In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Greek: φοῖνιξ phoinix) is a long-lived bird that can regenerate or be reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again. According to some legends, the phoenix could live over 1400 years before rebirth. Herodotus, Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Lactantius, Ovid, Isidore of Seville, Rabbi Yannai, and Rashi are among those who have contributed to the explanation, retelling, and transmission of the phoenix motif.
In the historical record, the phoenix could symbolize long life, "renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".
The modern English noun phoenix derives from Middle English phenix (before 1150), itself from Old English fēnix (around 750). Old English fēnix was borrowed from Medieval Latin phenix, which is derived from Classical Latin phoenīx. The Classical Latin phoenīx represents Greek φοῖνιξ phoinīx.
In ancient Greece and Rome, the bird, φοῖνιξ, was sometimes associated with the similar-sounding Phoenicia, a region famous for its production of purple dye from conch shells. A late antique etymology offered by the 6th- and 7th-century CE archbishop Isidore of Seville accordingly derives the name of the phoenix from its allegedly purple-red hue. Because the costly purple dye from Phoenicia was associated with the upper classes in antiquity and, later, with royalty, in the medieval period the phoenix was considered "the royal bird".
In spite of these folk etymologies, with the deciphering of the Linear B script in the 20th century, the original Greek φοῖνιξ was decisively shown to be derived from Mycenaean Greek po-ni-ke, itself open to a variety of interpretations.
Relation to the Egyptian Bennu
Classical discourse on the subject of the phoenix points to a potential origin of the phoenix in Ancient Egypt. In the 19th century scholastic suspicions appeared to be confirmed by the discovery that Egyptians in Heliopolis had venerated the Bennu, a solar bird observed in some respects to be similar to the Greek phoenix. However, the Egyptian sources regarding the Bennu are often problematic and open to a variety of interpretations. Some of these sources may have been influenced by Greek notions of the phoenix.
In Jewish Scripture
According to Jewish tradition, in the book of Iyov of the Jewish Bible, the chol (Hebr. חול "phoenix", lit. "sand") is metaphorically mentioned as a bird of long life. Rashi said, that on the chol bird, no punishment of death was decreed because it did not taste of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At the end of one thousand years, it would renew itself and return to its youth. According to the Midrash (Sanhedrin 108 folio b), the avarshina (hebr. אורשינה  "phoenix") is one of the animals on board of Noah's Ark. In his commentary to the talmud Rashi points out, that "‘Avarshina’ (is) a type of bird, called ‘chol’ in the terminology of the Bible, which never dies."
The phoenix is sometimes pictured in ancient and medieval literature and medieval art as endowed with a nimbus, which emphasizes the bird's connection with the sun. In the oldest images of phoenixes on record these nimbuses often have seven rays, like Helios (the personified sun of Greek mythology). Pliny[clarification needed] also describes the bird as having a crest of feathers on its head, and Ezekiel the Dramatist compared it to a rooster.
Although the phoenix was generally believed to be colorful and vibrant, there is no clear consensus about its coloration. Tacitus claims that its color made it stand out from all other birds. Some thought that the bird had peacock-like coloring, and Herodotus' claim of red and yellow is popular in many versions of the story on record. Ezekiel the Dramatist declared that the phoenix had red legs and striking yellow eyes, but Lactantius said that its eyes were blue like sapphires and that its legs were covered in scales of yellow-gold with rose-colored talons.
In terms of size, R. Van den Broek, Herodotus, Pliny, Solinus, and Philostratus describe the phoenix as similar in size to an eagle, but Lactantius and Ezekiel the Dramatist both claim that the phoenix was larger, with Lactantius declaring that it was even larger than an ostrich.
Scholars have observed analogues to the phoenix in a variety of cultures. These analogues include the Arabic anqa, the Hindu garuda and gandaberunda, the Russian firebird, the Persian Simorgh, the Turkish Kerkes, the Tibetan Me byi karmo, the Chinese fenghuang, and the Japanese hō-ō.
- Chol (bible), a Hebrew word sometimes glossed as phoenix
- Van der Broek 1972, p. 146.
- Lundy 1876, p. 425.
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- "And I said, I will perish with my nest, and I will multiply days as the phoenix [hebrew: chol]."; Iyov - Job 29:18; "JOB - In Rabbinical Literature". The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Rashi commenatry to Iyov 29:18 "Iyov - Job Chapter 29:18". The Torah (Jewish Bible) - Scriptures - Job. Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Coffman, Rabbi C. "AVARSHINAH -". Background to the Daf - SANHEDRIN 108. Kollel Iyun Hadaf - dafyomi.co.il. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Sanhedrin 108b
- "Tractate Sanhedrin Folio 108b". Babylonian Talmud. come-and-hear.com. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
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- Van der Broek 1972, pp. 259.
- Van der Broek 1972, pp. 256.
- Van der Broek 1972, pp. 257-258.
- Van der Broek 1972, pp. 251.
- Van der Broek 1972, pp. 252.
- Garry & El-Shamy 2005, pp. 84–87.
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- Barnhart, Robert K (1995), The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-270084-7.
- Garry, Jane; El-Shamy, Hasan (2005), Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature, ME Sharpe, ISBN 978-0-76561260-1.
- Van der Broek, R (1972), The Myth of the Phoenix, Seeger, I trans, EJ Brill.
- Lundy, John P. (1876), Monumental Christianity, JW Bouton