12525Re: Achaemenid period creativity
- Jun 1, 2010On 30/05/2010, at 4:23 AM, Francesco Brighenti wrote:
> Forget about the 6th c. BCE date. This is excluded, _in primis_, onDear Francesco,
> linguistic grounds
My thanks to you for alerting me to recent scholarship on Zarathushtra
One new point (for me) is the Assyrian recording of Iranian religious
Let me say that I support both the Bronze-Age and Iron-Age date for Z.
As one who mentally inhabits the Bronze Age (West Semitic
inscriptions) I would be very glad to meet him there. But here I will
try to defend the hypothesis of a later date for Z.
Note that I have no time for the nonsensical fantasy that precludes
historicity for Z, or Gautama, or Yeshua`, or Muhammad (not too many
academics take the risk of denying him a place in history). The
prophets Moses and David are not figments, either, I like to think.
In the scientific (!) field of history-and-phenomenology of religion
(which is where I have grazed for 50 years) Z provides an excellent
example of the lonely prophet who gradually acquires a group of
followers, and his system becomes a national and/or imperial religion.
Muhammad is another instance of the solitary prophet who created a
community, and in his own lifetime all the tribes of Arabia were
'Believers', followers of his Way, the Straight Path; and before long
his doctrines and practices were the basis of an empire.
Z could have had similar success in the Iranian realm with his Rule of
Good Thought (provided he did not set himself up as rival ruler to the
The linguistic argument is that the language of the Gathas resembles
the Sanskrit of the Rig Veda (but I would like to know a
scientifically accurate date for that collection of hymns); it is not
the same as the language of the Akhaemenid inscriptions.
Here is my defensive line of argument (and this is an opportunity
for it to be demolished):
(1) Language differences
The Arabic of the Qur'an looks more archaic than the related Hebrew of
the Torah (Arabic uses three cases, like Akkadian, versus no case-
endings on nouns and adjectives in Hebrew). Contemporary German
compared with English (they were once the same language) looks
different and could be suspected of being much older, if we did not
Archaizing language can be used in sacred contexts, as happened in
ancient Egypt, for example (and in the Book of Mormon).
The language of Z was eastern Iranian not western Persian.
Asha ('order') looks later than Arta and Rta (Sanskrit)
The name Vishtaspa is found as the protector of Z and the father of
Darius the Great (but it might have been given to him as an ancient
name of great prestige , like Alexander, which goes back to the Bronze
Age, and into the current era).
(3) Ahura Mazda, Ohrmizd
Z did not necessarily 'invent' this title for the supreme God.
Analogy: the word 'ilah (as in Arabic ilah and Al-ilah) is found
inscribed on one of the Sinai turquoise mines (Sinai 384, Mine L), in
the Bronze Age.
Ohrmizd is a later form, but Ahuramazda is used by Darius. Z also has
Ahura Mazdatha (very wise Lord).
(4) Varuna, Mitra, Indra
In the Hittite treaty with Mitanni (Hurrians) we meet among the
witnesses these Indo-Aryan deities, in the 14th C BCE:
"the twin gods Mitra and Uruwana, Indar"
(I have put my account of Anatolian documents and myths on the web
Mithra is a god of covenants, and there is a long hymn to him in the
Avesta (Yasht 10).
It has a credo, a profession of faith: "I confess myself a worshipper
of Mazda, a follower of Zarathushtra, a hater of daevas, and obedient
to the laws of Mazda ...."
This would explain why INDRA (Indar) is missing from the Z'n pantheon:
he was a d(a)eva, and indeed the king of the Devas. In (later) Vedic
religion the devas were good, the asuras were on the outer; in Z'ism
the daevas were demonized, and Ahura (= Asura, Lord) was supreme.
But what has happened to Varuna the Asura/Ahura, alias Uruwana (Greek
To my mind, he has maintained his supremacy in Z'ism, and perhaps, as
in Judaism and Islam, he is only addressed by titles, not a personal
name; he is Ahura Mazda. (Wise Lord).
I am puzzled by Mary Boyce's denial of this. He would not be relegated
to the lower ranks, as a water god in Z'ism. (Such things happen: the
supreme Polynesian god is Tangaloa/ Tangaroa [which I suspect might
have a connection with inner Asian Tengeri] is the god of the sea in
Maaori religion, and Io is at the top.
I think we have had this discussion in the past, but the case is not
closed yet, is it?
Massey University, New Zealand
On 30/05/2010, at 4:23 AM, Francesco Brighenti wrote:
> Dear Brian,
> You write:
> > [T]his discussion has inspired me to put my teaching materials on
> > Zoroastrianism onto the web, adding an ANCIENT PERSIA section to:
> > [ http://sites.google.com/site/collesseum/iranian-documents ]
> > [...]
> > Here are two relevant extracts from my notes:
> > "The lifetime of Zarathushtra -- This is not known. Was it the
> > sixth century B.C.E., or was it much earlier? [...] [S]ome scholars
> > (notably Mary Boyce) suggest [...] that the prophet belongs in the
> > second millennium B.C.E."
> Forget about the 6th c. BCE date. This is excluded, _in primis_, on
> linguistic grounds:
> "As a result of such linguistic arguments, we can rule out with
> certainty that Zara��u��tra was a contemporary of the early
> Achaemenids, because the language of the Avesta does not allow such
> a late date."
> Zara��u��tra is mentioned several times in all five G��th��s (the
> oldest Avestan texts) and, therefore, *if* he was a historical
> character, he must be coeval with them. The Old Avestan period was
> roughly "contemporary with the reign of the Hittite king Hattusilis
> (ca. 1300) and the Mycenean Greek culture (1600-1100)" -- see O.P.
> Skj��rv�� at
> (pp. IX-X in the paper)
> See also Skj��rv��'s discussions of the historicity vs. non-
> historicity of Zara��u��tra at
> (pp. 52-56 in the paper)
> and at
> (pp. 9-11 and 20-25 in the paper)
> > I saw a good argument for putting Gautama at the same time, 580-500
> > (he lived 80 years).
> Most scholars now date the death of the "historical" Buddha (once
> again, *if* he was a historical character, which is not granted at
> all!) to around 400 BCE or a little later. The "new dating" of the
> Buddha, on which a consensus was arrived at on the occasion of a
> colloquium held in 1988 under the auspices of H. Bechert (see H.
> Bechert, ed., _The Dating of the Historical Buddha / Die Datierung
> des Historischen Buddha_, G��ttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
> 1991-2), implies that the Buddha's period of teaching activity was
> in the second half of the 5th c. BCE, perhaps extending into the
> first quarter of the 4th c. BCE -- see at
> and at
> Kindest regards,
> Francesco Brighenti
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