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Plunkett 4

Tierney, 6th
World History
The Fall of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a great world religionor at least it was. Zoroastrianism was the
largest religion of its time, so why has the great practice of Zoroastrianism declined? A
poll was taken by Evan Plunkett at Austin Global Studies. The studies shows three
freshmen knew about Zoroastrianism, and zero sophomores knew about Zoroastrianism
before the small mention in the unit taught on the Ancient Persian Empire. So where did
this religion go? Did it just vanish off the face of the earth?
Zoroastrianism was the dominating religion of the Ancient Persian Empire which
spanned from 550BC-330BC (Littell 96) Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster.
Hence the name Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was a prophet of North East Iran, and he did
not believe the religious ways of his culture which were early Hinduism beliefs. The
religion practiced polytheism and animal sacrifices. He was against both. When
Zoroaster was thirty years old he had a divine vision of God and his Amesha Spentas
during a ritual purification rite. This vision radically transformed his view of the world,
and he tried to teach this view to others (Zoroaster, BBC Religions). The people of
Zoroastrianism were taught of two religious armies fighting for the possession of the
human soul. The god of truth and light, Ahura Mazda, leads one army. The god of evil
and darkness, Ahriman, leads the other (Littell 96). Zoroaster stressed the army the
people chose to worship is what determines that person's fate. The holy text of
Zoroastrianism is the Avesta, which can be broken down into two sections: young Avesta,
old Avesta. With great power came despair with Zoroastrianism which once held many
members started to rapidly decline.
At its height, almost the entire Persian Empire practiced Zoroastrianism. Now,
about 190,000 Zoroastrians practice the religion. With such a decline, it brings up the
question: why did Zoroastrianism decline from the stature it used to have? The first part
of Time World's theory is migration. Migration out of Iran started when the Persian
Empire began to fall due to the conquests of Alexander the Great. As his armies spread
across Europe and Asia, the Zoroastrians had to either adapt to or accept the new cultures.
This leads into the second part of the theory: forced conversions. As the new cultures of
the Greek Gods, Islam, and later Christianity, the Zoroastrians would adapt to the culture
or be destroyed. The majority of the conversions were to Islam, because of the Muslims
conquest of Iran which led to the end of the Sasanian Empire in 651 and the eventual
decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Iran (Humphreys 180). The final point in the
theory is oppression. This is referring to all of the conquerers of Persia (Alexander,
Muslims of Arabia, etc.). All of these points have supporting evidence and proof, but
there is still one question left unanswered. If Zoroastrianism was once the world's largest
religion, why do American students barely know about Zoroastrianism when they have a
much greater understanding of other great religions such as Islam when it also originates
from outside of America?

Unlike Zoroastrianism, Islam spread very quickly outside of its home soil.
Zoroastrianism on the other hand stayed within the Persian Empire. The reason
Zoroastrianism was once the largest religion, is because the Persian Empire was the
largest and most powerful empire of all. The reason for the empire's great size is how
accepting they were to other religions and cultures, including the people they conquered.
This allowed Islamic people and culture inside of Persia, so later they had the power to
defeat Persia and take over the land. When Persia fell, Zoroastrianism did not spread any
further thus isolating the religion inside of Islamic ground. Most of the people converted
because they liked the beliefs and benefits that Islam had to offer. While the numbers of
Zoroastrians began to dramatically fall, Islam remained strong and spread further into
Europe. Because Islam covered much more ground than Zoroastrianism, more people
learned about it, which led knowledge all the way back to the American students.
Zoroastrianism was definitely the greatest religion of its time, but only its time.
The great practice and beliefs have been nearly eliminated, and the people with
knowledge of this religion is decreasing as well. It is all because of migration, forced
conversions, centuries of oppression, and let us not forget isolation that caused the end of
Zoroastrianism's golden age. But even though the American students have learned little to
nothing about this religion, it will still hold some historic value in other parts of the

Guzder, Deena. The Last of the Zoroastrians. 2008. Time World. November 2013.,8599,1864931,00.html
Littel, McDougal. Persian Religion. 2003. HMHCO. November, 2013.
Zoroaster. 2009. BBC Religions. November, 2013.
Humphreys, Stephen. 180. 1999. November, 2013.