Eschatology and Apocalyptic Literature in The Zoroastrian Context


Carlo G. Cereti


February 9, 2024


The speaker will present and discuss several passages taken from the Avesta and from Pahlavi literature, highlighting the chronological development of Zoroastrian thought about the end of times. The earliest texts to be discussed date to the early Achaemenid or immediately pre-Achaemenid period, while the later ones reflect Zoroastrian speculation in late Sasanian and early Islamic times. While primarily focusing on the written tradition, the lecturer will also present the geographical setting of some of the works presented, specifically the endorheic basin of Sistan, home to the events narrated in the Zamyād Yašt.

From a methodological point of view, the talk will present Zoroastrian theological elaboration relative to the final times diachronically, attempting to disclose the emic point of view. The author will also propose an objective classification of the phenomena discussed, arguing that Mazdean individual eschatology builds on ancient roots, while Zoroastrian apocalyptic literature is typologically close to the Late Antique and Medieval tradition as likewise attested in neighboring cultures. The model proposed is that of a circular flow of ideas as opposed to older ones focusing on unidirectional transmission from one culture to the other.


Carlo G. Cereti has newly joined the University of California as Endowed Ferdowsi Chair in Zoroastrian Studies and Professor of Classics and Religions, having served since 2000 as Full Professor of Iranian Studies at Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Ancient World Studies. From 2009 to 2017 he acted as Cultural Counsellor at the Embassy of Italy in Tehran. His earliest research work focused on the history of the Zoroastrian Parsi community in India, an intellectual interest that continued throughout his academic career, though in time his main research field shifted to Middle Iranian Languages and Literatures and more specifically to the study of Zoroastrian literature in Middle Persian. His interest in the medieval and modern history of the Zoroastrian community, combined with an intimate knowledge of Zoroastrian Middle Persian literature and more of Sasanian and post-Sasanian written culture led him to prepare critical editions of Middle Persian texts such as the Zand ī Wahman Yasn and many chapters of the Bundahišn, as well as a work of synthesis on the Pahlavi tradition (La Letteratura Pahlavi). From 2006 onwards he has intensively worked on epigraphic Middle Persian, with a focus on Narseh’s Paikuli inscription and on other epigraphic texts, including seals and sealings as well as ostraca and documents mainly dating to the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods.