ROMAN BRONZE OF THE PHOENIX FOUND IN THE ROMAN CITY OF SANISERA (MENORCA, SPAIN)

Detail of the Phoenix discovered in the Roman City of Sanisera

Detail of the Phoenix discovered in the Roman City of Sanisera

In May, in one of the rooms that were being excavated in a monastic complex from the V – VI AD centuries, a student found a head of a small bronze statuette depicting a phoenix. It is a unique discovery because it is not very common to find a figurine like this on the island of Menorca.

The Sanisera Field School undertakes each year a long campaign of archaeological excavations at the Roman city that was founded on the seashore of the natural harbor of Sanitja, at the north of the Mediterranean island of Menorca (Spain). In 2013, the intervention began in late March and passed along all summer, ending in late November. Currently, the whole collection of recovered objects is being studied, writing reports and surveys of the most important issues.

The phoenix is a mythological bird the size of an eagle, red, orange and yellow incandescent plumage, strong beak and claws. It was a fabulous bird that was consumed by fire every 500 years, and then always rose from the ashes.

The myth of the phoenix fed various religious doctrines and conceptions of survival in the afterlife, as the Phoenix dies to be reborn in all his glory. For writers of classical times as Herodotus, Pliny the Elder or Epiphanius of Salamis, this sacred bird was traveling to Egypt every five hundred years, and appeared in the city of Heliopolis, carrying on their shoulders the corpse of his father, where it was going to die at the door of the temple of the Sun.

With the introduction of Christianity, the myth of the phoenix was adapted to changing times. According to the Biblical legend, the Phoenix lived in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and it was the only creature of paradise that did not fall into the temptation of eating the forbidden fruit.

Late imperial coin depicting a Phoenix.

Late imperial coin depicting a Phoenix.

For this reason, God gave him several gifts, and the most prominent was the immortality through the ability to rise from the ashes. When it came time to die, it made a nest of spices and herbs, put a single egg, which incubated for three days, and the third day it burned. The Phoenix burned completely and after being reduced to ashes, it revived from the same phoenix egg, always unique and eternal. This happened every five hundred years.

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