R490 Zoroastrianism in the Ancient and Modern Worlds

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

The overall aim of the course is to introduce students to Zoroastrianism - its doctrines, rituals and observances within a historical framework. The teachings of the religion will be discussed on the basis of the Zoroastrian sacred text, in particular the Avesta and Pahlavi literature, in the context of the Indo-Iranian religious system from which the religion emerged. The history of Zoroastrianism will be traced from its prehistoric roots in Indo-Iranian times through its development under the rule of three great Iranian empires, Achaemenian, Parthian and Sasanian, its gradual development into a minority religion after the Muslim conquest of Iran, the subsequent migration and re-settlement of a diaspora community in India, and from there up to the present day. Theological developments and issues of the contemporary communities will be treated within this historical context with particular reference to Zoroastrian literature. The modern history and adaptation of the religion in different cultural environments will be looked at mainly with reference to the Parsis in India, and the global Diaspora in such places as Britain, Canada and the USA.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:demonstrate good essay writing practice and bibliographic referencing with regard to a topic relating to Zoroastrianism

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the teachings, history and contemporary issues in relation to Zoroastrianism
  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, and show originality in tackling and solving problems relating to Zoroastrianism
  • use and evaluate primary and secondary sources for the study of Zoroastrianism and critically asses divergent interpretations put forward by different scholars
  • develop an argument on a relevant topic and support it with reference to primary and secondary sources
  • understand how the boundaries of knowledge of Zoroastrianism are advanced through research


1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar over 40 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • Essay, 1000 words (30%)
  • Essay, 2000 words (50%)
  • Concept paper, 300 words (10%)
  • Seminar participation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • M. Boyce, “Zoroastrianism”. In: J.R. Hinnells (ed.), A new handbook of living religions. London-New York etc.: Penguin, 1997, 236–260.
  • Peter Clark, Zoroastrianism. Introduction to an Ancient Faith. Sussex: Academic Press, 1998.
  • Gh. Gnoli, “Zarathusthra”, “Zoroastrianism”. In: M. Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Religion. London/New York: Macmillan, vol. 15, 1987, pp. 556–559 and 579–591.
  • J.R. Hinnells, Zoroastrianism and the Parsis. London: Ward Lock Educational, 1981 (reprint Bombay: Zoroastrian Studies, 1996).
  • J.R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology. London : Hamlyn, 1975.
  • J. Rose, Zoroastrianism. An Introduction. London-New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.
  • Stausberg, M.: Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism: A Short Introduction. Translated by M. Preisler-Weller, with a postscript by Anders Hultgård. London: Equinox, 2008.


Almut Hintze


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules