The Phoenix was a Daedalus-class starship given to Col. Samantha Carter in an alternate timeline so that she could fight against the army of the human-Wraith hybrid Michael in the Pegasus Galaxy. The ship was destroyed in a battle against three hive ships, but in its destruction, the three hives were also destroyed. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.20 "The Last Man Part 1")
In the current reality, the Phoenix followed the Sun Tzu off of the assembly line and was renamed the General Hammond in honor of the late Lt. Gen. George Hammond. The first commander of the General Hammond is Col. Samantha Carter. (Stargate Atlantis: 5.20 "Enemy at the Gate")
From Bulfinch's Mythology as quoted by Mythography website:
[The Roman poet] Ovid tells the story of the Phoenix as follows: 'Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors.
From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent's sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.'
According to American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, the phoenix is "a mythical bird that periodically burned itself to death and emerged from the ashes as a new phoenix. According to most stories, the rebirth of the phoenix happened every five hundred years. Only one phoenix lived at a time."
The Phoenix—as an active 304 with that name—existed in an alternate timeline (Stargate Atlantis: 4.30 "The Last Man Part 1"). It was the next Daedalus-class starship after the Apollo to come off of the assembly line. It was released before it was completed, but its new commander, Col. Samantha Carter, and a team headed by Dr. Rodney McKay and Dr. Radek Zelenka took a month to get it battle-ready. The reason why the ship was needed so desperately was because the human-Wraith hybrid Michael had begun to terrorize the Pegasus Galaxy with his hybrid army, killing human and Wraith populations alike.
Carter engaged in a guerilla-type warfare with Michael's hive ships: dropping out of hyperspace, striking with the Asgard plasma weapon, and then leaving quickly through hyperspace. This tactic worked for a little while, and the ship did some critical damage to Michael's fleet, but one day, false intel led her straight into a trap. She was ambushed by three hive ships.
Fighting all of the hive ships at once was impossible for one 304, and soon the ship's systems were failing. Carter beamed her crew to the planet below, a human-populated world, after the hyperdrive systems were about to go critical. The ship's beaming technology failed, so Carter did the only thing she could do: she set her ship on a collision course with one of the hive ships, knowing that the explosion would also take out the other two hives.
Carter's sacrifice, however, was in vain, for in this alternate timeline, Michael took control of the galaxy, and humanity was most likely extinquished as a result.
This future timeline was changed so that the ship came off the assembly line after the Sun Tzu and was renamed to General Hammond in honor of the late Lt. Gen. George Hammond. Like in the alternate timeline, however, Col. Samantha Carter was indeed commissioned to be its first commander. (Stargate Atlantis: 5.20 "Enemy at the Gate")
- Mythography: The Phoenix in Myth
- Dictionary.com: Phoenix
- Joseph Mallozzi's video tour of the bridge of the Phoenix
- Joseph Mallozzi's video of a stroll through the 304 set
--DeeKayP 19:37, 9 March 2008 (PDT)