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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 4684 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 10:58:26 pm »

But, laying aside supposition, we may observe that the very power over the minds of their followers ascribed to Hassan Sabah and his successors has been actually exercised in our own days by the chief of the Wahabees. Sir John Malcolm * informs us, from a Persian manuscript, that a few years ago one of that sect, who had stabbed an Arab chief near Bussora, when taken, not only refused to do anything towards saving his life, but, on the contrary, seemed anxiously to court death. He was observed to grasp something firmly in his hand, which he appeared to prize beyond life itself. On its being taken from him and examined,

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it proved to be an order from the Wahabee chief for an emerald palace and a number of beautiful female slaves in the blissful paradise of the Prophet. This story, however, it must be confessed, appears to be little consistent with the principles of the sect of the Wahabees, and we may suspect that it has originated in some misapprehension.

The following instance of the implicit obedience of the Fedavee to the orders of Hassan Sabah is given 'by a respectable oriental historian *. An ambassador from the Sultan Malek Shah having come to Alamoot to demand the submission and obedience of the sheikh, Hassan received him in a hall in which he had assembled several of his followers. Making a sign to one youth, he said, "Kill thyself!" Instantly the young man's dagger was plunged into his own bosom, and he lay a corpse upon the ground. To another he said, "Fling thyself down from the wall." In an instant his shattered limbs were lying in the castle ditch. Then turning to the terrified envoy, "I have seventy thousand followers who obey me after this fashion. This be my answer to thy master."

Very nearly the same tale is told of the Assassins of Syria by a western writer †. As Henry Count of Champagne was journeying, in the year 1194, from Palestine to Armenia ‡, his road lay through the confines of the territory of the Ismaïlites. The chief sent some persons to salute him, and to beg that, on his return, he would stop at, and partake of the hospitality of his castle. The count accepted the invitation. As he returned the Dai-al-Kebir advanced to meet him, showed him every mark of honour, and led him to view his castles and fortresses. Having

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passed through several, they came at length to one the towers of which rose to an exceeding height. On each tower stood two sentinels clad in white. "These," said the chief, pointing to them, "obey me far better than the subjects of you Christians obey their lords;" and at a given signal two of them flung themselves down, and were dashed to pieces. "If you wish," said he to the astonished count, "all my white ones shall do the same." The benevolent count shrank from the proposal, and candidly avowed that no Christian prince could presume to look for such obedience from his subjects. When he was departing, with many valuable presents, the chief said to him significantly, "By means of these trusty servants I get rid of the enemies of our society."

In oriental, and also in occidental history, the same anecdote is often told of different persons, a circumstance which might induce us to doubt of its truth altogether, or at least of its truth in any particular case. The present anecdote, for instance, with a slight variation in the details, is told of Aboo Taher, a celebrated leader of the Carmathites. This chief, after his expedition to Mecca, in which he had slain 30,000 of the inhabitants, filled the hallowed well Zemzem with the bodies of dead men, and carried off the sacred black stone in triumph, had the hardihood to approach Bagdad, the residence of the khalif, with only 500 horsemen. The pontiff of Islam, enraged at the insult, ordered his general Aboo Saj to take 30,000 men, and make him a prisoner. The latter, having collected his forces, sent a man off to Aboo Taher to tell him on his part that out of regard for him, who had been his old friend, he advised him, as he had so few troops with him, either to yield himself at once to the khalif or to see about making his escape. Aboo Taher asked of the envoy how many men Aboo Saj had with him. The

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envoy replied, "Thirty thousand." "He still wants three like mine," said Aboo Taher; and calling to him three of his men, he ordered one of them to stab himself, another to throw himself into the Tigris, a third to fling himself down from a precipice. His commands were at once obeyed. Then turning to the envoy, "He who has such troops fears not the number of his enemies. I give thyself quarter; but know that I shall soon let thee see thy general Aboo Saj chained among my dogs." In fact, that very night he attacked and routed the troops of the khalif, and Aboo Saj, happening to fall into his hands, soon appeared chained among the mastiffs of the Carmathite chief *.

The preceding details on the paradise of the Sheikh-al-Jebal, and his power over the minds of his followers, will at least help to illustrate the manners and modes of thinking of the orientals. We now resume the thread of our narrative, and proceed to narrate the deeds of the Assassins, as we shall henceforth designate them.


67:* Ahmar, fem. Hamra, is red in Arabic; hence the celebrated Moorish palace at Granada was called Alhambra (Al Hamra), i.e. the Red.

67:† Hence the Spanish Cid.

67:‡ Hammer, book ii.

71:* Wilken, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, vol. ii

72:* Marsden's Translation.

74:* Fundgruben des Orients, vol. i 11.

76:* The Arabic name of the hyoscyamus, or henbane. Hammer conjectures that the word benge, or, with the Coptic article in the plural, ni-benje, is the same with the nepenthe of the ancients.--Fundgruben des Orients, iii. 202.

79:* Fundgruben des Orients, vol. iv.

80:* History of Persia, vol. i.

81:* Elmacin, Historia Saracenica, l. iii. p. 286.

81:† Marinus Sanutus, l. iii. p. x. c. 8.

81:‡ This was the Armenia in Cilicia.

83:* D’Herbelot, titre Carmath.

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