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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, who was the founder of Zoroastrianism, was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism. There is no consensus among scholars about the period of life, with the estimated dates of his birth range from 6000 BC to 100 BC. The majority of his life is known through the Avestan texts.

It is also possible that Zoroaster was a purely mythological person or that the writings attributed to him are actually the work of multiple authors who wrote under the same name. All of the details have been lost in antiquity.

In the post-classical era

Zoroaster was known as a sage, magician, and miracle-worker in post-Classical Western culture. Although almost nothing was known of his ideas until the late 18th century, his name was already associated with lost ancient wisdom. However as early as 1643 Sir Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici wrote-

I beleeve, besides Zoroaster, there were divers that writ before Moses (R.M.Part 1:23)

whilst in The Garden of Cyrus of 1658 he speculated-

And if Zoroaster were either Cham,Chus,or Mizraim, they were early proficients thereof....

These statements by Sir Thomas Browne are the earliest recorded references to Zoroaster in the English language.

Zoroaster appears as "Sarastro" in Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte, which has been noted for its Masonic elements, where he represents moral order (cf. Asha) in opposition to the "Queen of the Night."

He is also the subject of the 1749 opera Zoroastre, by Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire promoted research into Zoroastrianism in the belief that it was a form of rational Deism, preferable to Christianity. With the translation of the Avesta by Abraham Anquetil-Duperron, Western scholarship of Zoroastrianism began.

In his seminal work Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (1885) the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche uses the native Iranian name Zarathustra (i.e. the Persian Zarathustra, as opposed to the Greek-Latin name Zoroaster) which has a significant meaning as he had used the familiar Greek-Latin name in his earlier works. In particular that Nietzsche states explicitly, "I must pay tribute to Zarathustra, a Persian (Template:Lang-de): Persians were the first who thought of history in its full entirety." It is believed that Nietzsche creates a characterization of Zarathustra as the mouthpiece for Nietzsche's own ideas against morality. Nietzsche did so because—so says Nietzsche in his autobiographical Ecce Homo (IV/Schicksal.3)—Zarathustra was a moralist ("was the exact reverse of an immoralist") and because "in his teachings alone is truthfulness upheld as the highest virtue." Zarathustra "created" morality in being the first to reveal it, "first to see in the struggle between good and evil the essential wheel in the working of things." Nietzsche sought to overcome the morality of Zarathustra by using the Zarathustrian virtue of truthfulness; thus Nietzsche found it piquant to have his Zarathustra character voice the arguments against morality.

Richard Strauss's Opus 30, inspired by Nietzsche's book, is also called Also sprach Zarathustra. Its opening theme, which corresponds to the book's prologue, was used to score the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Zoroaster was mentioned by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. His wife and he were said to have claimed to have contacted Zoroaster through "automatic writing".

The protagonist and narrator of Gore Vidal's 1981 novel Creation is described to be the grandson of Zoroaster, with whom the narrator has several philosophical discussions and whose death he is a witness of.

Zoroaster mentioned in Don Quixote [1605]: "...in spite of all the black magic possessed by the first inventor Zoroaster..." (p. 398...?)

In chapter CX of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick [1851], the sickly Queequeg is briefly compared to Zoroaster. "An awe that cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who were bystanders when Zoroaster died."

In 1973 Roxy Music released their "Stranded" album with the song "Mother of Pearl" which has lyrical reference to Zarathustra at approximately 3:09 seconds into the song.

See also

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