Herodotus and the Persian Priests: The Histories as a Source for Iranian Religion

Recorded: February 19, 2020
Event: Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World - 14th Melammu Symposium

by Julian Degen (University of Innsbruck)

Herodotus and the Persian Priests: The Histories as a Source for Iranian Religion

Herodotus’ Histories is the most important, extant ancient Greek account on Achaemenid history. Persian priests are often mentioned as active agents in the Herodotean world, and thus the Histories seems to be a valuable source in assessing Iranian religions. While Herodotus appears to provide authentic information to his readership, he nonetheless crafted an account that adhered to Greek cultural and intellectual norms, and was colored by his own perspective. By examining the role of Iranian priests within the Histories and collating the Herodotean information with Greek epigraphical sources and cuneiform texts, I will argue that Herodotus’ work, despite its manifest bias, contains authentic information on the state of Persian religion in the Achaemenid empire, which was presented in a Greek discourse on empire and good rulership.