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12525Re: Achaemenid period creativity

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  • Brian Colless
    Jun 1, 2010
      On 30/05/2010, at 4:23 AM, Francesco Brighenti wrote:

      > Forget about the 6th c. BCE date. This is excluded, _in primis_, on
      > linguistic grounds

      Dear Francesco,

      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
      know better.

      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)

      (2) Vishtaspa
      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
      Ouranos 'sky')?

      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?

      Brian Colless
      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:
      > http://iranica.com/articles/zoroaster-iii-zoroaster-in-the-avesta
      > "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
      > http://blagoverie.org/files/385/oldavestanprimer.pdf
      > (pp. IX-X in the paper)
      > See also Skj��rv��'s discussions of the historicity vs. non-
      > historicity of Zara��u��tra at
      > http://tinyurl.com/328x9j
      > (pp. 52-56 in the paper)
      > and at
      > http://www.safarmer.com/Indo-Eurasian/Skjaervo.pdf
      > (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
      > http://indology.info/papers/cousins/node4.shtml
      > and at
      > http://www.buddhistethics.org/15/prebish-article.pdf
      > Kindest regards,
      > Francesco Brighenti
      > Venezia

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