ZOROASTER (/ˌzɒroʊˈæstər/ or /ˈzɒroʊˌæstər/ , from Greek
Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs), also known as ZARATHUSTRA
𐬀𐬭𐬙𐬱𐬎𐬚𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬰 Zaraθuštra), ZARATHUSHTRA
SPITAMA or ASHU ZARATHUSHTRA was an ancient Iranian-speaking prophet
whose teachings and innovations on the religious traditions of ancient
Iranian-speaking peoples developed into the religion of Zoroastrianism
. He inaugurated a movement that eventually became the dominant
Dating is uncertain as there is no scholarly consensus, but on
linguistic and socio-cultural evidence
Zoroaster is dated around 1000
BCE and earlier i.e. somewhere in the
2nd millennium BCE
* 1 Name and etymology * 2 Date * 3 Place * 4 Life
* 5 Influences
* 5.1 In Islam
* 5.1.1 Muslim scholastic views * 5.1.2 Ahmadiyya view
* 5.2 In Manichaeism * 5.3 In the Bahá\'í Faith
* 6 Philosophy * 7 Iconography
* 8 Western civilization
* 8.1 In classical antiquity * 8.2 In the post-classical era
* 9 See also * 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 Bibliography * 13 External links
NAME AND ETYMOLOGY
Zoroaster's name in his native language,
Avestan , was probably
Zaraϑuštra. His English name, "Zoroaster", derives from a later (5th
century BC) Greek transcription, Zōroastrēs (Ζωροάστρης),
as used in Xanthus 's Lydiaca (Fragment 32) and in
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". Reconstructions from later Iranian languages—particularly from the Middle Persian (300 BC) 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-. Subject then to whether Zaraϑuštra derives from *Zarantuštra- or from *Zaratuštra-, several interpretations have been proposed.
* "with angry/furious camels": from Avestan *zarant-, "angry, furious". * "who is driving camels" or "who is fostering/cherishing camels": related to Avestan zarš-, "to drag". * 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-. * "with yellow camels": parallel to younger Avestan zairi-.
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. 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-.
There is no consensus on the dating of Zoroaster, the
Some scholars, 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). 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 pictures an ancient Stone -Bronze Age bipartite society of warrior-herdsmen and priests (compared to Bronze tripartite society ; some consider it depicts the Yaz culture ), 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 . The shortfall of the argument is the vague comparison, and the archaic language of Gathas does not necessarily indicate time difference.
Other scholars, propose a period between 7th and 6th century, for
example, c. 650–600 BCE or 559–522 BCE. The latest possible date
is the mid 6th century, at the time of
Classical scholarship in the 6th to 4th century BCE believed he
existed six thousand years before
Xerxes I invasion of Greece in 480
BCE (Xanthus , Eudoxus ,
Some later pseudo-historical and
Zoroastrian sources (the Bundahishn
, which references a date "258 years before Alexander") place
Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, 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
Painted clay and alabaster head of a
Zoroastrian priest wearing
a distinctive Bactrian -style headdress,
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.
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
Yasna 59.18, the zaraϑuštrotema, or supreme head of the
Zoroastrian priesthood, is said to reside in 'Ragha' (
Apart from these indications in
Middle Persian sources that are open
to interpretations, there are a number of other sources. The Greek and
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.
By the late 20th century, most scholars had settled on an origin in
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".
The rings of the
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, and Dugdōw, while his great-grandfather was Haēčataspa. All the names appear appropriate of the nomadic tradition, as his fathers means "possessing gray horses" (with the word aspa meaning horse), while his mothers is "milkmaid". According to the tradition, he had four brothers, two older and two younger, whose name are given in much later Pahlavi work.
The training for priesthood probably started very early around seven
years of age. He became a priest probably around the age of fifteen,
and according to Gathas, he gained knowledge from other teachers and
personal experience from traveling when left his parents at twenty
years old. 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
Angra Mainyu (Hostile Spirit), with opposing concepts of Asha
Druj (lie). Thus he decided to spend his life teaching
people to seek Asha. He received further revelations and saw a vision
of the seven
Amesha Spenta , and his teachings were collected in the
Gathas and the
He taught about free will , and opposed the use of the
According to the tradition, he lived for many years after the
Vishtaspa conversion, managed to establish a faithful community, and
married three times. His first two wives bore him three sons and three
daughters. His third wife, Hvōvi, was childless.
when he was 77 years and 40 days old. The later Pahlavi sources like
A number of parallels have been drawn between
and Islam. Such parallels include the evident similarities between
Amesha Spenta and the archangel
The Sabaeans , who practiced free will coincident with Zoroastrians, are also mentioned in the Quran.
Muslim Scholastic Views
Like the Greeks of classical antiquity, Islamic tradition understands
Zoroaster to be the founding prophet of the Magians (via Aramaic,
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 ) 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.
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,
Zoroastrian religion. James Darmesteter remarked in the
translation of Zend
Ahmadi Muslims view
Zoroaster as a Prophet of God and describe the
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
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
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. Among the classic Greek philosophers, Heraclitus is often referred to as inspired by Zoroaster's thinking.
In 2005, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranked
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.
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
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 .
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
Zoroastrian devotional art depicting the religion's founder with white clothing and a long beard *
IN CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY
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While the Greeks—in the Hellenistic sense of the term—had an
Zoroaster as expressed by
Most importantly, however, was their picture of Zoroaster as the sorcerer-astrologer non-plus-ultra, and indeed as the "inventor" of both magic and astrology.
The language of that literature was predominantly Greek , though at
one stage or another various parts of it passed through Aramaic ,
Syriac , Coptic or
Once the magi were associated with magic in Greek imagination, Zoroaster was bound to falsely metamorphose into a magician too. The 1st-century Pliny the Elder incorrectly 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." Although Pliny calls him the inventor of magic, the Roman does not provide a "magician's persona" for him. Moreover, the little "magical" teaching that is ascribed to Zoroaster is actually very late, with the very earliest example being from the 14th century.
One factor for the association with astrology was Zoroaster's name, or rather, what the Greeks made of it. Within the scheme of Greek thinking (which was always on the lookout for hidden significances and "real" meanings of words) his name was identified at first with star-worshiping (astrothytes "star sacrificer") and, with the Zo-, even as the living star. 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.
Similar ideas about
Zoroaster also appear in early Christian
literature, beginning with the Clementine Homilies , which identifies
him with a parallel series of traditions about
The second, and "more serious"factor for the association with
astrology was the baseless notion that
Zoroaster was a Babylonian .
The alternate Greek name for
Zoroaster was Zaratras, or
Zaratas/Zaradas/Zaratos, ) which—so state Cumont and Bidez—derived
from a Semitic form of his name. The Pythagorean tradition considered
the mathematician to have studied with
Zoroaster in Babylonia. 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. The
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" . The assembled fragments do not even show noticeable commonality of outlook and teaching among the several authors who wrote under each name.
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
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", and on the authority of the 2nd-century
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 . Words of Zoroaster." 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."
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
Myth of Er
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." 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
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
Zoroastrian sources. 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
IN THE POST-CLASSICAL ERA
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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
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 his seminal work Also sprach
A sculpture of
Zoroaster by Edward Clarke 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
The protagonist and narrator of
* Poetry portal * Zoroastrianism portal
* Also sprach
a:^ Originally proposed by Burnouf
b:^ For refutation of these and other proposals, see Humbach, 1991.
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."
d:^ "258 years before Alexander" is only superficially precise.
It has been suggested that this "traditional date" is an adoption of some date from foreign sources, from the Greeks or the Babylonians 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.
f:^ Ecce Homo quotations are per the Ludovici translation. Paraphrases follow the original passage (Warum ich ein Schicksal bin 3), available in the public domain on page 45 of the Project Gutenberg EBook.
s:^ 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.
z:^ 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, ISBN 81-85091-46-3 . p. 501.
* ^ A B C "Religions: Zoroaster".
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