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Annals by Tacitus
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book VI Chapter 28: The phoenix[AD 34]
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During the consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, the bird called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discussion of the marvellous phenomenon. It is my wish to make known all on which they agree with several things, questionable enough indeed, but not too absurd to be noticed. That it is a creature sacred to the sun, differing from all other birds in its beak and in the tints of its plumage, is held unanimously by those who have described its nature. As to the number of years it lives, there are various accounts. The general tradition says five hundred years. Some maintain that it is seen at intervals of fourteen hundred and sixty-one years, and that the former birds flew into the city called Heliopolis successively in the reigns of Sesostris, Amasis and Ptolemy, the third King of the Macedonian dynasty with a multitude of companion birds marvelling at the novelty of the appearance. But all antiquity is of course obscure. From Ptolemy to Tiberius was a period of less than five hundred years. Consequently some have supposed that this was a spurious phoenix, not from the regions of Arabia, and with none of the instincts which ancient tradition has attributed to the bird. For when the number of years is completed and death is near, the phoenix, it is said, builds a nest in the land of its birth and infuses into it a germ of life from which an offspring arises, whose first care, when fledged, is to bury its father. This is not rashly done, but taking up a load of myrrh and having tried its strength by a long flight, as soon as it is equal to the burden and to the journey, it carries its father's body, bears it to the altar of the Sun, and leaves it to the flames. All this is full of doubt and legendary exaggeration. Still, there is no question that the bird is occasionally seen in Egypt. Paulo Fabio L. Vitellio consulibus post longum saeculorum ambitum avis phoenix in Aegyptum venit praebuitque materiem doctissimis indigenarum et Graecorum multa super eo miraculo disserendi. de quibus congruunt et plura ambigua, sed cognitu non absurda promere libet. sacrum Soli id animal et ore ac distinctu pinnarum a ceteris avibus diversum consentiunt qui formam eius effinxere: de numero annorum varia traduntur. maxime vulgatum quingentorum spatium: sunt qui adseverent mille quadringentos sexaginta unum interici, prioresque alites Sesoside primum, post Amaside dominantibus, dein Ptolemaeo, qui ex Macedonibus tertius regnavit, in civitatem cui Heliopolis nomen advolavisse, multo ceterarum volucrum comitatu novam faciem mirantium. sed antiquitas quidem obscura: inter Ptolemaeum ac Tiberium minus ducenti quinquaginta anni fuerunt. unde non nulli falsum hunc phoenicem neque Arabum e terris credidere, nihilque usurpavisse ex his quae vetus memoria firmavit. confecto quippe annorum numero, ubi mors propinquet, suis in terris struere nidum eique vim genitalem adfundere ex qua fetum oriri; et primam adulto curam sepeliendi patris, neque id temere sed sublato murrae pondere temptatoque per longum iter, ubi par oneri, par meatui sit, subire patrium corpus inque Solis aram perferre atque adolere. haec incerta et fabulosis aucta: ceterum aspici aliquando in Aegypto eam volucrem