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THE PERSIAN EMPIRE AND ZOROASTRIANISM Indo-European migrations, ca. 2000 B.C.E. A. Aryans: 1 branch to India, 1 branch to IRAN B. “Aryan”→”Iran” C. PERSIANS = one of several Iranic peoples confronted SEMITIC peoples in Iraq/Syria. SEMITIC PEOPLES.

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THE PERSIAN EMPIRE AND ZOROASTRIANISM

  • Indo-European migrations, ca. 2000 B.C.E.
  • A. Aryans: 1 branch to India, 1 branch to IRAN
  • B. “Aryan”→”Iran”
  • C. PERSIANS = one of several Iranic peoples
  • confronted SEMITIC peoples in Iraq/Syria

SEMITIC

PEOPLES

ARYANS

Indo-European migration, c. 1500 B.C.E.

slide2

II. Achaemenid Empire (583-331 B.C.E.)

A. Founded by Cyrus the Great, who defeated Babylonians

PERSEPOLIS

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B. Alexander the Great defeats Darius, bringing Achaemenid empire

to an end (331 B.C.E.).

C. Hellenism takes root in Iran.

Alexander Darius

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Parthian Empire, ca. 240 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.

  • decentralized rule

Persepolis

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IV. Sasanian Empire, 220-634 C.E.

A. Highly centralized state

B. Shahanshah = “King of Kings”

Ctesiphon

Persepolis

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ZOROASTRIANISM

  • Indo-European religion stressing ritual purity
  • Zarathustra / Zoroaster = priest of this religion ca. 1500 B.C.E.

modern image of Zoroaster

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II. Zoroastrian dualism

Ahura Mazda = force of good, governs sky, “good earth,” water, fire

vs.

Angra Mainyu / Ahriman = force of evil and darkness

image of Ahura Mazda at Persepolis

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Sasanian cliff carving of Ahura Mazda (right), giving crown to emperor Ardashir II (r. 379-83 C.E.)

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B. Funerary practices: ossuaries, “towers of silence”

tomb of Cyrus the Great

tower of silence, Yazd, Iran

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C. Ritual purity

D. Human being contributes to realm of good (Ahura Mazda)

through good deeds, or to realm of evil (Angra Mainyu /

Ahriman) through bad deeds.

E. Paradise (Firdus) and hell

III. Scriptures

A. Avesta = Ahura Mazda’s revelation to Zoroaster

B. Gathas = hymns composed by Zoroaster

C. The problem of writing

D. Achaemenids adopted Aramaic as bureaucratic language

(later displaced by local Iranian languages).

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IV. Priests (magi)

A. Preside over five daily prayers

B. Tend sacred fires

Then… …and now

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VI. Manichean heresy, 3rd century C.E. > Mani

A. Adopts Zoroastrian struggle between good and evil, but asserts

that all of creation belongs to realm of evil / darkness

B. Stresses asceticism and egalitarianism

C. In response, Sasanians adopt highly monotheistic brand of

Zoroastrianism (“Mazdaism”).