WZO Seminar on Zoroastrian Religion, History & Culture – Sunday, 18th June 2017
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Date(s) - 18/06/2017
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Portland Room at the International Students House


Speaker 1: Mehrbod Khanizadeh

Mehrbod Khanizadeh is a final year PhD candidate at SOAS. For many years, he has been interested in the history, culture and languages of Ancient Iran. Therefore, after graduation in the field of Veterinary Medicine, with an MSc in Animal Pathology, he took the University Entrance Exam for Master degree and was admitted to the University Of Shahid Beheshti Iran, in the field of the Ancient Culture and Languages. After the completion of his MA, he came to London and started his MA study in Religions at SOAS, followed by commencement of his PhD research which is concerned with the Avesta and Pahlavi versions of the chapter 9 of the important Zoroastrian text, the Yasna.


Mehrbod Khanizadeh will speak on:

“Triads of good and evil powers in Zoroastrianism.”


Abstract: The account of the killing of the dragon Dahaka (=Pahlavi: Az i Dahag) by the hero Thraetaona (=Pahlavi: Fredon), as related in the HomYasht, mentions the name of Angra Manyu (=Pahlavi: Gannāg Mēnōy; the designation of Ahriman “Evil Spirit”).and the most powerful demoness Druj (=Pahlavi: Druz “Deceit”) in addition to that of the dragon. The demoness Druj is described as the very powerful creature, set forth by Angra Manyu against the material world. However, her appearance in the context of this story has so far remained unexplained.

In his paper, Mehrbod will analyse the occurrence of the name of the demoness in Yasna 9.8. He will also argue that Angra Manyu, the dragon Dahaka and the demoness Druj form a triad of evil forces, and this is opposed to a triad of the beneficent powers of Ahura Mazda, Mitra, Anahita, appearing in in the three Old Persian inscriptions of Artaxerxes II (r. 404-358 BCE).


Speaker 2: Professor Llewellyn-Jones

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is Chair of Ancient History at Cardiff University (having been Professor of Ancient Greek and Iranian Studies at the University of Edinburgh). His research interests include the history of ancient Persia, especially the Achaemenid period (559-331 BCE) and the relationship between Iran and the west since antiquity.

Recent publications have included ‘Ctesias’ History of Persia: Tales of the Orient’ and ‘King and Court in Ancient Persia’. He also works on ancient Greek socio-cultural history, especially women’s history and gender-issues, dress, and visual culture. His book “Aphrodite’s Tortoise: the veiled woman of ancient Greece” has won much critical acclaim.

Professor Llewellyn-Jones travels frequently to Iran and the Middle East, often leading cultural and historical tours and has worked with the BBC, Channel 4 and the History Channel and with Hollywood production companies as historical advisor. He is a regular reviewer for The Times and Times Higher Education.

Future publications include ‘The Culture of Animals in Antiquity’ and ‘Through Esther’s Eyes: An Iconographic Exergesis of the Book of Esther.’ Professor Llewellyn-Jones is also engaged on a project exploring the body and dress in Persian culture.

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones will speak on:

“Druvaspa’s Steeds: the horse in Achaemenid religion and culture”

Abstract: For a nomadic people like the Achaemenid Persians, the horse had a significant practical and symbolic purpose and the importance of horses among the ancient Iranian nobility is evidenced by the fact that many of them bore names compounded with the Old Persian word aspa – ‘horse’. Several of Darius I’s inscriptions note that Persia was a land containing both good men and good horses and Herodotus famously states that Persian fathers were intent on teaching their sons ‘to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth’.

The horse played a noteworthy role in Achaemenid rituals and beliefs and just as kings were mounted high on horse-drawn chariots, so Ahuramazda and other deities had similar modes of transportation. Moreover, just as the finest present to give a Persian was a horse, so were the gods honoured with equine gifts such as the white horses which were sacrificed to the sun and to the waters. By exploring a rich variety of texts and images this lecture will demonstrate the deep-set importance of the horse as a hallowed species in the consciousness of the ancient Iranians.

Professor Stanley Insler who was to speak on the topic of “Zarathustra’s view of Truth” is unfortunately indisposed. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Our third speaker will now be:


Speaker 3: Professor dr. Albert de Jong


Professor dr. Albert de Jong is from Leiden University, The Hague, Holland.

Prof. dr. De Jong is a Professor of Comparative Religion and Religions of Antiquity and Lecturer in Religious Studies and teaches courses on the academic study of religion on various levels, as well as courses on the history of religions of the ancient world. The main focus of his research is the religious history of Iran, from the earliest period to the present.

Curriculum Vitae

De Jong studied Theology and Persian in Utrecht and Old and Middle Iranian languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht in 1996, with a dissertation on Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin literature (publ. 1997). He was a Golda Meir Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1996-1997) and has been in Leiden since 1997, first as a post-doctoral researcher and from 1998 as lecturer in Religious Studies.

His current research project is “The Religious History of the Sasanian Empire (224-642 ce).” This will be the fifth volume in the series A History of Zoroastrianism and will cover not just the history of Zoroastrianism by itself, but also the interaction between Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Manichaeans, and Mandaeans in a crucial period of their development. These communities are all served by a considerable body of scholarly literature and by ongoing scholarly attention, but often in regrettable isolation from the wider context. It must be clear that one cannot understand the Babylonian Talmud without knowledge of Sasanian law and institutions any more than one can study the development of Zoroastrianism without taking into account the challenges of Manichaeism and Christianity. In order to do justice to the subject, therefore, two volumes are in preparation: one that follows the history of Zoroastrianism from the rise of Ardashir up to the Arab invasions, and a separate volume that will offer a “profile” of Sasanian Zoroastrianism in the multiple contexts of the Empire

His selected publications can be read on the following link:


Professor dr. Albert de Jong will speak on:

“The Place of Zoroastrianism in a General History of Religion”

Abstract: Zoroastrianism is the earliest known example of a ‘religion of choice’, a radically new type of religion (to which Christianity and Islam also belong) that has its roots in a conscious choice to join the community of believers, as opposed to the traditional (community) religions into which one can only be born. A few centuries after the Arab conquests of Iran, Zoroastrianism changed yet again into a distinctly new type of religion (known mainly from the Middle East): an endogamous community defined by its religion and incapable of bringing outsiders into the community. Both developments are crucial not only for the history of Zoroastrianism itself, but also for anyone who wants to make sense of the general history of religion(s) and of religious diversity.


The venue is the Portland Room at the International Students House at

229 Gt. Portland Street, London W1W 5PN

(Nearest Underground station: Gt. Portland Street).

You will be able to reserve your place by telephoning Darayus Motivala on

+44 (0)1844 352 887 or emailing him at [email protected] by 12th June 2017.

We look forward to meeting you on this stimulating and educational day.