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Zoroaster (/ˈzɒroʊæstər/, UK also /ˌzɒroʊˈæstər/; Greek: Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs), (Persian: زرتشت pronounced as Zartusht) also known as Zarathustra (/ˌzærəˈθuːstrə/, UK also /ˌzɑːrə-/; Avestan: 𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀 Zaraθuštra), Zarathushtra Spitama, or Ashu Zarathushtra, was an ancient Iranian prophet[7][8], spiritual leader and ethical philosopher who taught a spiritual philosophy of self-realization and realization of the Divine. Read more on
Zoroaster (/ˈzɒroʊæstər/, UK also /ˌzɒroʊˈæstər/; Greek: Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs), (Persian: زرتشت pronounced as Zartusht) also known as Zarathustra (/ˌzærəˈθuːstrə/, UK also /ˌzɑːrə-/; Avestan: 𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀 Zaraθuštra), Zarathushtra Spitama, or Ashu Zarathushtra, was an ancient Iranian prophet[7][8], spiritual leader and ethical philosopher who taught a spiritual philosophy of self-realization and realization of the Divine. His teachings challenged the existing traditions of the Indo-Iranian religion and later developed into the religion of Mazdayasna or Zoroastrianism. He inaugurated a movement that eventually became the dominant religion in Ancient Iran. He was a native speaker of Old Avestan and lived in the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau, but his exact birthplace is uncertain.[9][10] There is no scholarly consensus on when he lived.[11] However, approximating using linguistic and socio-cultural evidence allows for dating to somewhere in the second millennium BCE.

This is done by estimating the period in which the Old Avestan language (as well as the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Iranian languages and the related Vedic Sanskrit) were spoken, the period in which the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion was practiced, and correlation between the burial practice described in the Gathas with the archeological Yaz culture. However, other scholars still date him in the 7th and 6th century BCE as a near-contemporary of Cyrus the Great and Darius I.[12][2][13][14][15] Zoroastrianism eventually became the official religion of Ancient Persia and its distant subdivisions from the 6th century BCE to the 7th century CE.[16] Zoroaster is credited with authorship of the Gathas as well as the Yasna Haptanghaiti, hymns composed in his native dialect, Old Avestan, and which comprise the core of Zoroastrian thinking. Most of his life is known from these texts.[9] By any modern standard of historiography, no evidence can place him into a fixed period, and the historicization surrounding him may be a part of a trend from before the 10th century that historicizes legends and myths.[17] Zoroaster's name in his native language, Avestan, was probably Zaraϑuštra. His English name, "Zoroaster", derives from a later (5th century BCE) Greek transcription, Zōroastrēs (Ζωροάστρης),[18] as used in Xanthus's Lydiaca (Fragment 32) and in Plato's First Alcibiades (122a1).

This form appears subsequently in the Latin Zōroastrēs and, in later Greek orthographies, as Ζωροάστρις Zōroastris. The Greek form of the name appears to be based on a phonetic transliteration or semantic substitution of Avestan zaraϑ- with the Greek ζωρός zōros (literally "undiluted") and the Avestan -uštra with ἄστρον astron ("star"). In Avestan, Zaraϑuštra is generally accepted to derive from an Old Iranian *Zaratuštra-; The element half of the name (-uštra-) is thought to be the Indo-Iranian root for "camel", with the entire name meaning "he who can manage camels".[19][a] Reconstructions from later Iranian languages—particularly from the Middle Persian (300 BCE) Zardusht,[further explanation needed] 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-.[19] Subject then to whether Zaraϑuštra derives from *Zarantuštra- or from *Zaratuštra-, several interpretations have been proposed. If Zarantuštra is the original form, it may mean "with old/aging camels",[19] related to Avestic zarant-[18] (cf. Pashto zōṛ and Ossetian zœrond, "old"; Middle Persian zāl, "old"):[20] "with angry/furious camels": from Avestan *zarant-, "angry, furious".[21] "who is driving camels" or "who is fostering/cherishing camels": related to Avestan zarš-, "to drag".[22] Mayrhofer (1977) proposed an etymology of "who is desiring camels" or "longing for camels" and related to Vedic Sanskrit har-, "to like", and perhaps (though ambiguous) also to Avestan zara-.[21] "with yellow camels": parallel to younger Avestan zairi-.[23] 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.[19] All present-day, Iranian-language variants of his name derive from the Middle Iranian variants of Zarϑošt, which, in turn, all reflect Avestan's fricative -ϑ-.[citation needed] In Middle Persian, the name is 𐭦𐭫𐭲𐭥𐭱𐭲 Zardu(x)št,[24] in Parthian Zarhušt,[25] in Manichaean Middle Persian Zrdrwšt,[24] in Early New Persian Zardušt,[24] and in modern (New Persian), the name is زرتشت Zartosht. There is no consensus on the dating of Zoroaster, the Avesta gives no direct information about it, while historical sources are conflicting. Some scholars base their date reconstruction on the Proto-Indo-Iranian language and Proto-Indo-Iranian religion,[16] and thus it is considered to have been some place in northeastern Iran and some time between 1500 and 500 BCE.[26][27][28][3] Some scholars[13] such as Mary Boyce (who dated Zoroaster to somewhere between 1700–1000 BCE) used linguistic and socio-cultural evidence to place Zoroaster between 1500 and 1000 BCE (or 1200 and 900 BCE).[2][3] The basis of this theory is primarily proposed on linguistic similarities between the Old Avestan language of the Zoroastrian Gathas and the Sanskrit of the Rigveda (c. 1700–1100 BCE), a collection of early Vedic hymns. Both texts are considered to have a common archaic Indo-Iranian origin.

The Gathas portray an ancient Stone-Bronze Age bipartite society of warrior-herdsmen and priests (compared to Bronze tripartite society; some conjecture that it depicts the Yaz culture[29]), and thus it is implausible that the Gathas and Rigveda could have been composed more than a few centuries apart. These scholars suggest that Zoroaster lived in an isolated tribe or composed the Gathas before the 1200–1000 BCE migration by the Iranians from the steppe to the Iranian Plateau.[12][30][2][31][32] The shortfall of the argument is the vague comparison, and the archaic language of Gathas does not necessarily indicate time difference.[11][28] Other scholars[13] propose a period between 7th and 6th century, for example, c. 650–600 BCE or 559–522 BCE.[28][3] The latest possible date is the mid 6th century, at the time of Achaemenid Empire's Darius I, or his predecessor Cyrus the Great. This date gains credence mainly on the thesis that certain figures must be based on historical facts,[3] thus some have related the mythical Vishtaspa with Darius I's father Vishtaspa (or Hystaspes in Greek) with the account on Zoroaster's life.

However, in the Avesta it should not be ignored that Vishtaspa's son became the ruler of the Persian Empire, Darius I would not neglect to include his patron-father in the Behistun Inscription. A different proposed conclusion is that Darius I's father was named in honor of the Zoroastrian patron, indicating possible Zoroastrian faith by Arsames.[33] Classical scholarship in the 6th to 4th century BCE believed he existed six thousand years before Xerxes I invasion of Greece in 480 BCE (Xanthus, Eudoxus, Aristotle, Hermippus), which is a possible misunderstanding of the Zoroastrian four cycles of 3000 years i.e. 12,000 years.[11][34][35][36] This belief is recorded by Diogenes Laërtius, and variant readings could place it six hundred years before Xerxes I, somewhere before 1000 BCE.[28] However, Diogenes also mentions Hermodorus's belief that Zoroaster lived five thousand years before the Trojan War, which would mean he lived around 6200 BCE.[28] The 10th-century Suda, provides a date of "500 years before Plato" in the late 10th century BCE.[11] Pliny the Elder cited Eudoxus who also placed his death six thousand years before Plato, c. 6300 BCE.[28] Other pseudo-historical constructions are those of Aristoxenus who recorded Zaratas the Chaldeaean to have taught Pythagoras in Babylon,[11][37] or lived at the time of mythological Ninus and Semiramis.[38] According to Pliny the Elder, there were two Zoroasters.

The first lived thousands of years ago, while the second accompanied Xerxes I in the invasion of Greece in 480 BCE.[11] Some scholars propose that the chronological calculation for Zoroaster was developed by Persian magi in the 4th century BCE, and as the early Greeks learned about him from the Achaemenids, this indicates they did not regard him as a contemporary of Cyrus the Great, but as a remote figure.[39] Some later pseudo-historical and Zoroastrian sources (the Bundahishn, which references a date "258 years before Alexander") place Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE,[d][40] which coincided with the accounts by Ammianus Marcellinus from 4th century CE. The traditional Zoroastrian date originates in the period immediately following Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BCE.[28] The Seleucid rulers 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 (erroneous, some even identified Cyrus with Vishtaspa[41]) counting back the length of successive generations, until they concluded that Zoroaster must have lived "258 years before Alexander".[11][42] This estimate then re-appeared in the 9th- to 12th-century Arabic and Pahlavi texts of Zoroastrian tradition,[c] like the 10th century Al-Masudi who cited a prophecy from a lost Avestan book in which Zoroaster foretold the Empire's destruction in three hundred years, but the religion would last for a thousand years.[33] The birthplace of Zoroaster is also unknown, and the language of the Gathas is not similar to the proposed north-western and north-eastern regional dialects of Persia.

It is also suggested that he was born in one of the two areas and later lived in the other area.[5] Yasna 9 and 17 cite the Ditya River in Airyanem Vaējah (Middle Persian Ērān Wēj) as Zoroaster's home and the scene of his first appearance. The Avesta (both Old and Younger portions) does not mention the Achaemenids or of any West Iranian tribes such as the Medes, Persians, or even Parthians. The Farvardin Yasht refers to some Iranian peoples that are unknown in the Greek and Achaemenid sources about the 6th and 5th century BCE Eastern Iran. The Vendidad contain seventeen regional names, most of which are located in north-eastern and eastern Iran.[43] However, in Yasna 59.18, the zaraϑuštrotema, or supreme head of the Zoroastrian priesthood, is said to reside in 'Ragha' (Badakhshan).[9] In the 9th- to 12th-century Middle Persian texts of Zoroastrian tradition, this 'Ragha' and with many other places appear as locations in Western Iran.

While the land of Media does not figure at all in the Avesta (the westernmost location noted in scripture is Arachosia), the Būndahišn, or "Primordial Creation," (20.32 and 24.15) puts Ragha in Media (medieval Rai). However, in Avestan, Ragha is simply a toponym meaning "plain, hillside."[44] Apart from these indications in Middle Persian sources that are open to interpretations, there are a number of other sources. The Greek and Latin sources are divided on the birthplace of Zarathustra. There are many Greek accounts of Zarathustra, referred usually as Persian or Perso-Median Zoroaster; Ctesias located him in Bactria, Diodorus Siculus placed him among Ariaspai (in Sistan),[9] Cephalion and Justin suggest east of greater Iran whereas Pliny and Origen suggest west of Iran as his birthplace.[5] Moreover, they have the suggestion that there has been more than one Zoroaster.[45] On the other hand, in post-Islamic sources Shahrastani (1086–1153) an Iranian writer originally from Shahristān, present-day Turkmenistan, proposed that Zoroaster's father was from Atropatene (also in Medea) and his mother was from Rey.

Coming from a reputed scholar of religions, this was a serious blow for the various regions who all claimed that Zoroaster originated from their homelands, some of which then decided that Zoroaster must then have then been buried in their regions or composed his Gathas there or preached there.[46][47] Also Arabic sources of the same period and the same region of historical Persia consider Azerbaijan as the birthplace of Zarathustra.[5] By the late 20th century, most scholars had settled on an origin in eastern Greater Iran. Gnoli proposed Sistan, Baluchistan (though in a much wider scope than the present-day province) as the homeland of Zoroastrianism; Frye voted for Bactria and Chorasmia;[48] Khlopin suggests the Tedzen Delta in present-day Turkmenistan.[49] Sarianidi considered the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex region as "the native land of the Zoroastrians and, probably, of Zoroaster himself."[50] Boyce includes the steppes to the west from the Volga.[51] 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".[52] Zoroaster is recorded as the son of Pourušaspa of the Spitaman or Spitamids (Avestan spit mean "brilliant" or "white"; some argue that Spitama was a remote progenitor) family,[53] and Dugdōw,[5] while his great-grandfather was Haēčataspa. All the names appear appropriate of the nomadic tradition, as his father's means "possessing gray horses" (with the word aspa meaning horse), while his mother's is "milkmaid". According to the tradition, he had four brothers, two older and two younger, whose names are given in much later Pahlavi work.[54] His training for the priesthood probably started very early, around seven years of age.[55] He became a priest probably around the age of fifteen, and according to the Gathas, he gained knowledge from other teachers and personal experience from traveling when he left his parents at twenty years old.[56] By the age of thirty, he experienced a revelation during a spring festival; on the river bank he saw a shining Being, who revealed himself as Vohu Manah (Good Purpose) and taught him about Ahura Mazda (Wise Spirit) and five other radiant figures.

Zoroaster soon became aware of the existence of two primal Spirits, the second being Angra Mainyu (Hostile Spirit), with opposing concepts of Asha (truth) and Druj (lie). Thus he decided to spend his life teaching people to seek Asha.[57] He received further revelations and saw a vision of the seven Amesha Spenta, and his teachings were collected in the Gathas and the Avesta.[58] He taught about free will,[59] and opposed the use of the hallucinogenic Haoma plant in rituals, polytheism, over-ritualising religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices, as well an oppressive class system in Persia which earned him strong opposition among local authorities.[60] Eventually, at the age of about forty-two, he received the patronage of queen Hutaosa and a ruler named Vishtaspa, an early adherent of Zoroastrianism (possibly from Bactria according to the Shahnameh).[61] Zoroaster's teaching about individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the resurrection of the body, the Last Judgment, and everlasting life for the reunited soul and body, among other things, became borrowings in the Abrahamic religions, but they lost the context of the original teaching.[62] According to the tradition, he lived for many years after the Vishtaspa conversion, managed to establish a faithful community,[63] and married three times. His first two wives bore him three sons and three daughters. His third wife, Hvōvi, was childless.[6][64] Zoroaster died when he was 77 years and 40 days old.[6] The later Pahlavi sources like Shahnameh, instead claim that an obscure conflict with Tuiryas people led to his death, murdered by a karapan (a priest of the old religion) named Brādrēs.[65] Philosophy In the Gathas, Zoroaster sees the human condition as the mental struggle between aša (truth) and druj (lie).

The cardinal concept of aša—which is highly nuanced and only vaguely translatable—is at the foundation of all Zoroastrian doctrine, including that of Ahura Mazda (who is aša), creation (that is aša), existence (that is aša) and as the condition for free will. The purpose of humankind, like that of all other creation, is to sustain aša. For humankind, this occurs through active participation in life and the exercise of constructive thoughts, words and deeds. Elements of Zoroastrian philosophy entered the West through their influence on Judaism and Middle Platonism and have been identified as one of the key early events in the development of philosophy.[66] Among the classic Greek philosophers, Heraclitus is often referred to as inspired by Zoroaster's thinking.[67] In 2005, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranked Zarathustra as first in the chronology of philosophers.[68][69] Zarathustra's impact lingers today due in part to the system of rational ethics he founded called Mazda-Yasna. The word Mazda-Yasna is Avestan and is translated as "Worship of Wisdom" in English. The encyclopedia Natural History (Pliny) claims that Zoroastrians later educated the Greeks who, starting with Pythagoras, used a similar term, philosophy, or "love of wisdom" to describe the search for ultimate truth.[70] Zoroaster emphasized the freedom of the individual to choose right or wrong and individual responsibility for one's deeds.

This personal choice to accept aša, or arta (the divine order), and shun druj (ignorance and chaos) is one's own decision and not a dictate of Ahura Mazda. For Zarathustra, by thinking good thoughts, saying good words, and doing good deeds (e.g. assisting the needy or doing good works) we increase this divine force aša or arta in the world and in ourselves, celebrate the divine order, and we come a step closer on the everlasting road to being one with the Creator. Thus, we are not the slaves or servants of Ahura Mazda, but we can make a personal choice to be his co-workers, thereby refreshing the world and ourselves.[71] In Islam Main articles: 101 Names of God, Names of God in Islam, and Cyrus the Great in the Quran Further information: Daeva, Jinn, Ifrit, Iblis, and Angra Mainyu A number of parallels have been drawn between Zoroastrian teachings and Islam.

Such parallels include the evident similarities between Amesha Spenta and the archangel Gabriel, and the mention of Thamud and the Iram of the Pillars in the Quran. These may also indicate the vast influence of the Achaemenid Empire on the development of either religion.[59] The Sabaeans, who believed in free will coincident with Zoroastrians, are also mentioned in the Quran.[59] Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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