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Here are two verses of Zarathustra from his Gathas published in the The Hymns of Zoroaster: A New Translation of the Most Ancient Sacred Texts of Iran by M. L. West:

40.10

And that reward, Mindful One

Thou dost keep in your house

Good thought, and the souls of the Righteous

And Reverence, with which are Piety and Libation

Besides ... that confer lasting Dominion

And

49.11

But as for the ill-dominioned, ill-actioned, ill-speaking, ill-moralled, ill-thinking wrongful ones

The souls come to them with foul food

In the house of Wrong they will be veritable lodgers

They seem to be rather (!!!) at odds with Nietzschean philosophy, and Zarathustra did not speak in the way that Niezsche said he did.

Q. What evidence is there that Nietzsche was both familiar with Zarathustran philosophy and understood it?

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  • If you read Thus Sprach Zarathustra, Nietzschean Zarathustra at first tried to give the philosophy of Ubermensch but later gave the idea of last man. Maybe Nietzsche associated that idea with actual Zoroastrianism.
    – rus9384
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:31
  • See Avesta for details about the sources. Jan 20, 2019 at 15:10
  • Avesta was discovered and published in 1755 by the French Indologist Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731 – 1805) that published the first European language translation of a Hindu text containing some Unpanishads (albeit in an approximate rendering). Arthur Schopenhauer encountered Anquetil's Oupnek'hats in the spring of 1814 and repeatedly called it not only his favorite book but the work of the entire world literature that is most worthy of being read. Jan 20, 2019 at 15:15
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    Thus, being an admirer of Schopenhauer and a philologist, it is reasonable to think that N red the Western (bad) translations of Indian ancient texts. Having said that, Z is a fictional character in N's first masterpiece. Jan 20, 2019 at 15:45
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    This is an article from Encyclopaedia Iranica, which I had no idea even existed before I did some searching. "Nietzsche and Persia". I have just skimmed over it a bit and it seems interesting. iranicaonline.org/articles/nietzsche-and-persia
    – Gordon
    Jan 21, 2019 at 0:24

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Interesting question. It seems that he was not, and used Zarathustra as an icon. From Encyclopaedia Iranica (most relevant parts in bold, the excerpt is from epigraph Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and the Persian Zarathustra):

It is true that Nietzsche, as a student of philology, lived at the time of great advancement in the study of the Avesta and Indo-Iranian philology, and he was certainly not oblivious of the achievements in this field. But it is by no means certain that he had ever read Anquetil-Duperron’s translation of Zend Avesta. [...] it becomes apparent that his historical and philological studies [...] was not a matter of investigative scientific concern, but aimed at a hermeneutical reading from a novel revolutionary philosophical point of view. Moreover, he had a disdainful attitude toward supposedly “objective” scholarship restricted solely to painstaking research in specialized fields in the absence of a broad philosophical view (see, “On Scholars” and “The Leech” in Zarathustra Parts II and IV). [...]

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra can only be understood in the context of his other works and their underlying philosophical assumptions. He conceived himself as a philosopher who was destined to change the entire vision of humanity about the meaning of being and life through “revaluation of all values.” To this end, Zarathustra, the protagonist of his philosophy, is an iconic figure rather than a mere replica of the proto-historical Prophet. In the entire text of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra one finds only one indirect allusion to the Persians and their beliefs (Zarathustra I, “On the Thousand and One Goal”), while there is an abundance of references and allusions to the Bible, reflecting his perennial struggle and obsessive concern with Judeo-Christian beliefs and their impact on human history.

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