The Execution of Mazdak, c. 1300

Unknown artist, expand_more

Mazdak (died c. 524/528) was a reformer and priest of Zoroastrianism, the state religion of Iranian kingdoms prior to Islam. Claiming to be a prophet of Ahura Mazda, the faith’s highest deity, Mazdak gained a large following by proposing a series of social reforms based on the principles of social equality and reduced powers of the priestly classes. But the Sasanian prince Nushiravan considered Mazdak a heretic; he is seen here shooting an arrow at the hanged reformer. Meanwhile, five of Mazdak’s followers are buried alive, upside down, a punishment vividly described in the Shahnameh as a “human garden.”

The Execution of Mazdak
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