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Zoroaster (ˌzɒroʊˈæstər ), also known as Zarathustra (Avestan: Zaraϑuštra), was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti
Yasna Haptanghaiti
The Yasna Haptanghaiti , Avestan for "Worship in Seven Chapters," is a set of 7 hymns within the greater Yasna collection, that is, within the primary liturgical texts of the Zoroastrian Avesta.-Age and importance:...

 as well as the Gathas
Gathas
The Gathas are 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra himself. They are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith.-Structure and organization:...

, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism. There is no consensus among scholars about the period of life, with the estimated dates of his birth range from 6000 BC to 400 BC. The majority of his life is known through the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

n texts.

It is also possible that Zoroaster was a purely mythological person or that the writings attributed to him are actually the work of multiple authors who wrote under the same name. All of the details have been lost in antiquity.

Etymology



Zoroaster's name in his native language, Avestan
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

, was probably Zaraϑuštra. His English name, "Zoroaster", and the derivatives from a later (5th-century BCE) Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 transcription, Zōroastrēs (Ζωροάστρης), as used in Xanthus
Xanthus (historian)
Xanthus of Lydia was a native Lydian historian and logographer who, during the mid-fifth century BC, wrote texts on the history of Lydia known as Lydiaca . Xanthus also wrote occasionally about geology. It is believed that Xanthus was the earliest historian to have written a significant amount on...

's Lydiaca (Fragment 32) and in Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's First Alcibiades
First Alcibiades
The First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I is a dialogue featuring Alcibiades in conversation with Socrates. It is ascribed to Plato, although scholars are divided on the question of its authenticity.- Content :...

 (122a1). This form appears subsequently in the Latin Zōroastrēs and, in later Greek orthographies, as Zōroastris. The Greek form of the name appears to be based on a phonetic transliteration or semantic substitution of the Avestan zaraϑ- with the Greek zōros (literally "undiluted") and the Avestan -uštra with astron ("star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

").

In Avestan, Zaraϑuštra is generally accepted to derive from an Old Iranian *Zaratuštra-. While zarat- is strongly referenced to mean "golden" (from the old Eastern-Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 zar- [-زر], meaning "gold") it does not itself appear in Avestan. The second half of the name (-uštra-) is universally accepted to mean "camel". These factors combined open the door for reconstructing the name's meaning, though there have been other alternative etymologies proposed.

Reconstructions from later Iranian languages—particularly from the Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 (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-.

Subject then to whether Zaraϑuštra derives from *Zarantuštra- or from *Zaratuštra-, several interpretations have been proposed.

Following *Zarantuštra- are:
  • "with old/aging camels": related to Avestic
    Avestan language
    Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

     zarant-. (cf. Pashto
    Pashto language
    Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

     zorr and Ossetic
    Ossetic language
    Ossetian , also sometimes called Ossete, is an East Iranian language spoken in Ossetia, a region on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains....

     zœrond, "old"; Old Persian
    Old Persian language
    The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

     zāl, "old")
  • "with angry/furious camels": from Avestan *zarant-, "angry, furious".


Following *Zaratuštra- are:
  • "[owner of the] golden camel": this is derived from old Eastern Iranian word *zar- for gold and ushtra for camel, further corresponding to an Eastern Iranian origin (the Old Persian word dar as a Western-Iranian dialect would be the equal term of Eastern Iranian zar; Modern Persian uses the Eastern Iranian word for gold).
  • "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
    Vedic Sanskrit
    Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

     har-, "to like", and perhaps (though ambiguous) also to Avestan zara-.
  • "with yellow camels": parallel to younger Avestan zairi-.


A folk etymology of the name is from zaraϑa, "golden", and the *uštra, "light" (from the root uš, "to shine"). In yet another etymological variation, Zaraϑuštra is split into two words: zara, "gold", and ϑuštra, "friend". Several more etymologies have been proposed, some quite fanciful, but none is factually based.

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
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 variants of Zarϑošt, which, in turn, all reflect Avestan's fricative -ϑ-.

Date


The date of Zoroaster, i.e., the date of composition of the Old Avestan gathas, is unknown. Dates proposed in scholarly literature diverge widely, between the 18th and the 6th centuries BC.

Until the late 17th century, Zoroaster was generally dated to about the 6th century BC, which coincided with both the "Traditional date" (see details below) and historiographic accounts (Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 xxiii.6.32, 4th century AD). However, already at the time (late 19th century), the issue was far from settled, with James Darmesteter
James Darmesteter
James Darmesteter was a French author, orientalist, and antiquarian.He was born of Jewish parents at Château-Salins, in Alsace. The family name had originated in their earlier home of Darmstadt...

 pleading for a later date (c. 100 BCE). Some ancient authors also give a mythological "date" corresponding to about 6000 BC.

The "Traditional date" originates in the period immediately following Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 in 330 BC. The Seleucid kings 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 counting back the length of successive generations until they concluded that Zoroaster must have lived "258 years before Alexander." This estimate then re-appeared in the 9th- to 12th-century texts of Zoroastrian tradition, which in turn gave the date doctrinal legitimacy. In the early part of the 20th century, this remained the accepted date (subject to the uncertainties of the 'Age of Alexander') for a number of reputable scholars, among them Hasan Taqizadeh, a recognized authority on the various Iranian calendars, and hence became the date cited by Henning and others.

By the late 19th century, scholars such as Bartholomea and Christensen noted problems with the "Traditional date," namely in the linguistic difficulties that it presented. The Old Avestan language
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 of the Gathas (which are attributed to the prophet himself) is still very close to the Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

 of the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

. Therefore, it seemed implausible that the Gathas and Rigveda could be more than a few centuries apart, suggesting a date for the oldest surviving portions of the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 of roughly the 2nd millennium BCE.

This 11th/10th century BC date is now widely accepted among Iranists, who in recent decades found that the social customs described in the Gathas roughly coincide with what is known of other pre-historical peoples of that period. Supported by this historical evidence, the "Traditional date" can be conclusively ruled out, and the discreditation can to some extent be supported by the texts themselves: The Gathas describe a society of bipartite (priests and herdsmen/farmers) nomadic pastoralists
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

 with tribal structures organized at most as small kingdoms. This contrasts sharply with the view of Zoroaster having lived in an empire, at which time society is attested to have had a tripartite structure (nobility/soldiers, priests, and farmers). Although a slightly earlier date (by a century or two) has been proposed on the grounds that the texts do not reflect the migration onto the Iranian Plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

, it is also possible that Zoroaster lived in one of the rural societies that remained in Central Asia.

Place


Yasna 9 & 17 cite the Ditya River in Airyanem Vaējah
Airyanem Vaejah
Airyanəm Vaējah, which approximately means "expanse of the Aryans, i.e. Iranians" is the "mythical homeland" of early Iranians and a reference in the Zoroastrian Avesta Airyanəm Vaējah, which approximately means "expanse of the Aryans, i.e. Iranians" is the "mythical homeland" of early Iranians and...

 (Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 Ērān Wēj) as Zoroaster's home and the scene of his first appearance. The Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 (both Old and Younger portions) does not mention the Achaemenids or of any West Iranian tribes such as the Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

, Persians
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

, or even Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

ns.

However, in Yasna 59.18, the zaraϑuštrotema, or supreme head of the Zoroastrian priesthood, is said to reside in 'Ragha'. In the 9th- to 12th-century Middle Persian texts of Zoroastrian tradition, this 'Ragha'—along with many other places—appear as locations in Western Iran. While Medea does not figure at all in the Avesta (the westernmost location noted in scripture is Arachosia
Arachosia
Arachosia is the Latinized form of the Greek name of an Achaemenid and Seleucid governorate in the eastern part of their respective empires, around modern-day southern Afghanistan. The Greek term "Arachosia" corresponds to the Iranian land of Harauti which was between Kandahar in Afghanistan and...

), the Būndahišn
Bundahishn
Bundahishn, meaning "Primal Creation", is the name traditionally given to an encyclopædiaic collections of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology written in Book Pahlavi. The original name of the work is not known....

, or "Primordial Creation," (20.32 and 24.15) puts Ragha in Medea
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 (medieval Rai
Ray, Iran
Rey or Ray , also known as Rhages and formerly as Arsacia, is the capital of Rey County, Tehran Province, Iran, and is the oldest existing city in the province....

). However, in Avestan, Ragha is simply a toponym meaning "plain, hillside."

Apart from these indications in Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 sources which are open to interpretations, there are a number of other sources. The Greek and Latin sources are divided on the birth place of Zarathustra. There are many Greek accounts of Zarathustra, referred usually as Persian or Perso-Median Zoroaster. Moreover they have the suggestion that there has been more than one Zoroaster. On the other hand, in post-Islamic sources Shahrastani
Al-Shahrastani
Tāj al-Dīn Abū al-Fath Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karīm ash-Shahrastānī was an influential Persian historian of religions and a historiographer. His book, Kitab al–Milal wa al-Nihal was one of the pioneers in developing a scientific approach to the study of religions...

 (1086–1153) an Iranian writer originally from Shahristān, present-day Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, proposed that Zoroaster's father was from Atropatene
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

 (also in Medea) and his mother was from Rey
Rey, Iran
Rey or Ray , also known as Rhages and formerly as Arsacia, is the capital of Rey County, Tehran Province, Iran, and is the oldest existing city in the province....

. 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. Also Arabic sources of the same period and the same region of historical Persia consider Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan (Iran)
Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan , also Iranian Azerbaijan, Persian Azarbaijan is a region in northwestern Iran. It is also historically known as Atropatene and Aturpatakan....

 as the birth place of Zarathustra.

By the late 20th century, some scholars had settled on an origin in Eastern Iran and/or Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 (to include present-day Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

): Gnoli proposed Sistan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

 (though in a much wider scope than the present-day province) as the homeland of Zoroastrianism; Frye voted for Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 and Chorasmia; Khlopin suggests the Tedzen Delta in present-day Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

.
Sarianidi considered the BMAC
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex
The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age culture of Central Asia, dated to ca. 2300–1700 BC, located in present day Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan and northeastern Iran, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centered on...

 region as "the native land of the Zoroastrians and, probably, of Zoroaster himself." Boyce includes the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of the former Soviet republics. 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."

Life


The Gathas contain allusions to personal events, such as Zoroaster's triumph over obstacles imposed by competing priests and the ruling class. They also indicate he had difficulty spreading his teachings, and was even treated with ill-will in his mother's hometown. They also describe familial events such as the marriage of his daughter, at which Zoroaster presided. In the texts of the Younger Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 (composed many centuries after the Gathas), Zoroaster is depicted wrestling with the daevas
Daeva
Daeva in Avestan language meaning "a being of shining light", is a term for a particular sort of supernatural entity with disagreeable characteristics. Equivalents in Iranian languages include Pashto dêw , Baluchi dêw , Persian dīv , Kurdish dêw...

 and is tempted by Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman.-In Zoroaster's revelation:...

 to renounce his faith (Yasht 17.19; Vendidad 19). The Spend Nask, the 13th section of the Avesta, is said to have a description of the prophet's life. However, this text has been lost over the centuries, and it survives only as a summary in the seventh book of the 9th century Dēnkard
Denkard
The Dēnkard or Dēnkart 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...

. Other 9th- to 12th-century stories of Zoroaster, as in the Shāhnāmeh
Shahnameh
The Shahnameh or Shah-nama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies...

, are also assumed to be based on earlier texts, but must be considered as primarily a collection of legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

s. The historical Zoroaster, however, eludes categorization as a legendary character.

Zoroaster was born into the priestly family of the Spitamids and his ancestor Spitāma is mentioned several times in the Gathas
Gathas
The Gathas are 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra himself. They are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith.-Structure and organization:...

. His father's name was Pourušaspa, his mother's was Dughdova (Duγδōuuā). With his wife, Huvovi (Hvōvi), Zoroaster had three sons, Isat Vastar, Uruvat-Nara and Hvare Ciϑra three daughters, Freni, Pourucista and Triti. His wife, children and a cousin named Maidhyoimangha, were his first converts after his illumination from Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

 at age 30. According to Yasnas 5 & 105, Zoroaster prayed to Anahita
Anahita
Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as ' ; the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom...

 for the conversion of King Vištaspa
Vishtaspa
Vishtaspa 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...

, who appears in the Gathas as a historical personage. In legends, Vištaspa is said to have had two brothers as courtiers, Frašaōštra and Jamaspa, and to whom Zoroaster was closely related: his wife, Hvōvi, was the daughter of Frashaōštra, while Jamaspa was the husband of his daughter Pourucista. The actual role of intermediary was played by the pious queen Hutaōsa. Apart from this connection, the new prophet relied especially upon his own kindred (hvaētuš).

Zoroaster's death is not mentioned in the Avesta. In Shahnameh
Shahnameh
The Shahnameh or Shah-nama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies...

 5.92, he is said to have been murdered at the altar by the Turan
Turan
Tūrān is the Persian name for Central Asia, literally meaning "the land of the Tur". As described below, the original Turanians are an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age. As a people the "Turanian" are one of the two Iranian peoples both descending from the Persian Fereydun but with different...

ians in the storming of Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

.

Philosophy


In the Gathas, Zoroaster sees the human condition as the mental struggle between aša
Asa
-People:* Aṣa , Paris-born Nigerian singer-songwriter* Asa of Judah , son of Abijam, King of Judah* Asa Dotzler , Mozilla contributor and blogger*Asa Kasher , Israeli philosopher and linguist-Places:...

 (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
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

 (who is aša), creation (that is aša), existence (that is aša) and as the condition for Free Will, which is arguably Zoroaster's greatest contribution to religious philosophy.

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
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Middle Platonism
Middle Platonism
Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Plato's philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC, when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the scepticism of the New Academy, until the development of Neoplatonism under Plotinus in the 3rd century. Middle Platonism absorbed many...

 and have been identified as one of the key early events in the development of philosophy. Among the classic Greek philosophers, Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

 is often referred to as inspired by Zoroaster's thinking.

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
White clothing (religious)
White clothing has significance in many religious faith traditions. Some of these traditions include:*Christianity: Christian baptismal garments are traditionally white...

 (which are also worn by present-day Zoroastrian priests). He often is seen holding a baresman
Barsom
A barsom is a ritual implement used by Zoroastrian priests to solemnize certain sacred ceremonies.The word barsom derives from the Avestan language baresman , which is in turn a substantive of barez "to grow high." The later form – barsom – first appears in the 9th–12th-century...

 (Avestan; Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 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
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

. 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 bear similarities to 19th century portraits of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

.

A common variant of the Zoroaster images derives from a Sassanid-era rock-face carving. In this depiction at Taq-e Bostan
Taq-e Bostan
Taqwasân or Taq-e Bostan or Taq-i-Bustan is a series of large rock relief from the era of Sassanid Empire of Persia, the Iranian dynasty which ruled western Asia from 226 to 650 AD. This example of Sassanid art is located 5 km from the city center of Kermanshah in western Iran...

, a figure is seen to preside over the coronation of Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

 or II
Ardashir II
Ardashir II was the tenth Sassanid King of Persia from 379 to 383.He is believed by some to be the son and by others to be the brother of his predecessor, Shapur II...

. The figure is standing on a lotus, with a baresman in hand and with a gloriole
Halo (optical phenomenon)
A halo from Greek ἅλως; also known as a nimbus, icebow or gloriole) is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals creating colored or white arcs and spots in the sky. Many are near the sun or moon but others are elsewhere and even in the opposite part of the sky...

 around his head. Until the 1920s, this figure was commonly supposed to be a depiction of Zoroaster, but in recent years is more commonly interpreted to be a depiction of Mithra
Mithra
Mithra is the Zoroastrian divinity of covenant and oath. In addition to being the divinity of contracts, Mithra is also a judicial figure, an all-seeing protector of Truth, and the guardian of cattle, the harvest and of The Waters....

. Among the most famous of the European depictions of Zoroaster is that of the figure in Raphael's
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

 1509 The School of Athens
The School of Athens
The School of Athens, or in Italian, is one of the most famous paintings by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1510 and 1511 as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms now known as the , in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican...

. In it, Zoroaster and Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 are having a discussion in the lower right corner. The prophet is holding a star-studded globe.

In classical antiquity


Although, at the core, the Greeks (in the Hellenistic sense
Hellenization
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

 of the term) understood Zoroaster to be the "prophet and founder of the religion of the Iranian peoples" (e.g. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 Isis and Osiris 46-7, Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 1.6-9 and Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

 2.23-5), "the rest was mostly fantasy." He was set in the impossibly ancient past, six to seven millennia before the Common Era, and was variously a king of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

, or a Babylonian (or teacher of Babylonians), and with a biography typical for every Neopythagorean
Pythagoreanism
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

 sage, i.e. a mission preceded by ascetic withdrawal and enlightenment.

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. 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. "The Greeks considered the best wisdom to be exotic wisdom" and "what better and more convenient authority than the distant—temporally and geographically—Zoroaster?"

The language of that literature was predominantly Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, though at one stage or another various parts of it passed through Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, Syriac, Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 or Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. 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." The attributions to "exotic" names (not restricted to magians) conferred an "authority of a remote and revelation wisdom."

Once the magi were associated with magic in Greek imagination, Zoroaster was bound to metamorphose into a magician too. The 1st century Pliny the elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 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
Clementine literature
Clementine literature is the name given to the religious romance which purports to contain a record made by one Clement of discourses...

 9.4-5, which identifies him with a parallel series of traditions about Nimrod
Nimrod
Nimrod means "Hunter"; was a Biblical Mesopotamian king mentioned in the Table of Nations; an eponym for the city of Nimrud.Nimrod can also refer to any of the following:*Nimród Antal, a director...

 having been the founder of astrology. In this account, Nimrod is killed by lightning and posthumously deified by the Persians as "Zoroaster, on account of the living (zosan) stream of the star (asteros) being poured upon him."

The second, and "more serious" factor for the association with astrology was the notion that Zoroaster was a Babylonian. The alternate Greek name for Zoroaster was Zaratas/Zaradas/Zaratos (cf. Agathias 2.23-5, Clement
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

 Stromata I.15), which—so Cumont and Bidez—derived from a Semitic form of his name. The Pythagorean tradition
Pythagoreanism
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

 considered the mathematician to have studied with Zoroaster in Babylonia (Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 Life of Pythagoras 12, Alexander Polyhistor apud Clement's Stromata I.15, Diodorus of Eritrea, Aristoxenus apud Hippolitus VI32.2). Lydus
Joannes Laurentius Lydus
John the Lydian or John Lydus was a 6th century Byzantine administrator and writer on antiquarian subjects. His works are of interest for specific data about classical events.- Life and career :...

 (On the Months II.4) 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 Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

's chapter on astronomia notes that the Babylonians learned their astrology from Zoroaster. Lucian of Samosata
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

 (Mennipus 6) decides to journey to Babylon "to ask one of the magi, Zoroaster's disciples and successors," for their opinion.

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.

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
Library of Alexandria
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...

. 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 Galen of Pergamon
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 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.

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
Nag Hammadi library
The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman...

 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." 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 Plato's Myth of Er
Myth of Er
The Myth of Er is an eschatological legend that concludes Plato's The Republic . The story includes an account of the cosmos and the afterlife that for many centuries greatly influenced religious, philosophical and scientific thought....

, with Zoroaster taking the place of the original hero. While Porphyry imagined Pythagoras
Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him...

 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
Colotes
Colotes of Lampsacus was a pupil of Epicurus, and one of the most famous of his disciples. He wrote a work to prove That it is impossible even to live according to the doctrines of the other philosophers . It was dedicated to king Ptolemy Philopator...

 accused Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 of plagiarizing Zoroaster, and Heraclides Ponticus
Heraclides Ponticus
Heraclides Ponticus , also known as Herakleides and Heraklides of Pontus, was a Greek philosopher and astronomer who lived and died at Heraclea Pontica, now Karadeniz Ereğli, Turkey. He is best remembered for proposing that the earth rotates on its axis, from west to east, once every 24 hours...

 wrote a text titled Zoroaster based on (what the author considered) "Zoroastrian" philosophy in order to express his disagreement with Plato on natural philosophy
Natural philosophy
Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature , is a term applied to the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science...

. 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)
Ananke (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Ananke, also spelled Anangke, Anance, or Anagke , was the personification of destiny, necessity and fate, depicted as holding a spindle. She marks the beginning of the cosmos, along with Chronos...

 was mentioned by name and that she was in the air.

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 whose books are not mentioned.

These pseudepigraphic texts aside, some authors did draw on a few genuinely Zoroastrian ideas. The Oracles of Hystaspes, by "Hystaspes
Vishtaspa
Vishtaspa 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...

", another prominent magian pseudo-author, is a set of prophecies distinguished from other Zoroastrian pseudepigrapha in that it draws on real 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 (VII, I), Pliny had sworn in the name of Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 that no child had ever done so before the 40th day from his birth. This notion of Zoroaster's laughter (like that of "two million verses") also appears in the 9th-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 (VII, XV) that Zoroaster's head had pulsated so strongly that it repelled the hand when laid upon it, a presage of his future wisdom. The Iranians were however just as familiar with the Greek writers. The provenance of other descriptions are clear, so for instance, Plutarch's description of its dualistic theologies: "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
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

 and the other Areimanius
Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman.-In Zoroaster's revelation:...

" (Isis and Osiris 46-7).

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. However as early as 1643 Sir Thomas Browne
Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne was an English author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric....

 in his Religio Medici
Religio Medici
Religio Medici is a book by Sir Thomas Browne, which sets out his spiritual testament as well as being an early psychological self-portrait. In its day, the book was a European best-seller and brought its author fame and respect throughout the continent...

 wrote-

I beleeve, besides Zoroaster, there were divers that writ before Moses
(R.M.Part 1:23)

whilst in The Garden of Cyrus
The Garden of Cyrus
The Garden of Cyrus or The Quincunciall Lozenge, or Network Plantations of the Ancients, naturally, artificially, mystically considered is a Discourse written by Sir Thomas Browne. It was first published in 1658, along with its diptych companion, Urn-Burial...

 of 1658 he speculated-

And if Zoroaster were either Cham,Chus,or Mizraim, they were early proficients thereof....

These statements by Sir Thomas Browne
Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne was an English author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric....

 are the earliest recorded references to Zoroaster in the English language.

Zoroaster appears as "Sarastro" in Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte, which has been noted for its Masonic elements, where he represents moral order (cf. Asha
Asha
Asha is the Avestan language term for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called "the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism." ...

) in opposition to the "Queen of the Night."

He is also the subject of the 1749 opera Zoroastre
Zoroastre
Zoroastre is an opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau, first performed on 5 December 1749 at the Opéra 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...

, by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François...

.

Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 writers such as Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 promoted research into Zoroastrianism in the belief that it was a form of rational Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, preferable to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. With the translation of the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 by Abraham Anquetil-Duperron
Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron
Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron was the first professional French scholar of Indian culture. He conceived the institutional framework for the new profession. He inspired the founding of the Ecole francaise d'extreme orient a century after his death and, later still, the founding of the...

, Western scholarship of Zoroastrianism began.

In his seminal work Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885...

 (1885) the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 uses the native Iranian name Zarathustra (i.e. the Persian Zarathustra, as opposed to the Greek-Latin name Zoroaster) which has a significant meaning as he had used the familiar Greek-Latin name in his earlier works. In particular that Nietzsche states explicitly "I must pay tribute to Zarathustra, a Persian : Persians were the first who thought of history in its full entirety." It is believed that Nietzsche creates a characterization of Zarathustra as the mouthpiece for Nietzsche's own ideas against morality. Nietzsche did so because—so says Nietzsche in his autobiographical Ecce Homo (IV/Schicksal.3)—Zarathustra was a moralist ("was the exact reverse of an immoralist") and because "in his teachings alone is truthfulness
Asha
Asha is the Avestan language term for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called "the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism." ...

 upheld as the highest virtue." Zarathustra "created" morality in being the first to reveal it, "first to see in the struggle between good and evil the essential wheel in the working of things." Nietzsche sought to overcome the morality of Zarathustra by using the Zarathustrian virtue of truthfulness; thus Nietzsche found it piquant to have his Zarathustra character voice the arguments against morality.

Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

's Opus 30, inspired by Nietzsche's book, is also called Also sprach Zarathustra. Its opening theme, which corresponds to the book's prologue, was used to score the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

's movie
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel...

.

Zoroaster was mentioned by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

. His wife and he were said to have claimed to have contacted Zoroaster through "automatic writing
Automatic writing
Automatic writing or psychography is writing which the writer states to be produced from a subconscious and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.-History:...

".

The protagonist and narrator of Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

's 1981 novel Creation
Creation (novel)
Creation is an epic historical fiction novel by Gore Vidal which was published in 1981. In 2002, he published a restored version, adding four chapters that a previous editor had cut...

 is described to be the grandson of Zoroaster, with whom the narrator has several philosophical discussions and whose death he is a witness of.

Zoroaster mentioned in Don Quixote [1605]: "...in spite of all the black magic possessed by the first inventor Zoroaster..." (p. 398...?)

In chapter CX of Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

's Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

 [1851], the sickly Queequeg
Queequeg
Queequeg is a fictional character presented in the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by U.S. author Herman Melville. He is the first principal character encountered by the narrator, serves as the chief harpooner aboard the Pequod, and plays an important role in many of the events of the book, both in port and...

 is briefly compared to Zoroaster.
"An awe that cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who were bystanders when Zoroaster died."

In 1973 Roxy Music released their "Stranded" album with the song "Mother of Pearl" which has lyrical reference to Zarathustra at approximately 3:09 seconds into the song.

In Islam


Citing the authority of the 8th century al-Kalbi
Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi
Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi , also known as Ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab historian. His full name Abu al-Mundhir Hisham bin Muhammed bin al-Sa'ib bin Bishr al-Kalbi. Born in Kufa, he spent much of his life in Baghdad. Like his father, he collected information about the genealogies and history of the ancient...

, the 9th/10th century historian al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 (i.648) reports that Zaradusht bin Isfiman (an Arabic adaptation of "Zarathustra Spitama") was an inhabitant of Palestine, and a servant of one of the disciples of the prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah
Jeremiah Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה , Modern Hebrew:Yirməyāhū, IPA: jirməˈjaːhu, Tiberian:Yirmĭyahu, Greek:Ἰερεμίας), meaning "Yahweh exalts", or called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible...

. According to this tale, Zaradusht defrauded his master, who cursed him, causing him to become leprous (cf. Elisha
Elisha
Elisha is a prophet mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an. His name is commonly transliterated into English as Elisha via Hebrew, Eliseus via Greek and Latin, or Alyasa via Arabic.-Biblical biography:...

's servant Gehazi
Gehazi
Gehazi, Geichazi, or Giezi is a figure found in the Tanakh Books of Kings. He was Elisha's servant. He appears in connection with the history of the Shunammite and of Naaman the Syrian...

 in Jewish Scripture). The apostate Zaradusht then eventually made his way to Balkh where he converted Bishtasb (i.e. Vishtaspa
Vishtaspa
Vishtaspa 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...

), 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
Sabians
The Sabians of Middle Eastern tradition were a monotheistic Abrahamic religious group mentioned three times in the Quran: "the Jews, the Sabians, and the Christians." In the Hadith they are nothing but converts to Islam, while their identity in later Islamic literature became a matter of...

) to the Magian religion.

The 10th/11th century heresiographer al-Shahrastani
Al-Shahrastani
Tāj al-Dīn Abū al-Fath Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karīm ash-Shahrastānī was an influential Persian historian of religions and a historiographer. His book, Kitab al–Milal wa al-Nihal was one of the pioneers in developing a scientific approach to the study of religions...

 describes the Majusiya into three sects, the Kayumarthiya, the Zurwaniya
Zurvanism
Zurvanism is a now-extinct branch of Zoroastrianism that had the divinity Zurvan as its First Principle . Zurvanism is also known as Zurvanite Zoroastrianism....

 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, the 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) Shortly before the advent of the prophet of Islam, [Muhammad], Persia was under the sovereignty of Sasan V. When the companions of the Prophet, 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 Darmestar has truly 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 Vendiad. p. 69.)

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
Mirza Tahir Ahmad
Mirza Tahir Ahmad was Khalifatul Masih IV, Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and fourth successor to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad...

, the fourth Caliph
Khalifatul Masih
Khalifatul Masih sometimes simply referred to as Khalifah is the elected spiritual leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and is the successor of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian...

 of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the larger of two communities that arose from the Ahmadiyya movement founded in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian . The original movement split into two factions soon after the death of the founder...

, in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth
Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth
Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth is a book written by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It was published in 1998, originally written in English, and subsequently translated into the Urdu and Arabic. The book explores religious thought throughout...

 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.

In Manichaeism


Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

 considered Zoroaster to be a figure (along with Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

) in a line of prophets of which Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 (216–276) was the culmination. 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. 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.

In the Bahá'í Faith


Zoroaster appears in the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

 as a "Manifestation of God
Manifestation of God
The Manifestation of God is a concept in the Bahá'í Faith that refers to what are commonly called prophets. The Manifestations of God are a series of personages who reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world for the progress and advancement of human morals and civilization...

", 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
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

, Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

, Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, the Báb
Báb
Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází was the founder of Bábism, and one of three central figures of the Bahá'í Faith. He was a merchant from Shíráz, Persia, who at the age of twenty-four claimed to be the promised Qá'im . After his declaration he took the title of Báb meaning "Gate"...

, and the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

. Shoghi Effendi
Shoghi Effendi
Shoghí Effendí Rabbání , better known as Shoghi Effendi, was the Guardian and appointed head of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 until his death in 1957...

, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, saw Bahá'u'lláh as the fulfillment of a post-Sassanid Zoroastrian prophecy that saw a return of Sassanid emperor Bahram
Bahram
Bahrām or Vahrām meaning "smiting of resistance" or "victorious", may refer to:* Bahrām, the Zoroastrian divinity that is the hypostasis of victory.-Historic people:* one of the Sassanid kings by that name:** Bahrām I, r. 273-276....

: Shoghi Effendi also stated that Zoroaster lived roughly 1000 years before Jesus or 3500 years before the present time.

See also


  • List of founders of major religions
  • Zartosht Bahram e Pazhdo
    Zartosht Bahram e Pazhdo
    Zartosht Bahram e Pazhdo , was a significant Persian Zoroastrian poet and the son of Bahram-e-Pazhdo. He was born in the early or mid 13th century.- Life and place of Birth :...

     (author of a Persian epic biography on Zoroaster)

External links