History as Past Ethics: An Introduction to the History of Morals

By Philip Van Ness Myers | Go to book overview

led to their undoing at Salamis by the unscrupulous and mendacious Themistocles.1

That exaltation of character which we have remarked as springing naturally from the moral dignity with which man was invested by being made an associate of the good Ahura in his struggle with the wicked Ahriman may be noticed especially in the aims and undertakings of the Persian monarchs in the period before the moral decadence of the Iranian civilization set in, and while the strength of the ethical appeal of the Zoroastrian ideal was yet unimpaired. This appears in all their records, which make the aim of their conquests to be the overthrow of the powers of evil and disorder and the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness in the world. The inscriptions of Darius I read like the letters of the Puritan Cromwell. Indeed, just as it was the masculine moral ideal of English Puritanism which helped to make England great, and strong to play her part in the transactions of modern times, so we may believe it was the strenuous moral ideal of Zoroastrianism that helped to make Persia great, and strong to play her great rôle in the affairs of the ancient world. In truth, the ideal is still an unexpended force in history. It seems to have given immortality to the people that it inspired; for it can hardly be doubted that it is largely owing to their active practical morality that the Parsees in India, the representatives to-day of the old Zoroastrian faith, constitute such a dominant element in the Indian communities of which they form a part.2

Influence of the ideal upon Persian history

____________________
1
The modern Persians, who have exchanged the truth-impelling creed of Zoroaster for that of Mohammed, seem to have lost this ancestral virtue. It is noteworthy, however, that the Indian Parsees, the inheritors and preservers of the faith of ancient Persia, are noted for their uprightness and veracity.
2
"They [the Parsees] form one of the most esteemed, wealthy, and philanthropic communities on the west coast of India, notably in the city of Bombay."-- BLOOMFIELD, The Religion of the Veda ( 1908), p. 15.

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