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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, 10:59:21 pm »

p. 84

CHAPTER VI.

Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid--Affairs of the Society in Persia--They acquire the Castle of Banias, in Syria--Attempt to betray Damascus to the Crusaders--Murders committed during the reign of Keäh Buzoorg.

KEAH BUZOORG OOMEID trod faithfully in the footprints of his predecessor. He built the strong fortress of Maimoondees, and he made the enemies of the society feel that it was still animated by the spirit of Hassan Sabah. Sultan Sanjar, who, on account of the favourable terms on which he had made peace with the Assassins, was regarded by the rigidly orthodox as a secret follower of their doctrine, declared A himself once more their open enemy, and sent an army to ravage Kirdkoh. These troops were defeated by those which Keäh sent against them; but the following year Sanjar put to the sword a great number of the members of the sect. The dagger, as usual, retaliated. Mahmood, the successor of Sanjar, having first tried in vain the effect of arms, sent his grand falconer Berenkesh to Alamoot, to desire that an envoy might be sent to him to treat of peace. The Khojah (Master) Mohammed Nassihi accompanied Berenkesh back to court, and kissed the hand of the sultan, who spoke to him a few words about the peace; but as the Khojah was going out of the palace, he and his followers were fallen upon and massacred by the people.

When the sultan sent an ambassador to Alamoot to exculpate himself from the guilt of participation in this violation of the laws of nations, Keäh made

p. 85

answer, "Go back to the sultan, and tell him, in my name, Mohammed Nassihi trusted to your perfidious assurances, and repaired to your court; if you speak truly, deliver up the murderers to justice; if not, expect my vengeance." On the refusal of the sultan to surrender the murderers, a corps of Assassins appeared at the gates of Casveen, slew 400 men, and led away 3,000 sheep, 200 horses, and 200 oxen. Next year the sultan took, and retained for a short time, the fortress of Alamoot; but a body of 2,000 men which he sent against Lamseer fled, without drawing a sword, when they heard that the Refeek (Companions) of the society were marching against them. Shortly afterwards the sultan died, and the Assassins made another incursion into the district of Casveen, where they carried off booty and prisoners.

The mountain chief would tolerate no rival near his throne. Hearing that one Aboo Hashem, a descendant of Ali, had arrogated to himself the dignity of imam in the province of Ghilan, which lies north of Kuhistan, and had issued letters calling on the people to acknowledge him, Keäh wrote to him to desist from his pretensions. The self-appointed imam only replied by reviling the odious tenets of the Ismaïlites. The sheikh forthwith sent a body of his troops against him, took him prisoner, and, after trying him by a court-martial, committed him to the flames.

Though, as we have seen, the settlements of the Assassins were in the mountainous region of Irak, in the north-west of Persia, their power was of such a nature that no distance was a security against it. A Fedavee could speedily traverse the intervening regions to plant his dagger in the bosom of any prince or minister who had incurred the vengeance of the Sheikh-al-Jebal. Accordingly we find the shah (King) of Khaurism, between which and Irak lies

p. 86

the extensive province of Khorasan, coming to Sultan Massood, the successor of Mahmood, to concert with him a plan for the destruction of these formidable foes to princes. The shah of Khaurism had been formerly rather disposed to favour the Ismaïlites, but his eyes were now opened, and he was become their most inveterate enemy. Sultan Massood, we know not for what reason, bestowed on him the lands which Berenkesh, the grand falconer, had held of the sultan. Berenkesh, mortally offended at this unworthy treatment, retired, with his family, to the territory of the Ismaïlites, and sought the protection of Keäh, whose open enemy he had hitherto been. Policy, or a regard to good faith and humanity, made the Assassin prince grant the protection which was required; and when the shah of Khaurism wrote, reminding Keäh of his own former friendship, and the bitter hostility of Berenkesh, and requesting him, on that plea, to give up the fugitive, the sheikh replied, "The shah of Khaurism speaks true, but we will never give up our suppliants." Long and bloody enmity between the sheikh and the shah was the consequence of this refusal to violate the rights of hospitality.

The Syrian branch of the society begins at this time to attract rather more attention than that of Persia, chiefly on account of its connexion with the Crusaders, who had succeeded in establishing an empire extending from the frontiers of Egypt to those of Armenia. A Persian Ismaïlite, named Behram of Astrabad, who is said to have commenced his career by the murder of his own father, gained the confidence of the vizir of the prince of Damascus, who gave him the castle of Banias, or Banias (the ancient Balanea), for the use of the society. This place, which became the nucleus of the power of the Assassins in Syria, lies in a fertile, well-watered

p. 87

plain, about 4,000 paces from the sea. The valley whence the numerous streams which fructify it issue is called the Wadi-al-Jinn (Valley of Demons), "a place," observes Hammer, whom no casual coincidence escapes, "from its very name worthy of becoming a settlement of the Assassins." From Banias they extended their power over the neighbouring castles and fortresses, until, twelve years afterwards, the seat of dominion was transferred thence to Massyat.

Behram fell shortly afterwards in an engagement against the people of the valley of Taïm, the brother of whose chief had perished by the daggers of the Assassins. His successor was Ismaïl, a Persian, who continued the bond of amity with the vizir of Damascus, whither he sent, by way of resident, a man named, rather inappropriately as it would appear, Aboo-’l-Wefa (Father of Fidelity). This man so won the favour of the vizir and prince that he was appointed to the office of Hakem, or supreme judge; and having thus acquired power and influence, he immediately turned his thoughts to the best mode of employing them for the advantage of the society, an object always near the heart of a true Ismaïlite. A place of strength on the sea-coast would, he conceived, be of the utmost importance to them; so he fixed his eyes upon Tyre, and fell upon the following expedient to obtain possession of it.

The Franks had been now upwards of thirty years established in the East. Their daring and enthusiastic valour was at once the dread and the admiration of their Mussulman foes, and feats almost surpassing the fables of the romances of chivalry had been performed by their gallant warriors. These were the auxiliaries to whom Aboo-’l-Wefa directed his attention; for we are to observe that as yet the fanatic spirit had not united all the Moslems in enmity

p. 88

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