wonders of India" and "The Arabian Nights", as well as, in the Journey of Ibn Battuta.

Al- Demashki had hinted that a Rook’s feather was brought to Aden, stressing that this bird no longer exists and that ancestors gave it a lot of superstitious qualities.

The famous French writer, Voltaire, described the bird by saying: " Phoenix is the size of an eagle but its eyes look lighter and nicer than the savage ones of the eagle. Its beak is pink and is as beautiful as the peacock’s while the rainbow colors are represented on its neck".

 Truth or fiction

Dr. Ali  Al-Soukari from the University of Cairo, said: "we are in front of a real giant bird which was found in the China Sea Islands in the Middle Ages, but no longer exists.  Ancestors exaggerated in describing its size and abilities, especially when they mentioned that the bird’s flesh removes gray hair and restores youth".

Some researchers believe that Phoenix has a real presence in the islands of  the seas and oceans of India and China. This bird lived in remote and abandoned areas where they could fly freely as there were no natural obstacles hindering their flying. It fed on fishes and other marine animals.

 The Phoenix might be a kind of massive creature, wild dinosaur or even giant bird which appeared on the surface of the globe and continued through geologic eras.

A number of  biologists think that most of these huge creatures had become extinct because they could not be able to adapt with the environment. No one can assert whether this baffling bird is an old reality or it is just a fantasy. Science only can answer this inquiry, especially because no skeletons or fossils have so far been found to support ancient repeated claims about it.

Skeptic opinion

At the beginning of the 19th century, numerous scientific attempts have been made to know  the origin of the phoenix. Interpretations showed that ancestors had added a great deal of amplification and intimidation to the image of the eagle regarding  its size , strength and ability to carry a huge elephant and fly with it.

Some scientists believe that the legend was originated in Africa where people saw a huge ostrich , which was unable to fly, so they thought it was a small chick which has huger parents.

These beliefs were circulated through the ages. Peoples added modifications to these beliefs and deleted some of them until they knew writing, so they documented these beliefs and conveyed them to us just as we know them.


Amal Farhat