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Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil Du Perron  

Celebrated Trips

Khosro E. Mehrfar   



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Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil du Perron, a French intellectual writer, interpreter, traveler and linguistics scholar is generally credited with pioneering works on the first translation of the Avesta into a European language.  Du Perron was born on December, 7th 1731 in Paris and due to his personal initiative, diligence, dedication and hard work generated great interest in the European intellectual circles in the study of Eastern languages and philosophy. 

Du Perron studied Hebrew at the university of Paris.  This was his first contact with an Eastern language.  He then turned his attention to learning about Persia and its colloquial languages.  His starting point for this endeavor was the Royal Library of Paris.  His first contact with the religion of Zarathushtra was through a few pages of a very old manuscript that had been published at  Oxford university under the title of “The Wisdom of the Parsees”  The reading of this old document stimulated his interest in digging deeper with the aim of uncovering the philosophical foundation of ancient Persia.  

The year was 1754, and Du Perron was only 23 years old, when his mind was set on traveling to India, where he hoped to make contact with the descendant of the ancient Persians known as Parsees who had taken refuge on the Indian soil centuries earlier. 

To pursue his dream of making contact with the descendants of ancient Iranians in India, Du Perron enlisted on a French ship as a way of paying for his passage to India at the time naval battles raged between European powers on the high seas of the Indian Ocean.   Anquetil became very sick en-route to India, and was almost thrown overboard, as he was thought to have expired.  However, he survived the ordeal and in overcoming incredible odds, and life threatening sickness, Du Perron finally reached the shores of India.  It was to be that he would regain his health and stamina to locate the Parsees.  He got close and became very friendly with the Persians of India and studied with various scholars of the community.  However, the one teacher who had the greatest intellectual influence on him was Dastur Darab, a well-known Zarathushtrian scholar of his time who became Du Perron’s teacher and mentor.   

In 1771, about seventeen years later after that faithful day in Paris, where he saw the Oxford manuscript for the first time, he published the very first European translation of the Avesta and named it "Le Zend-Avesta, ouvrage de Zoroastre."  Until then, very little was known about the Zarathushtra and his religion in Europe.  The discovery of the ancient writings and the personal ambitions of Du Peron to objectively and truthfully gather and publish information about Zarathushtra’s philosophy and doctrine shed a new light on the achievements of Zarathsuhtra’s as the first philosopher and prophet whom probably has had the most impact on human belief system than any other figure in history according to professor Mary Boyce.   

There were several attempts by British missionaries and associates such a John Williams to discredit Du Perron’s works.   However, such attempts were not successful, mostly thanks to Du Perron’s conduct of his research being fact finding  and scholarly focused.  The science of philology had not been started at the time.  Years later, through the continuation of works by scholars such as Dane Rask, Burnouf and others based on the philological methodology, the works of Du Perron’s was fully approved, appreciated and closeness of Avestan language with that of Sanskrit was discovered.  

Du Perron also wrote numerous papers and scholarly works on various Eastern and oriental languages, General Laws and Orders,  Moral Trades and International Relationships, and systems of governments,  Included amongst  his works are: 

Législation orientale (1778),
Historical and Geographical Research on India
The Dignity of Commerce
Commercial State
India in Rapport with Europe
(1804; "Secrets Never To Be Revealed").

Du Perron passed away on January 17th 1805 after a long and fruitful life of self dedication to the scientific works and scholarly research.  The Zoroastrian Educational Institute, Vohuman.org takes pride in dedicating the Fall 2000 issue of the Vohuman.org web journal to the memory of Du Perron for his great personal initiatives and scholarly endeavors aimed  at uncovering the Vision of Zarathushtra.

May his legacy inspire others to seek the wisdom of the Supreme Intellect, Ahura Mazda.