Assassins

Assassins, a secret military and religious order in Syria and Persia, a branch of the "Ismaelites" (q.v.) or "Shiites." They were suppressed in the 11th and 12th centuries, but their principles to some extent survive in the Ansarians (q.v.). The secret doctrines of the Ismaelites, who had their head-quarters in Cairo, declared the descendants of Ismael, the last of the seven so-called imaums, to be alone entitled to the caliphate; and gave anl allegorical interpretation to the precepts of Islam, which led, as their adversaries asserted, to considering all positive religions equally right, and all actions morally indifferent. The atrocious career of the Assassins was but a natural sequence of such teaching. The founder of these last, Hassen ben-Sabbath el-Homairi, of Persian descent, about the middle of the 11th century, studied at Nishpur, under the celebrated Mowasek, and had subsequently obtained from Ismaelite dais, or religious leaders, a partial insight into their secret doctrines, and a partial consecration to the rank of dai. But, on betaking himself to the central lodge at Cairo, he quarreled with the sect, and was doomed to banishment. He succeeded, however, in making his escape from the ship, and reaching the Syrian coast, after which he returned to Persia, everywhere collecting adherents, with the view of founding, upon the Ismaelite model, a secret order of his own, a species of organized society which should be a terror to his most powerful neighbors. The internal constitution of the order, which had some resemblance to the orders of Christian knighthood, was as follows: First, as supreme and absolute ruler, came the Sheikh-al-jebal, the Prince or Old Man of the Mountain. His vicegerents in Jebal, Kuhistan, and Syria were the three Dai-al kebir, or grand priors of the order. Next came the dias and refiks, which last were not, however, initiated, like the former, into every stage of the secret doctrines, and had no authority as teachers. To the uninitiated belonged, first of all, the fedavis or fedais-i.e. the devoted; a band of resolute youths, the ever-ready and blindly obedient executioners of the Old Man of the Mountain. Before he assigned to them their bloody tasks, he used to have them thrown into a state of ecstasy by the intoxicating influence of the hashish (the hemp-plant), which circumstance led to the order being called Hashishim, or hemp-eaters. The word was changed by Europeans into Assassins, and transplanted into the languages of the West with the signification of murderers. The Lasiks, or novices, formed the sixth division of the order, and the laborers and mechanics the seventh. Upon these the most rigid observance of the Koran was enjoined; while the initiated, on the contrary, looked upon all positive religion as null. The catechism of the order, placed by Hassan in the hands of his dais, consisted of seven parts, of which the second treated, among other things, of the art of worming themselves into the confidence of men. It is easy to conceive the terror' which so unscrupulous a sect must have inspired. Several princes secretly paid tribute to the Old Man of the Mountain. Hassan, who died at the age of 70 (1125 A.D.), appointed as his successor Kia- Busurgomid, one of his grand priors. Kia-Busurg-Omid was succeeded in 1138 by his son Mohammed, who knew how to maintain his power against Nureddin and Jussuf-Salaheddin. In 1163, Hassan II was rash enough to extend the secret privilege of the initiated-exemption, namely, from the positive precepts of religion to the people generally, and to- abolish Islam in the Assassin state, which led to his falling a victim to his brother-in-law's dagger. Under the rule of his son, Mohammed II, who acted in his father's spirit, the Syrian Dai-al-kebir, Sinan, became independent, and entered into negotiations with the Christian king of Jerusalem for coming over, on certain conditions, to the Christian faith; but the Templars killed his envoys and rejected his overtures, that they might not lose the yearly tribute which they drew from him. Mohammed was poisoned by his son, Hassan III, who reinstated Islamism, and thence obtained the surname of the New Moslem. Hassan was succeeded by Mohammed III, a boy of nine years old, who, by his effeminate rule, led to the overthrow of the order, and was eventually murdered by command of his son, tokn-eddin, the seventh and last Old Man of the Mountain. In 1256, the Mongolian prince, Hulagu, burst with his hordes upon the hill-forts of Persia held by the Assassins, which amounted to about a hundred, capturing and destroying them. The Syrian branch was also put down about the end of the 13th century, but remnants of the sect still lingered for some time longer in Kuhistan. In 1352 the Assassins reappeared in Syria, and, indeed, they are still reported to exist as a heretical sect both there and in Persia. The Persian Ismaelites have an imaum, or superintendent, in the district of Kum, and still inhabit the neighborhood of Alamut under the name of Hosseinis. The Syrian Ismaelites live in the district of Massiat or Massyad. Their castle was taken in 1809 by the Nossaries, but restored.-Chambers, Ecyclcopcedia, . v. Withof, Das Rich der Assassinen (Cleve, 1765); Hammer, Geschichte der Assassinen (Stuttg. and Tub. 1818).

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 
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