Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hashashin



Rising to prominence during the Crusades, though they operated long before (and have survived in greatly altered form into the modern world), the Hashashin were a sect of deadly Muslim assassins-- the Nizari branch of the Ismaili Shia Muslim tradition.

The word "assassin" is generally thought to have derived from their name.

Covertly infiltrating enemy positions, either as sleeper agents who would remain close to their target for long periods of time, or as single-strike assassins, the Hashashin used only a blade or dagger, which they usually left with their target. Generally, it was understood that their mission was one of self-sacrifice, hence their refusal of any defensive weapons or plans for escape. Under no circumstances, however, would the hashashin take their own lives, preferring instead to be killed by their enemies once the target had been achieved.

Occasionally, rather than killing, the hashashin would merely leave a dagger on their target's pillow, a symbol to him that he was not safe anywhere, ever. They also tended to cultivate their terrifying reputation by carrying out assassinations in broad daylight and in full public view.

Contrary to popular belief, hashish and/or opium were not part of their belief systems, and in fact they abhorred the use of any intoxicants. For example, Farhad Daftary in The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma'ilis says: "...This propagandist concoction of a 'stoned' assassin fails to fit the complex reality of the discipline and training required for committing what was always an explicitly political act, (and) the popular notion of Nizaris as a community of killers also denies their rich, multivalent culture."

An interesting counterpart to the Hashashin existed in Christendom, particularly during the Crusades, where groups of ascetic warrior monks would accompany Christian armies. These warriors (whose name I forget--Josey, where are you?) were never affiliated with any knights or kings, but followed along the fringes of Christian armies, eating whatever food they could find, sleeping on the ground without blankets, and refusing the use of shoes.

Using whatever random weapons they could find on their journeys (axes, knives, pitchforks, scythes), they were a powerful weapon of terror, as they fought without regard for their own lives, and so were often sent as a first wave of attack. Generally, even the Christian armies they traveled with were somewhat afraid of them, and tended to avoid them outside of battle.

(adapted from Wikipedia, Robert Payne's "The Dream and the Tomb", and John Keegan's "A History of Warfare")



image from www.themiddleages.tripod.com

10 comments:

c-dog said...

Cool.

cara said...

why the interest in assasins?

book research?

Patrick said...

ha ha! i'm *always* researching for the book(s).

not sure where this re-interest came from, except that these two groups really grabbed my attention when i first read about them many years ago.

the similarities and diffs between warfare then and now are quite striking.

wolfBoy said...

whoops. that wasn't patrick. that was wolf-person.

cara said...

who is Patrick?

Hassan-i Sabbah said...

I used hash to indoctorinate the assasins. I kept a special garden with pretty ladies. I would smoke up the assasin and take him into the garden. The assasin would think he was in heaven. This is how I got their undying loyalty

Krahn said...

Robert Payne! I still have that John Keegan book, roberts.

Anonymous said...

ur a faget heheheheheh

Anonymous said...

I think i just pooped

ultan. said...

one of the known biggest attempts hassan i sabbah used to gain new recruits was as follows: he order a servant to dig a hole in front of hassans throne,so deep if you jumped into it only your head could be seen, he then ordered the servant to get in the hole. the servant did so. a metal tray that was usually used to hold meat on etc. was placed over the mans head, giving the appearance the mans head was freshly cut off and put on a tray, animals bloody and dirt where then thrown around and on the man to complete the look.

hassan said he could get the dead to praise him and so when the possible recruits came in hassan said he could get the severed head to speak of honour and how terrific hassan is sabbah was. the men were very impressed and decided to join the order. but to prove the man was actually dead... hassan later slaughtered the servant and put his head on a pike as proof.