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Index by Period

Ancient Persian Literature

In everything appertaining to their religious belief the Persians bear a close resemblance to the Hebrew, but the poetical part of their mythology is more similiar to the Northern theology, while their manners bear a strong resemblance to the Germans. The spiritual worship of nature, light, fire, and of other pure elements, is embodied in both the Zend Avesta (Persian) and the Edda (Scandinavian). The two nations have the same opinion concerning spirits which rule and fill nature, and this has given rise to poetical fancies about giants, dwarfs and other beings, found equally in Persian and Northern Sagas.

The work of Lokman, existing now only in Arabic, has caused some people to think that it is of Arabian origin; but it is really Persian, and of the tenth century B.C. His Apologues are considered the foundation on which Greek fable was reared. The Code of Zoroaster, in which the two great principles of the world are represented by Ormuzd (goodness and light), and Ahriman (darkness and sin) are as old as the creation.

Ormuzd is worshiped in the sun, the stars, and in fire. Zoroaster explained the history of man as being one long contest between these two powers until a time to come when Ormuzd would be victorious over Ahriman. Ormuzd, as the ruler of the universe, seeks to draw men to the light, to dispel the darkness of ignorance, and to extend the triumph of virtue over the material and spiritual world. It may be said of the Persians, as Tertullian said of the Roman Pagans, "that in their highest moods and beliefs they were naturally Christian." Among a Persian sect called the Sufis' there is a belief that nothing exists absolutely but God; that the human soul is an emanation from His essence, and will ultimately be restored to Him, and that the supreme object of life should be a daily approach to the eternal spirit, so as to form as perfect a union with the divine nature as possible. How nearly this belief approaches the Christian doctrine, will be easily seen.

Persian poetry is nearly all in the form of love stories, of which the "Misfortunes of Mejnoun and Leila" represent the Eastern Romeo and Juliet, and may have been known to Shakespeare in the writing of his own drama.


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