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Zoroastrianism: History, Religion, and Belief

SOAS University of London via FutureLearn


Delve into the rich visual history of the Zoroastrian religion

Zoroastrianism has had a profound influence on major world religions. Its history tells the story of imperial culture, persecution, migration and the establishment of diasporic communities.

Utilising a rich visual repository of artifacts, paintings, and texts, this four-week course will take you through the story of Zoroastrian religion, history, and culture.

The course draws inspiration from an exhibition titled ‘The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination’, as well as the book of the same name.

Discover the fire at the centre of this ancient religion

You’ll start by looking at the teachings of the Zoroastrian faith to understand where it sits in the context of world religions. You’ll then explore the religion’s history, from antiquity to present day.

Fire is a supreme symbol of Zoroastrianism and is central to the religion’s doctrine, ritual, and observance. You’ll learn how to link this idea to everyday devotional life and care for the planet.

Explore the challenges facing Zoroastrian communities

Today, this ancient religion is in retreat, with numbers diminishing and the language becoming endangered.

On this course, you’ll examine the challenges the community faces and connect them to historical events to build a larger picture of the religion.

Finally, you’ll look at the religion’s ancient language, Avestan, which is key to understanding Zoroastrian texts, myths, and legends.

Learn from the experts at SOAS University of London

SOAS has a long history of teaching and research on the subject of Zoroastrianism, together with the languages, both ancient and modern, that support it.

As the only institution to have two endowed posts in Zoroastrianism, SOAS is uniquely positioned to guide you through the history and challenges of this ancient religion.

This course is designed for anyone interested in ancient religions - both ancient and living - specifically Zoroastrian religious traditions and its languages. It will also appeal to anyone interested in Iranian Studies or South Asian Studies.

Members of the Zoroastrian community worldwide will find this course particularly useful.


  • Who was Zarathushtra and what did he teach?
    • Welcome to the course
    • Introducing Zarathushtra
    • Teachings, the Gathas
    • Teachings: Creation and the doctrine of the Amesha Spentas
  • Historical Perspectives: Iran
    • The central act of priestly worship: Yasna
    • The Ancient World and the Achaemenid Empire
    • The Parthian and Sasanian Empires
    • After the Arab conquest of Iran
  • Historical Perspectives: India
    • Influence of Zoroastrian religious thought on world religions
    • Journey from Iran and early settlement in India
    • Devotional life and rites of passage
    • Challenges facing Zoroastrians today
  • Language week - Avestan
    • Introduction
    • Let's start with letters!
    • An Avestan text: the victory of Zaraϑuštra over the demons
    • Review
    • An Avestan stanza explained

Taught by

Sarah Stewart


4.6 rating at FutureLearn based on 109 ratings

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