The Hymns of Zoroaster

Un libro in lingua di West M. L. (INT) edito da Tauris Academic Studies, 2010

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Zoroaster- or Zarathushtra, as he was called in Old Avestan---was one of the greatest and most radical religious reformers in the history of the world. The faith that he founded some 2600 years ago in a remote region of central Asia flourished to become the state religion and guiding philosophy of the Persian Empire. Zoroastrianism is still practised today in parts of India and Iran and in smaller communities elsewhere, where its adherents are known as Parsis. It has the distinction of being one of the most ancient of living religions in the world, older than Christianity, Buddhism or Islam, and predating even what can properly be called Judaism; only Hinduism may lay claim to comparable antiquity.

The foundation texts of this venerable system of belief are Zoroaster's passionate poems, known as the Gathas (`Songs'), and a short ritual composed soon after his death, the Liturgy in Seven Chapters. The hymns are the authentic utterances of a religious leader whose thought was far ahead of his time, and are among the most precious legacies of civilization. Here, across the immense abyss of time, the force of Zoroaster's intellect and the intense fervour of his revolutionary message still speak to us through his own words, conveying an impressively austere theology and an inspiring and easily understood moral code. The Seven Chapters, the first testament of the earliest Zoroastrian community, give the impression of a vibrant new faith ringing out in a fresh and hopeful young world.

Existing translations of these texts are few, divergent in their interpretations of Zoroaster's original Avestan language, and mostly hard to access. M. L. West's new translation, based on the best modern scholarship and augmented by a substantial introduction and by explanations of each poem, makes these powerfully resonant documents available to a wide audience in clear and accessible form.

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