Persian Ideology > Persian Religion

Persian Religion


The religion of the Achaemenid Empire, known as Zoroastrianism, played a significant role in shaping the culture, ideology, and governance of the empire. Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran, possibly around the 6th century BCE. Zoroastrianism is based on the teachings of Zoroaster, who preached a monotheistic worldview centered on the worship of Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity associated with truth, light, and goodness.

Zoroastrianism posits a dualistic worldview, with Ahura Mazda representing the forces of good and Angra Mainyu (or Ahriman) representing the forces of evil. Humans are called upon to choose between these two opposing forces through their thoughts, words, and deeds. Fire holds special significance in Zoroastrianism, symbolizing purity, light, and the presence of Ahura Mazda. Sacred fires were tended by priests known as Magi and were central to Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies.

Influence on the Achaemenid Empire

Zoroastrianism was the official religion of the Achaemenid Empire and enjoyed royal patronage from the Achaemenid kings. The Achaemenid kings, including Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, promoted Zoroastrianism as part of their royal ideology, associating themselves with Ahura Mazda and portraying themselves as agents of divine order and justice. While Zoroastrianism was the state religion, the Achaemenid Empire practiced religious tolerance, allowing subjects to freely practice their own religions. This policy contributed to the diverse religious landscape of the empire, which included followers of Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and other religious traditions.

Religious Practices

Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies were performed by priests known as Magi and included offerings, prayers, and rituals involving fire. Zoroastrianism prescribed specific funerary practices, such as exposure of the dead to scavenger birds (a practice known as "sky burial"), to prevent contamination of the elements by corpses. With the spread of Islam and the Arab conquest of Persia in the 7th century CE, Zoroastrianism declined in influence, and many Zoroastrians converted to Islam. However, Zoroastrianism continued to be practiced by a minority of Iranians, particularly in remote regions such as Yazd and Kerman.


Zoroastrianism has left a lasting impact on Persian culture, language, and identity, shaping literature, art, and religious practices throughout Iran's history. Elements of Zoroastrian symbolism and ideology, such as the struggle between good and evil and the concept of divine justice, continue to resonate in Overall, Zoroastrianism played a central role in the Achaemenid Empire, serving as the official religion and influencing its culture, governance, and worldview. Its legacy endures in the cultural heritage of Iran and the wider Persian-speaking world.

Persian Ideology

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