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religion, Persian


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Two religious complexes are discernible in the first millennium bc in Iran.1. The eastern Iranian tradition of Zarathuštra (see zoroaster), with the Avesta as its sacred writings. The texts were written down in Sasanid times when Zoroastrianism became the state religion. This tradition cannot be provided with a historical or archaeological context.2. The western Iranian religion of the Achaemenids is attested in iconography, epigraphy, and in administrative texts; no sacred texts were preserved. Ahuramazda is the only god invoked by name in the OP inscriptions (until Artaxerxes II) and is portrayed as winged on reliefs and seals. Sanctuaries have not yet been identified in the Achaemenid residences, although Darius I claims to have restored the sanctuaries destroyed by Gaumata. Two altar‐plinths at Pasargadae remain the only cult structures. Evidence for cult‐practices consists of tomb‐reliefs where the king worships the sacred fire. Around the residences, the picture is more diversified. Persepolis administrative tablets (PFT) mention several Iranian gods, as well as Elamite Humban and Babylonian Adad, who receive rations for sacrifices from the royal treasuries. Mithra (see mithras) occurs often in names such as Mithradates, but is otherwise unattested until Artaxerxes II.

1. The eastern Iranian tradition of Zarathuštra (see zoroaster), with the Avesta as its sacred writings. The texts were written down in Sasanid times when Zoroastrianism became the state religion. This tradition cannot be provided with a historical or archaeological context.

2. The western Iranian religion of the Achaemenids is attested in iconography, epigraphy, and in administrative texts; no sacred texts were preserved. Ahuramazda is the only god invoked by name in the OP inscriptions (until Artaxerxes II) and is portrayed as winged on reliefs and seals. Sanctuaries have not yet been identified in the Achaemenid residences, although Darius I claims to have restored the sanctuaries destroyed by Gaumata

Herodotus' description of Persian cult is substantially correct, although he confuses Mithra with Anahita. Sacrifices to fire, earth, and water are partly confirmed by the PFT. Fire‐worship was known from personal observation in Asia Minor. Herodotus and Plato emphasize the importance of ‘truth’ (OP arta) to the Persians.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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