A comprehensive introduction to the ancient philosopher Zarathustra.
It’s likely that Western readers are familiar with the ancient philosophical and religious figure Zoroaster (aka Zarathustra) through Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1893 work Also Sprach Zarathustra but that few have ever encountered Zoroaster’s own writings. Khamneipur, in this remarkably readable, assured nonfiction debut, acknowledges this fact and aims to pull together the history and scholarship of Zoroaster for a broad, nonspecialist audience. The author opens his examination with a detailed overview of Zoroastrianism itself, derived from sacred scriptures, beginning with the eternal struggle between the benevolent creator-god Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, who represents “darkness, lies, and falsehood.” He grounds his readers in a fast-paced but substantial history of ancient Iran, then offers a well-researched biography of Zoroaster himself. The book’s strongest overview, though, is not of the man but of his faith, from its obscure beginnings to its great flowering under the Sassanian dynasty, which ruled the Persian Empire from 224 to 651 (“the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest”). It follows the religion through various revivals and rebellions, such as the revolt of Babak Khorramdin and his followers against the Abassid Caliphate in the early ninth century. Khamneipur details the many threats to the ancient faith, represented by ideological rivals such as Mazdak, Mani, and Mohammed, and rounds out his account with a brief but authoritative look at Zoroastrianism in the present world, set against a broader discussion of humanity’s long history with theism and deism of all kinds. Readers of such popular religious history writers as Karen Armstrong will find a great deal in these pages to interest them. Overall, Khamneipur has written a thoughtful, entirely accessible examination of one of the world’s oldest religions.
introduction to the history of Zoroastrianism.