Who Was Zoroaster and How Did He Gain Religious Followers?

Zoroaster was a prophet of ancient Persia, whose teachings laid the foundation for the religion known as Zoroastrianism, which largely dominated the land of Iran until the arrival of Islam after the fall of the Sassanian Empire. Whilst this figure is known as Zoroaster in the West (being derived from the Greek ‘Zoroastres’), he is referred to as Zarathustra in Avestan. The teachings found in Zoroastrianism have been compared to those of the Abrahamic faiths, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and it has been suggested that the former had a strong influence on the latter.

Where Was Zoroaster Born? Where Did He Live?

Neither the period during which Zoroaster lived in, nor the place where he was born or lived is certain. For the former issue, there are several sources dealing with it, though they are by no means in agreement with each other. Whilst the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism do not mention when the prophet lived, other Persian sources, namely the Pahlavi works, i.e. Middle Persian literature, and the Sassanian records, do deal with this question. For instance, in the Bundahishn (meaning ‘Primal Creation’), which is an encyclopedic collection of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology written in Middle Persian, a list of Persian rulers can be found. One of them is Alexander the Great, who is stated to have ruled Persia 258 years after the time of Zoroaster. If this version were accepted, then Zoroaster would have lived around the beginning of the 6th century BC, considering that the Macedonian conquest of the Achaemenid Empire happened in 331 BC.

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