Monday, October 24, 2011


» The Name Zoroaster, Zarathushtra, Zarathustra
» Etymology of the Name Zoroaster, Zarathushtra, Zarathustra - Speculations
» Zoroaster - His Life & Work
» Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi
» Images of Zoroaster / Zarathushtra / Zarathustra

The Name Zoroaster, Zarathushtra or Zarathustra

Zarathushtra (Zaraϑuštra) is the original name of the founder of the Zoroastrian (Zarathushtrian) religion as it is found in the Zoroastrian / Zarathushtrian scriptures, the Avesta. [ϑ=th, and š=sh]

The spelling Zarathustra (ustra instead of ushtra) is often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche's, book Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinenin known to English speakers as Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Zoroaster is the Western / English version of the name derived from the Greek version Ζωροάστρης, transcribed in English with diacritics as Zōroastrēs. This version of the name is found in the 5th century BCE Hellenic works of Xanthus of Lydia's (mid 5th Cent. BCE) Lydiaca (Fragment 32) and in Plato's (429–347 BCE) First Alcibiades (122a1 - See our post, Alcibiades, Plato and Some Amazing Insights. Other Greek texts use a variety of forms such as Zoroastris, Zoroastrou, Zaratos, and Zoroastren when transcribed into plain English. (Also see our blog, Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi.)

Quoting the authority of Ctesias, Diodorus Siculus (1st cent. BCE) in his Library of History 1.94.2 written in the reign of Augustus, uses the name Zathraustes, a name closer to the original Avestan Zarathushtra than the more commonly used Greek version Zoroastres. In his account, Diodorus states that Zarathushtra/Zoroaster was an Arian/Aryan and a native of east Iran.

The name Zoroaster is prevalent in Western English texts since it is Greek (and now English) texts that were the primary European record of the individual, his religion and his philosophy.

Images of Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster

There are no surviving images of Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster. The images in use today are modern-day artists' impression. We do not at this time have information on the artists who have created the images shown on this page below.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 1
with a halo (khoreh) gazing upwards- a popular art form
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 2
Radiant halo
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 3
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 4
without halo
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 5
Carpet image. Image credit: Iranica
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 6
with staff.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 7
with staff. Note the pattern on the draping end of the waist band.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 8
with bull-head mace, the varza (Middle Persian, gurz),
a shorter version of which can sometimes be seen
in the inner sanctum of fire temples.
The varza is also carried by priests in their installation ceremonies.
Rock relief  sculpture at Taq-e Bostan, Iran showing investiture of
Sasanian / Sassanian King Ardeshir II.
The identity of the figure standing to the far left with a radiant halo and
holding a barsom  is the subject of much speculation.
It is in all likelihood the high priest of the magi presiding over the ceremony.
The details of the clothing have been reproduced in later portraits of
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster as in the image below
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 9
The style from the Tagh-e Bostan rock sculpture above
is used in this image. The barsom  bundle has been replaced by a staff.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 10
In this image, we see an orb either held in the left hand
or at the head of the staff.
The enigmatic orb appears to emit a flame.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 12
In this image the staff is varza, a bull-head mace.
The stance with one finger pointing upwards is sometimes
taken to signify Zarathushtra's teaching of one God.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 12
This image has the Zoroastrian creed
humata, hukhta, havarashtra,
good thoughts, good words, good deeds
added in English
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 13
Humata, Hukta, Havarshta,
Good thoughts, good words, good deeds in Gujarati
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 14
A possible western depiction as a sage and arch-magus (head Zoroastrian priest).
Here we see a fire-chalice held in the right hand.
Zarathushtra / Zarathustra / Zoroaster 15
A quintessential image seen in Zoroastrian homes and places of worship.
The image shows Zarathushtra on the right and an individual often called
Kay Lohrasp on the left. Kay Lohrasp was a legendary Kayanian king and
the father of King Vishtasp (a name later evolved as Gushtasp), the patron king
of Zoroastrianism who adopted Zarathushtra's teachings. Kay (Kai) Lohrasp
abdicated his throne in order to devote himself to spiritual advancement
(the act of gofe-nashin and kinareh-kush,
a retiring to a contemplative repose - an introspective and meditative retreat).
He is sometimes known as Saheb Mithra (later Meher). Mithra / Meher / Mehr
is the guardian of the covenant, accord, kindness and friendship.
(A neighbourhood fire-temple is also called a Dar-e Mehr, the Door of Mehr.)
Kay Lohrasp is seen wearing a tradition dress of mobeds, Zoroastrian priests,
the magi. Note the position of his hands. This hand position is commonly seen
in Achaemenian era motifs. The stone sculptures and motifs are those found in
Persepolis, the Achaemenian era (c.700-330 BCE) capital of Persia.
The legendary Kayanian era far preceded the Achaemenian era.
Kay Lohrasp holds a bow while Zarathushtra holds a varza or bull-head mace.
Weapons are sometimes hung on the walls of the inner sanctum, the fire sanctuary
in Zoroastrian fire-temples. This author sees in them an ancient custom to be
prepared to defend the fire against invaders and those who seek to desecrate the
sacred fire and everything it symbolizes. According to tradition,
Zarathushtra was killed by invading Turanian soldiers while tending a fire.
A Parsi  / Parsee (Indian Zoroastrian) Priest c.1800s?
Compare the position of the position of the hand to that  of
Kay Lohrasp in the image above.
Zoroastrian procession during Jashne Sadeh celebrations in Kerman, Iran
January 2011. Compare the waist design of the priests' garments with
the design on  Zarathushtra's clothing in the images above.
Photo credit: Mehr at Payvand Iran News.