The Treasure of the Magi: A Study of Modern Zoroastrianism

By James Hope Moulton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
AFTER ZARATHUSHTRA

Xanthus the Lydian says that six hundred years passed between Zoroaster and the invasion of Xerxes; and that after him there was a long succession of Magi, with names like Ostanes, Astrampsychus, Gobryas, and Pazates, up to the conquest of the Persians by Alexander.-- DIOGENES.1

THE Gathas, which have engaged our attentions exclusively so far, are a very small part of the Avesta, the sacred book of the Parsis. How much of the remainder was worthy of being packed up in the 'treasures' of the Magi will become clearer as we go on: since the whole of this book forms the canon of the Parsi faith throughout its last sixteen centuries, we are necessarily bound to examine it very carefully.

The Parsi Canon has a curious surface relation to the Jewish, in that it includes everything that survives in an extinct sacred language. This is of course only the objective fact, and must not be taken as suggesting the reason. The Jews took no trouble to preserve the archaic Hebrew of books which in Palestine they did not regard as representative of their religion.2 The Parsis were assisted in their selection by other forces. Alexander is said to have burnt an Avesta which, according to Hermippus ( third century B. C.), extended to two million lines. If Hermippus wrote of what he had seen, it is obvious that Alexander did not destroy the only copy. And indeed we may reasonably cherish some scepticism as to Alexander's alleged anticipation of German ways with

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1
See E. Z., p. 410.
2
The fragments of Ben-Sira should be conscientiously chronicled as an exception proving the rule.

-52-

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