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the beliefs of the Medes, mention has been made of the spirits of good and evil-the ahuras

and the devas of Iranic mythology. On one of the old pillars at Pasargadae^ thought to

have been erected by Cyrus the Great, is a colossal figure representing the Good Genius of

the Persian faith, the great angel Sraosha, one of the most benign conceptions found in

the records of paganism. The figure is that of a man with four wings outspread at the

shoulders, his hands lifted before a calm, pure face, as if in the act of conferring

blessings from the treasury of heaven.1 Upon his head rise the two spreading horns of

power, and between these on either side stands a small misshapen figure of a human being.

In the center of the outspread horns is a complex triple ornament, evidently symbolical,

but the sense not easily perceived. In many of the sculptures quaint diabolical figures

are seen representing the devas or mischievous imps whose business it was to torment human

life with vexations and spleen.

The belief in one supreme God and the detestation of the practices of idolatry were the

elements in the Persian faith upon which the strong religious sympathy heretofore referred

to as existing between the subjects of the Achaemenians and the Jews was founded. In these

respects the two peoples ran in the same channels of thought and practice, and the favor

shown the Jewish nation by Cyrus and Darius was evidently traceable to community of


By and by, in the latter days of the monarchy, when vice and luxury had sapped the heroic

virtues of the first age of Persian greatness, corruptions came in, and defiled the

primitive faith of the people. It was the story of Median apostasy repeated. The old

Scythic tribes inhabiting the country before the conquest by the Persians had been

Magians. This system had prevailed among the barbarous tribes of the Great Plateau before

the days of Zoroaster, so that the doctrines introduced by that reformer were superimposed

on a basis of

1 See Book Fourth, p. 219.

belief that was ever ready to rise up from the beds of human nature and reassert its

supremacy. Perhaps this sub-stratum of religious belief, combined with the general social

degeneration in the times of the later monarchy, made the purer doctrines of

Zoroastrianism fall an easy prey to the more showy but less substantial system of the

Magians. This change in faith, however, was rather a union or amalgamation of the two

systems than a conquest of one by the other. Henceforth, till the coming of Alexander, the

leading doctrines and practices of both Zoroastrianism and Magism were retained in the

agglomerated faith of the Persians.

One of the features of this religious degeneration was the introduction of the worship of

Mithra, the god of the sun, and his elevation to a rank equal, if not superior, to that of

Ahura-Mazdao himself. This innovation took place in the reign of Artaxerxes Mnemon, and

from that date forth the Persians may be said to have been worshipers of the sun. The

change in the national faith was marked, as already said, by the presence of the sun-

symbol along with that of Ahura-Mazdao in the sculptures of Persepolis.

The general effect of the modifications here mentioned was to cause an approximation of

Zoroastrianism to the other forms of religious faith prevailing in Western Asia. The

ceremonials of Media and Persia were no longer distinct in method or purpose. The

essential integrity and elevation of the primitive belief were allowed to fall into

desuetude, and the religion of show took the place of the spiritual doctrines inculcated

by him of Bactria. Until this date Persia had been a land without temples. Now building -

in honor of the gods began to be a passion, but before time enough had elapsed for the

country to be covered with great temples like those of Egypt and Babylonia, the Macedonian

conqueror stood at the door and knocked. Before the day of Arbela, the simple faith of the

ancient people had been replaced with a system of vainglorious idolatry.