- (flourished sometime between 1700 and 1000 b.c.?)A semilegendary religious prophet venerated by the ancient Persians and credited with establishing Zoroastrianism, the chief religion of the ancient Persian Empire. Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra) was known to the Persians as Zartosht and to the ancient Greeks as Zorastres. Most modern scholars think he may have been a real person. However, they differ widely on when he lived and preached. Ancient Greek and Roman writers tended to assign Zoroaster to very early times, often as far back as 6000 b.c. The vast majority of scholars have rejected this notion, and many do not accept another common ancient claim that he lived in the seventh or sixth century b.c., not long before the founding of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Modern linguistic studies of early Zoroastrian writings, such as the Gathas, have suggested a rough date of 1700 b.c. Mary Boyce, of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, the world's leading scholar of Zoroastrianism, places Zoroaster's life sometime between 1400 and 1000 b.c.Whenever Zoroaster lived, assuming he was a real person, most of what little is known about his life comes from Zoroastrian writings, mainly the Avesta and the Gathas. It appears that he was born and raised in Iran or perhaps in Bactria (now Afghanistan), where he did much of his preaching. He had a beloved wife named Hvov and three daughters and three sons. As the story goes, at about the age of thirty Zoroaster had a vision of God, similar to the later visions experienced by Christianity's St. Paul and Islam's great prophet, Muhammad. The deity with which Zoroaster made contact was Ahura-Mazda ("the Wise Lord"), who subsequently became the main Persian god. Ahura-Mazda revealed certain truths to Zoroaster, including the existence of an ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil and the need for human beings to do good works. The prophet immediately converted his wife, children, and cousin to the new faith. But at first he had difficulty converting others; most of the residents of his hometown, for example, initially mocked him. In time, however, Zoroaster gained additional followers, and the new faith spread. Eventually it thrived in Iran, especially under the Persians. For Zoroaster's basic teachings and more about his faith, see Zoroastrianism.
Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. Don Nardo Robert B. Kebric. 2015.