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Ancient Persian Empire Religion

Here is some information on religion in ancient Persia.

Religiously, the Achaemenid Empire (Persian Empire) featured a variety of polytheistic religions, or those that worship more than one god. What its followers claimed was the world's first monotheistic religion developed on the Iranian plateau, though, based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (also called Zarathustra). By the time of the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism - which most religious scholars now categorize as dualism, not monotheism - was gaining converts among the Persians.

The humaneness of the Persian rulers may have stemmed from the ethical religion founded by the prophet Zoroaster, who lived in the early sixth century B.C. Zoroaster sought to replace what he called "the lie"-ritualistic, idol-worshiping cults and their Magi priests - with a religion centered on the sole god Ahura-Mazda ("Wise Lord").

The Persian kings and nobility were Zoroastrians, a religion named after its founder, Zarathustra, called Zoroaster in Greek. Zarathustra conceived his religion around 600 BC, and it had great influence later on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Zoroastrianism was monotheistic, centering on one supreme god who created everything material and spiritual. The powers of good and evil worked on humans who had to choose constantly between the two.

When we read in later Syriac documents that towards the beginning of the third century the Christians in the Persian empire had some three hundred and sixty churches, and many martyrs, it is not difficult to imagine even if we discount the many legendary elements in these traditions, how vigorous and how successful the early Christian propaganda must have been in those distant regions.

Owing to the toleration of the Parthian Kings, Christianity kept slowly but steadily advancing in various parts of the empire. With the advent of the Sassanian dynasty, however (A.D. 226-641), Christianity was often subjected to very severe trials. Its chief opponents were the Zoroastrian Magi and priestly schools, as well as the numerous Jews scattered through the empire.

According to the teachings of Zoroaster the great God of light, Ahuramazda, was in constant struggle with the darkness personified by "Shaitan." This was the "Satan" who is first written about in Hebrew Scriptures during the First Diaspora when the Jews had been held captive in Babylon and continued to live in the Persian empire.

Law forms an essential part of the religious system of the Zarathushtra, as full one-third of their sacred literature comprises Law in its various phases and spheres. Indeed Law in a wider sense would coincide with Religion itself, for essentially the domain of Religion covers the universal field of Law.

Law having thus been enthroned by the Zarathushtrians on the lofty pedestal of Religion and Divinity, Farrukh-Mart Vahram, the learned compiler of this work, rightly observes that the aim of Law is to further the Mighty Word of the All-Knowing Creator and to defeat Falsehood, and thus to compass in the end the immortal, the illustrious and the most Brilliant and Perfect Sovereignty of the Kingdom of God.


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