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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, 10:57:38 pm »

castle to be erected at the opening of it, through which the entry was by a secret passage. At his court, likewise, this chief entertained a number of youths, from the age of twelve to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants of the surrounding mountains, who showed a disposition for martial exercises, and appeared to possess the quality of daring courage. To them he was in the daily practice of discoursing on the subject of the paradise announced by the Prophet and of his own, of granting admission, and at certain times he caused draughts of a soporific nature to be administered to ten or a dozen of the youths, and when half dead with sleep he had them conveyed to the several apartments of the palaces in the garden. Upon awakening from this state of lethargy their senses were struck with all the delightful objects that have been described, and each perceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing, and attracting his regards by the most fascinating caresses, serving him also with delicious viands and exquisite wines, until, intoxicated with excess of enjoyment, amidst actual rivers of milk and wine, he believed himself assuredly in paradise, and felt an unwillingness to relinquish its delights. When four or five days had thus been passed, they were thrown once more into a state of somnolency and carried out of the garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence, and questioned by him as to where they had been, their answer was, 'In paradise, through the favour of your highness;' and then, before the whole court, who listened to them with eager curiosity and astonishment, they gave a circumstantial account of the scenes to which they had been witnesses. The chief thereupon addressing them said, 'We have the assurance of our Prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit paradise, and if you show yourselves devoted to the obedience of my orders, that happy lot

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awaits you.' Animated to enthusiasm by words of this nature all deemed themselves happy to receive the commands of their master, and were forward to die in his service."

This romantic narrative, more suited to a place among the wonders of the "Thousand and One Nights" than to admission into sober history, has been very generally rejected by judicious inquirers such as De Sacy and Wilkin, the able historians of the Crusades; but it has found credence with Hammer, to whose work we are indebted for the far greater part of the present details on the subject of the Assassins. This industrious scholar has, as he thinks, found a proof of its truth in the circumstance of similar narratives occurring in the works of some Arabian writers which treat of the settlements of the society in Syria, forgetting that a fabulous legend is often more widely diffused than sober truth. All, therefore, that can be safely inferred from this collection of authorities is that the same marvellous tale which the Venetian traveller heard in the north of Persia was also current in Syria and Egypt. Its truth must be established by a different species of proof.

In the Siret-al-Hakem (Memoirs of Hakem), a species of Arabian historic romance, the following account of the gardens at Massyat, the chief seat of the Assassins in Syria, was discovered by Hammer *:--

"Our narrative now returns to Ismaïl the chief of the Ismaïlites. He took with him his people laden with gold, silver, pearls, and other effects, taken away from the inhabitants of the coasts, and which he had received in the island of Cyprus, and on the part of the king of Egypt, Dhaher, the son of Hakem-biëmr-Illah. Having bidden farewell to the sultan of Egypt at Tripolis, they proceeded to Massyat, when


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the inhabitants of the castles and fortresses assembled to enjoy themselves, along with the chief Ismaïl and his people. They put on the rich dresses with which the sultan had supplied them, and adorned the castle of Massyat with everything that was good and fine. Ismaïl made his entry into Massyat with the Devoted (Fedavee), as no one has ever done at Massyat before him or after him. He stopped there some time to take into his service some more persons whom he might make Devoted both in heart and body.

"With this view he had caused to be made a vast garden, into which he had water conducted. In the middle of this garden he built a kiosk raised to the height of four stories. On each of the four sides were richly-ornamented windows joined by four arches, in which were painted stars of gold and silver. He put into it roses, porcelain, glasses, and drinking-vessels of gold and silver. He had with him Mamlooks (i.e. slaves), ten males and ten females, who were come with him from the region of the Nile, and who had scarcely attained the age of puberty. He clothed them in silks and in the finest stuffs, and he gave unto them bracelets of gold and of silver. The columns were overlaid with musk and with amber, and in the four arches of the windows he set four caskets, in which was the purest musk. The columns were polished, and this place was the retreat of the slaves. He divided the garden into four parts. In the first of these were pear-trees, apple-trees, vines, cherries, mulberries, plums, and other kinds of fruit-trees. In the second were oranges, lemons, olives, pomegranates, and other fruits. In the third were cucumbers, melons, leguminous plants, &c. In the fourth were roses, jessamine, tamarinds, narcissi, violets, lilies, anemonies, &c. &c.

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"The garden was divided by canals of water, and the kiosk was surrounded with ponds and reservoirs. There were groves in which were seen antelopes, ostriches, asses, and wild cows. Issuing from the ponds, one met ducks, geese, partridges, quails, hares, foxes, and other animals. Around the kiosk the chief Ismaïl planted walks of tall trees, terminating in the different parts of the garden. He built there a great house, divided into two apartments, the upper and the lower. From the latter covered walks led out into the garden, which was all enclosed with walls, so that no one could see into it, for these walks and buildings were all void of inhabitants. He made a gallery of coolness, which ran from this apartment to the cellar, which was behind. This apartment served as a place of assembly for the men. Having placed himself on a sofa there opposite the door, the chief made his men sit down, and gave them to eat and to drink during the whole length of the day until evening. At nightfall he looked around him, and, selecting those whose firmness pleased him, said to them, 'Ho! such-a-one, come and seat thyself near me.' It is thus that Ismail made those whom he had chosen sit near him on the sofa and drink. He then spoke to them of the great and excellent qualities of the imam Ali, of his bravery, his nobleness, and his generosity, until they fell asleep, overcome by the power of the benjeh * which he had given them, and which never failed to produce its effects in less than a quarter of an hour, so that they fell down as if they were inanimate. As soon as the man had fallen the chief Ismail arose, and, taking him up, brought him into a dormitory, and then, shutting the


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