An “insightful cultural history of the mythical, self-immolating bird” from Ancient Egypt to contemporary pop culture by the author of The Book of Gryphons (Library Journal).
The phoenix, which rises again and again from its own ashes, has been a symbol of resilience and renewal for thousands of years. But how did this mythical bird come to play a part in cultures around the world and throughout human history? Here, mythologist Joseph Nigg presents a comprehensive biography of this legendary creature.
Beginning in ancient Egypt, Nigg’s sweeping narrative discusses the many myths and representations of the phoenix, including legends of the Chinese, where it was considered a sacred creature that presided over China’s destiny; classical Greece and Rome, where it appears in the writings of Herodotus and Ovid; medieval Christianity, in which it came to embody the resurrection; and in Europe during the Renaissance, when it was a popular emblem of royals. Nigg examines the various phoenix traditions, the beliefs and tales associated with them, their symbolic and metaphoric use, and their appearance in religion, bestiaries, and even contemporary popular culture, in which the ageless bird of renewal is employed as a mascot and logo.
“An exceptional work of scholarship.”—Publishers Weekly