Zoroastrianism in Armenia

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Persian Armenia during the Sassanid Empire, AD 428–646

Zoroastrianism in Armenia dates back as far as to the fifth-century BC, notably during the Achaemenian and Parthian periods in the Armenian Highlands. Prior to Armenia's Christianisation, it was a predominantly Zoroastrian-adhering land.[1]


A number of Zoroastrian fire-altars had been discovered in Christian sanctuaries in Armenia.[2] In various parts of Armenia, Zoroastrianism lingered on for several centuries even after the official adoption of Christianity. The Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, under which Armenia eventually would become a Christian nation, were pious Zoroastrians who invoked Mithra as the lord of covenants, as is proper.[3] An episode which illustrates the Armenian Arsacids their observance of the cult is the famous journey of Tiridates I to Rome in A.D. 65-66. The same aforementioned Tiridates I, brother of Vologases I of Parthia and founder of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, was a Zoroastrian magus or priest.[4][5]

In A.D. 53 the Parthian Arsacid dynasty came into Armenia, the king, Trdat I, is thought to have done a great amount to spread Zoroastrianism in Armenia.[6] According to J. Russel, Zurvanism was the form of Zoroastrianism under Yazdagrird II (438-57), which he promoted in Persian Armenia.[7]

The Armenian month names show influence of the Zoroastrian calendar.

An Armenian Christian source, according to which an Zurvanite proselytizer, Mihr-Narseh, spoke of the words openly:

Reports indicate that there were Zoroastrian Armenians in Armenia until the 1920s.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boyce, Mary. Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Psychology Press, 2001 ISBN 0415239028 p 84
  2. ^ Zoroastrianism in fifth-century Armenia - Solomon A. Nigosian, Department of Religious Studies, University of Toronto
  3. ^ Russell, James R. (1987). Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Harvard Iranian series). Harvard University, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. ISBN 978-0674968509. The Parthian Arsacids who came to the throne of Armenia in the first century A.D. were pious Zoroastrians who invoked Mithra as the lord of covenants, as is proper. An episode which illustrates their observance of the cult is the famous journey of Tiridates to Rome in A.D. 65-66. (...)
  4. ^ Lang, David Marshall (1980). Armenia, cradle of civilization. Allen & Unwin. pp. 84, 141, 149. (..) Though Tiridates was to be a client king of the Romans, Nero rightly judged that his investiture would satisfy the honour of the Parthians as well. Three years later, Tiridates made the journey to Rome. As a magus or priest of the Zoroastrian faith, he had to observe the rites which forbade him to defile water by travelling. (...)
  5. ^ Boyce, Mary (2001). Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. p. 84. (..) In 62 A.C. the Parthian king Vologases (Valakhsh) put his younger brother Tiridates on the Armenian throne, and this cadet branch of the Arsacids ruled there into the Sasanian period. Tiridates was himself a strictly observant Zoroastrian - Roman sources even call him a Magus - and there is no doubt that during the latter period of the Parthian period Armenia was a predominantly Zoroastrian adhering land.
  6. ^ The Heritage of Armenian Literature, Volume I - Agop Jack Hacikyan Gabriel Basmajian Edward S. Franchuk Nourhan Ouzounian, page 70
  7. ^ J. Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia, 136-138
  8. ^ On the Orthodoxy of Sasanian Zoroastrianism - Mary Boyce, page 18
  9. ^ Anne Sofie Roald,Anh Nga Longva. Religious Minorities in the Middle East: Domination, Self-Empowerment, Accommodation BRILL, 11 nov. 2011 ISBN 9004216847 p 313

Further reading[edit]