Region of origin: Iunu, Egypt

In descriptions conveyed by ancient Grecian and Roman scholars and biologists, the phoenix, a large brilliantly-colored bird compared in size to an eagle, was believed to be the only one of its kind. It was alternatively said to live in remote regions of northern Africa or Middle Eastern regions and as far as India, generally staying away from human settlements until it turned five hundred years old, at which point it would return to the Egyptian city of Iunu, also known to the Greeks as Heliopolis due to its association with locals’ worship of solar deities. Priests of Iunu were said to prepare a pyre for the aging phoenix, who would immolate itself and be reborn in the flames, emerging first as a worm-like animal before changing into a small bird and finally to a fully-formed phoenix over a course of three days. In some versions it takes its predecessor’s body and either buries it or inters it in the Temple of the Sun. It is thought to have some connection or origins in earlier tales of the Egyption deity-bird Bennu, who has similar connections to rebirth and Iunu’s sun-worship, while embellishments added by Christian tellers in the Common Era function as an allegorical metaphor for Christ’s resurrection.

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