Monday, November 27, 2006

The Assassins of Hassan-i-Sabah

Hassan-i Sabbah (the Old Man of the Mountain) lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. He founded a group of assassins whose members are referred to as the Hashshashin. The word assassin originates from this group. They were based heart of the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran.

Wikipedia notes, "The group transformed the act of murder into a system directed largely against Seljuk Muslim rulers who had been persecuting their sect. They were meticulous in killing the targeted individual, seeking to do so without any additional casualties and innocent loss of life, although they were careful to cultivate their terrifying reputation by slaying their victims in public, often in mosques. Typically they approached using a disguise; their weapon of choice was a dagger, rejecting poison, bows and other weapons that allowed the attacker to escape."

Hassan-i-Sabah had a unique and successful method of recruiting assassins. According to the site Assassins, "He constructed a secret garden and furnished it with all the delights promised in the Koran…to the faithful when they reached paradise. The chosen were drugged, one or two at a time, and taken to this garden by night. When they woke up in the morning they were surrounded by beautiful and scantily clad houris [in Muslim belief, women who live with the blessed in paradise] who would minister to their every need and desire. After being allowed to savor this false — but pleasant and sensual — paradise for a day or so, they were again drugged before being taken back to awaken in their own squalid hovel or cave dwelling. To them, it was as if it had been a vivid dream. Ben Sabbah then sent for them, told them Allah had given them a preview of paradise, and surprised them by telling them exactly what each had been up to while in the secret garden."

This recruitment method worked well. Even though the assassins did not seek death and would fight until dead, they never sought suicide. Despite this, many of the assassinations were carried out in public almost assuring death to the assassin. It is reasonable to assume that many of the assassins knew that their own death would occur in the process of the assassination attempt. Hassan-i-Sabah's "Paradise" approach worked wonders in conditioning his killers.

The Hashshashin were effectively destroyed by the Mongols. They destroyed Alamut (the assassin headquarters) in 1256. However, their legacy lives on to this day inspiring assassins.

1 comment:

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