3. We must notice here the fabulous bird Phoenix, who, according to a belief which Herodotus (2.73
) heard at Heliopolis in Egypt, visited that place once in every five hundred years, on his father's death, and buried him in the sanctuary of Helios. For this purpose Phoenix was believed to come fror Arabia, and to make lan egg of myrrh as large as possible; this egg he then hollowved out and put into it his father, closing it up carefully, and the egg was believed then to be of exactly the same weight as before.
This bird was represented resembling an eagle, with feathers partly red and partly golden. (Comp. Achill. Tat. 3.25.) Of this bird it is further related, thai when his life drew to a close, he built a nest for himself in Arabia, to which he imparted the power of generation, so that after his death a new phoenix rose out of it.
As soon as the latter was grown up, he, like his predecessor, proceeded to Heliopolis in Egypt, and burned and buried his father in the temple of Helios. (Tac. Ann. 6.28
According to a story which has gained more currency in modern times, Phoenix, when he arrived at a very old age (some say 500 and others 1461 years), committed himself to the flames. (Lucian, De Mort. Per.
27; Philostr. Vit. Apollon.
3.49.) Others, again, state that only one Phoenix lived at a time, and that when he died a worm crept forth from his body, and was developed into a new Phoenix by the heat of the sun. His death, further, took place in Egypt after a life of 7006 years. (Tzetz. Chil.
5.397, &c.; Plin. Nat. 10.2
; Ov. Met. 15.392
, &c.) Another modification of the same story relates, that when Phoenix arrived at the age of 500 years, he built for himself a funeral pile, consisting of spices, settled upon it, and died. Out of the decomposing body he then rose again, and having grown up, he wrapped the remains of his old body up in myrrh, carried them to Heliopolis, and burnt them there. (Pompon. Mela, 3.8, in fin.; Stat. Silv. 2.4. 36
.) Similar stories of marvellous birds occur in many parts of the East, as in Persia, the legend of the bird Simorg, and in India of the bird Semendar. (Comp. Bochart, Hieroz.
iii. p. 809.)