“Who is Zarathustra to us?” This question, suggestively posed by Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra  receives much needed attention in the book reviewed here. In this broad study of the image of Zoroaster in Europe, Jenny Rose endeavours to answer a number of interrelated questions that Iranists  and historians of religion alike have posed in the past (p. io):  ”«Did Zoroastrian teaching and ideology offer a challenge to European understanding of religion and philosophy? How did the encounter with Zarathushtra affect the self-understanding of different European cultures? What has been the significance of the search for “Zoroastrian wisdom”?»
Rose attempts to answer these challenging questions by analyzing the appropriation of Zoroaster by “the West” beginning with the Classical world and culminating with Nietzsche’s use of Zarathushtra as the mouthpiece for his epistemological re-evaluation of European philosophy at the end of the nineteenth century (p. 2). Rose begins her ambitious work by stating her intention to redress the lamentable lack of scholarly attention focused on pre-Islamic Iran (p. 9). Her methodological and theoretical approaches are grounded in an analysis of the literary tropes deployed in the anthropological “Othering” process implicit in “cross-cultural translation” (pp. 5-6) . Acutely aware of her own role in “re-narrating Zarathushtra” (Preface, p. viii.), Rose self-consciously uses Edward Said’s view on Orientalism for both inspiration and method.
The introduction is devoted to several important theoretical questions, including the ones cited above. In the first chapter Rose examines the Zoroastrian tradition regarding the life and teachings of the prophet , which she then contrasts with a survey of the extant classical sources on Zoroaster in the second chapter. In the remaining five chapters, she covers such wide-ranging topics as the Italian Renaissance, the French Enlightenment, German and English Romanticism, and Nietzsche The eighth and final chapter is a summation of the questions posed in the introduction and further avenues of research.
In the first chapter, Rose discusses the theories and contributions of major Iranists, and, while much of her presentation is balanced and well thought out, two points in her discussion of the Gathas and the Pahlavi sources are problematic. She suggests that the Gathas are «personal utterances, poetic art, but not really ritual texts intended to meet the needs of a community gathered for religious ceremony» (p 19). This characterization of the Gathas is at odds with the results of Avestan scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century. First, H. Humbach, in his 1959 edition of the Gathas, as well as in previous articles, demonstrated conclusively the ritual context of the Gathas . Second, Rose touches upon the historical validity of the prophet in a rather cursory manner. She briefly quotes M. Molé regarding the historiographical difficulties surrounding the figure of Zoroaster , but she does not discuss what significance Molé’s views might have for her study. In regard to such a controversial and fundamental question one would have liked a more critical treatnient of Molé’s skepticism regarding the historicity of Zarathushtra References to Kellens and Pirart’s Gatha translation  and their subsequent works, in which they call into question the hsstoricsty of Zarathushtra, are also curiously missing .
Despite such an omission, Rose does perceptively point out that the image of Zarathushtra coincides with the predilections of his respective “biographer” (p. 14). Following W Hinz  she suggests that the prophet has «suffered more distortions “in the mirror of posterity” than virtually any of the other great figures of history» (p. 14). Admitting the scarcity of history or biography in the Old Avesta, Rose presents four diagnostic features, which she believes encapsulate the main dimensions of Zarathushtra’s character (p. 18): (1) “Authority — both spiritual and royal”; (2) “Wisdom — the philosopher: the sage of ancient divine Wisdom, who speaks to the foolishness (and often violence) of the age”; (3) “Revelation — the poet, the priest-prophet; the Voice”; (4) Transformation — the seer who has transforming powers; the mage; the liberator”. The main thrust of Rose’s work is in arguing that these four “emblematic features” (p. 18), which exist in the Zoroastrian sources, continually recur in European discourse on Zoroaster (pp. 58—22).
In the second chapter, Rose examines the European origins of these literary tropes, by analyzing the coherence and discontinuities between Zoroastrian lore and the Classical sources, which portray Zoroaster «as a source of innate and “alien” wisdom» (p. 43). She initially asserts that, «In a sense, the classical authors were anticipating later European “Orientalists” in their use of the image of Zarathushtra for their own purposes» (p. 38). While it is evident that the absorption of Iranian philosophy into western epistemology would constitute an appropriation of “Eastern” wisdom, I find doubtful the notion that an event or historical period in the past could anticipate any similar occurrence in the present.
According to Rose, pseudepigrapha ascribed to “Zoroaster” (with very few Zoroastrian elements in them) «were not intended to act as vehicles for Zoroastrian teaching but helped to foster the confusion between what was “original” Zoroastrianism and what was a later accretion» (p. 44). To my mind, this statement inevitably raises the question of what does “original” mean, since virtually all the biographical material we utilize is from the Young Avestan and Pahlavi texts. If one accepts M. Boyce’s putative dating of the Gathas to approximately 1200 B.C., the later Pahlavi material, while archaic in character, is nonetheless 1500-1800 years younger. Her argument becomes even more problematic when she assumes there is consensus among Iranists on what constitutes “original” Zoroastrianism .
In the third chapter, Rose discusses the relationship between the Italian Renaissance and «the growth of “Near Eastern Studies” as a formal, academic discipline, albeit imprinted with the exoticism that was to characterize it until the present century». She also cites the appeal of travel accounts and narratives of “the East” (pp. 59—6 1) as having had a profound impact on European authors. According to Rose, these travelogues were a conflation of Middle Persian sources and oral tradition overlaid with Islamic legends, yet were consonant with pre-Sasansan religion (pp. 90-93). The dearth of sources on the pre-Sasanian period makes her claims difficult to verify.
In chapter four, Rose presents a broad survey of the influences that these travelogues (pp. 88-93) and the then burgeoning oriental academies and institutes  (pp. 101-102) exerted on French intellectuals of the Enlightenment. In this chapter, she also demonstrates the tremendous impact of A.H. Anquetil Duperron’s translation of the Avesta  in 1771 on European intellectual history: «for the first time, scriptural texts independent of a Biblical or Classical source were available in Europe» ( p. 104) . Rose praises Anquetil for being aware of the narrative biases inherent in both his Iranian and classical sources (pp. 102-105) and for working to dispel the myth of ”Oriental despotism” (p. 106), one of the most common literary tropes cited by E. Said. In discussing Anquetil and his motivations, Rose refreshingly deviates from Said’s overly generalized critique of philology and its practitioners .
In chapters five and six, Rose explores the use of the figure of Zoroaster by the German and English romantics, respectively. According to her, Austrian freemasonry was one of the repositories for the image of Zoroaster as transformative mage (pp. 121-124). In chapter five, she then proceeds to make a rather tenuous link between Mozart’s freemasonry, his The Magic Flute, and Anquetil’s translation (p. 126). She suggests that the Egyptian dualistic motifs in Plutarch (1st-2nd century A.D.) and those in The Magic Flute might be Zoroastrian in origin rather than Egyptian (p. 134). Mozart’s Sarastro does not really conform particularly well with Rose’s diagnostic features. After displaying the four “emblematic” features that Sarastro shares with his namesake, she is forced to concede, that «he is conceived of not so much as a human being, but as a supernatural force» (p. 138). Such a view brings up the most general criticism of a study of this nature. Many of the homologies cited by Rose are suggestive and quite attractive, but firm historical proof in many cases remains rather elusive despite the impressive array of examples presented.
In chapter seven, Rose focuses on Nietzsche and his appropriation of “the archetype of the wise old man” (p. 186). She suggests that Nietzsche plays with the figure of received wisdom and tradition, while juxtaposing his Zarathushtra, a redeemer and transformer of the very values that are ascribed to the Iranian prophet (pp. 182-186) . Rose’s survey of the influences of Zoroastrian studies and Iranian philology on Nietzsche’s life and work are refreshing. It is worth pointing out that virtually all the secondary-source material written about Spoke Zarathustra ignores the Iranian motifs in Nietzsche’s most complex and enigmatic work. Insightfully suggests certain common themes that characterize the Iranian prophet and Nietzsche’s agonist (pp. 181-182) so she also demonstrates how Nietzsche inverted the character and philosophy of the prophet as understood at the time (pp. 184-189) thus appropriating Zarathushtra for his own critique of Greek philosophy and Christian mores and values (pp. 182—186).
Nietzsche’s use of Zarathushtra provides the coda for Rose’s study and prompts her to ask the question ( p. 196): «Would the Europeans from the different cultures and historical ages mentioned in this study recognize the “real” Zarathushtra were he to appear to them?» In the concluding chapter, she states «the discourse containing Zarathushtra or the Zoroastrian Other does not arise from sonic general monolithic “Western” or “European” outlook but … each European culture has its own predominant perception. Often, such discourse arises from a particular culture’s own self-dissatisfaction».
The most curious aspect of Rose’s four emblematic features of Zoroaster is that they appear to transgress many, if not most, of the paternalistic and essentializing tropes  contained in Said’s account of Orientalism : European colonialism and philology were mutually self-supporting endeavours that developed, codified, and propagated notions of ”the East” and especially Islam  as being, among other things, non-rationalistic, imaginative, childish, sensual and fatalistic. Rose wonders why Zoroastrianism is so rarely portrayed in such negative terms (p. 197): «Is it because there was no threat perceived from the Zoroastrian religious tradition, due to its limited numbers and lack of political power, in contrast to Islam? Or because the image of Zarathushtra was sufficiently general and satisfactorily transferable into European parlance to be a comforting rather than a frightening image? Or because of the historical precedent for regarding Zoroaster as an illuminated being, and enshrining him in the Christian tradition through the portrayal of the “wise men" in the Gospel of Matthew amid later commentaries?»
These questions raised by Rose, to my mind, highlight a major weakness of her book Said’s works privilege particular literary tropes over an analysis of the historical realities which underlie the development of said tropes. I wish Rose had provided a more critical reading of Said’s theses on Orientalism and further explored the historical implications of the historiographical questions she raises.
Discussing the Romantic movement, Rose cites Voltaire (p. 149): «Zoroaster is spoken of much, and will be spoken of again.» In this book, her first, Rose surveys a wider span of material in greater depth than virtually any scholar before her. The major strength of the work, besides its scope, is the degree of self-reflexivity that she brings to her analysis. She is keenly aware of the long-standing need to contextualize Zoroastrianism (and Iranian Studies) within the East-West discourse and has therefore attempted to situate the image of Zoroaster in the intellectual currents of the times. By doing so, Rose has presented us with a thorough and accessible study of Zoroaster’s place within western intellectual history.