Modern Iran is certainly a paragon of Islam but the country’s culture also has deep roots in the ancient mostly unrecorded Zoroastrian mythology. The key centers of the old religion, still regarded as holy and protector of the sacred flame, are in the city of Yazd and tucked away high on a mountain cliff further west at Pire Sabze Chak Chak, the Ka’ba of Zoroastrians.
The fire temple in Yazd is relatively modest in appearance but marshals a steady stream of visitors, both local and foreign. Supposedly, the protected altar contains a fire that has been kept alight continuously since 470 AD.
The religion’s beginnings and reach are vague. Herodotus' The Histories (completed c.440 BCE) includes a description of Greater Iranian society with allusion to Zoroastrian practices, including exposure of the dead to birds of prey. Whether Darius was a follower of Zoroaster has not been conclusively established, since devotion to the One Wise Lord apparently did not require explicit adherence to Zoroaster's teaching. But a number of the Zoroastrian texts and hymns that today are part of the Avesta have been attributed to that period. Sacred texts were believed lost when Alexander the Great's troops invaded Persepolis and subsequently destroyed the royal library there.