Zoroaster

Zoroaster (/ˈzɒroʊæstər/, UK also /ˌzɒroʊˈæstər/; Greek: Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs), (Persian: زرتشت pronounced as Zartusht) also known as Zarathustra (/ˌzærəˈθuːstrə/, UK also /ˌzɑːrə-/; Avestan: 𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀 Zaraθuštra), Zarathushtra Spitama, or Ashu Zarathushtra, was an ancient Iranian prophet[7][8], spiritual leader and ethical philosopher who taught a spiritual philosophy of self-realization and realization of the Divine. His teachings challenged the existing traditions of the Indo-Iranian religion and later developed into the religion of Mazdayasna or Zoroastrianism. He inaugurated a movement that eventually became the dominant religion in Ancient Iran. He was a native speaker of Old Avestan and lived in the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau, but his exact birthplace is uncertain.[9][10]

There is no scholarly consensus on when he lived.[11] However, approximating using linguistic and socio-cultural evidence allows for dating to somewhere in the second millennium BCE. This is done by estimating the period in which the Old Avestan language (as well as the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Iranian languages and the related Vedic Sanskrit) were spoken, the period in which the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion was practiced, and correlation between the burial practice described in the Gathas with the archeological Yaz culture. Other scholars date him to the 7th and 6th century BCE as a near-contemporary of Cyrus the Great and Darius I.[2][12][13][14][15] Zoroastrianism eventually became the official religion of Ancient Persia and its distant subdivisions from the 6th century BCE to the 7th century CE.[16] Zoroaster is credited with authorship of the Gathas as well as the Yasna Haptanghaiti, hymns composed in his native dialect, Old Avestan, and which comprise the core of Zoroastrian thinking. Most of his life is known from these texts.[9] By any modern standard of historiography, no evidence can place him into a fixed period, and the historicization surrounding him may be a part of a trend from before the 10th century that historicizes legends and myths.[17]

Zoroaster
𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀
Zaraθuštra
Zartosht 30salegee
19th century Indian-Zoroastrian perception of Zoroaster derived from a figure that appears in a 4th century sculpture at Taq-e Bostan in south-western Iran. The original is now believed to be either a representation of Mithra or Hvare-khshaeta.[1]
Bornc. 1500 BC – 1000 BC[2][3]
Airyanem Vaejah[4] (present-day Iranian Plateau)[5]
Diedc. 1500 BC – 1000 BC[2][3] (aged 77)[6]
Airyanem Vaejah[4] (present-day Iranian Plateau)[5]
Venerated inZoroastrianism
Manichaeism
Bahá'í Faith
Mithraism
Ahmadiyya
AttributesFounder of Zoroastrianism

Name and etymology

Zoroaster's name in his native language, Avestan, was probably Zaraϑuštra. His English name, "Zoroaster", derives from a later (5th century BCE) Greek transcription, Zōroastrēs (Ζωροάστρης),[18] as used in Xanthus's Lydiaca (Fragment 32) and in Plato's First Alcibiades (122a1). This form appears subsequently in the Latin Zōroastrēs and, in later Greek orthographies, as Ζωροάστρις Zōroastris. The Greek form of the name appears to be based on a phonetic transliteration or semantic substitution of Avestan zaraϑ- with the Greek ζωρός zōros (literally "undiluted") and the Avestan -uštra with ἄστρον astron ("star").

In Avestan, Zaraϑuštra is generally accepted to derive from an Old Iranian *Zaratuštra-; The element half of the name (-uštra-) is thought to be the Indo-Iranian root for "camel", with the entire name meaning "he who can manage camels".[19][a] Reconstructions from later Iranian languages—particularly from the Middle Persian (300 BCE) Zardusht, which is the form that the name took in the 9th- to 12th-century Zoroastrian texts—suggest that *Zaratuštra- might be a zero-grade form of *Zarantuštra-.[19] Subject then to whether Zaraϑuštra derives from *Zarantuštra- or from *Zaratuštra-, several interpretations have been proposed.[b]

If Zarantuštra is the original form, it may mean "with old/aging camels",[19] related to Avestic zarant-[18] (cf. Pashto zōṛ and Ossetian zœrond, "old"; Middle Persian zāl, "old"):[20]

  • "with angry/furious camels": from Avestan *zarant-, "angry, furious".[21]
  • "who is driving camels" or "who is fostering/cherishing camels": related to Avestan zarš-, "to drag".[22]
  • Mayrhofer (1977) proposed an etymology of "who is desiring camels" or "longing for camels" and related to Vedic Sanskrit har-, "to like", and perhaps (though ambiguous) also to Avestan zara-.[21]
  • "with yellow camels": parallel to younger Avestan zairi-.[23]

The interpretation of the -ϑ- (/θ/) in Avestan zaraϑuštra was for a time itself subjected to heated debate because the -ϑ- is an irregular development: As a rule, *zarat- (a first element that ends in a dental consonant) should have Avestan zarat- or zarat̰- as a development from it. Why this is not so for zaraϑuštra has not yet been determined. Notwithstanding the phonetic irregularity, that Avestan zaraϑuštra with its -ϑ- was linguistically an actual form is shown by later attestations reflecting the same basis.[19] All present-day, Iranian-language variants of his name derive from the Middle Iranian variants of Zarϑošt, which, in turn, all reflect Avestan's fricative -ϑ-.

In Middle Persian, the name is 𐭦𐭫𐭲𐭥𐭱𐭲 Zardu(x)št,[24] in Parthian Zarhušt,[25] in Manichaean Middle Persian Zrdrwšt,[24] in Early New Persian Zardušt,[24] and in modern (New Persian), the name is زرتشت Zartosht.

Date

There is no consensus on the dating of Zoroaster; the Avesta gives no direct information about it, while historical sources are conflicting. Some scholars base their date reconstruction on the Proto-Indo-Iranian language and Proto-Indo-Iranian religion,[16] and thus it is considered to have been some place in northeastern Iran and some time between 1500 and 500 BCE.[26][27][28][3]

Some scholars[13] such as Mary Boyce (who dated Zoroaster to somewhere between 1700–1000 BCE) used linguistic and socio-cultural evidence to place Zoroaster between 1500 and 1000 BCE (or 1200 and 900 BCE).[2][3] The basis of this theory is primarily proposed on linguistic similarities between the Old Avestan language of the Zoroastrian Gathas and the Sanskrit of the Rigveda (c. 1700–1100 BCE), a collection of early Vedic hymns. Both texts are considered to have a common archaic Indo-Iranian origin. The Gathas portray an ancient Stone-Bronze Age bipartite society of warrior-herdsmen and priests (compared to Bronze tripartite society; some conjecture that it depicts the Yaz culture[29]), and thus it is implausible that the Gathas and Rigveda could have been composed more than a few centuries apart. These scholars suggest that Zoroaster lived in an isolated tribe or composed the Gathas before the 1200–1000 BCE migration by the Iranians from the steppe to the Iranian Plateau.[12][30][2][31][32] The shortfall of the argument is the vague comparison, and the archaic language of Gathas does not necessarily indicate time difference.[11][28]

Other scholars[13] propose a period between 7th and 6th century, for example, c. 650–600 BCE or 559–522 BCE.[28][3] The latest possible date is the mid 6th century, at the time of Achaemenid Empire's Darius I, or his predecessor Cyrus the Great. This date gains credence mainly on the thesis that certain figures must be based on historical facts,[3] thus some have related the mythical Vishtaspa with Darius I's father Vishtaspa (or Hystaspes in Greek) with the account on Zoroaster's life. However, in the Avesta it should not be ignored that Vishtaspa's son became the ruler of the Persian Empire, Darius I would not neglect to include his patron-father in the Behistun Inscription. A different proposed conclusion is that Darius I's father was named in honor of the Zoroastrian patron, indicating possible Zoroastrian faith by Arsames.[33]

Classical scholarship in the 6th to 4th century BCE believed he existed six thousand years before Xerxes I's invasion of Greece in 480 BCE (Xanthus, Eudoxus, Aristotle, Hermippus), which is a possible misunderstanding of the Zoroastrian four cycles of 3000 years i.e. 12,000 years.[11][34][35][36] This belief is recorded by Diogenes Laërtius, and variant readings could place it six hundred years before Xerxes I, somewhere before 1000 BCE.[28] However, Diogenes also mentions Hermodorus's belief that Zoroaster lived five thousand years before the Trojan War, which would mean he lived around 6200 BCE.[28] The 10th-century Suda, provides a date of "500 years before Plato" in the late 10th century BCE.[11] Pliny the Elder cited Eudoxus who also placed his death six thousand years before Plato, c. 6300 BCE.[28] Other pseudo-historical constructions are those of Aristoxenus who recorded Zaratas the Chaldeaean to have taught Pythagoras in Babylon,[11][37] or lived at the time of mythological Ninus and Semiramis.[38] According to Pliny the Elder, there were two Zoroasters. The first lived thousands of years ago, while the second accompanied Xerxes I in the invasion of Greece in 480 BCE.[11] Some scholars propose that the chronological calculation for Zoroaster was developed by Persian magi in the 4th century BCE, and as the early Greeks learned about him from the Achaemenids, this indicates they did not regard him as a contemporary of Cyrus the Great, but as a remote figure.[39]

Some later pseudo-historical and Zoroastrian sources (the Bundahishn, which references a date "258 years before Alexander") place Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE,[d][40] which coincided with the accounts by Ammianus Marcellinus from 4th century CE. The traditional Zoroastrian date originates in the period immediately following Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BCE.[28] The Seleucid rulers who gained power following Alexander's death instituted an "Age of Alexander" as the new calendrical epoch. This did not appeal to the Zoroastrian priesthood who then attempted to establish an "Age of Zoroaster". To do so, they needed to establish when Zoroaster had lived, which they accomplished by (erroneous, some even identified Cyrus with Vishtaspa[41]) counting back the length of successive generations, until they concluded that Zoroaster must have lived "258 years before Alexander".[11][42] This estimate then re-appeared in the 9th- to 12th-century Arabic and Pahlavi texts of Zoroastrian tradition,[c] like the 10th century Al-Masudi who cited a prophecy from a lost Avestan book in which Zoroaster foretold the Empire's destruction in three hundred years, but the religion would last for a thousand years.[33]

Place

BactrianZoroastrian
Painted clay and alabaster head of a Zoroastrian priest wearing a distinctive Bactrian-style headdress, Takhti-Sangin, Tajikistan, Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 3rd–2nd century BCE

The birthplace of Zoroaster is also unknown, and the language of the Gathas is not similar to the proposed north-western and north-eastern regional dialects of Persia. It is also suggested that he was born in one of the two areas and later lived in the other area.[5]

Yasna 9 and 17 cite the Ditya River in Airyanem Vaējah (Middle Persian Ērān Wēj) as Zoroaster's home and the scene of his first appearance. The Avesta (both Old and Younger portions) does not mention the Achaemenids or of any West Iranian tribes such as the Medes, Persians, or even Parthians. The Farvardin Yasht refers to some Iranian peoples that are unknown in the Greek and Achaemenid sources about the 6th and 5th century BCE Eastern Iran. The Vendidad contain seventeen regional names, most of which are located in north-eastern and eastern Iran.[43]

However, in Yasna 59.18, the zaraϑuštrotema, or supreme head of the Zoroastrian priesthood, is said to reside in 'Ragha' (Badakhshan).[9] In the 9th- to 12th-century Middle Persian texts of Zoroastrian tradition, this 'Ragha' and with many other places appear as locations in Western Iran. While the land of Media does not figure at all in the Avesta (the westernmost location noted in scripture is Arachosia), the Būndahišn, or "Primordial Creation," (20.32 and 24.15) puts Ragha in Media (medieval Rai). However, in Avestan, Ragha is simply a toponym meaning "plain, hillside."[44]

Apart from these indications in Middle Persian sources that are open to interpretations, there are a number of other sources. The Greek and Latin sources are divided on the birthplace of Zarathustra. There are many Greek accounts of Zarathustra, referred usually as Persian or Perso-Median Zoroaster; Ctesias located him in Bactria, Diodorus Siculus placed him among Ariaspai (in Sistan),[9] Cephalion and Justin suggest east of greater Iran whereas Pliny and Origen suggest west of Iran as his birthplace.[5] Moreover, they have the suggestion that there has been more than one Zoroaster.[45]

On the other hand, in post-Islamic sources Shahrastani (1086–1153) an Iranian writer originally from Shahristān, present-day Turkmenistan, proposed that Zoroaster's father was from Atropatene (also in Medea) and his mother was from Rey. Coming from a reputed scholar of religions, this was a serious blow for the various regions who all claimed that Zoroaster originated from their homelands, some of which then decided that Zoroaster must then have then been buried in their regions or composed his Gathas there or preached there.[46][47] Also Arabic sources of the same period and the same region of historical Persia consider Azerbaijan as the birthplace of Zarathustra.[5]

By the late 20th century, most scholars had settled on an origin in eastern Greater Iran. Gnoli proposed Sistan, Baluchistan (though in a much wider scope than the present-day province) as the homeland of Zoroastrianism; Frye voted for Bactria and Chorasmia;[48] Khlopin suggests the Tedzen Delta in present-day Turkmenistan.[49] Sarianidi considered the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex region as "the native land of the Zoroastrians and, probably, of Zoroaster himself."[50] Boyce includes the steppes to the west from the Volga.[51] The medieval "from Media" hypothesis is no longer taken seriously, and Zaehner has even suggested that this was a Magi-mediated issue to garner legitimacy, but this has been likewise rejected by Gershevitch and others.

The 2005 Encyclopedia Iranica article on the history of Zoroastrianism summarizes the issue with "while there is general agreement that he did not live in western Iran, attempts to locate him in specific regions of eastern Iran, including Central Asia, remain tentative".[52]

Life

Iranianhistory-tekyemoaven
The rings of the Fravashi

Zoroaster is recorded as the son of Pourušaspa of the Spitaman or Spitamids (Avestan spit mean "brilliant" or "white"; some argue that Spitama was a remote progenitor) family,[53] and Dugdōw,[5] while his great-grandfather was Haēčataspa. All the names appear appropriate of the nomadic tradition, as his father's means "possessing gray horses" (with the word aspa meaning horse), while his mother's is "milkmaid". According to the tradition, he had four brothers, two older and two younger, whose names are given in much later Pahlavi work.[54]

His training for the priesthood probably started very early, around seven years of age.[55] He became a priest probably around the age of fifteen, and according to the Gathas, he gained knowledge from other teachers and personal experience from traveling when he left his parents at twenty years old.[56] By the age of thirty, he experienced a revelation during a spring festival; on the river bank he saw a shining Being, who revealed himself as Vohu Manah (Good Purpose) and taught him about Ahura Mazda (Wise Spirit) and five other radiant figures. Zoroaster soon became aware of the existence of two primal Spirits, the second being Angra Mainyu (Hostile Spirit), with opposing concepts of Asha (truth) and Druj (lie). Thus he decided to spend his life teaching people to seek Asha.[57] He received further revelations and saw a vision of the seven Amesha Spenta, and his teachings were collected in the Gathas and the Avesta.[58]

He taught about free will,[59] and opposed the use of the hallucinogenic Haoma plant in rituals, polytheism, over-ritualising religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices, as well an oppressive class system in Persia which earned him strong opposition among local authorities.[60] Eventually, at the age of about forty-two, he received the patronage of queen Hutaosa and a ruler named Vishtaspa, an early adherent of Zoroastrianism (possibly from Bactria according to the Shahnameh).[61] Zoroaster's teaching about individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the resurrection of the body, the Last Judgment, and everlasting life for the reunited soul and body, among other things, became borrowings in the Abrahamic religions, but they lost the context of the original teaching.[62]

Media, Babylon and Persia - including a study of the Zend-Avesta or religion of Zoroaster, from the fall of Nineveh to the Persian war (1889) (14777980061)
Disciples of Zoroaster centered in Nineveh.

According to the tradition, he lived for many years after the Vishtaspa conversion, managed to establish a faithful community,[63] and married three times. His first two wives bore him three sons and three daughters. His third wife, Hvōvi, was childless.[6][64] Zoroaster died when he was 77 years and 40 days old.[6] The later Pahlavi sources like Shahnameh, instead claim that an obscure conflict with Tuiryas people led to his death, murdered by a karapan (a priest of the old religion) named Brādrēs.[65]

Philosophy

In the Gathas, Zoroaster sees the human condition as the mental struggle between aša (truth) and druj (lie). The cardinal concept of aša—which is highly nuanced and only vaguely translatable—is at the foundation of all Zoroastrian doctrine, including that of Ahura Mazda (who is aša), creation (that is aša), existence (that is aša) and as the condition for free will.

The purpose of humankind, like that of all other creation, is to sustain aša. For humankind, this occurs through active participation in life and the exercise of constructive thoughts, words and deeds.

Elements of Zoroastrian philosophy entered the West through their influence on Judaism and Middle Platonism and have been identified as one of the key early events in the development of philosophy.[66] Among the classic Greek philosophers, Heraclitus is often referred to as inspired by Zoroaster's thinking.[67]

Raffael 071
Detail of The School of Athens by Raphael, 1509, showing Zoroaster (left, with star-studded globe).

In 2005, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranked Zarathustra as first in the chronology of philosophers.[68][69] Zarathustra's impact lingers today due in part to the system of rational ethics he founded called Mazda-Yasna. The word Mazda-Yasna is Avestan and is translated as "Worship of Wisdom" in English. The encyclopedia Natural History (Pliny) claims that Zoroastrians later educated the Greeks who, starting with Pythagoras, used a similar term, philosophy, or "love of wisdom" to describe the search for ultimate truth.[70]

Zoroaster emphasized the freedom of the individual to choose right or wrong and individual responsibility for one's deeds. This personal choice to accept aša, or arta (the divine order), and shun druj (ignorance and chaos) is one's own decision and not a dictate of Ahura Mazda. For Zarathustra, by thinking good thoughts, saying good words, and doing good deeds (e.g. assisting the needy or doing good works) we increase this divine force aša or arta in the world and in ourselves, celebrate the divine order, and we come a step closer on the everlasting road to being one with the Creator. Thus, we are not the slaves or servants of Ahura Mazda, but we can make a personal choice to be his co-workers, thereby refreshing the world and ourselves.[71]

Influences

In Islam

A number of parallels have been drawn between Zoroastrian teachings and Islam. Such parallels include the evident similarities between Amesha Spenta and the archangel Gabriel, and the mention of Thamud and the Iram of the Pillars in the Quran. These may also indicate the vast influence of the Achaemenid Empire on the development of either religion.[59]

The Sabaeans, who believed in free will coincident with Zoroastrians, are also mentioned in the Quran.[59]

Muslim scholastic views

Dinastia tang, shanxi, straniero dal volto velato, 600-750 ca
An 8th-century Tang dynasty Chinese clay figurine of a Sogdian man (an Eastern Iranian person) wearing a distinctive cap and face veil, possibly a camel rider or even a Zoroastrian priest engaging in a ritual at a fire temple, since face veils were used to avoid contaminating the holy fire with breath or saliva; Museum of Oriental Art (Turin), Italy.[72]

Like the Greeks of classical antiquity, Islamic tradition understands Zoroaster to be the founding prophet of the Magians (via Aramaic, Arabic Majus, collective Majusya). The 11th-century Cordoban Ibn Hazm (Zahiri school) contends that Kitabi "of the Book" cannot apply in light of the Zoroastrian assertion that their books were destroyed by Alexander. Citing the authority of the 8th-century al-Kalbi, the 9th- and 10th-century Sunni historian al-Tabari (i.648)[73] reports that Zaradusht bin Isfiman (an Arabic adaptation of "Zarathustra Spitama") was an inhabitant of Israel and a servant of one of the disciples of the prophet Jeremiah. According to this tale, Zaradusht defrauded his master, who cursed him, causing him to become leprous (cf. Elisha's servant Gehazi in Jewish Scripture).

The apostate Zaradusht then eventually made his way to Balkh (present day Afghanistan) where he converted Bishtasb (i.e. Vishtaspa), who in turn compelled his subjects to adopt the religion of the Magians. Recalling other tradition, al-Tabari (i.681–683[73]) recounts that Zaradusht accompanied a Jewish prophet to Bishtasb/Vishtaspa. Upon their arrival, Zaradusht translated the sage's Hebrew teachings for the king and so convinced him to convert (Tabari also notes that they had previously been Sabis) to the Magian religion.[73]

The 12th-century heresiographer al-Shahrastani describes the Majusiya into three sects, the Kayumarthiya, the Zurwaniya and the Zaradushtiya, among which Al-Shahrastani asserts that only the last of the three were properly followers of Zoroaster. As regards the recognition of a prophet, Zoroaster has said: "They ask you as to how should they recognize a prophet and believe him to be true in what he says; tell them what he knows the others do not, and he shall tell you even what lies hidden in your nature; he shall be able to tell you whatever you ask him and he shall perform such things which others cannot perform." (Namah Shat Vakhshur Zartust, .5–7. 50–54) When the companions of Muhammad, on invading Persia, came in contact with the Zoroastrian people and learned these teachings, they at once came to the conclusion that Zoroaster was really a Divinely inspired prophet. Thus they accorded the same treatment to the Zoroastrian people which they did to other "People of the Book".

Though the name of Zoroaster is not mentioned in the Qur'an, still he was regarded as one of those prophets whose names have not been mentioned in the Qur'an, for there is a verse in the Qur'an: "And We did send apostles before thee: there are some of them that We have mentioned to thee and there are others whom We have not mentioned to Thee." (40 : 78). Accordingly, the Muslims treated the founder of Zoroastrianism as a true prophet and believed in his religion as they did in other inspired creeds, and thus according to the prophecy, protected the Zoroastrian religion. James Darmesteter remarked in the translation of Zend Avesta: "When Islam assimilated the Zoroastrians to the People of the Book, it evinced a rare historical sense and solved the problem of the origin of the Avesta." (Introduction to Vendidad. p. 69.)

Shi'a view

During the reign of the seventh Abbasid caliph, Al-Ma'mun, Imam Ali al-Ridha, the great grandson of Muhammad and a prominent Islamic scholar of his time, was summoned in court to debate with the high priests, scholars, philosophers, and theologians to test his knowledge on religion and jurisprudence. Among the summoned scholars was a Zoroastrian High Priest. Al-Ridha questioned the priest on his beliefs saying,“Tell me about Zoroaster, whom you claim is a prophet; what is your evidence for his Prophethood?” to which the response was “We did not see him, but the tales of our ancestors informed us that he had legalized for us what no other person before had made legal.” Imam Al-Ridha responded “This is the case with all other nations. Tales had come to them about what the prophets had accomplished, what Moses, Jesus and Muhammad had all brought them, so why did you not believe in any of these prophets, having believed in Zoroaster, through the tales that came to you about him, informing that he brought forth what others did not?”[74]

Ahmadiyya view

Ahmadi Muslims view Zoroaster as a Prophet of God and describe the expressions of Ahura Mazda, the god of goodness, and Ahraman, the god of evil, as merely referring to the coexistence of forces of good and evil enabling humans to exercise free will. Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth views Zoroaster as Prophet of God and describes such the expressions to be a concept which is similar to the concepts in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.[75]

In Manichaeism

Manichaeism considered Zoroaster to be a figure (along with Jesus and the Buddha) in a line of prophets of which Mani (216–276) was the culmination.[76] Zoroaster's ethical dualism is—to an extent—incorporated in Mani's doctrine, which viewed the world as being locked in an epic battle between opposing forces of good and evil.[77] Manicheanism also incorporated other elements of Zoroastrian tradition, particularly the names of supernatural beings; however, many of these other Zoroastrian elements are either not part of Zoroaster's own teachings or are used quite differently from how they are used in Zoroastrianism.[78][79]

In the Bahá'í Faith

Zoroaster appears in the Bahá'í Faith as a "Manifestation of God", one of a line of prophets who have progressively revealed the Word of God to a gradually maturing humanity. Zoroaster thus shares an exalted station with Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb, and the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh.[80] Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Bahá'í Faith in the first half of the 20th century, saw Bahá'u'lláh as the fulfillment of a post-Sassanid Zoroastrian prophecy that saw a return of Sassanid emperor Bahram:[81] Shoghi Effendi also stated that Zoroaster lived roughly 1000 years before Jesus.[e]

Western civilization

"The School of Athens" by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
The School of Athens: a gathering of renaissance artists in the guise of philosophers from antiquity, in an idealized classical interior, featuring the scene with Zoroaster holding a planet or cosmos.

In classical antiquity

The Greeks—in the Hellenistic sense of the term—had an understanding of Zoroaster as expressed by Plutarch, Diogenes Laërtius, and Agathias[82] that saw him, at the core, to be the "prophet and founder of the religion of the Iranian peoples," Beck notes that "the rest was mostly fantasy".[83] Zoroaster was set in the ancient past, six to seven millennia before the Common Era, and was described as a king of Bactria or a Babylonian (or teacher of Babylonians), and with a biography typical of a Neopythagorean sage, i.e. having a mission preceded by ascetic withdrawal and enlightenment.[83] However, at first mentioned in the context of dualism, in Moralia, Plutarch presents Zoroaster as "Zaratras," not realizing the two to be the same, and he is described as a "teacher of Pythagoras".[84][37]

Zoroaster has also been described as a sorcerer-astrologer – the creator of both magic and astrology. Deriving from that image, and reinforcing it, was a "mass of literature" attributed to him and that circulated the Mediterranean world from the 3rd century BCE to the end of antiquity and beyond.[85][86]

The language of that literature was predominantly Greek, though at one stage or another various parts of it passed through Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic or Latin. Its ethos and cultural matrix was likewise Hellenistic, and "the ascription of literature to sources beyond that political, cultural and temporal framework represents a bid for authority and a fount of legitimizing "alien wisdom". Zoroaster and the magi did not compose it, but their names sanctioned it."[85] The attributions to "exotic" names (not restricted to magians) conferred an "authority of a remote and revelatory wisdom."[87]

Among the named works attributed to "Zoroaster" is a treatise On Nature (Peri physeos), which appears to have originally constituted four volumes (i.e. papyrus rolls). The framework is a retelling of Plato's Myth of Er, with Zoroaster taking the place of the original hero. While Porphyry imagined Pythagoras listening to Zoroaster's discourse, On Nature has the sun in middle position, which was how it was understood in the 3rd century. In contrast, Plato's 4th-century BCE version had the sun in second place above the moon. Ironically, Colotes accused Plato of plagiarizing Zoroaster,[88][89] and Heraclides Ponticus wrote a text titled Zoroaster based on his perception of "Zoroastrian" philosophy, in order to express his disagreement with Plato on natural philosophy.[90] With respect to substance and content in On Nature only two facts are known: that it was crammed with astrological speculations, and that Necessity (Ananké) was mentioned by name and that she was in the air.

Pliny the Elder names Zoroaster as the inventor of magic (Natural History 30.2.3). "However, a principle of the division of labor appears to have spared Zoroaster most of the responsibility for introducing the dark arts to the Greek and Roman worlds." That "dubious honor" went to the "fabulous magus, Ostanes, to whom most of the pseudepigraphic magical literature was attributed."[91] Although Pliny calls him the inventor of magic, the Roman does not provide a "magician's persona" for him.[91] Moreover, the little "magical" teaching that is ascribed to Zoroaster is actually very late, with the very earliest example being from the 14th century.[92]

Association with astrology according to Roger Beck, were based on his Babylonian origin, and Zoroaster's Greek name was identified at first with star-worshiping (astrothytes "star sacrificer") and, with the Zo-, even as the living star.[93] Later, an even more elaborate mythoetymology evolved: Zoroaster died by the living (zo-) flux (ro-) of fire from the star (astr-) which he himself had invoked, and even, that the stars killed him in revenge for having been restrained by him.[93]

The alternate Greek name for Zoroaster was Zaratras[84] or Zaratas/Zaradas/Zaratos.[94] Pythagoreans considered the mathematicians to have studied with Zoroaster in Babylonia.[95]Lydus, in On the Months, attributes the creation of the seven-day week to "the Babylonians in the circle of Zoroaster and Hystaspes," and who did so because there were seven planets.[96] The Suda's chapter on astronomia notes that the Babylonians learned their astrology from Zoroaster. Lucian of Samosata, in Mennipus 6, reports deciding to journey to Babylon "to ask one of the magi, Zoroaster's disciples and successors," for their opinion.[97]

While the division along the lines of Zoroaster/astrology and Ostanes/magic is an "oversimplification, the descriptions do at least indicate what the works are not"; they were not expressions of Zoroastrian doctrine, they were not even expressions of what the Greeks and Romans "imagined the doctrines of Zoroastrianism to have been" [emphases in the original].[87] The assembled fragments do not even show noticeable commonality of outlook and teaching among the several authors who wrote under each name.[98]

Almost all Zoroastrian pseudepigrapha is now lost, and of the attested texts—with only one exception—only fragments have survived. Pliny's 2nd- or 3rd-century attribution of "two million lines" to Zoroaster suggest that (even if exaggeration and duplicates are taken into consideration) a formidable pseudepigraphic corpus once existed at the Library of Alexandria. This corpus can safely be assumed to be pseudepigrapha because no one before Pliny refers to literature by "Zoroaster",[99] and on the authority of the 2nd-century Galen of Pergamon and from a 6th-century commentator on Aristotle it is known that the acquisition policies of well-endowed royal libraries created a market for fabricating manuscripts of famous and ancient authors.[99]

The exception to the fragmentary evidence (i.e. reiteration of passages in works of other authors) is a complete Coptic tractate titled Zostrianos (after the first-person narrator) discovered in the Nag Hammadi library in 1945. A three-line cryptogram in the colophones following the 131-page treatise identify the work as "words of truth of Zostrianos. God of Truth [logos]. Words of Zoroaster."[100] Invoking a "God of Truth" might seem Zoroastrian, but there is otherwise "nothing noticeably Zoroastrian" about the text and "in content, style, ethos and intention, its affinities are entirely with the congeners among the Gnostic tractates."[98]

Another work circulating under the name of "Zoroaster" was the Asteroskopita (or Apotelesmatika), and which ran to five volumes (i.e. papyrus rolls). The title and fragments suggest that it was an astrological handbook, "albeit a very varied one, for the making of predictions."[87] A third text attributed to Zoroaster is On Virtue of Stones (Peri lithon timion), of which nothing is known other than its extent (one volume) and that pseudo-Zoroaster sang it (from which Cumont and Bidez conclude that it was in verse). Numerous other fragments preserved in the works of other authors are attributed to "Zoroaster," but the titles of those books are not mentioned.

These pseudepigraphic texts aside, some authors did draw on a few genuinely Zoroastrian ideas. The Oracles of Hystaspes, by "Hystaspes", another prominent magian pseudo-author, is a set of prophecies distinguished from other Zoroastrian pseudepigrapha in that it draws on real Zoroastrian sources.[87] Some allusions are more difficult to assess: in the same text that attributes the invention of magic to Zoroaster, Pliny states that Zoroaster laughed on the day of his birth, although in an earlier place, Pliny had sworn in the name of Hercules that no child had ever done so before the 40th day from his birth.[101] This notion of Zoroaster's laughter (like that of "two million verses") also appears in the 9th– to 11th-century texts of genuine Zoroastrian tradition, and for a time it was assumed that the origin of those myths lay with indigenous sources. Pliny also records that Zoroaster's head had pulsated so strongly that it repelled the hand when laid upon it, a presage of his future wisdom.[102] The Iranians were however just as familiar with the Greek writers, and the provenance of other descriptions are clear. For instance, Plutarch's description of its dualistic theologies reads thus: "Others call the better of these a god and his rival a daemon, as, for example, Zoroaster the Magus, who lived, so they record, five thousand years before the siege of Troy. He used to call the one Horomazes and the other Areimanius".[103]

In the post-classical era

Zoroaster was known as a sage, magician, and miracle-worker in post-Classical Western culture. Although almost nothing was known of his ideas until the late 18th century, his name was already associated with lost ancient wisdom. Statements by Sir Thomas Browne as early as 1643 are the earliest recorded references to Zoroaster in the English language.

Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire promoted research into Zoroastrianism in the belief that it was a form of rational Deism, preferable to Christianity. Zoroaster was the subject of the 1749 opera, Zoroastre, by Jean-Philippe Rameau. With the translation of the Avesta by Abraham Anquetil-Duperron, Western scholarship of Zoroastrianism began.

An early 19th-century representation of Zoroaster derived from the portrait of a figure that appears in a 4th-century sculpture at Taq-e Bostan in south-western Iran.

In E. T. A. Hoffmann's novel Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober (1819), the mage Prosper Alpanus states that Professor Zoroaster was his teacher.[104]

In his seminal work Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (1885) the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche uses the native Iranian name Zarathustra which has a significant meaning[f] as he had used the familiar Greek-Latin name in his earlier works.[105] It is believed that Nietzsche invents a characterization of Zarathustra as the mouthpiece for Nietzsche's own ideas against morality.[g] Richard Strauss's Opus 30, inspired by Nietzsche's book, is also called Also sprach Zarathustra.

Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) and his wife reportedly claimed to have contacted Zoroaster through "automatic writing".[106]

A sculpture of Zoroaster by Edward Clark Potter, representing ancient Persian judicial wisdom and dating to 1896, towers over the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State at East 25th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan.[107][108] A sculpture of Zoroaster appears with other prominent religious figures on the south side of the exterior of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago.[109]

Iconography

Although a few recent depictions of Zoroaster show the prophet performing some deed of legend, in general the portrayals merely present him in white vestments (which are also worn by present-day Zoroastrian priests). He often is seen holding a baresman (Avestan; Middle Persian barsom), which is generally considered to be another symbol of priesthood, or with a book in hand, which may be interpreted to be the Avesta. Alternatively, he appears with a mace, the varza—usually stylized as a steel rod crowned by a bull's head—that priests carry in their installation ceremony. In other depictions he appears with a raised hand and thoughtfully lifted finger, as if to make a point.

Zoroaster is rarely depicted as looking directly at the viewer; instead, he appears to be looking slightly upwards, as if beseeching. Zoroaster is almost always depicted with a beard, this along with other factors bearing similarities to 19th-century portraits of Jesus.[110]

A common variant of the Zoroaster images derives from a Sassanid-era rock-face carving. In this depiction at Taq-e Bostan, a figure is seen to preside over the coronation of Ardashir I or II. The figure is standing on a lotus, with a baresman in hand and with a gloriole around his head. Until the 1920s, this figure was commonly thought to be a depiction of Zoroaster, but in recent years is more commonly interpreted to be a depiction of Mithra. Among the most famous of the European depictions of Zoroaster is that of the figure in Raphael's 1509 The School of Athens. In it, Zoroaster and Ptolemy are having a discussion in the lower right corner. The prophet is holding a star-studded globe.

Zoroaster 1

Zoroastrian devotional art depicting the religion's founder with white clothing and a long beard

ClavisArtis.MS.Verginelli-Rota.V1.003r

Depiction of Zoroaster in Clavis Artis, an alchemy manuscript published in Germany in the late 17th or early 18th century and pseudoepigraphically attributed to Zoroaster

An Image from Zarathustra

An image of Zoroaster on display at the Yazd Atash Behram (Zoroastrian fire temple) in Yazd, Yazd province, Iran

An image of Zoroaster on mirrored etched glass at the Zoroastrian fire temple, Taft, Iran

An image of Zoroaster on mirrored etched glass at the Zoroastrian fire temple in Taft, Iran

See also

Notes

a:^ Originally proposed by Burnouf[111]
b:^ For refutation of these and other proposals, see Humbach, 1991.[112]
c:^ The Bundahishn computes "200 and some years" (GBd xxxvi.9) or "284 years" (IBd xxxiv.9). That '258 years' was the generally accepted figure is however noted by al-Biruni and al-Masudi, with the latter specifically stating (in 943/944 AD) that "the Magians count a period of two hundred and fifty-eight years between their prophet and Alexander."[113][114]
d:^ "258 years before Alexander" is only superficially precise.[114]

It has been suggested that this "traditional date" is an adoption of some date from foreign sources, from the Greeks[115] or the Babylonians[116] for example, which the priesthood then reinterpreted. A simpler explanation is that the priests subtracted 42 (the age at which Zoroaster is said to have converted Vistaspa) from the round figure of 300.[117][118][119]

e:^ From a letter of the Universal House of Justice, Department of the Secretariat, May 13, 1979 to Mrs. Gayle Woolson published in: Hornby, Helen, ed. (1983), Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File, New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, p. 501, ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
f:^ By choosing the name of 'Zarathustra' as prophet of his philosophy, as he has expressed clearly, he followed the paradoxical aim of paying homage to the original Iranian prophet and reversing his teachings at the same time. The original Zoroastrian world view interprets being essentially on a moralistic basis and depicts the world as an arena for the struggle of the two fundamentals of being, Good and Evil, represented in two antagonistic divine figures.[105]
g:^ Ecce Homo quotations are per the Ludovici translation.[120] Paraphrases follow the original passage (Warum ich ein Schicksal bin 3), available in the public domain on p. 45 of the Project Gutenberg EBook.

References

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  3. ^ a b c d e f Shahbazi 1977, pp. 25–35
  4. ^ a b Darmesteter, James. Sacred Books of the East (1898). Peterson, Joseph H., Avesta – Zoroastrian Archives: Venidad (English): Fargard 1.
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  13. ^ a b c Lincoln 1991, pp. 149–150: "At present, the majority opinion among scholars probably inclines toward the end of the second millennium or the beginning of the first, although there are still those who hold for a date in the seventh century."
  14. ^ Fischer 2004, pp. 58–59
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  65. ^ Boyce 1996, pp. 192
  66. ^ Blackburn, Simon (1994), "Philosophy", The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 405
  67. ^ August Gladisch (1859), Herakleitos Und Zoroaster: Eine Historische Untersuchung, p. IV
  68. ^ Blackburn, S. (2005). p 409, The Oxford dictionary of philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  69. ^ Frankfort, H., Frankfort, H. A. G., Wilson, J. A., & Jacobsen, T. (1964). Before Philosophy. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
  70. ^ Jones, W.H.S. (1963). "Pliny Natural History Vol 8; Book XXX". Heinemann. Archived from the original on January 1, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  71. ^ "Zarathustra | Iranian prophet". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  72. ^ Lee Lawrence. (3 September 2011). "A Mysterious Stranger in China". The Wall Street Journal. Accessed on 31 August 2016.
  73. ^ a b c Qtd. in Büchner 1936, p. 105.
  74. ^ Al Qarashi, Baqir Sharif (2001). The Life of Imam Ali Bin Musa Al-Rida. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 124. ISBN 978-9644383298.
  75. ^ "Zoroastrianism". www.alislam.org.
  76. ^ Widengren 1961, p. 76.
  77. ^ Widengren 1961, pp. 43–45.
  78. ^ Widengren 1961, pp. 44–45.
  79. ^ Zaehner 1972, p. 21.
  80. ^ Taherzadeh 1976, p. 3.
  81. ^ Buck 1998.
  82. ^ See Plutarch's Isis and Osiris 46-7, Diogenes Laërtius 1.6–9, and Agathias 2.23-5.
  83. ^ a b Beck 1991, p. 525.
  84. ^ a b Brenk, Frederick E. (1977). In Mist Apparelled: Religious Themes in Plutarch's Moralia and Lives, Volumes 48-50. Mnemosyne, bibliotheca classica Batava [Vol. 48: Supplementum]. Leiden, NDL: Brill Archive. p. 129. ISBN 9004052410. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  85. ^ a b Beck 1991, p. 491.
  86. ^ Beck 2003, para. 4.
  87. ^ a b c d Beck 1991, p. 493.
  88. ^ Nock et al. 1929, p. 111.
  89. ^ Livingstone 2002, pp. 144–145.
  90. ^ Livingstone 2002, p. 147.
  91. ^ a b Beck 2003, para. 7.
  92. ^ Beck 1991, p. 522.
  93. ^ a b Beck 1991, p. 523.
  94. ^ Cf. Agathias 2.23–5 and Clement's Stromata I.15.
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  96. ^ Lydus, On the Months, II.4.
  97. ^ Lucian of Samosata, Mennipus 6.
  98. ^ a b Beck 1991, p. 495.
  99. ^ a b Beck 1991, p. 526.
  100. ^ Sieber 1973, p. 234.
  101. ^ Pliny, VII, I.
  102. ^ Pliny, VII, XV.
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  111. ^ Burnouf 1833, p. 13.
  112. ^ Humbach 1991, p. I.18.
  113. ^ Jackson 1899, p. 162.
  114. ^ a b Shahbazi 1977, p. 26.
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Sources

External links

6th century BC

The 6th century BC started the first day of 600 BC and ended the last day of 501 BC.

This century represents the peak of a period in human history popularly known as Axial Age. This period saw the emergence of five major thought streams springing from five great thinkers in different parts of the world: Buddha and Mahavira in India, Zoroaster in Persia, Pythagoras in Greece and Confucius in China.

Pāṇini, in India, composed a grammar for Sanskrit, in this century or slightly later. This is the oldest still known grammar of any language.

In Western Asia, the first half of this century was dominated by the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire, which had risen to power late in the previous century after successfully rebelling against Assyrian rule. The Kingdom of Judah came to an end in 586 BC when Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem, and removed most of its population to their own lands. Babylonian rule was ended in the 540s by Cyrus, who founded the Persian Empire in its place. The Persian Empire continued to expand and grew into the greatest empire the world had known at the time.

In Iron Age Europe, the Celtic expansion was in progress. China was in the Spring and Autumn period.

Mediterranean: Beginning of Greek philosophy, flourishes during the 5th century BC

The late Hallstatt culture period in Eastern and Central Europe, the late Bronze Age in Northern Europe

East Asia: the Spring and Autumn period. Confucianism, Legalism and Moism flourish. Laozi founds Taoism

West Asia: During the Persian empire, Zoroaster, a.k.a. Zarathustra, founded Zoroastrianism, a dualistic philosophy. This was also the time of the Babylonian captivity of the ancient Jews.

Ancient India: the Buddha and Mahavira found Buddhism and Jainism

The decline of the Olmec civilization in Central America

Aka Manah

Aka Manah is the Avestan language name for the Zoroastrian daeva "Evil Mind", "Evil Purpose", "Evil Thinking", or "Evil Intention". Aka Manah is the demon of sensual desire that was sent by Ahriman to seduce the prophet Zoroaster. His eternal opponent is Vohu Manah. Aka Manah is the hypostatic abstraction of accusative akem manah (akәm manah), "manah made evil". The objectification of this malign influence is the demon Aka/Akem Manah, who appears in later texts as Middle Persian Akoman and New Persian Akvan.

Baruch ben Neriah

Baruch ben Neriah (Hebrew: ברוך בן נריה Bārūḵ ben Nêrîyāh, "'Blessed' (Bārūḵ), son (ben) of 'My Candle is Jah' (Nêrîyāh)"; c. 6th century BC) was the scribe, disciple, secretary, and devoted friend of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. He is traditionally credited with authoring the deuterocanonical Book of Baruch.

Criticism of Zoroastrianism

Criticism of Zoroastrianism has taken place over many centuries not only from the adherents of other religions but also among Zoroastrians themselves seeking to reform the faith.

Denkard

The Dēnkard (Middle Persian pronunciation: [de:nˈkard]) or Dēnkart (Middle Persian: 𐭣𐭩𐭭𐭪𐭠𐭫𐭲 "Acts of Religion") is a 10th-century compendium of the Mazdaen Zoroastrian beliefs and customs. The Denkard is to a great extent an "Encyclopedia of Mazdaism" and is a most valuable source of information on the religion. The Denkard is not itself considered scripture.

Gathas

The Gathas () are 17 Avestan hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra (Zoroaster) himself. They form the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy (the Yasna). They are arranged in five different modes or metres.

The Avestan term gāθā (𐬔𐬁𐬚𐬁 "hymn", but also "mode, metre") is cognate with Sanskrit gāthā́ (गाथा), both from the Proto-Indo-Iranian word *gaHtʰáH, from the root *gaH- "to sing".

Jamasp Namag

The Jamasp Nameh (var: Jāmāsp Nāmag, Jāmāsp Nāmeh, "Story of Jamasp") is a Middle Persian book of revelations. In an extended sense, it is also a primary source on Zoroastrian doctrine and legend. The work is also known as the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg or Ayātkār-ī Jāmāspīk, meaning "[In] Memoriam of Jamasp".

The text takes the form of a series of questions and answers between Vishtasp and Jamasp, both of whom were amongst Zoroaster's immediate and closest disciples. Vishtasp was the princely protector and patron of Zoroaster while Jamasp was a nobleman at Vishtasp's court. Both are figures mentioned in the Gathas, the oldest hymns of Zoroastrianism and believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself.

Here (chap. 3.6-7) there occurs a striking theological statement, that Ohrmazd’s creation of the six Amašaspands was like lamps being lit one from another, none being diminished thereby.The question-answer series is a common literary technique in Zoroastrian literature. In the past, and among Zoroastrians themselves, this technique was frequently misunderstood to be an indication of a first-hand account. The text has survived in three forms:

a Pahlavi manuscript, that is, a rendering of the Middle Persian language using an Aramaic-derived script and accompanied by Aramaic ideograms. The Pahlavi manuscript is damaged and fragmented.

a transmission in Pazand, that is, a rendering of the Middle Persian language using Avestan script (also an Aramaic derivative) but without any non-Iranian vocabulary. The Pazend version has survived in its entirety.

a Modern Persian translation in Arabic script has also survived. It is slightly younger than the other two manuscripts.

Ka'ba-ye Zartosht

Ka'ba-ye Zartosht is the name of a stone quadrangular and stepped structure in the Naqsh-e Rustam compound beside Zangiabad village in Marvdasht county in Fars, Iran. The Naqsh-e Rustam compound incorporates memorials of the Elamites, the Achaemenids and the Sassanians in itself in addition to the mentioned structure.

The Ka'ba-ye Zartosht is 46 metres (151 ft) from the mountain, situated exactly opposite Darius II's mausoleum. It is rectangular and has only one entrance door. The material of the structure is white limestone. It is about 12 metres (39 ft) high, or 14.12 metres (46.3 ft) if including the triple stairs, and each side of its base is about 7.30 metres (24.0 ft) long. Its entrance door leads to the chamber inside via a thirty-stair stone stairway. The stone pieces are rectangular and are simply placed on top of each other, without the use of mortar; the sizes of the stones varies from 0.48 by 2.10 by 2.90 metres (1 ft 7 in by 6 ft 11 in by 9 ft 6 in) to 0.56 by 1.08 by 1.10 metres (1 ft 10 in by 3 ft 7 in by 3 ft 7 in), and they are connected to each other by dovetail joints. The structure was built in the Achaemenid era and there is no information of the name of the structure in that era. It was called Bon-Khanak in the Sassanian era; the local name of the structure was Kornaykhaneh or Naggarekhaneh; and the phrase Ka'ba-ye Zartosht has been used for the structure since the fourteenth century, into the contemporary era.

Various views and interpretations have been proposed about the application of the chamber, but none of them could be accepted with certainty: some consider the tower a fire temple and a fireplace, and believe that it was used for igniting and worshiping the holy fire, while another group rejects this view and considers it the mausoleum of one of the Achaemenid shahs or grandees, due to its similarity to the Tomb of Cyrus and some mausoleums of Lycia and Caria. Some other Iranian scholars believe the stone chamber to be a structure for the safekeeping of royal documents and holy or religious books; however, the chamber of Ka'ba-ye Zartosht is too small for this purpose. Other less noticed theories, such as its being a temple for the goddess Anahita or a solar calendar, have also been mentioned.

Three inscriptions have been written in the three languages Sassanian Middle Persian, Arsacid Middle Persian and Greek on the Northern, Southern and Eastern walls of the tower, in the Sassanian era. One of them belongs to Shapur I the Sassanian, and the other to the priest Kartir. According to Walter Henning, "These inscriptions are the most important historical documents from the Sassanian era." The Ka'ba-ye Zartosht is a beautiful structure: its proportions, lines and external beauty are based on well-executed architectural principles.Currently, the structure is part of the Naqsh-e Rustam compound and owned by the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran.

Magi

Magi (; singular magus ; from Latin magus) denotes followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster. The earliest known use of the word Magi is in the trilingual inscription written by Darius the Great, known as the Behistun Inscription. Old Persian texts, pre-dating the Hellenistic period, refer to a Magus as a Zurvanic, and presumably Zoroastrian, priest.

Pervasive throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until late antiquity and beyond, mágos was influenced by (and eventually displaced) Greek goēs (γόης), the older word for a practitioner of magic, to include astronomy/astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. This association was in turn the product of the Hellenistic fascination for (Pseudo‑)Zoroaster, who was perceived by the Greeks to be the Chaldean founder of the Magi and inventor of both astrology and magic, a meaning that still survives in the modern-day words "magic" and "magician".

In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, "μάγοι" from the east do homage to the newborn Jesus, and the transliterated plural "magi" entered English from Latin in this context around 1200 (this particular use is also commonly rendered in English as "kings" and more often in recent times as "wise men"). The singular "magus" appears considerably later, when it was borrowed from Old French in the late 14th century with the meaning magician.

Ostanes

Ostanes (from [iran]] Ὀστάνης), also spelled Hostanes and Osthanes, was the pen-name used by several pseudo-anonymous authors of Iranian and Latin works from Hellenistic period onwards. Together with Pseudo-Zoroaster and Pseudo-Hystaspes, Ostanes belongs to the group of pseudepigraphical "Hellenistic Magians", that is, a long line of Greek and other Hellenistic writers who wrote under the name of famous "Magians". While Pseudo-Zoroaster was identified as the "inventor" of astrology, and Pseudo-Hystaspes was stereotyped as an apocalyptic prophet, Ostanes was imagined to be a master sorcerer.

The School of Athens

The School of Athens (Italian: Scuola di Atene) is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be decorated, and The School of Athens, representing Philosophy, was probably the third painting to be finished there, after La Disputa (Theology) on the opposite wall, and the Parnassus (Literature). The picture has long been seen as "Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the Renaissance".

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, also translated as Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts written between 1883 and 1885 and published between 1883 and 1891. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.

Vishtaspa

Vishtaspa (Old Persian:𐎻𐏁𐎫𐎠𐎿𐎱 "Vištāspa", whence Ancient Greek Ὑστάσπης "Hystaspes") is the Avestan-language name of a figure of Zoroastrian scripture and tradition, portrayed as an early follower of Zoroaster, and his patron, and instrumental in the diffusion of the prophet's message. Although Vishtaspa is not epigraphically attested, he is – like Zoroaster also – traditionally assumed to have been a historical figure, and – again, like Zoroaster – that figure is obscured by accretions from legend and myth.

In Zoroastrian tradition, which builds on allusions found in the Avesta, Vishtaspa is a righteous king who helped propagate and defend the faith. In the non-Zoroastrian Sistan cycle texts, Vishtaspa is a loathsome ruler of Kayanian dynasty who intentionally sends his eldest son to a certain death. In Greco-Roman literature, Zoroaster's patron was the pseudo-anonymous author of a set of prophecies written under his name.

Wizard of Oz (character)

Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (also known as "the Wizard of Oz" and, during his reign, as "Oz, the Great and Terrible" or "the Great and Powerful Oz") is a fictional character in the Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. The character was further popularized by a stage play and several movies, most famously the classic 1939 movie, as well as the 2013 prequel adaption.

Zand-i Wahman yasn

The Zand-i Wahman Yasn is a medieval Zoroastrian apocalyptical text in Middle Persian. It professes to be a prophetical work, in which Ahura Mazda gives Zoroaster an account of what was to happen to the behdin (those of the "good religion", i.e. the Zoroastrians) and their religion in the future. The oldest surviving manuscript (K20, in Copenhagen) is from about 1400, but the text itself is older, written and edited over the course of several generations.

The work is also known as the Bahman Yasht and Zand-i wahman yasht. These titles are scholastic mistakes, in the former case due to 18th century Anquetil Du Perron, and the latter due to 19th century Edward William West. The text is neither a Yasht, nor is it in any way related to the Avesta's (lost) Bahman Yasht (see note below). Chapter and line pointers to the Zand-i Wahman Yasn are conventionally abbreviated ZWY, and follow the subdivisions defined in the 1957 Anklesaria translation. These subdivisions differ from those used in earlier translations.

The text survives in two versions: a Middle Persian version in Pahlavi script, and in a Pazand transliteration with commentary in Avestan script. From the scholastic point of view, the work is enormously interesting for the study of religion. While the text is superficially an Iranian one, there is some question whether some of the details are Iranian adaptions from alien sources. Arguments for both an indigenous origin (with loaning to Judeo-Christian tradition), and vice versa (borrowing from Semitic and Hellenistic sources) have been put forward. A connection to the Hellenistic Oracles of Hystaspes is generally acknowledged. That text, unlike most works attributed to Pseudo-Zoroastrian authors, was apparently based on genuine Zoroastrian traditions.

Structurally, the Zand-i Wahman Yasn is laid out as a conversation between Zoroaster and Ahura Mazda, in which the latter gives his prophet the ability to see into the future. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 introduce a millennial scheme with seven periods. The first three periods represent the ages up and including the "millennium of Zoroaster". The last four periods, which account for what will occur thereafter, are analogized as a tree with four branches, one each of gold, silver, steel, and impure iron. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 prophesy the calamities that will occur when the "enemies of the good religion" (see Aniran) conquer Iran at the end of the "tenth millennium", causing a debasement of moral, social, religious order (see Asha, "order"). Chapters 7, 8 and 9 prophesy the events of the last 3,000 years of the world, beginning with the eleventh millennium, and in which the arrival of each of the three saoshyants are foretold. The text prophecies the end of the world as a great conflagration in which the world is destroyed/purified by fire, with Ahura Mazda's eventual triumph, after which the dead righteous (ashavan) are resurrected to eternal perfection and reunification with God, and time ends.

In the 19th century, James Darmesteter surmised that the Zand-i Wahman Yasn represented a translation of parts of the Avesta's lost Bahman Yasht. This notion is no longer followed today; modern scholarship is in agreement that the 6th century work has "nothing in common" with what is actually known of the genuine Avestan Bahman yasht texts. The Amesha Spenta Bahman/Wahman (Av: Vohu Manah) does not even appear in the text. That the basic "plot" draws on Avestan material, and that the work mimics the style of the Avesta's authors, are generally acknowledged.

Zartosht Bahram-e Pazhdo

Zartosht Bahram e Pazhdo (Persian: زردشت بهرام پژدو‎), was a significant Persian Zoroastrian poet and the son of Bahram-e-Pazhdo. He was born in the early or mid 13th century.

Zoroastre

Zoroastre (Zoroaster) is an opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau, first performed on 5 December 1749 by the Opéra in the first Salle du Palais-Royal in Paris. The libretto is by Louis de Cahusac. Zoroastre was the fourth of Rameau's tragédies en musique to be staged and the last to appear during the composer's own lifetime. Audiences gave the original version a lukewarm reception, so Rameau and his librettist thoroughly reworked the opera for a revival which took place at the Opéra on 19 January 1756. This time the work was a great success and this is the version generally heard today.

Zoroastrian cosmology

Zoroastrian cosmology is divided in four periods of 3,000 years. Zoroaster was born in the beginning of the fourth period, to be succeeded at the end of each next millennium by a new saviour. When Saoshyant, the third and last saviour would come the last judgment and the creation of a new world.

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism, or Mazdayasna, is one of the world's oldest religions that remains active. It is a monotheistic faith (i.e. a single creator God), centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate destruction of evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra), it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.With possible roots dating back to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the 5th century BCE. Along with a Mithraic Median prototype and a Zurvanist Sassanid successor, it served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires for more than a millennium, from around 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism was suppressed from the 7th century onwards following the Muslim conquest of Persia of 633–654. Recent estimates place the current number of Zoroastrians at around 190,000, with most living in India and in Iran; their number is declining. In 2015, there were reports of up to 100,000 converts in Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides the Zoroastrian diaspora, the older Mithraic faith Yazdânism is still practised amongst Kurds.The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas, enigmatic poems that define the religion's precepts, and the Yasna, the scripture. The full name by which Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The Lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. The religious philosophy of Zoroaster divided the early Iranian gods of Proto-Indo-Iranian tradition, but focused on responsibility, and did not create a devil per se. Zoroaster proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe, and that human beings are given a right of choice. Because of cause and effect, they are responsible for the consequences of their choices. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called Angra Mainyu, or angry spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the concept of Ahriman, the Devil, which was effectively a personification of Angra Mainyu.Zoroastrianism's creator Ahura Mazda, through the Spenta Mainyu (Good Spirit, "Bounteous Immortals") is an all-good "father" of Asha (Truth, "order, justice"), in opposition to Druj ("falsehood, deceit") and no evil originates from "him". "He" and his works are evident to humanity through the six primary Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed. Spenta Mainyu adjoined unto "truth", oppose the Spirit's opposite, Angra Mainyu and its forces born of Akəm Manah ("evil thinking").Zoroastrianism has no major theological divisions, though it is not uniform; modern-era influences having a significant impact on individual and local beliefs, practices, values and vocabulary, sometimes merging with tradition and in other cases displacing it. In Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to "be among those who renew the world...to make the world progress towards perfection". Its basic maxims include:

Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.

There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.

Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.

Timeline of the Ancient Near East

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