In Search of Zarathustra
A review of In Search of Zarathustra by Paul Kriwaczek (Vintage 2003)
Reviewed by David Miller
(Reviewed June 2013)
This is a history book written by a journalist who uncovers the hidden side of religion throughout the ages. So it reads like a detective novel. He is tracing the effect on the world's spiritual beliefs of the prophet Zarathustra, whom we know via the ancient Greeks as Zoroaster (circa 1400 BC).
Zoroastrianism became the religion of the ancient Persian and Parthian Empires. Their modern-day remnant are the Parsees. According to modern scholarship (Boyce, et al), Zoroastrianism is the origin of the major concepts of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). However, Kriwaczek narrows its influence to the 'heresies' within those religions.
My second quibble with the author is that he ignores the older religion that Zoroaster reformed. Originating above the northern reaches of the Caspian Sea, the Indo-Iranian Aryans swept across the Iranian plateau and, in the sixteenth century BC, mounted a chariot-led invasion of India. The religion they carried into India eventually became the Vedic, out of which grew Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Meanwhile, the Aryans invaded Asia Minor (Hittites, 2400 BC) and Middle East (Mitanni, 1575 BC). According to the beliefs of earlier historians, the Aryans, in the form of the Indo-Europeans, spread across Europe (Celts, Teutons, Greeks and Latins). Halloween is all that remains of their primeval religion in Europe.