Re: The Greek word 'Magoi'

Timothy T. Dickens (
Thu, 7 Nov 1996 10:01:54 -0500 (EST)

> >
> >Dr. Thiel and Dr. Conrad,
> >If the passage by Herodotus is given any type of credibility whatsoever,
> >then while the "religious practices" of the Magoi "aren't "necessarily. .
> >. related to the Persian," was the language of the Magoi old Persian?
> Dr. Thiel and I are not in any disagreement at all. I took my information
> from Der Kleine Pauly; I wasn't sure exactly about the sequence of language
> changes in ancient Persia, but my impression was that the oldest
> Zoroastrian texts were indeed in Old Avestan, an Indo-European language
> akin to Sanskrit, but that the language of the period in which Herodotus
> visited the area and learned about the Magoi was "Persian"--I guess Old
> Persian is the appropriate term for it. I would assume, without knowing it
> for sure, that Herodotus' informants were Persian, that he learned this
> proper name from them, and that he converted it into his Greek form,
> "Magos." And I don't think anything more can be said definitively about it.
> IF Herodotus is right, and the Magoi of which he speaks were a MEDIAN
> priestly caste, then I don't think we may confidently say that these
> "Magoi" spoke Old Persian, but only that Herodotus' sources, probably
> speaking Old Persian, CALLED them by a name that Herodotus converts into
> his own Greek nom. pl. MAGOI. I really think you're asking for more
> information than our sources give us.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University
Thanks Carl for tyour help

Peace and Love,

Tim Dickens