The earliest Persians worshipped many gods. But a prophet named Zarathustra (zar•uh•THOOS•trah) changed that. A prophet is a person who others believe speaks or writes with a divine message. Zarathustra began a religion called Zoroastrianism (zohr • uh • WASS • tree • uh • nih • zuhm), which taught a belief in two gods.
One god was the good and kind Ahura Mazda, or "Wise Lord." Ahura Mazda stood for truth. The other god, Ahriman, was his enemy. Zoroastrians believed that good and evil fought each other but that one day good would win. "The Earth is a battleground, a struggle between forces of light and forces of darkness," said Zarathustra. People who followed Zoroastrianism believed that they would live in a paradise after they died.
Persian religion, customs, and culture spread as the Persian Empire grew. When the empire began to decline, Persians had to fight their conquerors to hold on to their heritage. The fighting continued until the Arabs conquered the region in about A.D. 750. They brought their culture and the religion of Islam to the region.
What is Zoroastrianism?