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Section From The School of Athens, by Raphael. Zoroaster holding a globe talking with Ptolemy.

Section From The School of Athens, by Raphael (1509), showing Zoroaster holding a globe talking with Ptolemy.

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Zoroaster was a priest or Zaotar who rejected the old Indo-Iranian gods (or monotheistic religion) and in their place believed that a single, wise, omnipotent god, Ahura Mazda 'Lord Wisdom', created and ruled the world. Ahura Mazda fought against the prince of evil or druj, Ahriman, which makes Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster's monotheistic religion, dualistic.

Zoroaster may have lived in the area of modern Azerbajian, the area of the ancient Medes, or the area of eastern Iran around modern Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He may have lived in the 7th century B.C., as early as 1200, or as late as the 1st century B.C. Earlier dates are based on linguistics. In "Further on the Calendar of Zoroastrian Feasts," Iran, Vol. 43 (2005), pp. 1-38, Zoroastrian scholar Mary Boyce says 1200 is as good a date as any.

As one expects with a culture hero like Zoroaster, there are various miraculous legends surrounding his birth, including surviving fire, wolves, and the blades of assassins.

The beliefs of Zoroaster, religious prophet and founder of Zoroastrianism, were written down perhaps a millennium later [source: Zoroastrian Scriptures, Presentation at North American Mobed Council July 30, 2005 – New York], in the Avesta, the name of the work and its language, which was translated into Phalavi during the Sassanian period. Much of the original Avesta was lost, although the extant Gathas retain Zoroaster's teaching. Other components of the scripture include the hymns known as Yashts and the Pahlavi books.

Zoroaster is based on the Greek: Ζωροάστρης. Zarathuštra is Avestan and is familiar through the writings of the philosopher Nietzsche. The Persian version of the name is Zardusht or Zartusht.

See Frequently asked questions on Zoroastrianism and the Avesta

References:

  • "Dualism in Iranian and Christian Traditions"
    François de Blois
    Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2000.
  • "On Mysticism and Esotericism among the Zoroastrians"
    James R. Russell
    Iranian Studies, 1993.

Zoroaster is on the list of Most Important People to Know in Ancient History.

Also Known As: Zartosht, Zaratas, Zarathushtra, Zarathustra, Zares. Zaratas is the Aramaic version ("The Greek Origin of the Sixth-Century Dating of Zoroaster," by Peter Kingsley Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1990).
Examples:
After the Avesta became available to westerners in the 18th century, the German philosopher Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra, which contains the famous statement that "God is dead."

There is a tradition dating Zoroaster to the 6th century that includes his meeting with Pythagoras, but see "The Greek Origin of the Sixth-Century Dating of Zoroaster," by Peter Kingsley, in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (1990) for problems of dating. Zoroaster is also said to have influenced another Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.

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