religion in persia
Religion in Persia embodied the beliefs and customs of all those regions that had been conquered. By the time the rule of Darius I ended, Zoroastrianism was the religion practiced by most Persians. Central beliefs were rooted in sacrifice and the element of fire and were based on the teachings of the prophet, Zoroaster.
Zoroaster claimed he had a divine revelation that revealed that there was a god of justice, kindness, and generosity, not vengeance. Two gods, equal in power, had created for mankind a constant struggle between good and evil, darkness and light. Ahura Mazda, or the Wise One, was the god of goodness and light, and behavior guided by a moral code gained his favor.
Ahura Mazda was opposed by Ahriman, meaning “Destructive Spirit,” who was associated with wickedness and death. The battle between good and evil was believed to someday lead to the destruction of all evil. Zoroastrianism united the Persian people with a belief in one god instead of many.
Zoroastrianism taught that those who led lives of good deeds would be rewarded with life after death. At the time of death, final judgment determined if a soul would have everlasting life or be sentenced to hell.
Hell was described as a temporary place of suffering for those who had not done good deeds while waiting for the day when Ahriman would finally be defeated. At that time the souls in hell would be released to join all others with Ahura Mazda.
Other religions today have similar ideas. The angels described in Christian teachings along with the notion of a hell waiting for evildoers originated in the teachings of Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism is still practiced by about 140,000 followers today, with the largest groups being in India and Iran.