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Russell, James R. (1982) Zoroastrianism in Armenia. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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From the time of the conquest of Assyria and Urartu by the Medes to the fall of the Sasanian Empire to the Muslim Arabs some thirteen centuries later, Armenian culture developed under the religious, political and linguistic influence of various Iranian empires. For most of this period the dominant religion of the Iranians was Zoroastrianism, and there exists abundant evidence to show that this religion was practised also by the Armenians from the time of the Achaemenians. The religion waned in Armenia following the conversion of the Armenian Arsacid king Tiridates III to Christianity early in the fourth century, and most information on the earlier faith must be culled from hostile Armenian Christian texts of the fifth century and later. Like the Zoroastrians of Iran, the ancient Armenians believed in a supreme God, Ahura Mazda (Arm. Aramazd), the Creator of all that is good, who is assisted by supernatural beings of His own creation, by good men and by His good creatures against the separate, uncreated Evil Spirit (Av. Angra Mainyu, Arm. Arhmn, Haramani) and its demonic hosts and destructive assaults. Armenian texts contain names, theological terms and references to rituals and usages, most often loan-words from Middle Iranian, which enable us to reconstruct a picture of pre-Christian Armenian religious life and thought similar to that provided by Zoroastrian sources in Iran. Non-Zoroastrian customs and divinities from ancient Urartu, Asia Minor and the Semitic world may also be found in Armenia, but frequently such elements were also incorporated into Iranian Zoroastrianism. It is argued that the prevailing view of Armenian religion before Christianity as merely syncretistic is therefore inaccurate, and that the Armenians practised a form of Zoroastrianism that differed from that of Pars or other Iranian lands, only in as much as the various national Churches of Christianity today maintain divers local traditions. The Armenians opposed the iconoclastic and other reforms instituted by Ardesir I and his successors; and the Armenian Zoroastrians, isolated from the great mass of their co-religionists, suffered further setbacks with the conversion of their countrymen to Christianity. Yet the ancient religion survived in folk custom, in certain celebrations of the Armenian Church, and through the sect of the Children of the Sun, down to recent times.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:11

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