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Matters are quite otherwise in the case of the Avesta, which is the principal source of knowledge of ancient Iranian religions.Like the Bible, the Avesta is a collection of a variety of texts composed over what appears to be a considerable span of time by different authors, which has endured editing and redaction at several points during the history of its development.

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Textual sources are both indigenous and foreign, the latter being primarily Greek, although for purposes of historical reconstruction the ancient Indian Vedic literature is indispensable.

The main problem with the Greek sources, the most important of which is Herodotus, is that the information they contain is not always very reliable, either because it is outright erroneous or because it is based on misunderstandings.

Apart from the Achaemenian inscriptions, there is no secure evidence that religious compositions were reduced to writing until the late Arsacid or early Sāsānian periods.

Thus, unlike the other religions of the Middle East, the Iranian religions had no written texts in the ancient period.

This account will take the conquest of the Achaemenian dynasty by Alexander the Great as a somewhat arbitrary date for the close of the period of ancient Iranian religion, even though these influences have continued through later history and some forms of Iranian religion have persisted to the present day.

It will also treat ancient Iranian religion, insofar as possible, apart from Zoroastrianism.

The remains of Achaemenian architecture and art, by far the most important of the material sources, provide abundant evidence of imperial articulation of religious symbols and show a thorough dependence on Middle Eastern precedents. These people were originally seminomadic pastoralists whose chief economic base was cattle, primarily bovines but also sheep and goats.

(“nobles”) migrated from the steppes down into the Middle East, the Iranian plateau, and the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. They bred horses, which they used for riding and pulling chariots in warfare and sport.

Among female deities the Earth, Spantā Aramati, and the sacred river, Ardvī Sūrā, were most prominent. Originally confined to ideas of social and natural order opposed by disorder and chaos, a dualistic ideology came to permeate all aspects of life.

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