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MAGI - ZOROASTRIANISM: THE AVESTA

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Author Topic: MAGI - ZOROASTRIANISM: THE AVESTA  (Read 3933 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2007, 01:42:28 pm »


Until it was forbidden in 1970, one of the customs of the Zoroastrians was that they exposed their dead to the birds in "towers of silence" (Dakhmeh). The custom (but not the towers) is described by the Greek author Herodotus of Halicarnassus, and also by Onesicritus, who says that the dead were exposed in "areas surrounded by walls".
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2007, 01:45:42 pm »


There are two towers of silence near Yazd. This is the road to the highest tower.
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2007, 01:49:48 pm »


The final stairs.
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2007, 01:52:37 pm »


And the terrace at the top, where the dead were exposed.
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« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2007, 01:54:58 pm »


And this is the lower tower. For many centuries, these buildings were repaired and rebuilt. It is impossible to state when they were constructed. And even if we were able to establish this date, it does not prove when these places were used for the first time, because it is possible that people were exposed on hilltops unmarked by man-made constructions.
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« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2007, 01:57:37 pm »


What we do know, however, is that the towers of silence are mentioned in the late Sasanian age, and that the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus wrote in the fifth century BCE that the bodies of the Magians (who were not necessarily Zoroastrians) were exposed.
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« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2007, 02:00:17 pm »


The lower tower, seen from the higher one.
It is easy to see that there are several types of brickwork.
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« Reply #22 on: August 22, 2007, 02:03:01 pm »


In these buildings, the bodies of the dead were prepared


http://www.livius.org/a/iran/yazd/yazd.html
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« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2007, 02:11:35 pm »











                                          Herodotus' eighth logos: coups in Persia 




 
The coups of the Magians and Darius (3.61-119, 3.126-141 and 3.150-160)



Note: the eighth and ninth logoi are both divided in two pieces, which are grouped like ABAB.
In the eighth logos, Herodotus tells his most romantic story: the coup d'état of the Magians in March 522. (The Magians were a Median tribe, considered specialists in religious rituals.) One of the Magians looks very much like the murdered prince Smerdis; his name also happens to be Smerdis. This pseudo-Smerdis proclaims himself king; his brother Patizeithes is the mastermind behind the plan. The two manage to gain support from Persia's subjects by a promise to acquit them of their taxes for three years.
 
 
When Cambyses hears from it, he rushes back to Persia, but when he springs into the saddle of his horse, the cap falls of the sheath of his sword and exposes the blade, which pierces his thigh. Herodotus does not fail to stress that this was just the spot where Cambyses had wounded the Apis (see above). Soon, the Persian king dies from gangrene.
 
The Persian elite cannot appreciate pseudo-Smerdis' policy towards the subject peoples, and seven conspirators assemble. Herodotus gives their names as Otanes (a son of the secret agent Prexaspes), Gobryas, Intaphrenes, Hydarnes, Megabyzus, Darius and Aspathines. Before they can strike, Cambyses' secret agent Prexaspes commits suicide, after announcing to the people of Susa (one of the capitals of the Achaemenid empire) the truth about king Smerdis. The population of the city is restless. This is the moment the seven have been waiting for, and they kill the two Magians. Next, there is a debate about the future constitution of the Achaemenid empire. The seven decide that Persia has to stay a monarchy, and choose Darius as their king.

The new shah divides the country into twenty satrapies (districts); Herodotus knows all their names and what kind of tribute they have to pay to the great king. The Indian satrapy gives Herodotus an opportunity to describe this country, including the gold-digging ants he believes to live there. There is a very entertaining digression on the edges of the earth (text).

Herodotus also informs us about the fall of Intaphrenes, one of the seven conspirators (go here for the story), and tells us about the Persian recapture of the rebellious city of Babylon. Zopyrus, son of the conspirator Megabyzus, cuts off his own ears and nose, and defects to the beleaguered city, saying that he was punished by Darius and that he wants to help the Babylonians. These entrust their army to him, but he opens the gates and lets the Persians in.
 
   

Persian soldier,  from Susa
 (Louvre, Paris)
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« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2007, 02:20:35 pm »





Comment


The narrative about this double coup does not sound very convincing, but we can corroborate Herodotus' story, because the same story is told in Darius' Behistun inscription. The main difference is that in Darius' story there is only one Magian, named Gaumâta, who seizes power and has himself called Bardiya (sections 10-15). Herodotus' duplication must be due to a misunderstanding of this man's title: Patizeithes is the Greek form of patikhšayathya or 'governor'. Probably, he heard about the patikhšayathya who called himself Bardiya, and erroneously thought that there were two men involved.
From the inscription, we know that Bardiya/Smerdis seized power on March 11, 522 BCE, that Cambyses died in July in Syria, hurrying home to suppress the rebellion, that there was a conspiracy of seven noblemen, who killed the false king on September 29. A point of some interest is the resemblance of the names of the conspirators, who are mentioned in section 68 of the Behistun inscription.

FOR THE BEHISTUN INSCRIPTION GO HERE"
http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php/topic,2799.0.html




  Herodotus' names Persian names



Otanes, son of Pharnaspes Utâna, son of Thukra

Gobryas, father of Mardonius Gaubaruva, son of Marduniya

Intaphrenes Vindafarna, son of Vayâspâra

Hydarnes Vidarna, son of Bagâbigna

Megabyzus Bagabuxša, son of Dâtuvahya

Darius Dârayavauš

Aspathines Ardumaniš, son of Vakauka

   
 


Darius. Relief from the
northern stairs of the Apadana
at Persepolis (Archaeological
museum, Tehran)




This means that Herodotus has only one name wrong: instead of Ardumaniš he mentions Aspathines. We may assume that the mistake was made by Herodotus' Persian spokesman: Aspaçânâ was a very important courtier.

The list of satrapies closely resembles comparable documents from ancient Persia, the Empire lists (e.g., section 6 of the Behistun inscription, the inscription on Darius' grave and the Daiva inscription by Xerxes - go here for a comparison of these texts). There are some minor inconsistencies, however, which cannot be explained.

The story about Zopyrus ending the revolt of Babylon is unlikely to be true in its present form, although comparison with section 32 of the Behistun inscription makes it clear that this type of mutilation was not uncommon. Probably, the story is inspired by Homer's description of Odysseus, who was able to spy in Troy after mutilating himself (Odyssey 4.240-246). No Zopyrus is known from Babylonian cuneiform texts.

The Behistun inscription also informs us about two rebellions in Babylon, one under Nidintu-Bęl, who assumed the throne name Nebuchadnezzar, and one under the Armenian Arakha, who assumed the same name. The first of these two rebels revolted on 3 October 522 and was captured by Darius on  18 December; the second rebel ruled from 25 August 521 until 27 November and was defeated by Hydarnes, one of the seven conspirators. In the same period, there were two rebellions in Elam, one in Sagartia, one in Margiana, one in Persia, and one in Media (mentioned briefly by Herodotus, who does not mention that Darius' father Hystaspes was one of the Persian commanders in this theater of operations).


Literature

Andrew R. Burn, Persia and the Greeks. The Defence of the West, c.546-478 B.C. (1962 London) pages 81-104
Albrecht Dihle, 'Arabien und Indien' in: Hérodote et les peuples non Grecs. Neuf exposés suivis de discussions (Entretiens sur l' Antiquité classique, tome XXV) (1990 Genčve), pages 41-67


http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/logos3_08.html
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« Reply #25 on: August 22, 2007, 02:41:50 pm »


PYTHAGORAS
Musei Capitolini, Roma




 

 PYTHAGORAS OF SAMOS (c.570-c.480):




Almost legendary Greek philosopher.

Like his older contemporary Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras of Samos was looking for a first cause, but their approach was different. Thales was thinking of something concrete, water; Pythagoras, on the other hand, believed in a more abstract approach - numerals.

According to legend, Pythagoras left his country and studied with the wise men of Egypt, but was taken captive when the Persian king Cambyses invaded the country of the Nile (525).

He now became a student of the Chaldaeans of Babylon and the Magians of Persia. Some even say that he visited the Indian Brahmans, because Pythagoras believed in reincarnation, but this is almost certainly impossible, although he may have met Indian sages at the court of the Persian king Darius I the Great.

At the end of the sixth century, Pythagoras lived in southern Italy, where he founded a community of philosophers. In his view, our world was governed by numbers, and was therefore essentially harmonious. It is very difficult to know more about the philosophy of Pythagoras.
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« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2007, 02:51:40 pm »


There are several Achaemenid royal tombs. Four of them have been discovered at Naqš-i Rustam, two at Persepolis. The four tombs at Naqš-i Rustam belong to Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I Makrocheir, and Darius II Nothus.
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« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2007, 02:55:40 pm »


The water basin seen in the previous photograph, just at the entrance of the low wall in front of
 the entrance to  the tombs.

The Greek historian Alexander the Great, the author of a book on Arrian of Nicomedia, and the Persepolis fortification tablets mention that Magians sacrificed for the spirit of the deceased king, and water may have been useful.


http://www.livius.org/a/iran/persepolis/tombs/arta_ii.html
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« Reply #28 on: August 22, 2007, 03:04:14 pm »


The second man behind the great king has a turban that can be identified as the cap of one of the Magians, the sacrificial specialists of the Persian empire.

He is probably the Masmoghân, the chief Magian and supreme religious leader of ancient Iran, who had, according to a very late tradition, his residence in Rhagae. The lower part of the turban can be put before the mouth, so that the Magian did not pollute the sacred fire with his breath.

From the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the Avesta, we know that the felt turban is called pâdam.



http://www.livius.org/a/iran/persepolis/apadana-northstairs-relief/apadana-northstairs-relief2.html
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« Reply #29 on: August 22, 2007, 03:16:31 pm »



Athenian author Xenophon (c.430-c.355), who visited the Achaemenid Empire in 401, calls the Magians experts 'in everything religious' (Cyropaedia 8.3.11). He also knows that the Magians sing hymns to the rising sun and all known gods (8.1.23).

But our most important Greek source is Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c.480-c.425). In his Histories, he mentions the Magians several times, usually in connection with sacrifices.


MAGI SACRIFICING


Other instances where Herodotus mentions the Magians as sacrificers are 7.43 (libations at Troy), 7.113 (a sacrifice of white horses) and 7.191 (bloody offerings to sea gods). As we will see below, the sacrificial practice is also attested in Persian sources.

Herodotus also mentions the Magians as interpreters of omens (7.37) and dreams (1.107, 1.108, 1.120, 1.128, 7.19). Although the combination of expertise on the subjects of sacrifice and dreams/omens is not unusual in the ancient Near East, our Persian sources do not confirm that the Magians were active in the second capacity. This may, however, be due to the nature of these Persian sources: administrative texts.

Herodotus also mentions two other customs.
There is a Persian practice concerning the burial of the dead, which is not spoken of openly and is something of a mystery: it is that a male Persian is never buried until the body has been torn by a bird or a dog. I know for certain that the Magians have this custom, for they are quite open about it. The Persians in general, however, cover a body with wax and then bury it.

The Magians not only kill anything, except dogs and men, with their own hands but make a special point in doing so; ants, snakes, animals, birds - no matter what, they kill them indiscriminately. Well, it is an ancient custom, so let them keep it.


[ Herodotus, Histories 1.140; tr. Aubrey de S�lincourt ]


The existence of the burial custom can be corroborated. In later times, the Zoroastrians, the adherents of the prophet Zarathustra, exposed their dead to the vultures in large edifices called 'towers of silence'. (As we will see below, the Magians were Zoroastrians.) The killing of animals may have taken place near the fire altars, which had to remain ritually pure.
http://www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/images/magi_sacrificing.jpg
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