Detail from Arundel Or 54, folio 97 verso. A 17th-century Iranian copy of the Zoroastrian manual for the Yasna ritual.

Zoroastrianism introduction

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Zoroastrianism.

Introduction

Zoroastrianism, the religion of the ancient Iranians, is named after Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) whose hymns (Gathas) are thought to have been composed 1500–1000 BCE. Originating in Central Asia, Zoroastrianism spread south to Iran where it became the main religion from the 6th century BCE until the mid-7th century CE, interacting meanwhile with Judaism and Christianity.

After the arrival of Islam, Zoroastrian refugees from Iran established settlements in Gujarat, India, where they were called Parsis (‘Persians’). Zoroastrian diaspora communities have since become established worldwide.

Zoroastrianism is an essentially oral religion. The oldest scriptures (the Avesta) are in an Old Iranian language, Avestan. They were transmitted orally and were not written down until about the 6th century CE.

Zoroastrianism teaches the importance of good thoughts, words and actions, in a world where the forces of the all-knowing lord, Ahura Mazda, are constantly opposed by those of the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu.

Content

Articles

An introduction to Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest living world-religions. Professor Almut Hintze explores its history and some of the key components of the religion: its beliefs, sacred texts and rituals. 

Zoroastrianism in late antiquity

Ursula Sims-Williams describes the history of the Zoroastrian religion during the Sasanian Empire, its interaction with the Judeo-Christian world and the development of its sacred texts into a written corpus from an oral tradition. 

Zoroastrianism from the early modern period

Professor Jenny Rose discusses the development of the Zoroastrian religion in the early modern period, exploring the migration of the religion to India and the development of distinctive regional traditions and texts. 

 

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