Zarathustra and Iranian Culture (Revised)

The following is a 19-part  Persian-language video documentary by Akbar Moarefi/ اکبر معارفی on the influence of Zoroastrianism on Iranian culture and other world civilizations and religions. An earlier 8-part version of this series had been released over a year ago on December 28th, 2010. 

This documentary is a thorough study linking Zoroastrianism to the wider Persianate world in the pre-Islamic (i.e Scythians (Saka), Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanians, etc.) and the post-Islamic (i.e. Safavids) eras.  Note the interesting references to topics such as Mithraism and Cyrus the Great.  


 Part 1: Introduction

-قسمت اول – مقدمه-


 Part 2: From Nietzsche to Mani

-قسمت دوم – از نیچه تا مانی-


 Part 3: Religion of Light

-قسمت سوم – دین نور-


 Part 4: From Mani to Scythians

قسمت چهارم – از مانی تا سکاها


 Part 5: From Scythians to Goths

قسمت پنجم – از سکاها تا گاتها


Part 6: Hun Invasion  and Expansion of Mithraism

قسمت ششم – حمله هون ها و گسترش آئین میترا


Part 7: Mithraism and Semitic Religions

قسمت هفتم – آئین میترا و ادیان سامی


 Part 8: Birth of Cyrus

قسمت هشتم – تولد کورش


 Part 9: Rule of Cyrus Begins

قسمت نهم – آغاز حکومت کورش


Part 10: Conquest of Lydia

قسمت دهم – تسخیر لیدی

Part 11: Conquest of Babylon

قسمت یازدهم – تسخیر بابل 

Part 12: Religious Tolerance in Iranian Culture

-قسمت دوازدهم – رواداری یا تسامح دینی در فرهنگ ایرانی-

Part 13: Free Will and Determinism

قسمت سیزدهم – جبر و اختیار

Part 14 – Iranian Values (1)

قسمت چهاردهم: ارزشهای ایرانی ۱

Part 15: Rejection of Misogynist Culture

قسمت پانزدهم- نفی فرهنگ زن ستیزی


Part 16: Rejection of Priesthood

قسمت شانزدهم: نفی روحانیت

Part 17:  State Religion and its Outcome

قسمت هفدهم: دولتی شدن دین و نتایج آن

Part 18: Competing Roles of the Magi

قسمت هجدهم: نقش دوگانه مغان

Part 19: Religious State and its Outcome

قسمت نوزدهم: دولت دینی و نتایج آن


Professor Marie Louise Chaumont: Queen Boran (Poorandokht)


The article below is by Professor Marie Louise Chaumont. This originally appeared in the CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) venue. The CAIS site is hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav. Note that the article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia Iranica.


BŌRĀN (Pers. Pōrān, Pūrān, Pūrāndoxt), Sasanian queen, daughter of Xosrow II (r. 590, 591-628). There are extant coins of Bōrān dated from the first, second, and third years of her reign (de Morgan, p. 329, fig. 418; Göbl, pls. XII, XV). She ascended the throne in the year that ran from 17 June 629 to 16 June 630, according to Sebēos (p. 28, tr. p. 89) in the spring of 630 following the murder of the usurper Šahrvarāz, though she was not the wife of the latter; rather, she must have been the widow of Kavād II Šērōē/Šīrūya (r. 628; Anonymous Syriac Chronicle, ed. Guidi, p. 30, tr. p. 26).

[Click on image to enlarge] A reconstruction of the late Sassanians at Shiz (Takht e Suleiman in Azarbaijan, northwest Iran) by Kaveh Farrokh (painting by the late Angus Mcbride) in Elite Sassanian Cavalry. To the left rides a chief Mobed (a top-ranking Zoroastrain priest or Magus), General Shahrbaraz (lit. “Boar of the realm”) is situated in the center and Queen Boran (Poorandokht) leads to the right.

Some authors place her reign at one year and four months, others at one year and six months; Sebēos (p. 28, tr. p. 90) puts it at two years. In fact, Bōrān probably died in the autumn of 631 (cf. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 433), in the third calendar year of a reign that cannot have exceeded a year and a half. According to the Anonymous Syriac Chronicle (loc. cit.) and the Chronicle of Seert (II/2, p. 259), she was strangled. The Chronicle of Seert gives the name of her murderer as Pērōz, general of the Persian army.


Late Sassanian coin depicting a portrait of Queen Boran (also Poorandokht or Pooran). Note Zoroastrian symbols at back of coin.

According to Tabarī (I, p. 1064; Nöldeke, pp. 390ff.), she elevated Fosfarrūkh, the author of the plot against Šahrvarāz, to the post of vizier (i.e. wuzurg-framadār). According to a different tradition, she is supposed to have put Farroḵ-Hormozd, Prince of Ādurbādagān, in charge of the government (Sebēos, loc. cit.). The major event of her reign was the dispatch of an embassy to Emperor Heraclius, led by the catholicos Išo’yab III and other dignitaries of the Persian church (Anonymous Syriac Chronicle, loc. cit.; Chronicle of Seert II/2, p. 237). This mission had as its purpose to resolve several matters at issue between the two powers: In particular, it is supposed to have resulted in the restoration of the True Cross to Heraclius; in fact, the cross had already been restored by Kavād II in 629 (cf. Nöldeke, p. 392 n. 1).


M. Alram, in Iranisches Personennamenbuch IV, p. 213. Anonymous Syriac Chronicle, ed. I. Guidi, CSCO 1-2, Scriptores Syri III/4, Leuven, 1903. Chronicle of Seert, ed. A. Scher, Histoire nestorienne (Chronique de Séert) II/2, in Patrologia Orientalis XIII, 1919. Dīnavarī, ed. Guirgass, pp. 116ff. 

P. Gignoux, in Iranisches Personennamenbuch II/2, 1986, p. II/58. 

R. Göbl, Sassanidische Numis­matik, Braunschweig, 1968. Justi, Namenbuch, p. 70 (q.v. for different explanations of her name in the sources). J. Labourt, Le christianisme dans l’Empire perse, Paris, 1904, pp. 242f. 

M. I. Mochiri, Etude de numismatique iranienne sous les Sassanides II, Teh­ran, 1977, p. 518. 

J. de Morgan, Manuel de numisma­tique orientale de l’Antiquité et du Moyen Age I, Paris, 1923-36. Sebēos, Sebēosi episkoposi i Herakln, ed. K. Patkanian, St. Petersburg, 1879; tr. F. Macler, Histoire d’Héraclius par l’évêque Sébêos, Paris, 1904.

Reconstruction of the Face of a 5000-year old Woman in Iran

The face of a 5000 year old Iranian woman has been recently reconstructed with the latest scientific archaeology methods of by Iranian researchers (see Persian-languiage article sourced from Tabnak News-see also English-language posting in Afarensis: Anthropology, Evolution & Science) .


Reconstruction of 5000 year-old woman found at the “Burnt City”. Her face was reconstructed with the latest technology available to anthropologists, paleontologists and forensic experts. She is believed to have been of the ancient city’s upper crust and served as a priestess during her lifetime. The lady is also notable due to the artificial eye that was discovered, still  lodged in the eye socket of her skull after thousands of years.

Maryam Tabeshian of the Cultural Heritage News Agency of Iran (December 10, 2006 had previously noted of researchers having excavated a 4,800-5000 year-old artificial eye along with a skeleton and other findings from the Burnt City (located near the city of Zahedan in Iran’s Seistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast of Iran).


Skeleton of a young woman from the Burnt City. Note artificial eye in the eye socket of the skull.

The site of the Burnt City has also yielded numerous interesting finds including an ancient measuring ruler, backgammon game pieces and an animation device.  Researchers have ascertained that the artifical eye belonged to a woman aged 25-30 who hailed from a higher echolon of the local society at the Burnt City. 


Ancient dices discovered at the Burnt-City. At present experts are (a) attempting to determine why the game was played with sixty pieces and (b) working to decode the rules of the game. Iranians call Backgammon “Takht-e Nard”.

Interestingly, the woman’s gravesite has also yielded vessels of clay, a leather bag, a mirror of bronze and various other ornaments. Professor Michael Harris, a specialist in the field of optometry at the University of California at Berkeley, has stated that:

It’s unlikely such attention and effort would have been paid to a commoner…She may have been a member of a royal family or an otherwise wealthy individual.”

Prosthetics were of course known in the ancient era with references made to an artificial eye of gold in Hebrew texts (Yer. Ned. 41c; comp. Yer. Sanh. 13c). The prosthetic found in Iran however is different in that it is evidence of the oldest attempt at making this as “realistic” as possible. Professor Mansur Sayyed-Sajadi, who supervised the excavation, has stated: 

At first glance, it seems natural tar mixed with animal fat has been used in making [the eye]…whoever made the eye likely used a fine golden wire, thinner than half a millimeter, to draw even the most delicate eye capillaries…”



A curious feature of the “eye” are parallel lines that have been drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape.

Two holes at the sides of the “eye” helped hold it in iplace.  The eye socket of the woman however appears to have developed an abscess as a result fo constant contact with the prosthetic.



Further tests are being conducted in iran to determine the exact chemical composition of the prosthetic.



Below is the original Persian-languiage article sourced from Tabnak News.

بازسازی چهره زن 5 هزار ساله ایرانی

چهره این زن ایرانی که 5 هزار سال پیش در شهر سوخته زندگی می کرده و صاحب قدیمی ترین چشم مصنوعی جهان است، در موزه ملی هنر شرقی در رم با حضور حمید بقایی، معاون رئیس جمهور و رئیس سازمان میراث فرهنگی کشورمان و سید محمد علی حسینی، سفیر ایران در ایتالیا، به نمایش درآمد. محققان ایرانی و ایتالیایی، چهره اسکلت کشف شده متعلق به یک زن را که در شهر باستانی سوخته در استان سیستان و بلوچستان ایران کشف شد، بازسازی کردند.به گزارش واحد مرکزی خبر از رم، چهره این زن ایرانی که 5 هزار سال پیش در شهر سوخته زندگی می کرده و صاحب قدیمی ترین چشم مصنوعی جهان است، در موزه ملی هنر شرقی در رم با حضور حمید بقایی، معاون رئیس جمهور و رئیس سازمان میراث فرهنگی کشورمان و سید محمد علی حسینی، سفیر ایران در ایتالیا، به نمایش درآمد.بقایی دراین باره به خبرنگار واحد مرکزی خبر گفت: این یکی از بزرگترین دستاوردهای علمی است که نشان می دهد ایرانیان در 5 هزار سال پیش، از تکنیک های مختلف پزشکی استفاده می کرده اند، منجمله ساخت یک چشم مصنوعی برای یک زن 30 ساله ایرانی که برای تزئین آن از مفتول های طلا به قطر نصف موی سر انسان به جای مویرگ ها استفاده شده است.پروفسور لورنزوکوستانتینی، رییس آزمایشگاه بیو باستان شناسی موزه ملی هنر شرقی رم ومجری این طرح نیز با بیان اینکه بازسازی چهره صاحب قدیمی ترین چشم مصنوعی جهان با استفاده ازجدیدترین علوم جنایی و پردازش های رایانه ای تحقق یافته، گفت : بازسازی چهره این زن ایرانی که اسکلت وی در کاوشهای باستان شناسی شهر سوخته کشف شده، حاصل کار مشترک محققان ایرانی و ایتالیایی است و بدون همکاری کارشناسان ایرانی تحقق این طرح امکان پذیر نبود.کوستانتینی گفت: دکتر سید منصور سجادی سرپرست هیات باستانشناسی شهر سوخته ومرکز فوق تخصصی چشم پزشکی نور در ایران سهم بسزایی را در تحقق این طرح بر عهده دارند


Science Daily Report: Lost Civilization under the Persian Gulf?

The article below was originally posted on the The Science Daily on December 8, 2010. The version printed on is essentially the same with minor edits.

Before proceeding to reading the Science Daily article, readers are invited to watch the video (narrated in Persian) which notes of the citation of “Golfo Persico” (Persian Gulf) on the walls of Rome’s Colosseum:

خليج فارس دو هزار سال پيش در ديوار روم هم ثبت شده

The ancient Colosseum of Rome has maps of the ancient world in which the name of Golfo Persico (Persian Gulf) in mentioned. Rome’s citizens would have recognized the body of water as the Golfo Persico.


Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist and researcher with the University of Birmingham in the U.K., says that the area in and around this “Persian Gulf Oasis” may have been host to humans for over 100,000 years before it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean around 8,000 years ago. Rose’s hypothesis introduces a “new and substantial cast of characters” to the human history of the Near East, and suggests that humans may have established permanent settlements in the region thousands of years before current migration models suppose.


Antique map of the Persian Gulf posted by the Science Daily (Credit: iStockphoto/Chad McDermott)

In recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf dating to about 7,500 years ago. Rose said:

Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight…“These settlements boast well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world.”

But how could such highly developed settlements pop up so quickly, with no precursor populations to be found in the archaeological record? Rose believes that evidence of those preceding populations is missing because it’s under the Persian Gulf. Rose further averred:

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago…These new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean.”

Historical sea level data show that, prior to the flood, the Persian Gulf basin would have been above water beginning about 75,000 years ago. And it would have been an ideal refuge from the harsh deserts surrounding it, with fresh water supplied by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Wadi Baton Rivers, as well as by underground springs. When conditions were at their driest in the surrounding hinterlands, the Gulf Oasis would have been at its largest in terms of exposed land area. At its peak, the exposed basin would have been about the size of Great Britain, Rose says.

Evidence is also emerging that modern humans could have been in the region even before the oasis was above water. Recently discovered archaeological sites in Yemen and Oman have yielded a stone tool style that is distinct from the East African tradition. That raises the possibility that humans were established on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula beginning as far back as 100,000 years ago or more, Rose says. That is far earlier than the estimates generated by several recent migration models, which place the first successful migration into Arabia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. Rose notes that:

The Persian Gulf Oasis would have been available to these early migrants, and would have provided “a sanctuary throughout the Ice Ages when much of the region was rendered uninhabitable due to hyperaridity…The presence of human groups in the oasis fundamentally alters our understanding of human emergence and cultural evolution in the ancient Near East.”

It also hints that vital pieces of the human evolutionary puzzle may be hidden in the depths of the Persian Gulf.

Protest to US Navy for Incorrect use of Terminology for the Persian Gulf


The letter below has been sent to the Honorable Robert M. Gates (Secretary of Defense, 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20301-1000). was first informed of this matter by the Pasargard Heritage Foudnation.


Dear Secretary Gates,

This letter has been drafted to protest against the US Navy’s decision to rename the Persian Gulf by another historically and legally non-recognized name in its Official style guide .


The “A” section of the US Navy Style Guide.

The “P” section of the US Navy Style Guide instructs that:

Persian Gulf – use Ar…n Gulf. “Gulf” is acceptable in second reference. Note: The Arabian Sea is its own body of water and should not be confused with references to the Ar….n Gulf.

Your decision is in direct violation of the directives and decisions of the United Nations. Kindly note the Editorial Directive (ST/CS/SER.A/29/Add.2) issued by the Office of the Secretariat of the United Nations on August 18, 1994 regarding UN Editorial Directive ST/CS-SER.A/29 – the scan of the original socument has been inserted in this document further below for your reference. 

The Editorial Directive (ST/CS/SER.A/29/Add.2 makes claar that:

Attention is one again drawn to Editoral Directive ST/CS-SER.A/29 and Corr.1 and Add.1 on the use of the term “Persian Gulf”. The purpose of the present addendum is to urge that care be taken to ensure the appropriate use of this term in documents, publications and statements prepared by the Secretariat. The full term “Persian Gulf” should be used in every case instead of the shorter term “Gulf” , including in repetitions of the term after its initial use in a text.

May I humbly ask why the US Navy directive has chosen to violate the UN Secretariat? Put simply, your directive or “Action Note”  is illegal in the strict international sense.

If the staff of the US Navy are hoping to pander to the pan-Arabist nationalist sentiments of the local Arab sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf states for political expediancy, then the following facts must be highlighted.

 The term “Ar..Gulf” has no historical basis. There are simply no Greco-Roman references to the Persian Gulf by any other name. But even more importantly, Islamic and Arab historical sources also refer to the Persian Gulf by its proper name.

Below is a map of the Persian Gulf which was published bt the government of Saudi Arabia in 1955.


Saudi Arabian map of 1955 which displays the correct name of the Persian Gulf. Attempts to revise the name of the Persian Gulf are based on political motives.

The only reference to “Ar.. Gulf” is found with respect to the Red Sea of antiquity (e.g  see Herodotus’ “Histories”). Despite politicized attempts at re-writing history, the United Nations has twice recognized the legality of the term “Persian Gulf” (UNAD 311/March 5, 1971 and UNLA 45.8.2 (c) on August 10, 1984). It is significant that all Arab countries (including Iraq, Egypt and Abu Dhabi) have signed both of these documents.

The reasoning of the United Nations is simple: current political issues cannot be mobilized to re-write history. Such methods are reminscent of the historical revisionism of the Communists of the former Soviet Union who often revised history books and terminology to service short-term economic and political goals.

It is here where I would like to share with you my correspondence with the Honorable Russ Germain of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2002. I had humbly noted to him of the correct historical designation and legality of the term Persian Gulf. I have attached the image of that e-mail for your reference below:

Note the following excerpt from the above message from Russ Germain of the CBC:

“Often our wire services including Reuters, Associated Press and Canadian Press will use the term Ar…n Gulf…this does not necessarily make the name correct…but serves in large part to show the broad acceptance of a successful public relations campaign undertaken in the name of geopolitical interests.”

Another item of interest is the Medal issued by the US Navy for its servicemen and servicewomen in 1992 – this clearly identifies the name Persian Gulf:

Medal issued by the US navy in 1992 – note the term “Persian Gulf” is clearly displayed. This was first reported by the Talkhnegar Blogspot.

The decision of your US Navy Office to resort to historical revisionism suggests the implication of political and economic motives. I am however fully confident that your distinguished service will steer tiself away from what Russ Germain describes as “”geopolitical interests“. On these important notes, I humbly invite you to adhere to the guidelines established by the United Nations and the international community.

Your attention to this matter is indeed appreciated.

Yours Truly & Sincerely,

 Kaveh Farrokh (PhD)