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A State of MixtureChristians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity$
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Richard E. Payne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520286191

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520286191.001.0001

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The Myth of Zoroastrian Intolerance

The Myth of Zoroastrian Intolerance

Violence and the Terms of Christian Inclusion

(p.23) 1. The Myth of Zoroastrian Intolerance
A State of Mixture

Richard E. Payne

University of California Press

This chapter seeks to replace notions of Zoroastrian intolerance around which historians have so frequently organized their analyses of Iranian society in late antiquity with a model of the differentiated, hierarchical inclusion of religious others rooted in Zoroastrian cosmological thought. First, it recovers the cosmological perspective of Zoroastrian religious authorities on the culturally diverse population of Iran, which gave rise to a range of accounts of the place of bad religions in the social and political order. Rather than seek, or even imagine, the systematic exclusion of religious others, priestly scholars developed techniques for their regulation and disciplining, with the goal of ensuring that they did not jeopardize the operation of the institutions of the Good Religion. If ancient Zoroastrians are best known for their dualism, their concepts of mixture, intermingling, and hierarchical order will emerge as equally salient in Iranian political culture. Second, it demonstrates a strong correlation between such theoretical discussions and the political practice of the Iranian court based on a comprehensive and critical reexamination of the East Syrian hagiographical sources. It is shown that Zoroastrians in late antiquity should be known for having practiced differentiated, hierarchical inclusion rather than intolerance.

Keywords:   Zoroastrians, Christian inclusion, Zoroastrian intolerance, Iranian society, late antiquity, Zoroastrian cosmological thought, Jews, East Syrian hagiography

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