Iran called Persia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2, it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, to the west by Turkey and Iraq; the country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center. Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BCE, it was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BCE, reaching its greatest territorial size in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming one of the largest empires in history.
The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE and was divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion culminated in the establishment of the Parthian Empire, succeeded in the third century CE by the Sasanian Empire, a leading world power for the next four centuries. Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the seventh century CE; the Islamization of Iran led to the decline of Zoroastrianism, by the country's dominant religion, Iran's major contributions to art and science spread within the Muslim rule during the Islamic Golden Age. After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were conquered by the Seljuq Turks and the Ilkhanate Mongols; the rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, with the country's conversion to Shia Islam marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. Under Nader Shah, Iran was one of the most powerful states in the 18th century, though by the 19th century, a series of conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses.
The Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the country's first legislature. A 1953 coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States resulted in greater autocracy and growing Western political influence. Subsequent widespread dissatisfaction and unrest against the monarchy led to the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system that includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic "Supreme Leader". During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for eight years and resulted in a high number of casualties and economic losses for both sides; the sovereign state of Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, its large reserves of fossil fuels – which include the world's largest natural gas supply and the fourth largest proven oil reserves – exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy.
The country's rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third largest number in Asia and 11th largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, the largest being Persians, Azeris and Lurs. Organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized Iran's women's rights record; the term Iran derives directly from Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at Rustam Relief, with the accompanying Parthian inscription using the term Aryān, in reference to the Iranians. The Middle Iranian ērān and aryān are oblique plural forms of gentilic nouns ēr- and ary-, both deriving from Proto-Iranian *arya-, recognized as a derivative of Proto-Indo-European *ar-yo-, meaning "one who assembles". In the Iranian languages, the gentilic is attested as a self-identifier, included in ancient inscriptions and the literature of the Avesta, remains in other Iranian ethnic names Alan and Iron.
Iran has been referred to as Persia by the West, due to the writings of Greek historians who referred to all of Iran as Persís, meaning "land of the Persians", while Persis itself was one of the provinces of ancient Iran, today defined as Fars. As the most extensive interaction the Ancient Greeks had with any outsider was with the Persians, the term persisted long after the Greco-Persian Wars. In 1935, Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, effective March 22 that year; as The New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, Professor Ehsan Yarshater, editor of Encyclopædia Iranica, propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably. Today, both Iran and Persia are used in cultural contexts, while Iran remains irreplaceab
Iranian nationalism refers to nationalism among the people of Iran and individuals whose national identity is Iranian. Iranian nationalism consists of political and social movements and sentiments prompted by a love for Iranian culture, Iranian languages and history, a sense of pride in Iran and Iranian people. Whilst national consciousness in Iran can be traced back for centuries, nationalism has been a predominant determinant of Iranian attitudes since the 20th century. During the Pahlavi dynasty, Iranian nationalism experienced a resurgence due to the Pahlavi government's bolstering of patriotic sentiment. After the Iranian revolution, there has been a resurgence of nationalism within the Islamic Republic of Iran in the wake of the Iran student protests, July 1999 and the Republic's autocratic policies over its thirty five-year existence; the idea of Iran as a religious and ethnic reality goes back as far as the end of the 6th century B. C. E; as a political idea, we first catch sight of it in the twenties of the 3rd century C.
E. as an essential feature of Sassanian propaganda. Third-century Iran was shaken by a conflict between universalism and nationalism, most manifest in the religious and cultural sphere; the outcome of this conflict is well known: the traditionalistic and nationalistic impulses gained the upper hand, Manichaean universalism succumbed to the nationalism of the Zoroastrian Magi. Iranian identity, which up to that point had been of a cultural and religious nature, assumed a definite political value, placing Persia and the Persians at the center of the Ērān-šahr, in other words, at the center of a state based on the twin powers of throne and altar and sustained by an antiquarian and archaizing ideology; this ideology became more and more accentuated during the Sassanian period, reaching its height in the long reign of Khosrow I. Of course and social factors favored the victory of the stronger classes in a society, based on a rural economy, namely the aristocratic landed and warrior classes and the Magian clergy.
Iranian identity came under threat after the fall of the Sassanid Empire and the conquest of Iran by the Arab Muslims. The term Shu'ubiyya refers to a response by Persian Muslims to the growing Arabization of Islam in the 9th and 10th centuries in what is now Iran, it was concerned with preserving Persian culture and protecting Persian identity. Some of the famous Iranian Shu'ubi figures are Bashar ibn Burd, Ismail Nisa'i, Zeyad e Ajam, Hissam ibn Ada, Abulhassan Ali Mada'ini, Abu Hatam Sajestani, Ibrahim ibn Mamshad and Abu Abdullah Muhammad Marzbani. Many consider Ferdowsi a Shu'ubi poet; the term Iranian Intermezzo represents a period in Middle Eastern history which saw the rise of various native Iranian Muslim dynasties on the Iranian Plateau. This term is noteworthy since it was an interlude between the decline of Abbāsid Arab rule and power and the eventual emergence of the Seljuq Turks in the 11th century; the Iranian revival consisted of Iranian support based on Iranian territory and most a revived Iranian national spirit and culture in an Islamic form.
Iran regained its political unity and was given a new distinct religious identity under the Safavids. Shia became the official state religion and henceforth played an important role in the reconstruction of a new ethno-religious identity for the Iranian people. Furthermore, the rise of the Safavid empire coincided with the rise of the neighbouring Ottoman empire in West Asia and North Africa, the Mughal empire in India, the Uzbek empire in Central Asia, all adhering to Sunni Islam; the formation of these political entities helped create a distinct Iranian-Shia political identity among these polities. It helped to expand the hegemony of Persian language in much of the Islamic world. Persian literature was, apart from Iran and its territories stretching from the North Caucasus to the Persian Gulf, produced from Anatolia to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent; the modern Iranian national movement began in the late 19th century. Iranian nationalism is in origin a reaction to 19th-century European colonialism in the region, which led to the loss of Qajar possessions in the Caucasus.
In the course of the 19th century, through the Russo-Persian War and the Russo-Persian War and the out-coming Treaty of Gulistan and Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1813 and 1828 Iran was forced to irrevocably cede swaths of its territory in the North and South Caucasus comprising what is now Georgia, Dagestan and Armenia to Imperial Russia. These territories had made, for centuries, part of the concept of Iran until their loss; the initial objectives of these nationalists e.g. ending the feudalistic landholding system, governmental sloth and corruption and the wholesale distribution of Iranian resources to foreigners greatly appealed to modernisers. One of the principal and most noted forerunners of Iranian nationalism of the Qajar era was Mirza Fatali Akhundov, born in the taken territories in the Caucasus to a landowner family stemming from Iranian Azerbaijan. Modern nationalism in Iran dates back to 1906, when an bloodless constitutional revolution created Iran's first parliament. Reza Shah, helped shape Iranian nationalism by infusing it with a distinctly secular ideology, diminishing the influence of Islam on Iran.
By integrating European legal policies in replace of Islamic courts, Shah reassured the efficiency of the state bureaucracy and promoted a strong sense of Iranian nationalism. In addition, Reza Shah sought to change the names of various towns to honor pre-Islamic Persian kings and mythological heroes, to
Zoroastrianism, or Mazdayasna, is one of the world's oldest religions that remains active. It is a monotheistic faith, centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate destruction of evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster, it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda, as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death and hell, free will may have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism. With possible roots dating back to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the 5th century BCE. Along with a Mithraic Median prototype and a Zurvanist Sassanid successor, it served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires for more than a millennium, from around 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism was suppressed from the 7th century onwards following the Muslim conquest of Persia of 633–654. Recent estimates place the current number of Zoroastrians at around 190,000, with most living in India and in Iran.
However, in 2015, there were reports of up to 100,000 converts in Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides the Zoroastrian diaspora, the older Mithraic faith Yazdânism is still practised amongst Kurds; the most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas, enigmatic poems that define the religion's precepts, the Yasna, the scripture. The full name by which Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The Lord Creator, Mazda, Supremely Wise; the religious philosophy of Zoroaster divided the early Iranian gods of Proto-Indo-Iranian tradition, but focused on responsibility, did not create a devil per se. Zoroaster proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe, that human beings are given a right of choice; because of cause and effect, they are responsible for the consequences of their choices. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called angry spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the concept of Ahriman, the Devil, a personification of Angra Mainyu.
Zoroastrianism's creator Ahura Mazda, through the Spenta Mainyu is an all-good "father" of Asha, in opposition to Druj and no evil originates from "him". "He" and his works are evident to humanity through the six primary Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom worship of Mazda is directed. Spenta Mainyu adjoined unto "truth", oppose the Spirit's opposite, Angra Mainyu and its forces born of Akəm Manah. Zoroastrianism has no major theological divisions. In Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to "be among those who renew the world...to make the world progress towards perfection". Its basic maxims include: Humata, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. There is only one path and, the path of Truth. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, all beneficial rewards will come to you also; the name Zoroaster is a Greek rendering of the name Zarathustra. He is known as Zardosht in Persian and Zaratosht in Gujarati; the Zoroastrian name of the religion is Mazdayasna, which combines Mazda- with the Avestan language word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion".
In English, an adherent of the faith is called a Zoroastrian or a Zarathustrian. An older expression still used today is Behdin, meaning "The best Religion | Beh < Middle Persian Weh + Din < Middle Persian dēn < Avestan Daēnā". In Zoroastrian liturgy the term is used as a title for an individual, formally inducted into the religion in a Navjote ceremony; the term Mazdaism is a typical 19th century construct, taking Mazda- from the name Ahura Mazda and adding the suffix -ism to suggest a belief system. The March 2001 draft edition of the Oxford English Dictionary records an alternate form, Mazdeism derived from the French Mazdéisme, which first appeared in 1871. Zoroastrian philosophy is identified as having been known to Italian Renaissance Europe through an image of Zoroaster in Raphael's "School of Athens" by Giorgio Vasari in 1550; the first surviving reference to Zoroaster in English scholarship is attributed to Thomas Browne, who refers to the prophet in his 1643 Religio Medici, followed by the Oxford English Dictionary's record of the 1743.
The Oxford English Dictionary records use of the term Zoroastrianism in 1874 in Archibald Sayce's Principles of Comparative Philology. Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, supreme God, Ahura Mazda, or the "Wise Lord".. Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas and consciously uses a masculine word for one concept and a feminine for the other, as if to distract from an anthropomorphism of his divinity. Zoroaster claimed. Other scholars assert that since Zoroastrianism's divinity covers both being and mind as immanent entities, it is better described as a belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute, thereby putting Zoroastrianism in the pantheistic fold where it can be traced to i
Ahura Mazda is the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda is the highest spirit of worship in Zoroastrianism, along with being the first and most invoked spirit in the Yasna; the literal meaning of the word Ahura is "lord", that of Mazda is "wisdom". Ahura Mazda first appeared in the Achaemenid period under Darius I's Behistun Inscription; until Artaxerxes II of Persia, Ahura Mazda was invoked alone. With Artaxerxes II, Ahura Mazda was invoked with Mithra and Anahita. In the Achaemenid period, there are no representations of Ahura Mazda other than the custom for every emperor to have an empty chariot drawn by white horses, to invite Ahura Mazda to accompany the Persian army on battles. Images of Ahura Mazda began in the Parthian period, but were stopped and replaced with stone carved figures in the Sassanid period. "Mazda", or rather the Avestan stem-form Mazdā-, nominative Mazdå, reflects Proto-Iranian *mazdáH. It is taken to be the proper name of the spirit, like its Vedic cognate medhā́, means "intelligence" or "wisdom".
Both the Avestan and Sanskrit words reflect Proto-Indo-Iranian *mazdʰáH, from Proto-Indo-European *mn̥sdʰh₁éh₂ meaning "placing one's mind", hence "wise". The name was rendered as Ahuramazda during the Achaemenid era, Hormazd during the Parthian era, Ohrmazd was used during the Sassanian era; the name may be attested on cuneiform tablets of Assyrian Assurbanipal, in the form Assara Mazaš, though this interpretation is controversial. Though Ahura Mazda was a spirit in the Old Iranian religion, he had not yet been given the title of "uncreated spirit"; this title was given by Zoroaster, who proclaimed Ahura Mazda as the uncreated spirit, wholly wise and good, as well as the creator and upholder of Asha. At the age of 30, Zoroaster received a revelation: while fetching water at dawn for a sacred ritual, he saw the shining figure of the yazata, Vohu Manah, who led Zoroaster to the presence of Ahura Mazda, where he was taught the cardinal principles of the "Good Religion" known as Zoroastrianism.
As a result of this vision, Zoroaster preach the religion. He stated, he further stated that Ahura Mazda created spirits known as yazatas to aid him, who merited devotion. Zoroaster deserved no worship; these "bad" spirits were created by the hostile and evil spirit. The existence of Angra Mainyu was the source of all misery in the universe. Zoroaster claimed that Ahura Mazda was not an omnipotent God, but used the aid of humans in the cosmic struggle against Angra Mainyu. Nonetheless, Ahura Mazda is Angra Mainyu's superior, not his equal. Angra Mainyu and his daevas, which attempt to attract humans away from the path of truth and righteousness, would be destroyed. Whether the Achaemenids were Zoroastrians is a matter of much debate. However, it is known; the representation and invocation of Ahura Mazda can be seen on royal inscriptions written by Achaemenid kings. The most notable of all the inscriptions is the Behistun Inscription written by Darius I which contains many references to Ahura Mazda.
An inscription written in Greek was found in a late Achaemenid temple at Persepolis which invoked Ahura Mazda and two other spirits, most Mithra and Anahita. On the Elamite Persepolis Fortification Tablet 377, Ahura Mazda is invoked along with Mithra and Voruna. Artaxerxes III makes this invocation to the three spirits again in his reign; the early Achaemenid period contained no representation of Ahura Mazda. The winged symbol with a male figure, regarded by European scholars as Ahura Mazda has been shown to represent the royal xvarənah, the personification of royal power and glory. However, it was customary for every emperor from Cyrus until Darius III to have an empty chariot drawn by white horses as a place for Ahura Mazda to accompany the Persian army on battles; the use of images of Ahura Mazda began in the western satraps of the Achaemenid Empire in the late 5th century BCE. Under Artaxerxes II, the first literary reference as well as a statue of Ahura Mazda was built by a Persian governor of Lydia in 365 BCE.
It is known that the reverence for Ahura Mazda, as well as Anahita and Mithra continued with the same traditions during this period. The worship of Ahura Mazda with symbolic images is noticed, but it stopped with the beginning of the Sassanid period. Zoroastrian iconoclasm, which can be traced to the end of the Parthian period and the beginning of the Sassanid put an end to the use of all images of Ahura Mazda in worship. However, Ahura Mazda remained symbolized by a dignified male figure, standing or on horseback, found in Sassanian investiture. During the Sassanid Empire, a heretical form of Zoroastrianism, termed Zurvanism, emerged, it gained adherents throughout the Sassanid Empire, most notably the royal lineage of Sassanian emperors. Under the reign of Shapur I, Zurvanism became a widespread cult. Zurvanism revokes Zoroaster's original message of Ahura Mazda as the uncreated spirit, the "uncreated creator" of all, reduces him to a created spirit, one of two twin sons of Zurvan, their father and the primary spirit.
Zurvanism makes Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu of equal strength and only contrasting spirits. Other than Zurvanism, the Sassanian kings demonstrated their devotion to Ahura Mazda i
Zurvanism is an extinct branch of Zoroastrianism in which the divinity Zurvan is a First Principle who engendered equal-but-opposite twins, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu. Zurvanism is known as "Zurvanite Zoroastrianism", may be contrasted with Mazdaism. In Zurvanism, Zurvan was aka. Zurvan was portrayed as a transcendental and neutral god, without passion, one for whom there was no distinction between good or evil; the name'Zurvan' is a normalized rendition of the word, which in Middle Persian appears as either Zurvān, Zruvān or Zarvān. The Middle Persian name derives from Avestan zruvan-, "time", grammatically without gender. Although the details of the origin and development of Zurvanism remain murky, it is accepted that Zurvanism was a branch of greater Zoroastrianism. Zurvanism enjoyed royal sanction during the Sassanid era but no traces of it remain beyond the 10th century. Although Sassanid era Zurvanism was influenced by Hellenic philosophy, the relationship between it and the Greek divinity of Time has not been conclusively established.
Non-Zoroastrian accounts of Zurvanite beliefs were the first traces of Zoroastrianism to reach the west, leading European scholars to conclude that Zoroastrianism was a monist religion, an issue of controversy among both scholars and contemporary practitioners of the faith. The Avestan word zruvan is etymologically related to the late Sanskrit word sarva, meaning "all, entire", which carries a similar semantic field in signifying a monist quality; the earliest evidence of the cult of Zurvan is found in the History of Theology, attributed to Eudemus of Rhodes. As cited in Damascius's Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles, Eudemus describes a sect of the Medes that considered Space/Time to be the primordial "father" of the rivals Oromasdes "of light" and Arimanius "of darkness"; the principal evidence for Zurvanite doctrine occurs in the polemical Christian tracts of Armenian and Syriac writers of the Sassanid period. Indigenous sources of information from the same period are the 3rd century Kartir inscription at Ka'ba-i Zartosht and the early 4th century edict of Mihr-Narse, the latter being the only native evidence from the Sassanid period, frankly Zurvanite.
The post-Sassanid Zoroastrian Middle Persian commentaries are Mazdean and with only one exception do not mention Zurvan at all. Of the remaining so-called Pahlavi texts only two, the Mēnōg-i Khrad and the Selections of Zatspram reveal a Zurvanite tendency; the latter, in which the priest Zatspram chastises his brother’s un-Mazdaean ideas, is the last text in Middle Persian that provides any evidence of the cult of Zurvan. The 13th century Zoroastrian Ulema-i Islam, a New Persian apologetic text, is unambiguously Zurvanite and is the last direct evidence of Zurvan as a First Principle. There is no hint of any worship of Zurvan in any of the texts of the Avesta though the texts are the result of a Sassanid era redaction. Zaehner proposes that this is because the individual Sassanid monarchs were not always Zurvanite and that Mazdean Zoroastrianism just happened to have the upper hand during the crucial period that the canon was written down. In the texts composed prior to the Sassanid period, Zurvan appears twice, as both an abstract concept and as a minor divinity, but there is no evidence of a cult.
In Yasna 72.10 Zurvan is invoked in the company of Space and Air and in Yasht 13.56, the plants grow in the manner Time has ordained according to the will of Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas. Two other references to Zurvan are present in the Vendidad, but although these are late additions to the canon, they again do not establish any evidence of a cult. Zurvan does not appear in any listing of the Yazatas; the origins of the cult of Zurvan remain debated. One view considers Zurvanism to have developed out of Zoroastrianism as a reaction to the liberalization of the late Achaemenid era form of the faith. Another view proposes that Zurvan existed as a pre-Zoroastrian divinity, incorporated into Zoroastrianism; the third view is that Zurvanism is the product of the contact between Zoroastrianism and Babylonian-Akkadian religions. Certain however is that by the Sassanid era, the divinity "Infinite Time" was well established, and—as inferred from a Manichaean text presented to Shapur I, in which the name'Zurvan' was adopted for Manichaeism's primordial "Father of Greatness"—enjoyed royal patronage.
It was during the reign of Sassanid Emperor Shapur I that Zurvanism appears to have developed as a cult and it was in this period that Greek and Indic concepts were introduced to Zurvanite Zoroastrianism. It is however not known whether Sassanid era Zurvanism and Mazdais
Avestan known as Zend, refers to two languages: Old Avestan and Younger Avestan. The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, from which they derive their name. Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family, its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon with Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language; the Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient Arachosia, Aria and Margiana, corresponding to the entirety of present-day Afghanistan, parts of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Yaz culture of Bactria-Margiana has been regarded as a archaeological reflection of the early "Eastern Iranian" culture described in the Avesta. Avestan's status as a sacred language has ensured its continuing use for new compositions long after the language ceased to be a living language.
"Avestan, associated with northeastern Iran, Old Persian, which belongs to the southwest, together constitute what is called Old Iranian." Scholars traditionally classify Iranian languages as "old", "middle" and "new" according to their age, as "eastern" or "western" according to geography, within this framework Avestan is classified as Eastern Old Iranian. But the east-west distinction is of limited meaning for Avestan, as the linguistic developments that distinguish Eastern from Western Iranian had not yet occurred. Avestan does not display some typical Western Iranian innovations visible in Old Persian, so in this sense, "eastern" only means "non-western". Old Avestan is related to Old Persian and agrees morphologically with Vedic Sanskrit; the old ancestor dialect of Pashto was close to the language of the Gathas. The Avestan language is attested in two forms, known as "Old Avestan" and "Younger Avestan". Younger Avestan did not evolve from Old Avestan; every Avestan text, regardless of whether composed in Old or Younger Avestan, underwent several transformations.
Karl Hoffmann traced the following stages for Avestan. In chronological order: The natural language of the composers of the Gathas, the Yasna Haptanghaiti, the four sacred prayers. Changes precipitated by slow chanting Changes to Old Avestan due to transmission by native speakers of Younger Avestan The natural language of the scribes who wrote grammatically correct Younger Avestan texts Deliberate changes introduced through "standardization" Changes introduced by transfer to regions where Avestan was not spoken Adaptions/translations of portions of texts from other regions Composition of ungrammatical late Avestan texts Phonetic notation of the Avestan texts in the Sasanian archetype Post-Sasanian deterioration of the written transmission due to incorrect pronunciation Errors and corruptions introduced during copyingMany phonetic features cannot be ascribed with certainty to a particular stage since there may be more than one possibility; every phonetic form that can be ascribed to the Sasanian archetype on the basis of critical assessment of the manuscript evidence must have gone through the stages mentioned above so that "Old Avestan" and "Young Avestan" mean no more than "Old Avestan and Young Avestan of the Sasanian period."
The script used for writing Avestan developed during the 3rd or 4th century AD. By the language had been extinct for many centuries, remained in use only as a liturgical language of the Avesta canon; as is still the case today, the liturgies were recited by rote. The script devised to render Avestan was natively known as Din dabireh "religion writing", it is written right-to-left. Among the 53 characters are about 30 letters that are – through the addition of various loops and flourishes – variations of the 13 graphemes of the cursive Pahlavi script, known from the post-Sassanian texts of Zoroastrian tradition; these symbols, like those of all the Pahlavi scripts, are in turn based on Aramaic script symbols. Avestan incorporates several letters from other writing systems, most notably the vowels, which are derived from Greek minuscules. A few letters were free inventions, as were the symbols used for punctuation; the Avestan alphabet has one letter that has no corresponding sound in the Avestan language.
The Avestan script is alphabetic, the large number of letters suggests that its design was due to the need to render the orally recited texts with high phonetic precision. The correct enunciation of the liturgies was considered necessary for the prayers to be effective; the Zoroastrians of India, who represent one of the largest surviving Zoroastrian communities worldwide transcribe Avestan in Brahmi-based scripts. This is a recent development first seen in the ca. 12th century texts of Neryosang Dhaval and other Parsi Sanskritist theologians of that era, which are contemporary with the oldest surviving manuscripts in Avestan script. Today, Avestan is most typeset in the Gujarati script; some Avestan letters with no corresponding symbol are synthesized with additional diacritical marks, for example, the /z/ in zaraϑuštra is written with j with a dot below. Aves
Pahlavi or Pahlevi is a particular written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are the use of a specific Aramaic-derived script. Pahlavi compositions have been found for the dialects/ethnolects of Parthia, Sogdiana and Khotan. Independent of the variant for which the Pahlavi system was used, the written form of that language only qualifies as Pahlavi when it has the characteristics noted above. Pahlavi is an admixture of written Imperial Aramaic, from which Pahlavi derives its script and some of its vocabulary. Spoken Middle Iranian, from which Pahlavi derives its terminations, symbol rules, most of its vocabulary. Pahlavi may thus be defined as a system of writing applied to a specific language group, but with critical features alien to that language group, it is not one. It is an written system, but much Pahlavi literature remains an oral literature committed to writing and so retains many of the characteristics of oral composition; the term Pahlavi is said to be derived from the Parthian language word parthav or parthau, meaning Parthia, a region just east of the Caspian Sea, with the -i suffix denoting the language and people of that region.
If this etymology is correct, Parthav became pahlaw through a semivowel glide rt change to l, a common occurrence in language evolution. The term has been traced back further to Avestan pərəthu- "broad " evident in Sanskrit pŗthvi- "earth" and parthivi " of the earth". Common to all Indo-Iranian languages is a connotation of "mighty"; the earliest attested use of Pahlavi dates to the reign of Arsaces I of Parthia in early Parthian coins with Pahlavi scripts. There are several Pahlavi texts written during the reign of Mithridates I; the cellars of the treasury at Mithradatkird reveal thousands of pottery sherds with brief records. Such fragments, as the rock inscriptions of Sassanid kings, which are datable to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, do not, qualify as a significant literary corpus. Although in theory Pahlavi could have been used to render any Middle Iranian language and hence may have been in use as early as 300 BC, no manuscripts that can be dated to before the 6th century AD have yet been found.
Thus, when used for the name of a literary genre, i.e. Pahlavi literature, the term refers to Middle Iranian texts dated near or after the fall of the Sassanid empire and extending to about AD 900, after which Iranian languages enter the "modern" stage; the oldest surviving example of the Pahlavi literature is from fragments of the so-called "Pahlavi Psalter", a 6th- or 7th-century-AD translation of a Syriac Psalter found at Bulayiq on the Silk Road, near Turpan in north-west China. It is in a more archaic script than Book Pahlavi. After the Muslim conquest of Persia, the Pahlavi script was replaced by the Arabic script, except in Zoroastrian sacred literature; the replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khurasan. In the present day, "Pahlavi" is identified with the prestige dialect of south-west Iran and properly called Pārsi, after Pars; this practice can be dated to the period following the Islamic conquest.
The Pahlavi script is one of the two essential characteristics of the Pahlavi system. Its origin and development occurred independently of the various Middle Iranian languages for which it was used; the Pahlavi script is derived from the Aramaic script as it was used under the Achaemenids, with modifications to support the phonology of the Iranian languages. It is a typical abjad, where, in general, only long vowels are marked with matres lectionis, vowel-initial words are marked with an aleph. However, because of the high incidence of logograms derived from Aramaic words, the Pahlavi script is far from always phonetic. In addition to this, during much of its history, Pahlavi orthography was characterized by historical or archaizing spellings. Most notably, it continued to reflect the pronunciation that preceded the widespread Iranian lenition processes, whereby postvocalic voiceless stops and affricates had become voiced, voiced stops had become semivowels. Certain words continued to be spelt with postvocalic ⟨s⟩ and ⟨t⟩ after the consonants had been debuccalized to ⟨h⟩ in the living language.
The Pahlavi script consisted of two used forms: Inscriptional Pahlavi and Book Pahlavi. A third form, Psalter Pahlavi, is not attested. Although the Parthian Arsacids wrote in Greek, some of the coins and seals of the Arsacid period include inscriptions in the Parthian language; the script of these inscriptions is called inscriptional Parthian. Numerous clay fragments from Arsacid-era Parthia proper, in particular a large collection of fragments from Nisa that date to the reign of Mithridates I, are l