Who doesn’t love a Phoenix, the mythical Greek bird that ends its life in flames only to be reborn in an immortal cycle? It is still a powerful symbol of rebirth and even had a small but important part in the Harry Potter series.
Where did the Phoenix come from? The Greeks and Romans certainly can claim the version of the bird as we know it. Supposedly the Phoenix didn’t lay eggs; there was only one, which lived as much as a thousand years. It burst into flames dying as a pile of ashes only to regenerate into a new young Phoenix. The ancients only knew two sources of heat and light, the sun and fire, so the Phoenix was thought to represent the sun. Why is a bird used to represent the sun? At the time, what could get closer to the sun than a bird, which occasionally with distance even seems to disappear in the sky?
In ancient Egyptian mythology, there was a solar bird, the Bennu. The Russians had a firebird, and still more Eastern cultures had other mythic sunbirds. No one knows how they are related. Perhaps with trade and the disbursement of knowledge, these myths influenced each other. It doesn’t matter. More than rebirth the phoenix came to represent the sun; and time as it is related to the sun, therefore to the death-birth cycle; virginity; and perpetual hope for continuation, including for countries. Parts of this legend were transmuted into the Christian faith, paradise, and everlasting life. As with the sun, the phoenix became a symbol of powerful rulers.
What I find interesting is the ancients had a being representing the transmutation of matter (living bird) to energy (fire) and back to matter. In quantum physics, matter and energy are considered particles that can be either. In fact, the person observing an experiment determines whether the particles are measured as being matter, or as energy since the particles can be either.
This might account for why the phoenix is still so popular: An old mythic legend that somehow also abstractly represents now and future theory.