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and its ideas. We should lose much in losing our positive knowledge of its history ; but if all the books were gone, the tablets of the human heart would remain, and on these would be written the everlasting Gospel of Jesus, in living letters which no years could efface and no changes conceal.
ZOROASTER AND THE ZEND AVESTA.
§ 1. Ruins of the Palace of Xerxes at Persepolis. § 2. Greek Accounts
of Zoroaster. Plutarch’s Description of his Religion. $ 3. Anquetil du Perron and his Discovery of the Zend Avesta. § 4. Epoch of Zoroaster. What do we know of him ? $ 5. Spirit of Zoroaster and of his Religion. $ 6. Character of the Zend Avesta. § 7. Later Development of the System in the Bundehesch. $ 8. Relation of the Religion of the Zend Avesta to that of the Vedas. 9. Is Monotheism or pure Dualism the Doctrine taught in the Zend Avesta ? § 10. Relation of this System to Christianity. The Kingdom of Heaven.
§ 1. Ruins of the Palace of Xerxes at Persepolis. In
the southwestern part of Persia is the lovely valley
of Schiraz, in the province of Farsistan, which is the ancient Persis. Through the long spring and summer the plains are covered with flowers, the air is laden with perfume, and the melody of birds, winds, and waters fills the ear. The fields are covered with grain, which ripens in May; the grapes, apricots, and peaches are finer than those of Europe. The nightingale (or bulbul) sings more sweetly than elsewhere, and the rose-bush, the national emblem of Persia, grows to the size of a tree, and is weighed down by its luxuriant blossoms. The beauty of this region, and the loveliness of the women of Schiraz awakened the genius of Hafiz and of Saadi, the two great lyric poets of the East, both of whom resided here.
At one extremity of this valley, in the hollow of a crescent formed by rocky hills, thirty miles northwest of Schiraz, stands an immense platform, fifty feet high above the plain, hewn partly out of the mountain itself, and partly built up with gray marble blocks from twenty to sixty feet long, so nicely fitted together that the joints can scarcely be detected. This platform is about fourteen hundred feet long by nine hundred broad, and its faces front the four quarters of the heavens. You rise from the plain by flights of marble steps, so broad and easy that a procession on horseback could ascend them. By these you reach a landing, where stand as sentinels two colossal figures sculptured from great blocks of marble. The one horn in the forehead seems to Heeren to indicate the Unicorn; the mighty limbs, whose muscles are carved with the precision of the Grecian chisel, induced Sir Robert Porter to believe that they represented the sacred bulls of the Magian religion ; while the solemn, halfhuman repose of the features suggests some symbolic and supernatural meaning. Passing these sentinels, who have kept their solitary watch for centuries, you ascend by other flights of steps to the top of the terrace. There stand, lonely and beautiful, a few gigantic columns, whose lofty fluted shafts and elegantly carved capitals belong to an unknown order of architecture. Fifty or sixty feet high, twelve or fifteen feet in circumference, they, with a multitude of others, once supported the roof of cedar, now fallen, whose beams stretched from capital to capital, and which protected the assembled multitudes from the hot sun of Southern Asia. Along the noble upper stairway are carved rows of figures, which seem to be ascending by your side. They represent warriors, courtiers, captives, men of every nation, among whom may be easily distinguished the negro from the centre of Africa. Inscriptions abound, in that strange arrow-headed or wedge-shaped character, one of the most ancient and difficult of all, which, after long baffling the learning of Europe, has at last begun yielded to the science and acuteness of the present century. One of the inscriptions copied from these walls was read by Grotefend as follows
“Darius the King, King of Kings, son of Hystaspes, successor of the Ruler of the World, Djemchid.”
“Xerxes the King, King of Kings, son of Darius the King, successor of the Ruler of the World.”
More recently, other inscriptions have been deciphered,
one of which is thus given by another German Orientalist, Benfey :-*
“Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd) is a mighty God; who has created the earth, the heaven, and men; who has given glory to men ; who has made Xerxes king, the ruler of many. 1, Xerxes, King of Kings, king of the earth near and far, son of Darius, an Achæmenid. What I have done here, and what I have done elsewhere, I have done by the grace
of Ahura-Mazda.” In another place :
“ Artaxerxes the King has declared that this great work is done by me. May Ahura-Mazda and Mithra protect me, my building, and my people.” +
Here, then, was the palace of Darius and his successors, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, famous for their conquests, some of which are recorded on these walls,
- who carried their victorious arms into India on the east, Syria and Asia Minor on the west, but even more famous for being defeated at Marathon and Thermopylæ. By the side of these columns sat the great kings of Persia, giving audience to ambassadors from distant lands. Here, perhaps, sat Cyrus himself, the founder of the Persian monarchy, and issued orders to rebuild Jerusalem. Here the son of Xerxes, the Ahasuerus of Scripture, may have brought from Susa the fair Esther. For this is the famous Persepolis, and on those loftier platforms, where only ruinous heaps of stones now remain, stood that other palace, which Alexander burned in his intoxication three hundred and thirty years before Christ. “Solitary in their situation, peculiar in their character,” says Heeren, “these ruins rise above the deluge of years which has overwhelmed all the records of human grandeur around them, and buried all traces of Susa and Babylon. Their venerable antiquity and majestic proportions do not more command our reverence, than the mystery which involves their construction awakens the curiosity of the most unobservant spectator. Pillars which belong to no known order of architecture, inscriptions in an alphabet which continues an enigma, fabulous animals which stand as guards at the entrance, the multiplicity of allegorical figures which decorate the walls, - all conspire to carry us back to ages of the most remote antiquity, over which the traditions of the East shed a doubtful and wavering light.”
* Die Persischen Keilinscriften. (Leipzig, 1847.) See also the account of the inscription at Behistun, in Lenormant's “Manual of Ancient History.”
+ Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies. -Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums, B. II. — Heeren, The Persians. — Fergusson, Illustrated HandBook of Architecture. Creuzer, Schriften. See also the works of OpJsert, Hinks, Menant, and Lassen.
Diodorus Siculus says that at Persepolis, on the face of the mountain, were the tombs of the kings of Persia, and that the coffins had to be lifted up to them along the wall of rock by cords. And Ctesias tells us that “ Darius, the son of Hystaspes, had a tomb prepared for himself in the double mountain during his lifetime, and that his parents were drawn up with cords to see it, but fell and were killed." These very tombs are still to be seen on the face of the mountain behind the ruins. The figures of the kings are carved over them. One stands before an altar on which a fire is burning. A ball representing the sun is above the altar. Over the effigy of the king hangs in the air a winged half-length figure in fainter lines, and resembling him. In other places he is seen contending with a winged animal like a griffin.
All this points at the great Iranic religion, the religion of Persia and its monarchs for many centuries, the religion of which Zoroaster was the great prophet, and the Avesta the sacred book. The king, as servant of Ormazd, is worshipping the fire and the sun, -symbols of the god; he resists the impure griffin, the creature of Ahriman; and the half-length figure over his head is the surest evidence of the religion of Zoroaster. For, according to the Avesta, every created being has its archetype or Fereuer (Ferver, Fravashis), which is its ideal essence, first created by the thought of Ormazd. Even Ormazd himself has his Fravashis,* and these angelic
* Vendidad, Fargard, XIX. - XLVI. Spiegel, translated into Englisb by Bleek.