There are a number of approaches to dating Zarathushtras time, which are
presented below. These are:
Based on Persian mythology, mainly the Shahnameh Ferdowsi, and other
mythic stories passed down the generations.
Based on Greek mythic stories, mainly alluded to at the time of Plato.
These stories generally date Zarathushtra some millennia before the fall of Troy and the
Archeological & Philological
These approaches generally look at the various archeological excavations
and try to find references to Zarathushtra and Zoroastrianism. Others use a philological
approach to compare the Gathas with the Rig Vedas, since Sanskrit and Gathic languages are
the offshoots of the same mother language. One other fact taken into account is the Aryan
migration from the northern lands towards the Persian plateau and the Indian
sub-continent. While these approaches are not accurate in placing an exact date, perhaps
they can be considered the best approximations that can be obtained.
These scholars generally try to compare the social aspects of life during
Zarathushtra (as can be deducted from the Gathas) and compare it with the first accurately
known times, namely, the Achaemenian era, and then place a date.
The Pahlavi of the Bundahishn, one of the Zoroastrian scripture written
around the time of the Arab conquest of Persia, (either in the Sassanian era, or after the
Arab attack), states that Zarathushtra was born in 588 BC, stating that this was 258 years
before Alexanders conquest of Persia.
Some scholars have adopted other methods and generally come up with post Achaemenian
dates, which are now proven to be inaccurate.
The following table presents a fairly detailed map of some of the scholarly attempts at
fixing the date of Zarathushtra.
||Manly Palmer hall Twelve World Teachers
||H.S. Spencer The Aryan Encyclopedia
||J.K Katrak based on Shahnameh Ferdowsi
||Xanthus of Lydia (5th century BC)
||Eudoxus & Plinus quoting Aristotle, 6000 years
before Plato (4th century BC)
||Hermodorus (3rd century BC)
||Hormazdyar Mirza Outlines of Parsi History
||Kavosji & Bharucha
||Firouz Azargoshasb Chicago lecture 1981
||Asgarov based on excavations in Uzbekistan, 1984
||Based on Rig Veda and Aryan migration 1700-1500 BC
||Hippel & Lassen
||Zabih Behrooz Through various astrological techniques
||J. Ashtiyani based on the age of the Gathas and the Rig Veda
||Mills (first 900 BC, later changed to 1500 BC)
||Mary Boyce A History of Zoroastrianism, 1989
||Thomas Burrow based on Farvardin Yasht & other post
Zarathushtra scripture plus Aryan migration, 1973
||Shapur Shahbazi based on post Alexandra Persian
||Pour Davoud The Age of Zarathushtra, Journal of
KR Cama Institute, 1935
||B.C. Hummel based on Assyrian inscriptions &
||Lommel based on Egyptian papyri
||Dastur M.N. Dhalla history of Zoroastrianism,
||Rudolph and Duncker,
Geldner and Jackson
||Gherardo Gnoli based on the difference between
the Gathic and Achaemenian societies
||Bartholomae and Widengren
||E.W. West Pahlavi Text, part 5, Oxford, 1897
||W.B. Henning Zoroaster, Oxford, 1947
||Herzfeld - Zoroaster and his World, Princeton, 1947
||Anquetil du Perron Zend Avesta, Paris 1971
||Bundahishn traditional date, based on the Bundahishn, related to
the date of Alexander's conquest of Persia
||H.S. Nyberg Die Religionen des Alten Iran, 1938
F.A. Bode, Songs of Zarathushtra
It is important to be able to determine when and where Zarathushtra lived, since we
will then be able to consider his life and choices in the context of his environment and
the socio-economic structure of his time. However, from a spiritual point of view, the
important issue is to understand and practice his teachings.
© Shahriar Shahriari
December 6, 1997
Information presented in the table above are extracted from:
- Manly Palmer Halls book, Twelve World Teachers
- Sarosh J.H. Manekshaws article, The Date of Zarathushtra, 1997 and
- Dr. Daryoush Jahanians article, Zarathushtras Time and Homeland, 1997.
[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Next ]