History of Zoroastrianism


By Lee Min-Ju

Thesis Director: Alexander Ganse






I. Introduction


II. Chronology

III. Pre-Zoroastrian Establishment

IV. Early Zoroastrianism

            4.1. Era of Zoroaster, the Prophet

4.2. Earliest Zoroastrian Faith

V. Achaemenid Dynasty

VI. Time of Interruption – Under Macedonians

VII. Sasanid Dynasty

VIII. Zoroastrianism in Islamic World

IX. Zoroastrians Thereafter


X. Conclusion







I.                   Introduction



Even highly educated adults know very little about Zoroastrianism as a religion. Many of them moreover hold a common misconception of Zoroastrianism as a worship of fire or some kind of ancient cult. Surprising it is, when reflecting the fact that this ancient Persian religion has had significant influences on humanity and world's major religions, and is the oldest of the revealed world-religions. Being one of the oldest religions and the oldest monotheist faiths, it had great influences on Christianity, Mithraism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism and so on.

So long is the history of the religion that its doctrinaire changes over time were vastly prodigious. This paper will only focus on the Zoroastrianism and its beliefs during its very earliest existence, starting from the time of Zoroaster (approx. 628-551BC) to the Muslim conquest of the Persian Empire (AD 652) that actually put an end to Zoroastrianism





II.                Chronology




c. 5000              Rise of civilizations in the ancient Near East

c. 628                Traditional birth date of Zoroaster

551                   Zoroaster died

550                   Persian Empire established by Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great)

521                    Darius becomes king of Persia and divides Persia into satrapies

480                    Greeks expel the Persians from Europe

c. 460s-             Reign of Artaxerxes I (Zoroastrian calendar introduced, Zoroastrianism established as the official religion of the loyal house ever since)

c. 384-322        Aristotle alludes to Zoroastrian dualism

330                    Darius III defeated by Alexander the Great

175                    Mithraism (an offshoot of Zoroastrianism) emerges in Bactria



224                    Sasanid Empire established by Ardashir

241                    Mani from Ecbatana begins to preach in Seleucia-Ctesiphoa, trying to incorporate Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism into one religion

276-                   Reign of Bahram I (Mani – founder of Manichaeism – was sacrificed to the interests of Zoroastrianism and died in prison)

451                    Sasanids defeats Christian Armenia

460                    Sasanid king Firuz persecutes Jews, who emigrate to Arabia

484                    Zoroastrian Sassanids Christian Armenia sign a treaty that allows the Armenians to keep their religion

600                    Zoroastrian high priest Tanar establishes the canon of the Avesta

614                    Sasanids capture Jerusalem from Byzantine

623                    Byzantine troops destroy the fire temples of Persia, in revenge for the Persian desecration of Jerusalem in 614

651                    Fall of Sasanid Empire by Muslim Arabs

697                    Arabs force the Persians to abandon their alphabet in favor of the Arabic script

900s                  Flight of Zoroastrians to India

c. 1010             Completion of the Shah-nama by Firdausi (Ferdowsi)

1477                  The connection among Iranian and Indian Zoroastrians re-established.





III.             Pre-Zoroastrian Establishment



Zoroaster certainly was the founder of Zoroastrianism. That’s where the name comes from. However, the establishment of the religion, especially some concepts and world views that Zoroaster took as the basic of the religion, came from what were prevalently believed among pre-Zoroastrian Iranian people.

There is no reliable and written source for this, because the first related source is the Prophet, Zoroaster, himself. However, comparative literary studies and later documents have suggested that most basic concepts of Zoroastrian world views were already established before Zoroaster by the form of tribe religions and traditions.

Indo-Iranians, or Aryans, had a polytheistic belief, but their belief included gods with the same names with those appearing in Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism. For example, the Aryans believed in Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatyas and so on.

Also, at the time of the Prophet, there was a specific Mithra religion already in existence. This religion practiced a bull sacrifice (there are certain animal sacrifices- including bull as a major one in Zoroastrianism), and Haoma cult (as in Zoroaster).’

Een before the time of the Prophet, there were two forms of ‘paganisms’ existing side by side, namely the ahura-tkaesha (doctrine of the ahuras) and the daevo-data (the law according to the daevas). These are why there are some scholars recently arguing that the history of Zoroastrianism should be counted from the old Indo-European times.





IV.            Early Zoroastrianism


4.1. Era of Zoroaster, the Prophet


Since there aren't many reliable documents to reference in order to trackdown the life of Zoroaster the founder of Zoroastrianism, scholars only can assume from existing fragments of resources and stories about him. Although they do have some differing arguments over trifle issues, most of the things seem to be agreed among them.

His original name was not Zoroaster, but Zarathushtra, meaning 'yellow camel' in ancient Iranian. Zoroaster is a Greek transliteration of the name. Although using names meaning something about animals presented the person's importance, later Zoroastrians found their prophet's name meaning 'yellow camel' rather primitive, so they claimed (and some still insist) that Zarathushtra meant Golden Light in ancient Iranian.  

When Zoroaster marked the initial success of his prophetic mission in 588 BC, converting King Vishtaspa to become a Zoroastrian, he was already forty years old. Since he lived seventy seven years, it is generally agreed among scholars to date him at 628-551 BC.

However, according to the linguists of both Europe and India, who worked on the Ganthas, holy books containing hymns composed by Zoroaster, the language used by Zoroaster for Ganthic Avestan was very close to the Sanskrit of the Indian Rig-Vedas, which dates back to 1500-1200 BC. A theory branched out from this fact: Zarathushtra lived far earlier than 5-6th century BC, as believed by many people. However, rebuttal is possible since some scholars argue that the 600 BC date is still plausible if Gathic Avestan was actually an artificially preserved sacred language for priests. 

This dispute over the linguistic study on Ganthas draws out a very interesting assumption about Zoroaster. Since it is assumed that Gathic Avestan was used as a language among priests and Vathas is composed on various abstruse philosophical and religious subjects that ordinary people of that time didn't have an access to, people believe that either Zoroaster had been a priest of the ancient Indo-Iranian religion that flourished in Zoroaster's time or he received a priestly trainingfor this religion at least. Supposedly, Zoroaster, who was either a priest or a priest-wannabe of 'pagan' religion, runs out of monastery and establishes his own religion after his vision.

Zoroasterwas a native of Rhages in Media, but his life as a prophet of Zoroastrianism began in Chorasmia where he met the King Vishtaspa to support him. His sphere of operation during his life was also ancient Chorasmia, which includes modern Persian Khorasan, Western Afghanistan, and the Turkmen Republic of the U.S.S.R.

Before his first vision, he had spent years in wilderness meditating and trying to reach God. At the age around thirty, he received his prophetic calling with a vision of God through Vohu Manah ("Good Mind."). In the form of a huge angel, Vohu Manah came to him with all the heavenly entities instructing Zoroaster in heaven. Basically his prophecy from God contained revolutionary messages of religious purity and social justice, speaking out against the corrupt priests and potentates of that time. At last, he received perfect knowledge of past, present and future.

Materials in Ganthas indicate that Zoroaster was cast out of his original home thereafter, and was forced to wander with his followers;


 "To what land should I turn? Where should I turn to go?

 They hold me back from folk and friends.

 Neither the community I follow pleases me,

 nor do the wrongful rulers of the land...

 I know... that I am powerless.

 I have a few cattle and also a few men" (Yasna 46)"


Later Zoroaster became the court prophet of the King Vishtaspa, after winning over the king and the court to convert and become Zoroastrians when he was forty years old. Zoroaster's preach towards King Vishtaspa was enhanced by a series of miracles, especially the healing of a paralyzed horse.

According to what might be a mere symbolic legend or a misbelief, Zoroaster had six children; three boys (Isat-Vastra, Urva-tatnar and Hvara-chithra) and three girls (Farin, Thrity and Pouru-chishti). Since the last Gatha talks about the marriage of Zoroaster's daughter Pouruchista (Full of Wisdom) to King Vishtaspa's prime minister, itis generally acknowledged that Zoroaster had at least one daughter.

Zoroaster also had three wives, and the last of them was Hvovi (Good Cattle), the daughter of King Vishtaspa's prime minister. As can be figured out, he didn't live in a so-called 'religious vacuum.'

During his years at the court, Zoroaster compiles his teachings in the Gathas, seventeen great hymns, which have been faithfully preserved by Zoroastrian community.However, since these hymns were only understood by limited groups of people, he had to orally preach in plain language for his followers to pass down the messages, he believed, the God has entrusted upon him.

How Zoroaster died still remains a mystery. Some people say that he was killed by the foreign enemy of the king, but if he were, there should've been some kind of holiday commemorating this event there isn't any. Therefore, it is believed that he died rather peacefully.



4.2. Earliest Zoroastrian Faith


- Zoroastrian Dualism


Dualism in general is defined as a 'theory that in any domain of reality there are two independent underlying principles, e.g. mind and matter, form and content.' Especially, dualism when used in association with a religion is defined as 'the theory that the forces of good and evil are equally balanced in the universe. (Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary)'

Although Zoroastrianism, as the earliest world-religion, was the first to introduce the concept of dualism, the current dictionary definition of dualism is not the same as what the Zoroastrian dualism directs. In fact, Zoroastrians themselves don't have a single, clear and universally approved definition of dualism, since the teaching tended to be changed over its over 2500 years of history.

Looking at the Zoroastrian dualism defined from the sacred texts, it sounds similar to the modern definition. Two places in Zarathustra's Gathas are there statements about the dualism.

First goes; 'Then each man and woman, for his or her self, selects either of the two. Awaken to this Doctrine of ours before the Great Event of Choice ushers in. Now, the two foremost mentalities, known to be imaginary twins, are the better and the bad in thoughts, words, and deeds. Of these the beneficent choose correctly, but not the maleficent. Now, when the two mentalities first got together, they created "life" and "not-living". Until the end of existence, the worst mind shall be for the wrongful, and the best mind shall be for the righteous… (Yasna 30)'

Second goes; 'Now, I shall proclaim the two foremost mentalities of life. Of these, the more progressive one told the retarding one thus: Neither our thoughts, nor teachings, nor intellects, nor choices, nor words, nor deeds, nor consciences, nor souls agree. (Song 3 of the 17 Gantha hymns)'

Both passages suggest that there are two 'foremost' opposite forces acting on the universe, but the interesting thing here is that they do not 'balance', as modern definition of dualism suggests. In Zoroastrian belief, although the responsibility of choice lies on each person, the good side is generally more progressive one and is predestined to prevail.

First passage describes the two extremes as 'imaginary twins'. Why call them twins, who are supposed to come from the same source and be identical to each other, when they are the two completely opposite forces? Doesn't the second passage make it clear that they have nothing in common whatsoever?

The key to understand this contradiction is to understand that in Zoroastrian belief, onlyconscious beings can make a choice between Good and Evil, thus it is consciousness that essentially links them. Although Good and Evil are completely opposite, they have a third party, consciousness, to link between them. In the end, the concept of Good and Evil in Zoroastrianism is like two sides of the same coin, both directing two completely opposite sides, but essentially of one.

An attempt to reconcile the Two Spirits had already been made in ancient time. 'Zurvanism', a branch of Zoroastrianism, identified the Two Spirits as the twin sons of a single divine father Survan (personification of Time).

According to Zaehner, Zurvanists believe that the Holy and Destructive Spirits are basically the same being. This belief developed based on Yasna 30.3-4 (above) and Gathas. In Yasna, Holy Spirit and Destructive Spirit are known to be the twins. Together they form the light and darkness of the world, and they are incomplete when they are separate, because each of them only represents a half side of the world. In Gathas, Ahura Mazda is known to be the father of Holy Spirit, thus Ahura Mazda is supposed to be the father of both Holy Spirit and Destructive Spirits. Zurvanists thought that because later Zoroastrians regard the Holy Spirit and Ahura Mazda as the same, later Zoroastrians'view of the God, Ahura Mazda, is limited to the good side of the world, thus incomplete. Zurvanists, therefore, developed a new concept of Ahura Mazda which is composed of both Holy Spirit and Destructive Spirit, the God having both good and bad sides.

Another sect of Zoroastrianism is monotheism. Monotheists are the most flourishing among Zoroastrians and have formed the mainstream Zoroastrian most of the times. They believe that Ahura Mazda, composed of only Holy Spirit, is the only being worth being God, and Destructive Spirit can never be equal or override Ahura Mazda. This concept of God Ahura Mazda is similar to that of Christianity, since Christians also regard God as being omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient, but Satan as being opposed to God but never able to win over God.

Although Zoroaster had never specifically revealed the primary origin of the Two Spirits, Zurvanism flourished along with mainstream Zoroastrianists for centuries. It seems to have disappeared some time after Arab Conquest.



- Fire as a Symbol


Lots of people often regard Zoroastrianism as a worship of fire, presumably from misleading presentations of the media. In fact, fire is regarded as a symbol of truth and existence of the God in Zoroastrianism. It is one of the six physical 'elements' of Bounteous Immortals that came to be identified after the death of Prophet, Zarathustra. Since God himself is not only spenta, 'holy' or 'bounteous', but also asha-van, meaning 'trustful', Zoroastrians conduct sacred rituals before a sacred fire as a proof of God's presence.

Zarathustra also recognizes that 'Truth exists and is to be reverenced in the sacred fire (pg 54, Zaehner)'. The fire-alter also becomes the center of the Zoroastrian cult. By an ordeal of fire and molten metal, Zoroastrians believe, the Prophet vindicates the truth of his message and all humanity will be judged in last Judgement.

The second of the Seven Chapters in Ganthas deals with the subject of fire, and it is believed that the God reaches his worshippers through fire. Fire is identical with his Holy Spirit, as it reads, 'As fire thou art a joy to the Wise Lord, as the Most Holy Spirit art thou a joy to him'.

In addition, fire is regarded as the male principle, while water was a female element. Since Zoroastrians attributed the symbol of fire to the God, it might be the sign of andocentric society.


- Zoroastrian Sacred Text


The Holy Book of Zoroastrianism is called the Zend Avesta, believed to be written by Zoroaster himself. Zend Avesta preserves the conversation between Zoroaster and the angel in a series of five hymns, called the Ganthas. The book basically contains the core text and beliefs of the religion.

The Ganthas are abstract sacred poetry, teaching the followers to worship only One God, understand righteousness and cosmic order, promote social justice and make a wise choice between good and evil.

Some parts of Avesta were written after Zoroaster (some argue many centuries later).    These parts of Avestas deal with laws of ritual and practice with the traditions of the faith. The followers of Zoroastrianism are divided between those who would stick to the teachings of the original Ganthas and those who regard the later traditions important as well.


- Zoroastrian Influences on Other Religions


1. Christianity and Judaism

The points of resemblance between Zoroastrianism and Judaism, and hence also between the former and Christianity, are many and striking. The two major religions have adopted a lot of things from Zoroastrianism. Some scholars even call Christianity a Mithric cult, since a lot of Christianbeliefs, teachings and practices came from Zoroastrianism.


1) Use of candles in worship

All the Zoroastrian worship rituals are conducted before a sacred fire, because Zoroastrians regard fire as a symbol of God. The presence of the fire in the worship represents that theirGod, Ahura Mazda, is present with the worshippers. It seems that the use of candles and lamps in Christian rituals came from Zoroastrian worship of the fire.


2) The serpent

In the Christian Bible, it is mentioned how serpent seduced Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden. Thus, the serpent exists as the first and intrinsic evil in the Bible.

Zend Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, shows a similar definition of the serpent. In the Creation chapter of the Zend Avesta, Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit, countercreates all the bad things against what Ahura Mazda, the Good God, has created. The firstthing that Ahura Mazda created was Airyana Vaego (one of the good lands and countries). Against this, Angra Mainyu created the serpent, which in Zend Avesta is called 'a work of Devas.'

This resembles God's creating Garden of Eden in the Bible and serpent's ruining it. Likewise, Ahura Mazda creates Airyana Vaego, a sacred land, and the serpent becomes the first evil spirit in the land.


3) Dualism

Christian view of the God and devil is similar to that of monotheist Zoroastrians. Monotheist Zoroastrians and Christians believe that the God is only a good and supreme god, and the God is predestined to prevail over the evil, although the evil is supposed to be opposing and rival force of the good.

The idea of Satan and his being an opposite force of good God yet ultimately weaker one came from Zoroastrian concept of Angra Mainyu.


4) Free Will

Zoroastrians and Christians both focus on the importance of individual to choose between good and evil. Although they both believe that the God is only good and is predestined to prevail over the evil, both Zoroastrian and Christian Gods bestow free will to human beings.

Zoroastrians believe that from the lowest level of ox to the highest level of Ahura Mazda, every single being has to make the choice between the Truth and the Lie. Christians, on the other hand, believe that this blessed free will is only attributed to human beings.


5) Heaven & Hell

Heaven and Hell are both described variously in Gathas. Gathas called heaven as being the 'best' existence, while hell is described to be the 'worst' existence. By 'best' and 'worst', Zoroaster meant to describe the spiritual joy, but not physical one. Heaven is the 'house of Good Mind' and Good Minded beings will enjoy rest there.

Description of the Hell as being a place for punishment and resentment is much more vivid than that of the Heaven as being a joyful place. The Hell is the 'House of Evil' and the damned forever will be condemned to 'a long age of darkness, foul food, and cries of woe (Ibid 30.20).'


6) Savior

As Zoroaster worked as a messenger of Ahura Mazda to teach and save other people, Jesus in Christianity was the savior who came to Earth in order to teach and save other people.


7) Resurrection

In Christianity, resurrection of the body is commonly accepted concept, Jesus being a great example as rising from the dead in three days and raising the dead from the burial. In Zoroastrianism, the same concept of each existence getting back its body and rising from the dead at the end of the time was suggested.


8) Final Judgment

Zoroastrians hold a belief that at the end of the time, a savior will come to renew all the life on earth.


'He will raise the bodies of the dead and unite them with their souls, there will be a mighty conflagration, and all men will have to wade through a stream of molten metal which will seem like warm milk to the just and be in very truth what it is to the wicked. The sins of the damned, however, purged away in this terrible ordeal and all creation returns to its Maker in joy.' (Ganthas)


The concept of the Final Judgement in Christianity appears in the Bible as follows; 'Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.' (John 5:28-29)


9) Moses

Ahuramazda imparts his revelation and pronounces his commandments to Zarathustra on "the Mountain of the Two Holy Communing Ones." Christian God, Yahweh,holds a similar communion with Moses on Sinai.


10) The Six Days of Creation

The six days of Creation in Genesis is similar to the six periods of Creation described in the Zoroastrian scriptures.


11) Adam and Eve

Mankind, according to each religion, is descended from a single couple, and Mashya and Mashyana are the Iranian Adam and Eve.


12) Great Flood

In the Bible a deluge destroys all people except Noah and his ark. In the Avesta, a winter depopulates the earth except in the Vara ("enclosure") of the blessed Yima, the first one to converse with Ahura Mazda before Zoroaster.


13) Christmas

The birthday of Mithra, a Zoroastrian God, is known to be December 25th, the same as the date that is known as baby Jesus' birthday.


14) Others

Worship on Sundays, Angels and Archangels, Systems of angelology and demonology, the Coming of Messiah, Celibate priests linking between the God and the normal people, and so on.



2. Buddhism

Buddhism seems to have borrowed a lot of its idea about 'prophet' from Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster experienced the visions of Ahura Mazda while in wilderness and attained perfect knowledge of past, present, and future. This process of 'enlightenment' is very similar, if not identical, to that of Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism.

Also Buddha is known to have smiled at his birth and glowed with lights surrounding him. Gathas mentions exactly same things about Zoroaster's birth.


'His mother glowed with the divine Glory usually reserved for kings; the soul of the prophet was placed by God in the sacred Haoma plant and the prophet was conceived through the essence of Haoma in milk (though the birth is not a virgin birth, but the natural product of two special, but earthly parents.). The child laughed at his birth instead of crying, and he glowed so brightly...' (Hannah)


Zoroaster goes into nature and then meditates before he attains complete knowledge ofpast, present and future. Therefore, meditation is highly regarded as the best way to reach God in Zoroastrianism, while Buddhism also mentions that Buddha achieved Nirvana through meditation, thus meditation is a very effective and good way to improve oneself.

Even the life spans of these two founders overlap, both being around 6C BC and Zoroaster's preceding Buddha's. Considering that it was in Zoroaster's days when the Iranian peoples had fanned out throughout not only modern Persia and Afghanistan but also Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and even the northern parts of India, it is possible to assume that the stories of the two religious founders became somehow blended.



3. Islam

Islam has also been greatly influenced by Zoroastrianism. Due to the similarities between these two religions, some Muslims even claim that Zarathustra himself was one of Allah's prophets, but this is not widely accepted.


1) Dualism

The presence of good God and the evil was also adopted in Islam. Muslims talk about the inner struggle against the evil within oneself (Jihad 7), which sounds similar to the Zoroastrian idea of the cosmic dualism, which refers to a universal conflict between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu through struggles within individuals.


2) Ritual Cleanliness

In Islam, the performance of ritual ablutions of all exposed skin with water or sand is necessary to purify the body in order to protect the holy space that Muslims pray in from dirtiness of the world. Similarly, Zoroastrians regard ritual cleanliness very important as well, both in spiritual and physical senses.


3) Holy War

Islam permits or rather glorifies fighting in defense of one's country, community and faith (Jihad 9). This belief also most likely has its origins in Zoroastrianism, as also in Zoroastrianism it is held that one must constantly fight against evil to further the cause of good. Zoroastrians also believe that all the people on Earth, being the creations of Ahura Mazda, should aid Ahura Mazda in his fight against Angra Mainyu. Thus, in Zoroastrianism, the notion of actively fighting against evil is more than acceptable.





V.               Achaemenid Dynasty



When Cyrus the Great established the Persan Empire, conquering large areas including Asian Minors, he extended his rule over non-Iranian peoples. He also subjugated the Iranian tribes to the east, thereby extinguishing the Chorasmian royal house of Vishtaspa, the patron of Zoroaster.

King Darius adopted at least the basic doctrines of the Zoroastrianism. He and his successors worshipped ‘Ahura Mazda and the other gods who exist’ or ‘Ahura Mazda, the greatest God’. Later on, King Xerxes publicly adhered to the Zoroastrianism. However, it was the time of Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC) when the King publicly became adhered to the religion and when the Zoroastrianism became the official religion of the royal house.

Until the time of Macedonian conquest in 330 BC, Zoroastrianism remained as the official religion of the royal house and prevalent belief of the Persian people. Until this time, Zoroastrianism remained as a form of ‘primitive Zoroastrianism’, a term used to mean the original teachings of Zoroaster himself.





VI.            Time of Interruption – Under Macedonians



Following the conquest of Alexander the Great, although Macedonians didn’t force Iranians to make any serious religious contribution, the influence of Hellenistic culture in Iranian world was great after the introduction of Greek ways and Greek manners. The unity of Iranian people and the privileged position of Zoroastrian faith were destroyed by the collapse of the First Persian Empire.

Soon the Iranian religion reappeared. However, during the later Achaemenian period, Zoroastrianism seems to have transformed itself. The original teachings of Zoroaster was very much distorted and diverged. Gods grew to bear combinations of Greek and Iranian names. Zeus Ormazdes, Appolo Mithra, Helios Hermes, and Artagnes Herakles Ares and so on.

This is also a period when Zoroastrianism went through the re0paganization, where some of the old gods were readmitted alongside the Ahura Mazda. This form of Zoroastrianism is called as ‘catholic Zoroastrianism’, meaning the syncretism of Zoroaster’s doctrine with a revived nature-sorchip and polytheism, which was common trait of ancient Iranian and Indian people.





VII.     Sasanid Dynasty



The Sasanid Dynasty (the Second Persian Empire) was established by the last of the Achaemenids who rose in rebellion against his Parthian overlord and overthrew him. Desiring to establish the former glory of the First Persian Empire, the Persian people restored the Zoroastrian faith as the official religion of the land.

As Zoroastrianism came back up the national religion of all Iran, becoming the state religion, church and state was interfused. For the next four centuries, Zoroastrianism flourished as the national religion of the Second Persian Empire, which could even rival Rome. Sasanid Kings practiced an intolerant and at times a persecuting faith.

Stil, Sasanid Dynasty helped other religions such as Manichaeism to rise up. The founder of Manichaeism was Mani. Manichaeism was a faith which looks something like a combination of the Zoroastrianism and Christianity.

Two persons are recorded as having helped to re-established Zoroastrian faith: Karter and Tansar. The former is known through contemporary inscriptions, whereas the latter is only remembered in later book. Tansar, under Ardashir’s command, collected the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism before it was distorted and changed under Hellenistic and outside influences. Karter, on the other hand, flourished in the reign of Shapur I (241-272) and some more time after his death, putting an effort into establishing orthodoxy and enforcing it.

In the Sasanid period, Zoroastrianism reached its third phase, after ‘primitive Zoroastrianism’ before Macedonians and ‘catholic Zoroastrianism under Macedonians, ‘reformed Zoroastrianism’.





VIII.      Zoroastrianism in Islamic World



Even after the fall of Sasanid Dynasty by Muslims, the Islamic world in principle tolerated the ancient Iranian religion to exist, only with additional head tax. In many provinces, however, it is said that conversions by persuasion or force. Therefore the Muslim conquest of the Persian Empire is said to have marked the end of Zoroastrianism as a living force.

Unlike Macedonians, Muslims came in the name of Allah, and with the notion of one god who would tolerated neither a rival nor an equal. Their doctrine was simple and new, and their power was great. Zoroastrianism, its people already being disunited and lacking an official support, slowly began to fall behind.

However, it is not only unidirectional process. Zoroastrianism also affected by a lot of parts in Islam as a religion. Therefore, new branches of Islamic doctrines came up, including many parts of Zoroastrian beliefs.

Zoroastrians started rebellions, and as a result, brought persecutions upon itself. Books were produced to save the essentials of the religion from a threatened disaster. Zoroastrians, called Garbars by the Muslims, survived in Iran as a persecuted minority. From the tenth century onward, groups of Zoroastrians emigrated to India, where they found asylum in Gujarat.





IX.            Zoroastrians Thereafter



Until the end of the fifteenth century, Zoroastrians settled in India, mostly in Bombay, and the tie as the Zoroastrian community was broken among them. After the brutal persecution of Islam and massive flight to abroad, there were very few Zoroastrians left back in Iran. Even today, the number of Zoroastrians living in Iran probably doesn’t exceed 10,000, and most of them live as a minority tribe in Yazd and Kerman.

At the end of 15th century, the connection between Zoroastrians in Iran and in India was re-established, and it was kept in the form of letter exchange until 1768. Followers Bombay, India, were still practicing the primitive Zoroastrianism, just out of tradition.

Under British rule, the Zoroastrians in India started to enrich themselves through commerce. Throughout the long time, they also adapted themselves to the Indian culture.





X.       Conclusion



Zoroastrianism nowadays is a comparatively small religion with only about 10,000 followers, concentrated in Middle East and India. Nevertheless, it is a unique religion worth paying attention to, because it surely was the religion that survived and adapted even through the pressure from the Hellenistic religions. In that period, spread of Christianity quickly dominated over or expunged most of the existing previous religions. Not only did it adapt itself to the situation, Zoroastrianism also affected these religions with its own beliefs and ideas, so that nowadays, its main ideas exist within humanity and the greatest world religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.








[1] R. C. Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, A Phoenix Press, New York, 1961.


[2] Zarathustra, Zend Avesta, Holmes, USA, 1984.


[3] The Everything Development Company, "The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Christianity and Islam," 28 Nov, 2004,



[4] Willey, Mark. "Zoroastrianis,." 4 Jan, 2005,



[5] BuddhaNet, Buddha Dharma Education Association, 26 Dec, 2004, <http://www.buddhanet.net>


[6] Zoroastrian Archives, 27 Dec, 2004, <http://www.avesta.org/avesta.html>


[7] Zoroastrian Web Page, 27 Dec, 2004, <http://geocities.com/Athens/Troy/3417>


[8] Zoroastrianism Page, 4 Jan, 2005,



[9] Hannah M.G. Shapero, 4 Jan, 2005, <http://www.crystalinks.com/z.html>


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