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Lewy 7 regarding the drastic reduction of the Arsacid period under the first Sassanians, by S. Taqizadeh 8 and by W. Henning 9 in the 'forties and recently reproposed by I. Gershevitch and by the present author. I must confess however that in delivering these pages to the press I also cherished a special hope - that Professor Marshak, as he is no stranger to the non-trivial problems presented by ancient Iran in the complex studies on calendars and chronology, after reading them will refrain from joining the camp of those who, probably to avoid tackling such a difficult topic or that they erroneously consider insignificant, in practice hide behind an a priori non liquet on the fundamental issue of the date of Zoroaster, at best making mention of their generic and substantially unfounded preferences In his detailed article on what he calls "recent speculations" concerning the traditional date of Zoroaster these "speculations" are allegedly those of my Zoroaster in history 11 , as well as of those of the late-lamented I.

Gershevitch 12 and, for the hypothesis of a Greek origin of that date, of P. Kingsley 13 Professor Shahbazi makes several references to Agathias' Histories 14 , albeit implicitly The passages from Agathias mentioned in J. Frendo's translation 16 are respectively II Shahbazi also mentions IV The text is thus clear and this translation does not differ appreciably, in our opinion, from that of Averil Cameron, who made a thorough comment of this and the two other passages What is instead astonishing is the interpretation Professor Shahbazi gives of it.

Since it underpins his critique of the thesis of the historical exactitude of the traditional date of Zoroaster, it is worth quoting verbatim:.

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Indeed, had Professor Shahbazi stuck to the latter phrase alone, he would have avoided the serious objection that it is quite false that Agathias's evidence shows that in sixth-century Iran the Zoroastrians did not have an exact date for Zoroaster and that "several traditions" existed in this regard.

All this is the result of a totally arbitrary inference that he draws. As an author who certainly had a solid classical background 25 , in full awareness of the existence of another Hystaspes, Agathias must logically have considered the problem of the identity of the Hystaspes during whose reign the Persians situated Zoroaster; but this was his problem, not theirs Only the Greeks were familiar with a Hystaspes who was the father of Darius I: Unlike Lactantius 28 and Ammianus Marcellinus 29 , who respectively denied and confirmed the identity of the two Hystaspes, Agathias remained doubtful.

His was a reasonable doubt as, knowing that the Achaemenids had reigned over Asia for years 30 , until the death of Darius III -and thus starting from B. Indeed, it cannot therefore be ruled out that he was aware of the traditional date of Zoroaster B.


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Therefore, the interpretation that Professor Shahbazi reiterates later 31 and that, as we have said, represents a fundamental point in his whole argument, must therefore be certainly rejected. Moreover, there is no doubt that the Byzantine historian was aware of the "faulty Persian chronology". This emerges from a comparison of this passage II Averil Cameron, pointing out how it is not surprising that "Agathias' source evidently said nothing about the traditional date for Zoroaster in Persian reckoning years before Alexander ", proposed two alternative solutions for this silence -one certainly misleading the data was allegedly "not a Sassanian date but a later calculation" , based on an incorrect reference to J.

Duchesne-Guillemin 35 -, the other quite plausible: Agathias, on closer scrutiny, does not seem to offer any further indications regarding the problem of the traditional date of Zoroaster.

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Shahbazi takes one further passage from the Byzantine historian, to which he attributes great importance, including it among the evidence that, in his opinion, proves that the beginning of the Seleucid era, "in chronological discussions", was known as "Alexander" in Sassanian Persia Indeed Agathias, "who used Sasanian royal documents" 39 , allegedly referred to the Seleucid era through "Alexander" as a chronological point in II Here, if Professor Shahbazi had quoted the chronological reference in full, he would have added some further useful information to what has been mentioned above: In this case, this element clearly suggests that the source was not Persian, as pointed out above Anyone reading this passage, even without studying it in any detail will immediately realize that, also in this case, Agathias is drawing on Greek, not Persian, sources: As far as the chronology is concerned, Averil Cameron has clearly demonstrated how "Agathias now gives us Africanus' figure for the Achaemenids" and how "the reckoning is from to , i.

The fact is that, even though Agathias uses Persian material, as in the case of the years for the Parthian period in II As mentioned earlier, Professor Shahbazi attaches great importance to Agathias' evidence as far as the problem of the traditional date of Zoroaster is concerned, to the point of including "Agathias on Zoroaster's date" among the keywords of his article the others being simply: For him the evidence produced by the Byzantine historian is particularly important, as it allegedly proves that the Persians of the sixth century: He believes that his conclusion, which he based on his interpretation of passage II However, all of these conclusions are baseless.

The translation of Agathias' Histories that J. Frendo published in 51 without doubt imposes itself as authoritative, based as it is on the critical edition of R. However, to take it alone, or any other translation, as a basis, without making any thorough analysis of the sources, Greek or Oriental, cannot suffice to solve the often difficult problems related to the encounter between Persia and Byzantium.

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In addressing the topics treated herein we have for some time been able to make use of the excellent support represented by Averil Cameron's detailed studies of the Byzantine historian 53 , both on his sources 54 , and above all on Agathias himself and Sassanian history They should not be neglected. Gnoli, The idea of Iran. Want to learn more about what S. Click the toggle below to read how S.

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