In Phoenix's life before the Trojan War, he seduced his father's concubine at the urging of his mother. Having heard about this, Amyntor punished his son by cursing him with infertility. Phoenix then fled to Peleus, who in turn took him to Chiron; the latter restored Phoenix's sight, whereupon Peleus made Phoenix king of the Dolopes. He participated in the Kalydonian Boar Hunt.
In The Iliad, Phoenix, with Odysseus and Ajax, urges Achilles to return to battle. He giving the most passionate and emotional speech of the three, as evidenced by his crying. Phoenix deeply cares about Achilles, whom he had helped raise he said "So you, Achilles - great godlike Achilles I made you my son, I tried, so someday you might fight disaster off my back. But now Achilles, beat down your mounting fury! It's wrong to have such an iron, ruthless heart." Achilles spoke only to Phoenix and Ajax whom he showed extreme dislike. ("I hate like the gates of Hades the man who says one thing and holds another in his heart.")
Phoenix also makes a cameo in Virgil's Aeneid. As Aeneas is searching his fallen Troy for his wife Creusa, he glimpses Phoenix and Odysseus guarding their loot in Priam's palace.
Phoenix was said to have died on his way back from Troy and to have been buried by Neoptolemus either in Eion, Macedonia, or in Trachis, Thessaly.