The Oracle of Hystaspes

For a project I’m working on, I needed to look up the Joseph Bidez and Franz Cumont classic Les Mages Hellénisés: Zoroastre Ostanès et Hystaspe d’après la tradition grecque (2 vols. Paris: Société d’Édition “Les Belles Letters”, 1938), specifically for the fragments of the lost Oracle of Hystaspes, which are typically referenced according to their arrangement in this very work. Those interested in apocalyptic writings should find interest in these selections, as they are often referred to, but generally inacessible.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Oracle of Hystaspes is a lost pseudepigraphal book, with only one direct quote surviving, but with (perhaps extensive) allusions to it found in several ancient writers, primarily Lactantius. While some would argue the Oracle comes from an authentic Persian and Zoroastrian background, others hold that it was not an authentic work of Persian origin, but one of numerous similar syncretistic Hellenistic texts, which seems most likely, or perhaps even a Jewish-adapted pseudepigraph. The book as a whole is unfortunately lost, so speculation on the details of the character of the original is fruitless. Suffice it to say, the work of Bidez and Cumont has been accepted as indicating all the most likely remnants of the Oracle of Hystaspes, and theirs is the standard numeration of the fragments, all of which are found below in English translation, my own and others’. The numeration of fragments begins with number 6 because numbers 1 through 5 were dedicated to ancient testimonies of the author alone, with no reference to the work itself. The English translations below follow precisely the ellipses given in the Greek and Latin texts. I would’ve translated everything from scratch, but I was feeling lazy. Enjoy!

Continue reading “The Oracle of Hystaspes”