Zarathushtra - (Zoroaster)

 

 

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Zarathushtra's Time

 

 

There are a number of approaches to dating Zarathushtra’s time, which are presented below. These are:

Mythic:
Based on Persian mythology, mainly the Shahnameh Ferdowsi, and other mythic stories passed down the generations.

Greek:
Based on Greek mythic stories, mainly alluded to at the time of Plato. These stories generally date Zarathushtra some millennia before the fall of Troy and the Trojan wars.

Archeological & Philological
These approaches generally look at the various archeological excavations and try to find references to Zarathushtra and Zoroastrianism. Others use a philological approach to compare the Gathas with the Rig Vedas, since Sanskrit and Gathic languages are the offshoots of the same mother language. One other fact taken into account is the Aryan migration from the northern lands towards the Persian plateau and the Indian sub-continent. While these approaches are not accurate in placing an exact date, perhaps they can be considered the best approximations that can be obtained.

Historical:
These scholars generally try to compare the social aspects of life during Zarathushtra (as can be deducted from the Gathas) and compare it with the first accurately known times, namely, the Achaemenian era, and then place a date.

Traditional:
The Pahlavi of the Bundahishn, one of the Zoroastrian scripture written around the time of the Arab conquest of Persia, (either in the Sassanian era, or after the Arab attack), states that Zarathushtra was born in 588 BC, stating that this was 258 years before Alexander’s conquest of Persia.

Other:
Some scholars have adopted other methods and generally come up with post Achaemenian dates, which are now proven to be inaccurate.

 

The following table presents a fairly detailed map of some of the scholarly attempts at fixing the date of Zarathushtra.

Type Date (BCE) Source
Mythic 10th-1st millenium Manly Palmer hall – Twelve World Teachers
7129 H.S. Spencer – The Aryan Encyclopedia
6600 J.K Katrak – based on Shahnameh Ferdowsi
6312 Pithawala
Greek 6480 Xanthus of Lydia (5th century BC)
6350 Eudoxus & Plinus quoting Aristotle, 6000 years before Plato (4th century BC)
6200 Hermodorus (3rd century BC)
>6000 Plutarch
>6000 Hormazdyar Mirza – Outlines of Parsi History – quoting Greeks
Archeological
& Philological
6000-4000 Kavosji & Bharucha
3500 Firouz Azargoshasb – Chicago lecture 1981
2000 Asgarov – based on excavations in Uzbekistan, 1984
2000-1500 Based on Rig Veda and Aryan migration 1700-1500 BC
2nd millenium Hippel & Lassen
1800-900 Moulton
1767 Zabih Behrooz – Through various astrological techniques
1700-1400 J. Ashtiyani – based on the age of the Gathas and the Rig Veda
1500 Mills (first 900 BC, later changed to 1500 BC)
1400-1000 Mary Boyce – A History of Zoroastrianism, 1989
1200-1100 Thomas Burrow – based on Farvardin Yasht & other post Zarathushtra scripture plus Aryan migration, 1973
Historical 1080 Shapur Shahbazi – based on post Alexandra Persian historical records.
1080 Pour Davoud – The Age of Zarathushtra, Journal of KR Cama Institute, 1935
>1000 B.C. Hummel – based on Assyrian inscriptions &
Kuiper
1000 Lommel – based on Egyptian papyri
1000 Dastur M.N. Dhalla – history of Zoroastrianism, 1938
1000 Rudolph and Duncker,
Geldner and Jackson
1000-900 Wesendonk
1000-600 Gherardo Gnoli – based on the difference between the Gathic and Achaemenian societies
900 Bartholomae and Widengren
Traditional 660-583 E.W. West – Pahlavi Text, part 5, Oxford, 1897
650-541 W.B. Henning – Zoroaster, Oxford, 1947
570-550 Herzfeld - Zoroaster and his World, Princeton, 1947
589-512 Anquetil du Perron – Zend Avesta, Paris 1971
588 Bundahishn – traditional date, based on the Bundahishn, related to the date of Alexander's conquest of Persia
Other <458 H.S. Nyberg – Die Religionen des Alten Iran, 1938 &
F.A. Bode, Songs of Zarathushtra
100 Darmesteter

It is important to be able to determine when and where Zarathushtra lived, since we will then be able to consider his life and choices in the context of his environment and the socio-economic structure of his time. However, from a spiritual point of view, the important issue is to understand and practice his teachings.

Shahriar Shahriari
December 6, 1997
Vancouver, Canada


Information presented in the table above are extracted from:

  1. Manly Palmer Hall’s book, Twelve World Teachers
  2. Sarosh J.H. Manekshaw’s article, The Date of Zarathushtra, 1997 and
  3. Dr. Daryoush Jahanian’s article, Zarathushtra’s Time and Homeland, 1997.

 


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