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Zoroastrianism - Religion of the Persian Empire
MB Faith ^ | 6/25/05 | MB Faith

Posted on 06/25/2005 8:31:30 PM PDT by freedom44

During the 7th and 6th centuries BC the ancient polytheistic religion of the Iranians was reformed and given new dimensions by the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathusthra). Zoroaster's life dates have been traditionally given as (c. 628 - 551 BC), but many scholars argue for earlier dates. Linguistic evidence suggests that he was born in northeastern Iran, but the prophet's message was to spread throughout the Persian Empire. Adopted as the faith of the Persian kings, Zoroastrianism became the official religion of the Achaemenid empire and flourished under its successors, the Parthian and Sassanian empires. Its theology and cosmology may have influenced the development of Greek, later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thought. The Muslim conquest of the 7th century AD marked the beginning of a steady decline of Zoroastrianism. Persecution resulted in the migration (about the 10th century) of the majority of Zoroastrians to India, where the Parsis of Bombay are their modern descendants.

The religion of ancient Iran was derived from that of the ancient Indo Europeans, or Aryans. The language of the earliest Zoroastrian writings is close to that of the Indian Vedas, and much of the mythology is recognizably the same. Two groups of gods were worshiped, the ahuras and the daevas. The worship of the ahuras (lords) may have reflected the practice of the pastoral upper classes, and tradition holds that Zoroaster was born into a family that worshiped only the ahuras. The message of the prophet, however, was that Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, was the sole creator and lord of the world and that the worship of the daevas was the worship of evil. In Zoroaster's theology the Amesha Spentas, or Bountiful Immortals, were divine beings who acted essentially as agents of the power of Ahura Mazda; they were traditionally seven in number: Bounteous Spirit, Good Mind, Truth, Rightmindedness, Dominion, Health, and Life. The first of these, Spenta Mainyu, is of special importance in that he is paired with a "twin," Angra Mainyu, or Hostile Spirit.

When given a choice between good and evil, or truth and the lie, Bounteous Spirit chose truth and Hostile Spirit the lie. Creation becomes a battleground, with the demoted ahuras invoked for the doing of good and the daevas enlisted by Angra Mainyu in the doing of evil. Nevertheless, Ahura Mazda has decreed that truth will triumph, and the old world will be destroyed by fire and a new creation instituted.

In the period following Zoroaster, for which little evidence remains, Zoroastrianism consolidated its position and spread throughout Iran. The rise of the southern Persians and Medes seems to have been accompanied by the reinstatement of many of the ahuras, although Ahura Mazda is still recognized as supreme god. Among the most important figures to revive at this time were Mithra (Mithraism), usually associated with the sun, and Anahita, associated with the waters and fertility. Ahura Mazda (who becomes Ormazd) becomes identified with Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) remains his antagonist. Ahura Mazda has relinquished some of his absolute supremacy and appears to need the assistance of the lesser ahuras, particularly Mithra, who appears as mediator and protector of the created world.

This dualist view eventually became the orthodox position. Its development may have owed much to the Magi, a hereditary priestly caste, although their role is unclear. From them, however, the Greco Roman world learned much of what it knew of the religion. An important reform movement, however, arose within Zoroastrianism - the movement around Zurvan. The Zurvanites posited a supreme god, Zurvan (Infinite Time), who had sacrificed for 1,000 years in order to gain offspring. At the end of that time he experienced momentary doubt, and from that doubt arose Ahriman; at the same time, Ormazd came into being because of the efficacy of the sacrifices. At the end of 3,000 years Ahriman crossed the void that separated them and attacked Ormazd. The two made a pact to limit the struggle, and Ahriman fell back into the abyss, where he lay for 3,000 years.

During that period Ormazd created the material and spiritual world; in retaliation, Ahriman called into being six demons and an opposing material world. In the next 3,000 year period Ahriman attempted to corrupt the creation of Ormazd; he was successful but was trapped in the world of light. The final period of 3,000 years was ushered in by the birth of Zoroaster, who revealed this struggle to man; the prophet is to be followed by three saviors, appearing at intervals of 1,000 years. At the appearance of the last, a day of judgment will occur, the drink of immortality will be offered to those who have fought against Ahriman, and a new creation will be established.

The sacred literature of Zoroastrianism is found in the Avesta, which was compiled sometime during the Sassanian period (224 - 640 AD) from much earlier materials. Only a portion of the Avesta remains, but the language of its earliest sections is extremely ancient, closely related to that of the Indian Vedas. These sections, the Gathas, are thought to be by Zoroaster himself. They are hymns and form the primary part of the Yasna, the central liturgy of the religion. Also contained in the Avesta are the Yashts, hymns to a number of the ahuras, and later in date than the Gathas. Finally comes the Videvdat, which is concerned with purity and ritual. A large body of commentary exists in Pahlavi, dating from the 9th century AD, which contains quotations from earlier material no longer extant.

The rituals of Zoroastrianism revolve around devotion to the good and the battle against the forces of evil. Fire plays a major role, being seen as the manifestation of the truth of Ahura Mazda, as preached by Zoroaster. Also important is the ritual drink, haoma, which is related to the Vedic soma.

The fundamental idea of Zoroastrianism is that since the beginning, there has existed a spirit of good (Ahura Mazda or Ormazd) and a spirit of evil (Ahriman) who are in perpetual conflict, with the soul of man as the great object of the war. Ormazd created men free, so that if they allow themselves to fall under the sway of Ahriman they are held to be justly punishable. When a person dies, his good and evil deeds will be weighed against each other, and accordingly as the balance is struck he will be sent to heaven or to hell. If they are exactly equal, the soul passes into an intermediate state and remains there until the day of judgment. Ormazd is to triumph ultimately, and then there will be one undivided kingdom of God in heaven and on earth.

The 'bible' of Zoroastrians is the Zend - Avesta.

It is divided into 5 parts:

* Yama liturgical book of the Parsees * Vispered the lesser liturgy * Vendidad priestly code of the Parsees * Yashts hymn book * Khordah prayer book

Zoroaster taught a higher moral plane, where men attained virtue by good thoughts and conduct rather than by sacrifice. All of a man's good works are actually entered into the book of life as credits, and bad works as debits. If the total score is positive, the soul goes to heaven; if negative, hell. If the balance is close, the soul stays in an intermediate state until the final judgment. Sins could never be washed away, but just balanced out.

Zoroastrianism is a religion that developed in Iran from about the sixth century BC, generally ascribed to Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who was born in Iran '258 years before Alexander.' The date of Zoroaster's birth has been given variously as 6000 BC, 1400 BC, and 1000 BC, but Herzfeld accepts the traditional date, approximately, as now confirmed (Herzfeld, (570 - 500 BC); Jackson, 660 - 583 BC). Accordingly, Zoroaster was contemporary with other great religious personages, including Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tze, and several Hebrew prophets. That Zoroaster used Vedic materials found in early Hinduism can hardly be denied; that he was a polytheist like Darius, Xerxes, and others who were probably Zoroastrians (at least, their inscriptions pay homage to Ahura Mazda) seems most likely.

But Zoroaster was protesting against the false and cruel in religion, and followed the principle, "If the gods do aught shameful, they are not gods." Accordingly, he exalted Ahura Mazda ("wise Lord," often improperly translated "Lord of light") as supreme among the gods or spirits, and viewed the world as an agelong struggle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainy (or Ahramanyus, Ahriman, "Spirit of evil"), both of whom came into existence independently in the distant past. Zoroastrianism is therefore called a dualism, but it is a limited dualism.

Zoroaster calls upon human beings to join in this conflict on the side of Ahura Mazda, the key words of such religion being "good thoughts, good works, good deeds." The ultimate victory of Ahura Mazda, however, was not to be accomplished by human assistance but by the advent of a messiahlike figure, the Saoshyant. The duration of the struggle was to be six thousand years (three thousand had already passed when Zoroaster was born), following which was to be the resurrection and judgment. Many of the details of Zoroastrianism are later developments, some post Christian and even post Mohammedan, and scholars are divided on what elements are to be traced to Zoroaster's own teaching.

Because of the fact that the revelation of the doctrines of resurrection, angels, Satan, and the Messiah comes late in the OT or even in the intertestamental period in early Judaism, scholars have frequently traced these ideas to Zoroastrian influence exerted upon the Jewish people after the Babylonian exile. Moulton examined these points in detail and concluded that they were "not proven." The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has reopened the discussion, due to the presence of marked "Zoroastrian" influences in the Qumran literature. Some of the most striking parallels to Jewish Christian eschatology can be shown to be very late developments in Zoroastrianism. On the other hand, it would not do violence to a high view of inspiration to admit that God could have used Zoroastrianism as a means of stimulating the Jewish mind to think on these subjects even as he used hellenism to prepare the Jewish mind for the Christian revelation (witness Saul of Tarsus). The magi ("wise men") of the birth narrative may have been Zoroastrian priests.

A branch of Zoroastrians is the Parsees, who are fire worshipers. Zoroastrians generally worship natural objects, such as the sun and fire, and of great heroes.

Zoroastrianism Advanced Information

Zoroastrianism is a religion that developed in Iran from about the sixth century B.C., generally ascribed to Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who was born in Iran "258 years before Alexander." The date of Zoroaster's birth has been given variously as 6000 B.C., 1400 B.C., and 1000 B.C., but Herzfeld accepts the traditional date, approximately, as now confirmed (Herzfeld, 570-500 B.C.; Jackson, 660-583 B.C.). Accordingly, Zoroaster was contemporary with other great religious personages, including Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tze, and several Hebrew prophets. That Zoroaster used Vedic materials found in early Hinduism can hardly be denied; that he was a polytheist like Darius, Xerxes, and others who were probably Zoroastrians (at least, their inscriptions pay homage to Ahura Mazda) seems most likely. But Zoroaster was protesting against the false and cruel in religion, and followed the principle, "If the gods do aught shameful, they are not gods." Accordingly, he exalted Ahura Mazda ("wise Lord," often improperly translated "Lord of light") as supreme among the gods or spirits, and viewed the world as an agelong struggle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainy (or Ahramanyus, Ahriman, "Spirit of evil"), both of whom came into existence independently in the distant past. Zoroastrianism is therefore called a dualism, but it is a limited dualism.

Zoroaster calls upon human beings to join in this conflict on the side of Ahura Mazda, the key words of such religion being "good thoughts, good works, good deeds." The ultimate victory of Ahura Mazda, however, was not to be accomplished by human assistance but by the advent of a messiahlike figure, the Saoshyant. The duration of the struggle was to be six thousand years (three thousand had already passed when Zoroaster was born), following which was to be the resurrection and judgment. Many of the details of Zoroastrianism are later developments, some post-Christian and even post-Mohammedan, and scholars are divided on what elements are to be traced to Zoroaster's own teaching.

Because of the fact that the revelation of the doctrines of resurrection, angels, Satan, and the Messiah comes late in the OT or even in the intertestamental period in early Judaism, scholars have frequently traced these ideas to Zoroastrian influence exerted upon the Jewish people after the Babylonian exile. Moulton examined these points in detail and concluded that they were "not proven." The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has reopened the discussion, due to the presence of marked "Zoroastrian" influences in the Qumran literature. Some of the most striking parallels to Jewish-Christian eschatology can be shown to be very late developments in Zoroastrianism. On the other hand, it would not do violence to a high view of inspiration to admit that God could have used Zoroastrianism as a means of stimulating the Jewish mind to think on these subjects even as he used hellenism to prepare the Jewish mind for the Christian revelation (witness Saul of Tarsus). The magi ("wise men") of the birth narrative may have been Zoroastrian priests.


TOPICS: Front Page News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: archaeology; ggg; gods; godsgravesglyphs; history; india; iran; zoroastrianism; zoroastrians

1 posted on 06/25/2005 8:31:31 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.
2 posted on 06/25/2005 8:32:27 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

Bookmark to read later


3 posted on 06/25/2005 8:33:18 PM PDT by steve86
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To: Cronos; Cyrus the Great; F14 Pilot; nuconvert; RunOnDiesel; Reza2004; democracy; Stefania; ...

ping


4 posted on 06/25/2005 8:36:22 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

Very Interesting/ Makes India an intergral part of this fight against Islamofascism.


5 posted on 06/25/2005 8:38:48 PM PDT by marty60
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To: marty60

Zoroastrianism doesn't really have anything to do with India - other than Iranians fled Arab persecution to seek refuge there after the Muslim invasion in 600 A.D. It may be the key to helping remove the radicals in controlling Iran because they are so far out of touch with their history and culture.


6 posted on 06/25/2005 8:42:45 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44
Zoroaster taught a higher moral plane, where men attained virtue by good thoughts and conduct rather than by sacrifice. All of a man's good works are actually entered into the book of life as credits, and bad works as debits. If the total score is positive, the soul goes to heaven; if negative, hell. If the balance is close, the soul stays in an intermediate state until the final judgment. Sins could never be washed away, but just balanced out.

Zoroastrianism is a religion that developed in Iran from about the sixth century BC, generally ascribed to Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who was born in Iran '258 years before Alexander.' The date of Zoroaster's birth has been given variously as 6000 BC, 1400 BC, and 1000 BC, but Herzfeld accepts the traditional date, approximately, as now confirmed (Herzfeld, (570 - 500 BC); Jackson, 660 - 583 BC). Accordingly, Zoroaster was contemporary with other great religious personages, including Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tze, and several Hebrew prophets. That Zoroaster used Vedic materials found in early Hinduism can hardly be denied; that he was a polytheist like Darius, Xerxes, and others who were probably Zoroastrians (at least, their inscriptions pay homage to Ahura Mazda) seems most likely.

7 posted on 06/25/2005 8:47:01 PM PDT by CarrotAndStick (The articles posted by me needn't necessarily reflect my opinion.)
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To: freedom44

historical reference ping

Thanks freedom44


8 posted on 06/25/2005 8:48:57 PM PDT by A message (RINOs and Democrats must be voted out of office for the safety of our nation.)
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To: CarrotAndStick

The Bible on Zoroastrian Cyrus the Great:

God calls King Cyrus of Persia by name before he is even born to serve Him

God Calls King Cyrus by Name
This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. "You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it. Isaiah 45:1-8


9 posted on 06/25/2005 8:50:40 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: marty60; CarrotAndStick

Zoroastrian King Cyrus the Great in the Bible - liberation of 40k Jews:

King Cyrus allows Return of Jews from Iran to Israel
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

"This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "`The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'" 2 Chronicles 36:22-23


10 posted on 06/25/2005 8:51:48 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

As the Iranian people just found out. Nothing will rid Iran of the Islamofascist but force. They are like a plague of locast.


11 posted on 06/25/2005 8:52:54 PM PDT by marty60
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To: blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; StayAt HomeMother; SunkenCiv; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list -- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.

I will ping the GGG list until July 2, 2005, during SunkenCiv's temporary absence from the board.

If you see articles appropriate for the GGG ping list, please ping me.


12 posted on 06/25/2005 8:58:32 PM PDT by FairOpinion
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To: freedom44

Going from this religion to slammism has to be the biggest step downwards in human history.


13 posted on 06/25/2005 9:02:48 PM PDT by tahotdog
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To: freedom44
I see that you are familiar with the tenets of Zoroastrianism. It beats me why the Iranians converted enmasse to Islam. And since the same forces of Islam were as much dominant in Persia as much as it has been in Moghul India, I wonder why there was no mass conversion to Islam in India too. I'd love to hear from you about your views on the same.

The oppressive forces of Islam acting in both India and Persia circa the middle ages were so much similar, yet the outcome is so drastically different. I mean, if there were any people who had reasons to convert, the Indians probably had more, especially in light of the "caste" problem, that so many profess here as a "particularly rampant" problem (I do not disagree casteism is an evil, but differ in opinion with respect to its extent). Anyway, as a pragmatist, I am open for revision of my views.

It is sad that the Persians wrongly saw Islam as means of Deliverance, rather than the other faiths that they must have been aware of around the time.

14 posted on 06/25/2005 9:29:07 PM PDT by CarrotAndStick (The articles posted by me needn't necessarily reflect my opinion.)
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To: FairOpinion

Thanks for picking up the slack.


15 posted on 06/25/2005 9:37:26 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

King Darius prayed to Ahura Mazda for success in his battles with Alexander the Great, who prayed to the Greek gods to grant him victory. History showed us whose gods were stronger.


16 posted on 06/25/2005 9:59:28 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Let us always remember, the Lord is in control.)
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To: Ciexyz

Darius was a monotheist - Greeks believed in many Gods.


17 posted on 06/25/2005 10:06:51 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

Due to the Arabs' invasion of Iran, which was cruel (_See Koran Sura 9 “Al Tauba “ Ayeh 5 and 29 and 123 ) , most Parsis left their own country, and emigrated to India in the ninth century. Even, at present time, if Iranians are asked about Zoroastrians identity, most of them will answer, those people are fire worshipers and like Jews and other pagans and Christians are unclean people ( See Koran Sura 9 Ayeh 28 ).


18 posted on 06/25/2005 10:17:04 PM PDT by satchmodog9 (Murder and weather are our only news)
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To: Ceres

pingalingadingdong!!


19 posted on 06/25/2005 10:21:52 PM PDT by nerdwithamachinegun (All generalizations are wrong.)
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To: freedom44
Darius was a monotheist

Yes, he prayed to Ahura Mazda. Alexander prayed to a pantheon of gods, including new ones he encountered in the territories he conquered.

20 posted on 06/25/2005 10:32:25 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Let us always remember, the Lord is in control.)
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To: freedom44
"Its theology and cosmology may have influenced the development of Greek, later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thought."

It affected Judaism from Babylon, through the Persian, then the Greek, Essenes (Alexandria), Ascetics (last of influence on Jews), then Christians (from the Ascetics--see Eusebius, below) and Islamics to this day. I'm doing quite a bit of study on that.

The Essenes (also probably known as the Therapeutae from Egypt and later as the Ascetics to Roman historians) were not the traditional Sadducees and were quite different from the original Zadok. The Essenes were the 1st Century root of Christianity, although some of their unique beliefs go back to religion in Babylon.

Eusebius (born about 260, CE) was one of those who put the Christian New Testament together during the time of the Emperor Constantine. And he wrote more comments than the following about the Essenes.

Eusebius wrote, in his Ecclesiastical History (History of the Christian Church),
Book II, CHAPTER XVII of
Philo's Account of the Ascetics of Egypt
"But it is highly probable that the works of the ancients, which he says they [the Essenes] had, were the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and probably some expositions of the ancient prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many others of Paul's Epistles."


Read more at New Advent (only source of Eusebius' "History" that I have found on the Net), if you like.

In related research, the translation of the Tanakh to the Greek Septuagint (containing added Hellenisms) in Alexandria is an interesting study. The Pentateuch (from the Torah) contained the fewest errors in translation, but there were many in the rest of the books.
21 posted on 06/25/2005 11:04:29 PM PDT by familyop ("Let us try" sounds better, don't you think? "Essayons" is so...Latin.)
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To: CarrotAndStick
I see that you are familiar with the tenets of Zoroastrianism. It beats me why the Iranians converted enmasse to Islam.

Brute force? It beats me why the Egyptians caved in from practicing Christianity, but weren't they were forced as well? Islam has indeed made huge inroads into India, but did the real jihadis ever penetrate as deeply there as they did elsewhere? Sorry, didn't mean to make this a list a questions, but I am unclear enough on the answers to make a definitive statement.

22 posted on 06/26/2005 5:00:59 AM PDT by DGray (http://nicanfhilidh.blogspot.com)
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To: freedom44

The Three Wise Men in the Bible were Zoroastrian priests.


23 posted on 06/26/2005 5:03:53 AM PDT by Semper Paratus
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To: freedom44

Interesting, educational, adding greater perspective to current events. Thanks for posting.


24 posted on 06/26/2005 5:10:57 AM PDT by PGalt
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To: FairOpinion

it's unlikely that ford's contemporary mazda will achieve victory. (/s)


25 posted on 06/26/2005 7:28:06 AM PDT by ken21 (it takes a village to steal your child + to steal your property! /s)
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To: freedom44

Tnx for posting this. I read a translation I have of the Avesta again as a result. It's not easy without the secret double decoder ring. It seems to say that attitude counts when you are out there trying to grow corn in your field. You should also wash your hands before planting or working with the corn and then all Creation will be happy and your wife will appreciate it, too.


26 posted on 06/26/2005 9:02:08 AM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: Ciexyz
King Darius prayed to Ahura Mazda for success in his battles with Alexander the Great, who prayed to the Greek gods to grant him victory. History showed us whose gods were stronger.

Interesting.

Alexander claimed to be the son of Zeus Ammon, the Greek version of the Egyptian oracle god, Amun. Amun had the horns and legs of a ram; and in the Zoroastrian tradition, was considered to be one of the evil spirits, the eternal rival of the Persian god Ahura Mazda. Ever since, the devil is depicted with ram's legs and horns.


Ammon

Alexander with horns and lion skin

Ammon is probably related to Baal Hammon, or what we now call the Semitic god Baal.
If you want to believe Alexander's defeat of Darius III depended on Baal being "stronger" than Ahura Mazda ... that's your opinion.

I'll put my money on the capture of Tyre and 60,000 Macedonian reinforcements. JMO.

27 posted on 06/26/2005 10:29:13 AM PDT by dread78645 (Sorry Mr. Franklin, We couldn't keep it.)
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To: freedom44

BUMP


28 posted on 06/26/2005 3:28:10 PM PDT by F14 Pilot (Democracy is a process not a product)
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To: dread78645
For the record, I don't believe "the gods" helped Alexander win his battles. I threw in that comment for levity's sake.

Alexander's leadership, his cadre of competent officers, and the esprit de corps he instilled in his soldiers, were the deciding factors.

29 posted on 06/26/2005 9:17:45 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Let us always remember, the Lord is in control.)
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To: freedom44
Zoroastrianism doesn't really have anything to do with India - other than Iranians fled Arab persecution to seek refuge there after the Muslim invasion in 600 A.D

Actually it does -- without the escape to India, Zoroastrianism would be dead. Also the Zoroastrian religion is linked to the ancient Vedic Hindu religion.
30 posted on 06/27/2005 12:51:33 AM PDT by Cronos (Never forget 9/11)
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