Journal of history of Iran)

Document Type : Research Paper


Shahid Beheshti University


In Darius’ royal inscription in the Behistun, Persian great god, Aurammazdā plays a proactive role. Accordingly, Aurammazdā’s name is one of the most occurred words in the inscription. In other words, we can presume him as patron god of Darius, royal dynasty, and most importantly legitimizing god of Achaemenid rule. Preeminence of Aurammazdā in the Behistun inscription contradicts with his relative insignificance in other contemporary sources. Generally, attributing such a role to Aurammazdā, has been justified by the assumption that Achaemenids were Zoroastrian or they borrowing such concept from Avestan texts. Nonetheless, comparing religious elements in the Achaemenid inscription and old Avestan texts demonstrates fundamental differences in their religious practices. Therefore, question of the origin of Aurammazdā in the Persian religion and the reason for assigning such an important role to Aurammazdā in the Behistun must be reviewed form a different perspective other than Achaemenids being Zoroastrians. Significance of such a question is that it can offer a reevaluation of the mechanism of Achaemenid political ideology. Present paper aims to investigate the origin of Persian Aurammazdā and the cause of its elevation in the Behistun inscription by reviewing Achaemenid contemporary sources containing information regarding Persian religion. In this study, evaluation and comparison of Achaemenid inscriptions, old Indo-Iranian texts and other sources suggest that Persian religion was probably a sort of pre-Zoroastrian Mazdaism, in which Aurammazdā was worshiped only as sky god. As a matter of fact, rise of Aurammazdā and its elevation as omnipotent god which occurs in the Behistun inscription for the first time, was established by Darius to solve the crisis of legitimacy for his reign, so that he, lacking any conclusive hereditary right to succession, could present his accession to kingship as an act of divine favor. Furthermore, it seems such an image of Aurammazdā is an adaptation of Mesopotamian political propaganda in which such an approach to divine has been practiced since time immemorial.


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