SOAS University of London

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

Text and Context in Zoroastrianism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course will examine a range of Zoroastrian literature from ancient to modern times and of different genres. Texts that will be read include the Older and Younger Avesta, Old and Middle Persian inscriptions, the Pahlavi literature and modern Zoroastrian interpretations of the ancient teachings. Moreover, the course includes outside perceptions of Zoroastrianism from ancient Greek, Roman and Islamic times as well as modern travellers.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim of this course is to give MA students of religions a clear understanding of the docterine and history of Zoroastrianism in a way that will enable them to establish interconnections with other courses that they are taking. 

On completion of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the teachings and history of Zoroastrianism;
    support their argument with references to primary sources;
  • asses critically divergent views put forward by different scholars;
  • reconstruct larger doctrinal and historical contexts on the basis of the texts studied.

Students will be expected to demonstrate this understanding by the completion of pieces of course work and by the ability to respond to unseen questions.

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 3,000 word essays. Assessment: three hour exam 50%, essays 50%.

Suggested reading

  • M. Boyce, Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism. Manchester:
    University Press, 1984.
  • N.K. Firby, European Travellers and their Perceptions of Zoroastrians in
    the 17th and 18th centuries
    . Berlin 1988.
  • W.W. Malandra, An Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion. Readings from
    the Avesta and the Achaeme­nid inscriptions
    . Minneapolis: University of
    Minnesota Press, 1983.
  • R.C. Zaehner, The Teachings of the Magi. London: Sheldon Press, 1975 (a
    particularly readable introduction to Pahlavi literature).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules