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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 4522 times)
Trena Alloway
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Posts: 2386

« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 10:54:43 pm »

While Hassan abode in Egypt the question of the succession to the throne (always a matter of dispute in Oriental monarchies) became a subject of dissension and angry debate at court. The khalif had declared his eldest son, Nesar, to be his legitimate successor; but Bedr-al-Jemali, the Emir-al-Juyoosh, or commander-in-chief of the army, who enjoyed almost unlimited power under the Fatimites, asserted

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the superior right of Musteäli, the khalif's second son, which right his power afterwards made good. Hassan Sabah, not very wisely, as it would seem, took the side of Prince Nesar, and thereby drew on himself the hostility of Bedr-al-Jemali, who resolved on his destruction. In vain the reluctant khalif struggled against the might of the powerful Emir-al-Juyoosh; he was obliged to surrender Hassan to his vengeance, and to issue an order for committing him to close custody in the castle of Damietta.

While Hassan lay in confinement at Damietta one of the towers of that city fell down without any apparent cause. This being looked upon in the light of a miracle by the partisans of Hassan and the khalif, his enemies, to prevent his deriving any advantage from it, hurried him on board of a ship which was on the point of sailing for Africa. Scarcely had the vessel put to sea when a violent tempest came on. The sea rolled mountains high, the thunder roared, and the lightning flamed. Terror laid hold on all who were aboard, save Hassan Sabah, who looked calm and undisturbed on the commotion of the elements, while others gazed with agony on the prospect of instant death. On being asked the cause of his tranquillity he made answer, in imitation probably of St. Paul, "Our Lord (Seydna) has promised me that no evil shall befall me." Shortly afterwards the storm fell and the sea grew calm. The crew and passengers now regarded him as a man under the especial favour of Heaven, and when a strong west wind sprung up, and drove them to the coast of Syria, they offered no opposition to his leaving the vessel and going on shore.

Hassan proceeded to Aleppo, where he staid some time, and thence directed his course to Bagdad. Leaving that city he entered Persia, traversed the province of Khuzistan, and, visiting the cities of

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[paragraph continues] Isfahan and Yezd, went on to the eastern province of Kerman, everywhere making proselytes to his opinions. He then returned to Isfahan, where he made a stay of four months. He next spent three months in Khuzistan. Having fixed his view on Damaghan and the surrounding country in Irak as a district well calculated to be the seat of the power which he meditated establishing, he devoted three entire years to the task of gaining disciples among its inhabitants, For this purpose he employed the most eloquent dais he could find, and directed them to win over by all means the inhabitants of the numerous hill-forts which were in that region. While his dais were thus engaged he himself traversed the more northerly districts of Jorjan and Dilem, and when he deemed the time fit returned to the province of Irak, where Hussein Kaïni, one of the most zealous of his missionaries, had been long since engaged in persuading the people of the strong hill-fort of Alamoot to swear obedience to the khalif Mostanser. The arguments of the dai had proved convincing to the great majority of the inhabitants, but the governor, Ali Mehdi, an upright and worthy man, whose ancestors had built the fort, remained, with a few others, faithful to his duty, and would acknowledge no spiritual head but the Abbasside khalif of Bagdad; no temporal chief but the Seljookian Malek Shah. Mehdi, when he first perceived the progress of Ismaïlism among his people, expelled those who had embraced it, but afterwards permitted them to return. Sure of the aid of a strong party within the fort, Hassan is said to have employed against the governor the same artifice by which Dido is related to have deceived the Lybians *. He

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offered him 3,000 ducats for as much ground as he could compass with an ox-hide. The guileless Mehdi consented, and Hassan instantly cutting the hide into thongs surrounded with it the fortress of Alamoot. Mehdi, seeing himself thus tricked, refused to stand to the agreement. Hassan appealed to justice, and to the arms of his partisans within the fortress, and by their aid compelled the governor to depart from Alamoot. As Mehdi was setting out for Damaghan, whither he proposed to retire, Hassan placed in his hand an order on the reis Mozaffer, the governor of the castle of Kirdkoo, couched in these terms: "Let the reis Mozaffer pay to Mehdi, the descendant of Ali, 3,000 ducats, as the price of the fortress of Alamoot. Peace be upon the Prophet and his family! God, the best of directors, sufficeth us." Mehdi could hardly believe that a man of the consequence of the reis Mozaffer, who held an important government under the Seljookian sultans, would pay the slightest attention to the order of a mere adventurer like Hassan Sabah; he, however, resolved, out of curiosity, or rather, as we are told, pressed by his want of the money, to try how he would act. He accordingly presented the order, and, to his infinite surprise, was forthwith paid the 3,000 ducats. The reis had in fact been long in secret one of the most zealous disciples of Hassan Sabah.

Historians are careful to inform us that it was on the night of Wednesday, the sixth of the month Rejeb, in the 483d year of the Hejra, that Hassan Sabah made himself master of Alamoot, which was to become the chief seat of the power of the sect of the Ismaïlites. This year answers to the year 1090 of the Christian era, and thus the dominion of the Assassins was founded only nine years before the Christians of the west established their empire in the Holy Land.

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Click to enlarge
Hill Fort.



43:* Or Hassan-ben-Sabah (son of Sabah), so named from Sabah Homairi, one of his pretended Arabian ancestors.

44:* The Soonna is the body of traditions, answering to the Mishna of the Jews, held by the orthodox Mussulmans.

48:* Reis, from the Arabic Râs (the head), answers in some respects to captain, a word of similar origin. Thus the master of a ship is called the Reis. Sir John Malcolm says, "it is equivalent to esquire, as it was originally understood. It implies in Persia the possession of landed estates and some magisterial power. The reis is in general the hereditary head of a village."

50:* Mirkhond.

53:* Sir J. Malcolm says that the person with whom he read this portion of history in Persia observed to him that the English were well acquainted with this stratagem, as it was by means of it that they got Calcutta from the poor Emperor of Delhi.

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