ZOROASTER: Did he live over 8000 years ago?


Christopher Jones said Zoroaster died 6,000 years before the death of Plato, who died about 420 BC. So Zoroaster died some 8,500 years ago? In Egypt the early dynastic period, which ended prehistory, opened about 3,100 BC. This would put Zoroaster 3,000 odd years earlier. This is to say the least extraordinary, but I am unqualified to pass judgment. Christopher rejects my suggestion that he had made a typo, giving one 0 too many: "Harry Thurston Peck's articles in the Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) does not clear up when Zoroaster lived, however six thousand (6000) is not a typo:

"In regard to the date at which Zoroaster lived a wide diversity of opinion has prevailed. The statements of antiquity on the subject may conveniently be divided into three groups. First (1) may be considered those classical references that assign to him the extravagant age of B.C. 6000. These are confined simply to the classics, but they have the claim of being based upon information possessed by Aristotle, Eudoxus, and Hermippus (cf. Pliny , Pliny H. N.xxx. 1Pliny H. N., 2; Is. et Os. 46; Schol. Plato's Alcibiades, i. 122; De Vita Philos. Prooem. 2; Lactant. Institut. vii. 16; and cf. Suid. s. v. Zoroastres). Such extraordinary figures are presumably due to the Greeks' misunderstanding the statements of the Persians in regard to the position of Zoroaster's millennium in the great world-period of 12,000 years. Second

(2) come those statements which connect the name of Zoroaster with that of the uncertain Semiramis and Ninus ( Diod. Sic.ii. 6; Fragm. of Ceph. in Euseb. Chron. i. 43, and iv. 35; Syncel. Chronograph. i. p. 315; Theon , Progymnasmata, 9; Justin, Hist. Philippic. i. 1; Arnob. Adv. Gent. i. 5; compare also Suidas, s. v. Zoroastres, and the Armenian Moses of KhorniMoses, i. 16). Third

(3), the direct Zoroastrian tradition as found in the Pahlavi books Bundahish, xxxiv. 7-8; Ard -i V r f, i. 1-5, supported also by abundant Arabic allusions (Alb r n , Mas d , etc.), is unanimous in placing the opening of Zoroaster's ministry at 258 years before the era of Alexander, or 272 years before the close of his dominion, which would give Zoroaster's date as falling between the latter half of the seventh century B.C. and the middle of the sixth century; in fact, in the period just preceding the Achaemenian dynasty. This is doubtless not far from the truth, and may be finally regarded as the best view to adopt. Tradition has it that Zoroaster was forty-two years old when he first converted King Vishtaspa, who became his patron; but there is no good ground for identifying this ruler with Hystaspes the father of Darius. Such identification is made by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxvi. 6, 32), and has met with considerable support, but the doubt which Agathias (ii. 24) raises on this subject is better founded."


http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0062&query=head%3D%2311759

However, an article on Wikipedia states: "Eduard Meyer (v. Ancient Persia) is justified in maintaining that the Zoroastrian religion must even then have been predominant in Media. Meyer, therefore, conjecturally puts the date of Zoroaster at 1000 BC, as had already been done by Duncker (Geschichte des Altertums, 44, 78). This, in its turn, may be too high: but, in any case, Zoroaster belongs to a prehistoric era." The article also makes mention of the possibility that Zoroaster never existed at all. That would have really disappointed Nietzsche".

RH: (3) is "the best view to adopt"? My correction may have been correct,

Anthony Smith writes: "The Encyclopedia Iranica gives Zoroaster's date as between 800 and 1000 BC. The question of whether he really existed is rather sterile (as with Shakespeare and his plays....) Zoroaster was whoever wrote the Vedas. Zoroastrianism inevitably died out because in its main forms (the religion of the Parsis and Persian Zoroastrianism) it accepted neither conversion nor inter-marriage. But it continued in its descendant religions: Judaism, Christianity etc., where it still lurks".

Christopher Jones writes: "F.W. Nietzsche's 1885 book Also sprach Zarathrustra was a fictional account of the return of Zoroaster (Zarathrustra). To what extent Nietzsche's fictional work can be accused of misrepresenting the thoughts of a man who died 6000* years before the death of Plato is irrelevant. I don't think so because Nietzsche was well versed in Zoroaster's cult of fire, water and earth and above all, the dualism of Ahura Mazda (good) and Ahriman (evil). The quintessence of Zoroaster's belief lies in a natural "war" or conflict between the forces of good and evil and the ultimate triumph of Mazda, when a final resurrection should take place. "The history of this conflict is the history of the world. A great cleft runs right through the world: all creation divides itself into that which is Ahura's and that which is Ahrirnan's." Not that the two spirits carry on the struggle themselves; they leave it to be fought out by their respective creations and creatures which they sent into the field of battle which is the present world. This closely ressembles the Nietzschean concept of "ressentiment," its rejection and the ultimate dawn of the "overman" who is beyond good and evil. In the centre of battle is man: his soul is the object of the war. For Zoroaster, man is a creation of Mazda who has the right to call him to account. But Mazda created him free in his determinations and in his actions, wherefore he is accessible to the influences of the evil powers. This freedom of the will (so clear in Nietzsche that he is for me a proto-existentialist) is clearly expressed in Yasna, 31, II: "Since thou, O Mazda, didst at the first create our being and our consciences in accordance with thy mind, and didst create our understanding and our life together with the body, and works and words in which man according to his own will can frame his confession, the liar and the truth-speaker alike lay hold of the word, the knowing and the ignorant each after his own heart and understanding. Armaiti searches, following thy spirit, where errors are found." Like Zoroaster, Nietzsche posed ethical demands on the religious consciousness.

But when you dig deeper, you run across statements like these:

. . .But man has been smitten with blindness and ignorance: he knows neither the eternal law nor the things which await him after death. He allows himself too easily to be ensnared by the craft of the evil powers who seek to ruin his future existence. He worships and serves false gods, being unable to distinguish between truth and lies . . .

Zoroaster or Nietzsche?

RH: Or Christ? *The traditional dates for Zoroaster are 628-551 BC, but many scholars argue for earlier dates. But 6000? I think Christopher put one 0 too many.

Nushun Namazi writes: "One Zoroasterian ritual that seems to sicken people is the so called "leaving the dead on the roofs for the vultures to eat". This causes one to wonder how such a humane and clean civilization could treat its dead in such an unhygienic and unsanitary manner? This ritual was adopted by Zoroastrians after the attack of the Arabs . Zoroasterian until the time of the Sassanian Dynasty buried their dead. When the Arabs attacked Iran 1400 years ago, the Arabs began to pull the dead Zoroastrians out of their graves to be eaten by vultures. In response, the Zoroastrians stopped burying their dead and instead left the dead on the roof tops and later they hid the dead in secret caves. So there you have it!! They were forced into this barbaric treatment of the dead!!!"

RH: This mystifies me, but clearly some Iranians (most?) do not like the Arabs, to whom they attribute their country's woes. Again, we wonder what role Iranian history textbooks played in this.

Ronald Hilton -


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