59: Holy War

An Old Persian copy of the Daiva Inscription discovered at Persepolis, via Livius.org

Early in Xerxes’ reign, an infamous and dramatic story of religious conflict was inscribed at Persepolis. When Xerxes became king he put down a rebellion, but in the process encountered a community dedicated to a god or gods he considered false and immoral. As consequence he destroyed their sanctuary and worshiped Ahura Mazda in their place.
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In The Words of Zarathustra

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Episode 45: Xerxes Porphyrogennetos

The Tomb of Darius (top left), the upper register of Darius’ tomb (bottom left), and a possible relief of Xerxes (right) via Wikimedia Commons

In 486 BCE, Darius the Great died and passed the Persian Empire on to his son, Xerxes. With plans to invade Greece in development, and Egypt in open revolt, the Achaemenid house had to pause and deal with the succession. Darius became the first king entombed at Naqsh e Rostam while Xerxes competed with his elder half-brother for power.
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Episode 44: Also Sprach Zarathustra

This is the second part of the two-part discussion on the life and times of Zoroaster. This time, I discuss the Zoroastrian conception of reality and how it is portrayed in the Gathas as well as the legacy of Zarathustra in Zoroastrianism, Iran, and Europe.
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Zoroastrianism: An Introduction by Jenny Rose

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Episode 43: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Zoroaster as depicted in a 19th-century sketch from a Parsi Community in India via Wikimedia Commons

By audience demand, we’re headed back in time. Before wrapping up the reign of Darius, it’s time to look back to the bronze age and talk about Zarathustra Spitama, the prophet more often known in the west as Zoroaster. This is the first of a two part series on the life and teachings of Zoroaster, as presented in the Gathas – 5 hymns to Ahura Mazda believed to be composed by Zoroaster himself.
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Episode 21: The Faith of the Magi

An Achaemenid relief of two magi bringing sacrifices and torches to what may be a tomb or temple doorway from Dascylium. via Livius

After all that business with Gaumata that Magos, I figured we had time to keep talking about magi. This episode explores the religious developments and beliefs in Persia during the Achaemenid period. I’m focusing on Zoroastrianism, but also discussing how naming a religion like that for the ancient Persians is harder than it might seem.
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Episode 14: Princes, Princesses, Kings, and Queens

Bardiya/Smerdis (left) and Cambyses (right) as depicted in the 15th century by William Caxton.

The narrative lurches forward again with a discussion of the new cast, so to speak. Meet Cambyses, Atossa, Bardiya, Artystone, and Roxane: the children of Cyrus the Great and the new royal family of the Persian Empire. This time I’m breaking down marriage customs, inheritance rights, and political training. Or to put that another way: incest, dividing the empire, and the next round of political power plays. Cyrus the Great is gone, and his empire would never be quite the same again. 

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Episode 12: Iranian Religion

Artists depiction of Zoroaster, founder and prophet of Zoroastrianism, in Yazd, Iran. Image credit: Msanta20 via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

It’s time to introduce religion into the mix, starting with the origins and background of ancient Iranian traditions in general, and then narrowing in on the most famous and significant: Zoroastrianism. This episode explores the traditions and gods of the Indo-European steppe peoples as they migrated and became the Iranians, Persians and Medes included. I’ll also discuss the reforms and doctrines of the ancient prophet Zoroaster who established a religion centered around a single supreme god, Ahura Mazda.

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