Zoroaster was a religious reformer of ancient Persia (now Iran) and the founder of the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism. Thought to have lived about 300 years before Alexander the Great, Zoroaster (Zarathustra in Greek) had a religious vision when he was about 30 years old, and for the next decade travelled throughout Persia preaching and running afoul of the established religious authorities. The story goes that he eventually settled in the land of King Vishtaspa, who embraced Zoroaster's teachings and had his people adopt the new religion. Zoroastrianism is considered an early influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and one of the first monotheistic religions. It emphasizes that good and evil are separate entities at war with each other, in the form of Ormuzd (the god of good, creation and truth) and Ahriman (the god of evil destruction and lies), both ultimately descended from the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda. The holy book of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta, which includes the hymns of Zoroaster (The Gathas, from which most of his biographical information comes), liturgical texts and prayers.
Zoroastrianism is also sometimes called Parsiism, after the Parsi community of India where it is practiced… Zarathustra’s story was fictionalized by Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1885 book Thus Spake Zarathustra. The book, in turn, inspired Richard Strauss’s eerie 1896 composition of the same name, which Stanley Kubrick used in the caveman sequence at the start of his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.