Friday, March 1, 2013
Hashshashin– The Order of Assassins
The Hashshashin, or Nizari, were a mysterious band of Muslim assassins that operated in the Middle East during the 13th century. The group was made up of Shia Muslims who broke off from a bigger sect and banded together in order to establish a utopian Shi’ite state. Because their number was small, the group used guerilla tactics in their battle against their enemies, including espionage, sabotage, and, most famously, political assassination. The Hashshashin would plant highly trained moles inside enemy strongholds, with instructions to only attack when the time was right. They were known for their extreme discretion in minimizing civilian casualties, as well as their penchant for using stealth to intimidate their targets. As the story goes, enemy leaders would often wake in the morning to find a Hashshashin dagger lying on their pillow, along with a note saying “you are in our grip.” Their legend soon grew, and before the Mongols finally destroyed the group, they became well known contract killers, supposedly performing jobs for the likes of King Richard the Lionheart.
Around the time of their downfall, the library that contained all Nizari records was destroyed, so much of what is known about them today has taken on the status of myth. The most controversial legend centers of the group’s use of drugs and other intoxicants– “Hashshashin” translates roughly as “Hashish user”–which some have said were employed by the members in battle. This has been widely discredited, but the term “Hashshashin” as it refers to the Nizari is believed to be the origin of the modern word “assassin.”