The Bundahišn: a new translation

Agostini, Domenico & Samuel Thrope (eds.). 2020. The Bundahišn: The Zoroastrian Book of Creation. A new translation. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Bundahisn, meaning primal or foundational creation, is the central Zoroastrian account of creation, cosmology, and eschatology. Compiled sometime in the ninth century CE, it is one of the most important surviving testaments to Zoroastrian literature in the Middle Persian language and to pre-Islamic Iranian culture. Despite having been composed some two millennia after the Prophet Zoroaster’s revelation, it is nonetheless a concise compendium of ancient Zoroastrian knowledge that draws on and reshapes earlier layers of the tradition.

Well known in the field of Iranian Studies as an essential primary source for scholars of ancient Iran’s history, religions, literatures, and languages, the Bundahisn is also a great work of literature in and of itself, ranking alongside the creation myths of other ancient traditions. The book’s thirty-six diverse chapters, which touch on astronomy, eschatology, zoology, medicine, and more, are composed in a variety of styles, registers, and genres, from spare lists and concise commentaries to philosophical discourses and poetic eschatological visions. This new translation, the first in English in nearly a century, highlights the aesthetic quality, literary style, and complexity and raises the profile of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian literature.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Shaul Shaked
1: On Material Creation
2: On the Creation of the Lights
3: On Why Creation Chose to Fight
4: On How the Adversary Attacked Creation
5: On the Opposition of the Two Spirits
6: On the Stages of the Battle of the Material Creation against the Evil Spirit
7: On the Likenesses of the Creatures
8: On the Nature of the Lands
9: On the Nature of the Mountains
10: On the Nature of the Seas
11: On the Nature of the Rivers
12: On the Nature of Lakes
13: On the Nature of the Five Forms of Animals
14: On the Nature of Mankind
15: On the Nature of the Birth of All Species
16: On the Nature of Plants
17: On the Mastery of Men, Animals, and Everything
18: On the Nature of Fire
19: On Sleep
20: On Songs
21: On the Nature of Wind, Clouds and Rain
22: On Vermin
23: On the Nature of the Wolf Species
24: On Various Things: How they were Created, and how their Adversaries Came
25: On the Religious Year
26: On the Great Deeds of the Spiritual Deities
27: On Ahriman and the Demons’ Evil Deeds
28: On the Human Body as the Measure of the Material World
29: On the Mastery of the Continents
30: On the Cinwad Bridge and the Souls of the Departed
31: On the Celebrated Lands of Iran, and the Kayanid House
32: On the Glorious Kayanid Palaces, which they call Wonders and Marvels
33: On the Calamities that have Befallen Iran, Millenium by Millenium
34: On Resurrection and the Final Body
35: On the Family and Lineage of Kayanids and on the Lineage of Porusasp
36: On the Chronology of the Arabs of Twelve Thousand Years
Afterword by Guy G. Stroumsa