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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



 Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices by Mary Boyce (Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices: Routledge) (Hardcover) 'It answers a real need among students of religion in general, and those of Iranian religions in particular, for a coherent, well-reasoned and readable work on the development of Zoroastrian beliefs and practices throughout centuries ... It is not often that a book is informative, original and so eminently enjoyable all at the same time.'- Ehsan Yarshater, Journal of Asian History

Zoroastrianism is of enormous importance in the history of religions. It can be traced back to a remote, possibly even Indo-European, past. This element links Zoroastrianism with the beliefs of ancient (Vedic) India, and survives as a subor­dinate part of what is one of the earliest revealed religions. Zoroaster's teachings have, moreover, a highly spiritual and ethical content, which makes them a deeply rewarding subject for study.

This book, now re-issued with a new introduction by Mary Boyce, traces the continuous history of the faith from the time it was preached by Zoroaster down to the present day - a span of about 3,500 years. First taught among nomads on the Asian steppes, Zoroastrianism became the state religion of the three great Iranian empires and had a remarkable influence on other world faiths: to the east on northern Buddhism; to the west on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. With the conquest of Iran by the Muslim Arabs, Zoroastrianism lost its secular power but continues to survive as a minority faith. Despite its antiquity, it remains, therefore, a living religion.

Mary Boyce is Professor Emerita of Iranian Studies at the University of London and is the author of a number of works on Zoroastrianism and Manichaenism. Cover photo: Zoroastrian initiation ceremony in Bombay.

Zoroastrianism edited by Mary Boyce (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing) is the least well know yet one of the most important and fascinating of the world religions. Deriving from very ancient sources, in its rich traditions and worship Zoroastrianism has preserved many immensely archaic forms, dating back to a period earlier, even, than its own founding. Although the number of present-day adherents has shrunk to relatively small dimensions, in its time this faith exerted a profound influence on the development of Western religion. Including selections from original texts, historical detail, as well as thoughtful analysis, this work introduces the reader to Zoroastrian tradition, doctrines, and writings and traces their development down to modern times.

A History of Zoroastrianism: The Early Period by Mary Boyce (Brill Academic) and A History of Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism Under Macedonian and Roman Rule by Mary Boyce (Brill Academic) traces the history of Zoroastrianism at times and places where its existence has previously been largely ignored, or treated only episodically. Literary, archaeological and numismatic evidence has been drawn on (some of it only recently brought to light), and local developments are distinguished. In Iran itself some 200 years of Macedonian rule had little effect on the national religion. To the east, Zoroastrianism survived in the Greco-Bactrian kingdoms and under Mauryan suzereinty, where it came into contact with Buddhism. In Eastern Mediterranean lands it was maintained by Iranian expatriates well down into Roman imperial times. They adopted Greek for their written tongue, and Zoroastrian doctrines thus became known in the Greco-Roman world. Study is made accordingly of Zoroastrian contributions to Hellenistic thought, and to Judaism, Christianity and Mithraism; and an excursus provides a thorough reassessment of the Zoroastrian pseudepigrapha.

A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism by Mary Boyce (University Press of America) Published originally in 1977 by Oxford University Press, this book contains the fruits of a year spent by the author in the Zoroastrian village of Sharifibad in Iran. What is recorded sheds new light on many Zoroastrian customs and ceremonies, and these in their turn illumine the beliefs of Zoroastrianism, which is not only the oldest but also the most influential of the revealed religions of the world, having contributed greatly to later Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Contents: "The Village of the Two "Cathedral Fires"; The Worship of Ohrmazd and the Creations; Some Individual Rites of Piety and Charity; Sacred Fires and Empty Shrines; The Laws and Rites of Purity; Death and the Mysteries of the Dog; The Spring New Year and the Hundredth-Day Feast; Some Rites of Expiation and Comfort for the Living and the Dead; The Festivals of All Souls and the Religious New Year." Co-published with the Persian Heritage Foundation.

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