History of Philosophy: Eastern and Western - Vol. 2

History of Philosophy: Eastern and Western - Vol. 2

History of Philosophy: Eastern and Western - Vol. 2

History of Philosophy: Eastern and Western - Vol. 2


Zarathushtra, the prophet of Ancient Persia . -- The form that has been in general use for some 2,500 years is "Zoroaster." The Greeks pronounced the name as Zoroastres. It became Zoroastres in Latin and later took the familiar form Zoroaster. In Platonic Alcibiades is found the earliest authentic classical allusion to him by this name.

The date of his birth is placed anywhere between 600 B.C. and 6000 B.C. Iranian tradition based on Pahlavi works, Bundahishn, Arda Viraf and Zatasparam, written after the downfall of the Zoroastrian Empire, that is, some 2,000 years after the time in which the prophet flourished, place him in the third century before Alexander the Great. This fanciful tradition was perpetuated by Albirunī, Masudī and other Arab writers. It prevailed up to the last century.

Aristotle, Eudoxus and Hermippus write that Zoroaster lived 5,000 years before the Trojan War. Diogenes of Laerte quotes Hermodorus and Xanthus to the same effect. Diodorus of Eretria and Aristoxenus, on the other hand, say that Pythagoras was a disciple of Zoroaster. Pliny thereupon doubts where there was only one Zoroaster or there were others also bearing the same name. And Pliny was right.

After the passing away of the prophet, his successors who held the highest pontifical seat at Ragha in Media, were called Zarathushtratema, or most resembling Zarathushtra or Zoroaster.

The study of Oriental languages, religions and literature during the last 150 years, first in Europe and then in America, has thrown a flood of light upon this question.

Avesta is the sister language of Sanskrit. The Gāthās or holy hymns composed by Zoroaster have a flavour of antiquity familiar to the hymns of the Rg-Veda . There is a marked closeness between the grammar, metre and style of the Rg-Veda and the Gāthās. In fact, Gāthic inflexions, are more primitive than the Vedic . It is now thought that the composition of the Gāthās cannot be separated from the Vedas by any distance of time. The consensus of scholarly opinion now rightly places the period when Zoroaster flourished to at least 1000 B.C.

Philosophy of Ancient Persia. -- It is said that Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy. It can be said of Zoroastrianism, on the other hand, that it is not a philosophy but a religion.

Modern Hamadān, Old Persian, Ekbatana which the Babylonian . . .

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