Religion in the Persian Empire

The religious policy was kept tolerant as the Persian kings saw value in embracing other religions throughout the empire. There is uncertainty whether the Persians followed Zoroastrianism as there is little evidence to suggest this. However, their devotion to Ahura Mazda is depicted on reliefs such as the relief of Darius in source A and the Behistan inscription and it appears the king promoted Ahura Mazda to justify their right to kingship.
The Persians tolerant religious policy was founded by Cyrus and continued by Darius and Xerxes. Within the empire it appears that the kings allowed other deities to co-exist. It is clear that both Xerxes and Darius strongly believed in Ahura Mazda, the god of life and truth but they did not impose this belief on subject people. Granger believes that not all Persians were Zoroastrians as other gods were worshipped in the empire such as Bel Marduk in Babylon, Yahweh in Israel and Amun in Egypt. The inscription on the side of the relief in source A is written in Elamite, Babylonian, and Persian to indicate the cohesion of the satraps. Darius adopted local titles such as pharaoh of Egypt and ‘king of all lands’ of Babylon to gain political strength and support from his vassal states. He also respected the religious practices, participated in the New Years’ Festival and sacrificed to local gods to legitimize his rule. In describing the religious policy, it was used for political gain by adopting other religions and religious festivals in order to maintain peace and a cohesive empire.
According to Herodotus Xerxes stole the statue of Bel Marduk however archaeological remains of the statue in Artaxerxes reign contradicts this account. In a daeva inscription, it appears that Xerxes removed the worship of the daevas or false gods ‘by the grace of Ahuramazda’. Herodotus also claims that he destroyed other cults in favour of Ahura Mazda which is contrary of all other Persian tolerance, but it must be acknowledged that Herodotus is not...