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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1861 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 10:55:27 pm »

p. 56

CHAPTER IV.

Description of Alamoot--Fruitless Attempts to recover it--Extension of the Ismaïlite Power--The Ismaïlites in Syria--Attempt on the Life of Aboo-Hard Issa--Treaty made with Sultan Sanjar--Death of Hassan--His Character.

ALAMOOT, a name so famous in the history of the East, signifies the Vulture's Nest, an appellation derived from its lofty site. It was built in the year 860, on the summit of a hill, which bears a fancied resemblance to a lion couching with his nose to the ground, situated, according to Hammer, in 50½° E. long. and 36° N. lat. It was regarded as the strongest of 50 fortresses of the same kind, which were scattered over the district of Roodbar (River-land), the mountainous region which forms the border between Persian Irak and the more northerly provinces of Dilem and Taberistan, and is watered by the stream called the King's River (Shahrood). As soon as Hassan saw himself master of this important place he directed his thoughts to the means of increasing its strength. He repaired the original walls, and added new ones; he sunk wells, and dug a canal, which conveyed water from a considerable distance to the foot of the fortress. As the possession of Alamoot made him master of the surrounding country, he learned to regard the inhabitants as his subjects, and he stimulated them to agriculture, and made large plantations of fruit-trees around the eminence on which the fortress stood.

But before Hassan had time to commence, much less complete these plans of improvement, he saw

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himself in danger of losing all the fruits of his toil. It was not to be expected that the emir, on whom the sultan had bestowed the province of Roodbar, would calmly view its strongest fort in the possession of the foe of the house of Seljook. Hassan, therefore, had not had time to collect stores and provisions when he found all access to the place cut off by the troops of the emir. The inhabitants were about to quit Alamoot, but Hassan exerted the usual influence of a commanding spirit over their minds, and confidently assured them that that was the place in which fortune would favour them. They yielded faith to his words and staid; and at length their perseverance wore out the patience of the emir, and Alamoot thence obtained the title of the Abode of Fortune. The sultan, who had at first viewed the progress of his ex-minister with contempt, began soon to grow apprehensive of his ultimate designs, and in 1092 he issued orders to the emir Arslantash (Lion-stone) to destroy Hassan and his adherents. Arslantash advanced against Alamoot. Hassan, though he had but 70 men with him, and was scantily supplied with provisions, defended himself courageously till Aboo Ali, the governor of Casveen, who was in secret one of his dais, sent 300 men to his aid. These fell suddenly, during the night, on the troops of the emir; the little garrison made at the same time a sortie; the sultan's troops took to flight, and Alamoot remained in the possession of the Ismaïlites. Much about the same time Malek Shah sent troops against Hussein Kaini, who was actively engaged in the cause of Hassan Sabah in Kuhistan. Hussein threw himself into Moominabad, a fortress nearly as strong as that of Alamoot, and the troops of the sultan assailed him in vain. It was now that Hassan began to display the system which we shall presently unveil. The aged vizir, the great and

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good Nizam-al-Moolk, perished by the daggers of his emissaries, and the sultan himself speedily followed his minister to the tomb, not without suspicion of poison.

Circumstances were now particularly favourable to the plans of Hassan Sabah. On the death of sultan Malek Shah a civil war broke out among his sons for the succession. All the military chiefs and persons of eminence were engaged on one side or the other, and none had leisure or inclination to attend to the progress of the Ismaïlites. These, therefore, went on gradually extending their power, and fortress after fortress fell into their hands. In the course of ten years they saw themselves masters of the principal hill-forts of Persian Irak; they held that of Shandorr * (King's pearl), and two other fortresses, close to Isfahan; that of Khalankhan, on the borders of Fars and Kuhistan; Damaghan, Kirdkoo, and Firoozkoo, in the district of Komis; and Lamseer and several others in Kuhistan. It was in vain that the most distinguished imams and doctors of the law issued their, fetuas against the sect of the Ismaïlites, and condemned them to future perdition; in vain they called on the orthodox to employ the


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sword of justice in freeing the earth from this godless and abominable race. The sect, strong in its secret bond of unity and determination of purpose, went on and prospered; the dagger avenged the fate of those who perished by the sword, and, as the Orientalized European historian of the society expresses it *, "heads fell like an abundant harvest beneath the twofold sickle of the sword of justice and the dagger of murder."

The appearance of the Ismaïlites, under their new form of organization, in Syria, happened at the same time with that of the crusaders in the Holy Land. The Siljookian Turks had made the conquest of that country, and the different chiefs who ruled Damascus, Aleppo, and the other towns and their districts, some of whom were of Turkish, others of Syrian extraction, were in a constant state of enmity with each other. Such powerful auxiliaries as the followers of Hassan Sabah were not to be neglected; Risvan, Prince of Aleppo, so celebrated in the history of the crusades, was their declared favourer and protector, and an Ismaïlite agent always resided with him. The first who occupied this post was an astrologer, and on his death the office fell to a Persian goldsmith, named Aboo Taher Essaigh. The enemies of Risvan felt the effects of his alliance with the Ismaïlites. The Prince of Emessa, for example, fell by their daggers, as he was about to relieve the castle of the Koords, to which Raymond, Count of Toulouse, had laid siege.

Risvan put the strong castle of Sarmin, which lay about a day's journey south of Aleppo, into the hands of Aboo-’l-Fettah, the nephew of Hassan Sabah, and his Dai-el-Kebir (Great Missionary) for the province of Syria. The governor of this fortress was Aboo Taher Essaigh. A few years afterwards (1107) the people of Apamea invoked the aid of Aboo Taher


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against Khalaf, their Egyptian governor. Aboo Taher took possession of the town in the name of Risvan, but Tancred, who was at war with that prince, having come and attacked it, it was forced to surrender. Aboo Taher stipulated for free egress for himself; but Tancred, in violation of the treaty, brought him to Antioch, where he remained till his ransom was paid. Aboo-’l-Fettah and the other Ismaïlites were given up to the vengeance of the sons of Khalaf. Tancred took front them at the same time another strong fortress, named Kefrlana. This is to be noted as the first collision between the Crusaders and the Assassins, as we shall now begin to call them. The origin of this name shall presently be explained.

On the return of Aboo Taher to Aleppo a very remarkable attempt at assassination took place. There was a wealthy merchant, named Aboo-Hard Issa *, a sworn foe to the Ismaïlites, and who had spent large sums of money in his efforts to injure them. He was now arrived from the borders of Toorkistan with a richly laden caravan of 500 camels. An Ismaïlite, named Ahmed, a native of Rei, had secretly accompanied him from the time he left Khorasan, with the design of avenging the death of his father, who had fallen under the blows of Aboo-Hard's people. The Ismaïlite, on arriving at Aleppo, immediately communicated with Aboo Taher and Risvan. Revenge, and the hope of gaining the wealth of the hostile merchant, made them yield assent at once to the project of assassination. Aboo Taher gave Ahmed


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