SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

R190 Introduction to Zoroastrianism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This course is designed for students with little or no knowledge of Zoroastrianism. It provides an overview of the ancient world where the religion took root and the Zoroastrian religious texts, which were in oral transmission for centuries before being committed to writing. The entry of Zoroastrianism into recorded history and the notion of ‘religion and kingship’ are explored within the context of Imperial Iran. The centuries after the Arab conquest of Iran during which time Zoroastrianism was in retreat before Islam are studied with reference to literature that includes the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) books as well as literature in New Persian such as the epic Shahnameh. The exodus of Zoroastrians to India, where they became known as the Parsis, and their growth under British colonial rule is viewed within the framework of a religious minority adapting to the majority religion whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The process of secularisation and modernisation is looked at with reference to the modern Zoroastrian diaspora in Britain, America and Australasia.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to: 

  • Differentiate between oral and written texts
  • Trace an outline of Zoroastrianism in a historical context
  • Discuss Zoroastrianism as both a majority and minority religion
  • Analyse the source materials for the study of the religion.


One  hour lecture, one  hour tutorial

Scope and syllabus

The course prepares students for further studies in subject areas such as oral studies, diaspora and minority studies and colonial studies as well as for the more advanced course offered in Zoroastrianism in second and third years.

Method of assessment

  • One Reaction paper (1500) (40%)
  • Tutorial participation (10%)
  • One Exam (2 hours) (50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules