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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 5711 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #30 on: January 04, 2009, 11:01:04 pm »

Accordingly, when the month Ramazan (the Mohammedan Lent) of the 559th year of the Hejra (A. D. 1163) was come, he ordered all the inhabitants of Roodbar to assemble on the place of prayer (Mosella), or esplanade, before the castle of Alamoot. Facing the direction of the Keblah * he caused a pulpit to be erected, at whose four corners were displayed banners of the different hues familiar to Islam, namely, a white, a red, a yellow, a green, colours adverse to the black of the Abbassides.

On the 17th day of the month the people, in obedience to his commands, appeared in great numbers beneath the walls of the fortress. After a little

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time Hassan came forth and ascended the pulpit. All voices were hushed; expectation waited on the words of the Sheikh-al-Jebal. He commenced his discourse by perplexing the minds of his auditors by enigmatical and obscure sentences. When he had thus deluded them for some time, he informed them that an envoy of the imam (that is, the phantom of a khalif who was still sitting on the throne at Cairo) had arrived, and had brought him a letter addressed to all Ismaïlites, whereby the fundamental tenets of the sect were renewed and confirmed. He proceeded to assure them that, by this letter, the gates of mercy and compassion had been opened for all who would follow and obey him; that they were the true elect; that they were freed from all obligations of the law, and delivered from the burden of all commands and prohibitions; that he had now conducted them to the day of the resurrection, that is, of the revelation of the imam. He then commenced in Arabic the Khootbeh, or public prayer, which he said he had received from the imam; and an interpreter, who stood at the foot of the pulpit, translated it for them to the following effect:--

"Hassan, the son of Mohammed, the son of Buzoorg Oomeid, is our khalif (successor), dai, and hoojet (proof). All who follow our doctrine must hearken to him in affairs of faith and of the world, and regard his commands as imperative, his words as impressive. They must not transgress his prohibitions, and they must regard his commands as ours. They should know that our lord has had compassion upon them, and has conducted them to the most high God."

When this proclamation was made known Hassan came down from the pulpit, directed tables to be spread, and commanded the people to break the fast, and to give themselves up, as on festival days, to all

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kinds of enjoyment, with music, and various games and sports. "For this," cried he, "this is the day of the resurrection;" that is, according to the Ismaïlite mode of interpreting the Koran, the day of the manifestation of the imam.

What the orthodox had before only suspected was now confirmed. It was now manifest, beyond doubt, that the Ismaïlites were heretics who trampled under foot all the most plain and positive precepts of Islam; for, though they might pretend to justify their practice by their allegorical system of interpretation, it was clearly repugnant to common sense, and might be made the instrument of sanctioning, under the name of religion, every species of enormity. From this time the term Moolahid (impious) began to become the common and familiar appellation of the Ismaïlites in the mouths of the orthodox Moslems. As to the Ismaïlites themselves, they rejoiced in what they had done; they exulted like emancipated bondsmen in the liberty which they had acquired; and they even commenced a new era from the 17th (or, according to some authorities, the 7th) Ramazan of the 559th year, namely, the day of the manifestation of the imam. To the name of Hassan they henceforth affixed the formula "On his memory be peace;" which formula, it would appear, was employed by itself to designate him; for the historian Mirkhond assures us that he had been informed by a credible person that over the door of the library in Alamoot was the following inscription:--

"With the aid of God, the bonds
Of the law he took away,
The commander of the world,
Upon whose name be peace."

The madness of Hassan now attained its climax. He disdained to be regarded, like his predecessors, as merely the representative of the imam on earth,

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but asserted himself to be the true and real imam, who was now at length made manifest to the world. He sent letters to all the settlements of the society, requiring them to acknowledge him in his new capacity. He was prudent enough, however, to show a regard for the dignity and power of his different lieutenants in these letters, as appears by the following specimen, being the letter which was sent to Kuhistan, where the reis Mozaffar commanded:--

"I Hassan say unto you that I am the representative of God upon earth, and mine in Kuhistan is the reis Mozaffar, whom the men of that country are to obey, and to receive his word as mine."

The reis erected a pulpit in the castle of Moominabad, the place of his residence, and read the letter aloud to the people, the greater part of whom listened to its contents with joy. The tables were covered before the pulpit, the wine was brought forth, the drums and kettle-drums resounded, the notes of the pipe and flute inspired joy, and the day of the abolition of the positive precepts of the law was devoted to mirth and festivity. Some few, who were sincere and upright in their obedience to Islam, quitted the region which they now regarded as the abode of infidelity, and went in search of other abodes; others, of a less decided character, remained, though shocked at what they were obliged every day to behold. The obedience to the commands of the soi-disant imam was, however, tolerably general, and, according to Hammer, who can scarcely, however, be supposed to regard the system of Hassan as really more licentious than he has elsewhere described that of Mahomet, "the banner of the freest infidelity, and of the most shameless immorality, now waved on all the castles of Roodbar and Kuhistan, as the standard of the new illumination; and, instead of the name of the Egyptian khalif, resounded from

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all the pulpits that of Hassan as the true successor of the Prophet."

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #31 on: January 04, 2009, 11:01:35 pm »

The latter point had presented some difficulty to Hassan; for, in order to satisfy the people on that head, it was necessary to prove a descent from the Prophet, and this was an honour to which it was well known the family from which he was sprung had never laid claim. He might take upon him to abolish the positive precepts of the law as he pleased, and the people, whose inclinations were thereby gratified, would not perhaps scan very narrowly the authority by which he acted; but the attempt to deprive the Fatimite khalif of the honour which he had so long enjoyed, and to assume the rank of God's vicegerent on earth in his room, was likely to give too great a shock to their prejudices, if not cautiously managed.

It was necessary, therefore, that he should prove himself to be of the blood of the Fatimites. He accordingly began to drop some dark hints respecting the truth of the received opinion of his being the son of Keäh Mohammed. Our readers will recollect that, when Hassan Sabah was in Egypt, a dispute had taken place respecting the succession to the throne, in which Hassan had nearly lost his life for opposing the powerful commander-in-chief (Emir-al-Jooyoosh), and Nezar, the prince for whom the khalif Mostanser had designed the succession, had been deprived of his right by the influence of that officer. The confidents of Hassan now began to give out that, in about a year after the death of the khalif Mostanser, a certain person named Aboo-’l-Zeide, who had been high in his confidence, had come to Alamoot, bearing with him a son of Nezar, whom he committed to the care of Hassan Sabah, who, grateful to the memory of the khalif and his son, had received the fugitive with great honour, and assigned a village at the foot of Alamoot for the

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residence of the young imam. When the youth was grown up he married and had a son, whom he named On his Memory be Peace. Just at the time when the imam's wife was confined in the village, the consort of Keäh Mohammed lay in at the castle; and, in order that the descendant of Fatima might come to the temporal power which was his right, a confidential woman undertook and succeeded in the task of secretly changing the children. Others went still further, and did not hesitate to assert that the young imam had intrigued with the wife of Keäh Mohammed, and that Hassan was the fruit of their adulterous intercourse. Like a true pupil of ambition, Hassan was willing to defame the memory of his mother, and acknowledge himself to be a bastard, provided he could succeed in persuading the people to believe him a descendant of the Prophet.

These pretensions of Hassan to a Fatimite pedigree gave rise to a further increase of the endless sects into which the votaries of Islam were divided. Those who acknowledged it got the name of Nezori, and by them Hassan was called the Lord of the Resurrection (Kaim-al-Kiamet), and they styled themselves the Sect of the Resurrection.

The reign of the vain, inconsiderate Hassan was but short. He had governed the society only four years when he was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Namver, a descendant, we are told, of the family of Buyah, which had governed the khalifs and their dominions before the power passed into the hands of the Turkish house of Seljook.


94:* As Sanjar lived to a great age he was contemporary with several of the Ismaïlite sheikhs.

96:* That is, the point towards which they turn in prayer, namely, Mecca.

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #32 on: January 04, 2009, 11:02:17 pm »

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Mohammed II.--Anecdote of the Imam Fakhr-ed-deen--Noor-ed-deen--Conquest of Egypt--Attempt on the Life of Saladin.

THE death of Hassan was amply avenged by his son and successor, Mohammed II. Not only was the murderer himself put to death; vengeance, in its oriental form, extended itself to all his kindred of both sexes, and men, women, and children bled beneath the sword of the executioner. Mohammed, who had been carefully trained up in the study of philosophy and literature, was, like his father, puffed up with vanity and ambition, and, far from receding from any of his predecessor's pretensions to the imamat, he carried them to even a still greater length than he had done. At the same time he maintained a high character for knowledge and talent among his literary contemporaries, who were numerous, for his reign extended through a period of forty-six years, and the modern Persian literature was now fast approaching its climax. Not to mention other names, less familiar to our readers, we shall remark, as a proof of what we have said, that this was the period in which Nizamee of Ghenj sang in harmonious numbers the loves of Khosroo and Shireen, and of Mujnoon and Leila (these last the Romeo and Juliet of the east), the crown and flower of the romantic poetry of Persia. Then too flourished the great panegyrist Enveree, and a crowd of historians, jurists, and divines.

One of the most celebrated men of this time was

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the imam Fakhr-ed-deen (Glory of Religion) Rasi, who gave public lectures on the law in his native city of Rei. It being slanderously reported that he was devoted in secret to the opinions of the Ismaïlites, and was even one of their missionaries, he adopted the ordinary expedient of abusing and reviling that sect, and each time he ascended the pulpit to preach he reprobated and cursed the Impious in no measured terms. Intelligence of what he was about was not long in reaching the eyrie of the Sheikh-al-Jebal, and a Fedavee received his instructions, and forthwith set out for Rei. He here entered himself as a student of the law, and sedulously attended the lectures of the learned imam. During seven months he watched in vain for an opportunity of executing his commission. At length he discovered one day that the attendants of the imam had left him to go to fetch him some food, and that he was alone in his study. The Fedavee entered, fastened the doors, seized the imam, cast him on the ground, and directed his dagger at his bosom. "What is thy design?" said the astonished imam. "To rip up thy belly and breast." "And wherefore?" "Wherefore? Because thou hast spoken evil of the Ismaïlites in the pulpit." The imam implored and entreated, vowing that, if his life was spared, he would never more say aught to offend the sect of Ismaïl. "I cannot trust thee," cried the Assassin; for when I am gone thou wilt return to thy old courses, and, by some ingenious shift or other, contrive to free thyself from the obligation of thy oath." The imam then, with a most solemn oath, abjured the idea of explaining away his words, or seeking absolution for perjury. The Assassin got up from over him, saying, "I had no order to slay thee, or I should have put thee to death without fail. Mohammed, the son of Hassan, greets thee, and invites thee to honour

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him by a visit at his castle. Thou shalt there have unlimited power, and we will all obey thee like trusty servants. We despise, so saith the sheikh, the discourses of the rabble, which rebound from our ears like nuts from a ball; but you should not revile us, since your words impress themselves like the strokes of the graver in the stone." The imam replied that it was totally out of his power to go to Alamoot, but that in future he should be most careful never to suffer a word to pass his lips to the discredit of the mountain prince. Hereupon the Fedavee drew 300 pieces of gold from his girdle, and, laying them down, said, "See! here is thy annual pension; and, by a decree of the divan, thou shalt every year receive an equal sum through the reis Mozaffer. I also leave thee, for thy attendants, two garments from Yemen, which the Sheikh-al-Jebal has sent thee." So saying, the Fedavee disappeared. The imam took the money and the clothes, and for some years his pension was Maid regularly. A change in his language now became perceptible, for, whereas he was used before, when, on treating of any controverted point, he had occasion to mention the Ismaïlites, to express himself thus, "Whatever the Ismaïlites, whom God curse and destroy! may say,"--now that he was pensioned he contented himself with merely saying, "Notwithstanding what the Ismaïlites may say." When one of his scholars asked him the cause of this change he made answer, "We cannot curse the Ismaïlites, they employ such sharp and convincing arguments." This anecdote is related by several of the Persian historians, and it serves to prove, like the case of sultan Sanjar, related above, that the Ismaïlites were not so thoroughly ruthless and bloodthirsty as not to prefer rendering an enemy innocuous by gentle means to depriving him of life.

Historians record no other event connected with

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the eastern establishment of the Ismaïlite society during the long reign of Mohammed II. We shall now, therefore, turn our view to the Syrian branch, which attracts attention by the illustrious names which appear in oriental history at that time, and with which the ruler of Massyat came into hostile or friendly relations. The names of Noor-ed-deen (Light of Religion), Salah-ed-deen (Integrity of Religion), the Noradin and Saladin of western writers, and the Lion-hearted king of England, will at once awake the attention of the reader.

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #33 on: January 04, 2009, 11:03:07 pm »

The celebrated Emod-ed-deen (Pillar of Religion) Zengi, who gave the Christian power in the east its first shock by the conquest of Edessa, perished by the hand of a slave shortly after that achievement. His power and the title Atabeg fell to his son Noor-ed-deen, who carried on the war against the Christians with all the activity of his father, and with more of the gentleness and courtesies which shed a lustre on zeal and valour. Noor-ed-deen was one of the most accomplished characters which the East has exhibited. He was generous and just, and strict in the observance of all the duties of Islam. No pomp or magnificence surrounded him. He wore neither silk nor gold. With the fifth part of the booty, which was his share as prince, he provided for all his expenses. A zealous Moslem, he was evermore engaged in the combats of the Holy War,--either the greater, which was held to be fought against the world and its temptations by fasting and prayer, by study, and the daily practice of the virtues required of him who is placed in authority,--or the lesser, which was fought with natural weapon's against the foes of Islam. From this union of piety and valour he acquired the titles of Gasi (Victor) and Sheheed (Martyr); for, though he did not fall in the defence of the faith, he was regarded as being entitled to all the future rewards attendant

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on actual martyrdom. Notwithstanding his being one of the most deadly foes that the Christians ever encountered, their historians did justice to the illustrious Noor-ed-deen, and the learned William, Archbishop of Tyre, says of him, "He was a prudent, moderate man, who feared God according to the faith of his people, fortunate, and an augmenter of his paternal inheritance."

The possession of Mossul and Aleppo made Noor-ed-deen master of northern Syria; the southern part of that country was under the Prince of Damascus. Twice did the atabeg lay siege, without effect, to that city; at length the inhabitants, fearing the Crusaders, invited him to take possession of it, and the feeble prince was obliged to retire, accepting Emessa in exchange for the "Queen of Syria." The power of Noor-ed-deen now extended from the Euphrates to the Holy Land, and his thoughts were directed towards his grand object of expelling the Franks from the East, when an opportunity presented itself of bringing Egypt once more under the spiritual dominion of the house of Abbas.

Degeneracy is the inevitable lot of unlimited power. The Fatimite Commanders of the Faithful were now become mere puppets in the hands of their ministers, and the post of vizir was now, as was so often the case with the throne, contended for with arms. A civil war was at this time raging in Egypt between Shaver and Dhargam, rival candidates for the viziriate. The former came in person to Damascus, and offered the atabeg Noor-ed-deen a third of the revenues of Egypt if he would aid him to overcome his rival. Without hesitation Noor-ed-deen ordered Asad-ed-deen (Lion of Religion) Sheerkoh (Mountain Lion) * a Koordish chief who commanded for him at Emessa, to assemble an army and march for

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[paragraph continues] Egypt. Sheerkoh obeyed, and sorely against his will, and only at the urgent command of Noor-ed-deen, did his nephew, the then little known, afterwards so justly famous, Saladin, quit the banquets and enjoyments of Damascus, and the other towns of Syria, to accompany his uncle to the toils and the perils of war. Dhargam was victorious in the first action, but he being murdered shortly afterwards by one of his slaves, Shaver obtained possession of the dignity which he sought. 'The new vizir then tried. to get rid of his allies, but such was not the intention of Noor-ed-deen, and Sheerkoh took his post with his troops in the north-eastern part of the kingdom, where he occupied the frontier town of Belbeïs, on the most eastern branch of the Nile, under pretext of receiving the third part of the revenue which had been promised to Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, anxious to get rid of such dangerous guests, formed a secret league with Amalric, King of Jerusalem, and engaged to give him 60,000 ducats for his aid against them. Sheerkoh, who had been reinforced, advanced into Upper Egypt, and Saladin took the command of Alexandria, which he gallantly defended for three months against the combined forces of the Christians and Egyptians, and, after some fighting, peace was made on condition of Noor-ed-deen receiving 50,000 ducats, and double that sum being paid annually to the King of Jerusalem.

Shortly afterwards an unprincipled attempt was made on Egypt by Amalric, at the suggestion of the Master of the Hospitallers, and Shaver, in his distress, had once more recourse to Noor-ed-deen. The phantom-khalif joined in the supplication, and sent what is the greatest mark of need in the east--locks of the hair of his women, which is as much as to say, "Aid! aid! the foe is dragging the women forth by the hair." Belbeïs had now been conquered, and

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[paragraph continues] Cairo was besieged by the Christians. Shaver had burnt the old town, and defended himself and the khalif in the new town, the proper Cairo. Sheerkoh appeared once more in Egypt with a larger army than before *, but, ere he reached the beleaguered town, Shaver and Amalric had entered into a composition, and the former had withdrawn on receiving a sum of 50,000 ducats. Sheerkoh however advanced, and pitched his tents before the walls of Cairo. The khalif Adhad and his principal nobles came forth to receive him, and that unhappy prince made his complaints of the tyranny and selfishness of Shaver, who had brought so much misery on him and his kingdom. He concluded by requesting the head of his vizir at the hand of the general of Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, aware of the danger which menaced him, invited Sheerkoh, his nephew, and the other chiefs of the army, to a banquet, with the intention of destroying them, but his plot was discovered, and his head cast at the feet of the khalif. Sheerkoh was forthwith appointed to the vacant dignity, with the honourable title of Melik-el-Mansoor (Victorious King), but he enjoyed it only for a short time, having been carried off by death in little more than two months after his elevation. He was succeeded in his rank, and in the

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #34 on: January 04, 2009, 11:03:41 pm »

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command of the army, by his nephew Saladin, u ho now became in effect master of Egypt. Noor-ed-deen, thinking the time was come for establishing the spiritual sway of the house of Abbas, sent directions to Saladin to fill all the offices which had been occupied by the Sheähs with the orthodox, and hear prayer celebrated in the name of the Khalif of Bagdad; but this prudent chief, who knew that the great majority of the people of Egypt were firmly attached to the belief of the Fatimites being the rightful successors of the Prophet, hesitated to comply. At length the death of the Fatimite khalif occurred most opportunely to free him from embarrassment. Adhad-ladin-Allah, the last of the descendants of Moez-ladin-Allah, the founder of the dynasty, died suddenly--of disease, according to the oriental historians,--by the hand of Saladin, according to the rumour which went among the Christians *. All obstacles being now removed, public prayer was celebrated in the mosks of Egypt in the name of the Abbasside khalif, and the power of the western Ismaïlites, after a continuance of 200 years, brought completely to an end.

Noor-ed-deen, who saw that the power of his lieutenant was now too great to be controlled, adopted the prudent plan of soothing him by titles and marks of confidence. The khalif of Bagdad sent him a dress of honour and a letter of thanks for having reduced under his spiritual dominion a province which had been so long rebellious against his house. But the most important consequence of the timely death of the khalif to Saladin was the acquisition of the accumulated treasures of the Fatimites, which fell into his hands, and which he employed as the means of securing the fidelity of his officers and soldiers. As a specimen of oriental exaggeration, we shall give the list of these treasures- as they are enumerated by

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eastern writers. There were, we are assured, no less than 700 pearls, each of which was of a size that rendered it inestimable, an emerald a span long, and as thick as the finger, a library consisting of 2,600,000 books, and gold, both coined and in the in ass; aloes, amber, and military arms and weapons past computation. A large portion of this enormous treasure was distributed by Saladin among his soldiers; the remainder was applied, during ten successive years, to defray the expenses of his wars and buildings. As Saladin's name was Yoossuf (Joseph), the same with that of the son of Jacob, the minister of king Pharaoh, it is not an improbable supposition that, in Egyptian tradition, the two Josephs have been confounded, and the works of the latter been ascribed to the former; for it is the character of popular tradition to leap over centuries, and even thousands of years, and to form out of several heroes one who is made to perform the actions of them all.

As long as Noor-ed-deen lived, Saladin continued to acknowledge his superiority; and when, on his death, he left his dominions to his son Malek-es-Saleh, the coins of Egypt bore the name of the young prince. As Malek-es-Saleh was a minor, and entirely under the guidance of the eunuch Kameshtegin, great discontent prevailed among the emirs; and Seif-ed-deen (Sword of Religion), the cousin of the young prince, who was at the head of an army in Mesopotamia, prepared to wrest the dominion from the young Malek-es-Saleh. All eyes were turned to Saladin, as the only person capable of preserving the country. He left Egypt with only 700 horsemen. The governor and people of Damascus cheerfully opened the gates to him. Hems and Hama followed the example of Damascus. Saladin took the government under the modest title of

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lieutenant of the young atabeg, whose rights he declared himself ready to maintain on all occasions. He advanced to Aleppo, where Malek-es-Saleh was residing; but the militia of that town, moved by the tears of the young prince, who was probably influenced by the eunuch Kameshtegin, who feared to lose his power, marched out and put to flight the small force with which Saladin had approached the town. Having collected a larger army, Saladin laid siege regularly to Aleppo, and Kameshtegin, despairing of force, resolved to have recourse to treachery. He sent accordingly to Sinan, the Sheikh of the Assassins, who resided at Massyat, representing to him how dangerous a foe to the Ismaïlites was the valiant Koord, who was so ardent in his zeal for the house of Abbas, and had put an end to the dynasty of the Fatimites, who had so long given lustre to the maintainers of the rights of Ismaïl by the possession of extensive temporal power and dignity. He reminded him that, if Saladin succeeded in his ambitious projects in Syria, he would, in all probability, turn his might against the Assassins, and destroy their power in that country. These arguments were enforced by gold, and the sheikh, readily yielding to them, despatched without delay three Fedavees, who fell on Saladin in the camp before Aleppo. The attempt, however, miscarried, and the murderers were seized and put to death. Saladin, incensed at this attempt on his life, and guessing well the quarter whence it came, now pressed on the siege with greater vigour.

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« Reply #35 on: January 04, 2009, 11:03:58 pm »

Finding the benefit which might be derived from the daggers of the Fedavee, Kameshtegin resolved to employ them against his personal enemies. The vizir of the young prince, and two of the principal emirs, had laid a plot for his destruction. Coming to the knowledge of it, he determined to be beforehand with

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them, and, watching the moment when Malek-es-Saleh was about to mount his horse to go to the chase, he approached him, requesting his signature to a blank paper, under pretence of its being necessary for some affair of urgent importance. The young prince signed his name without suspicion, and Kameshtegin instantly wrote on the paper a letter to the Sheikh of the Assassins, in which Malek-es-Saleh was made to request him to send men to put those three emirs out of the way. The Ismaïlite chief readily complied with the request, as he supposed it to be, of his young friend and neighbour, and several Fedavees were despatched to execute his wishes. Two of these fell on the vizir as he was going out of the eastern gate of a mosk near his own house. They were cut to pieces on the spot. Soon after three fell on the emir Mujaheed as he was on horseback. One of them caught hold of the end of his cloak, in order to make more sure of him, but the emir gave his horse the spurs, and broke away, leaving his cloak behind. The people seized the Assassins, two of whom were recognized as being acquaintances of the emir's head groom. One of them was crucified, and along with him the groom as an accomplice: on the breast of the latter was placed this inscription, "This is the reward of the concealer of the Impious." The others were dragged to the castle, and beaten on the soles of their feet to make them confess what had induced them to attempt the commission of such a crime. In the midst of his tortures one of them cried out, "Thou didst desire of our lord Sinan the murder of thy slaves, and now thou dost punish us for performing thy wishes." Full of wrath Malek-es-Saleh wrote a letter to the sheikh Sinan filled with the bitterest reproaches. The sheikh made no other reply than that of sending him back the letter bearing his own subscription. Historians do not tell us what

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the final result was; and it is also in a great measure uncertain at what time this event occurred.

The Assassins did not give over their attempts upon Saladin, whose power became more formidable to them after he had deprived the family of Noor-ed-deen of their honours and dominions; and he was again attacked by them in his camp before the fortress of Ezag. One of them assailed him and wounded him in the head, but the sultan (he had now assumed that title) caught him by the arm and struck him down. A second rushed on--he was cut down by the guards; a third, a fourth, shared the same fate. Terrified at their obstinate perseverance, the sultan shut himself up in his tent during several days, and ordered all strangers and suspicious persons to quit the camp.

Next year (1176) the sultan, being at peace with his other enemies, resolved to take exemplary vengeance on those who had so unprovokedly attempted his life. Assembling an army, he entered the mountains, wasted with fire and sword the territory of the Ismaïlites, and came and laid siege to Massyat. The power of the Syrian Ismaïlites would have been now extinguished but for the intercession of the Prince of Hama, the sultan's uncle, who, at the entreaty of Sinan, prevailed on his nephew to grant a peace on condition of no attempt being made at any future time on his life. Sinan gladly assented to these terms, and he honourably kept his engagement, for the great Saladin reigned fifteen years after this time, carried on continual wars, conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Land, exposed himself to danger in the field and in the camp, but no Assassin was ever again known to approach him with hostile intentions.


106:* The former of these names is Arabic, the latter Persian.

108:* He was accompanied by Saladin, who gives the following account of his own repugnance to the expedition:--"When Noor-ed-deen ordered me to go to Egypt with my uncle, after Sheerkoh had said to me in his presence, 'Come Yoossuf, make ready for the journey!' I replied, 'By God, if thou wert to give me the kingdom of Egypt I would not go, for I have endured in Alexandria what I shall not forget while I live.' But Sheerkoh said to Noor-ed-deen, 'It cannot be but that he should accompany me.' Whereupon Noor-ed-deen repeated his command, but I persisted in my refusal. As Noor-ed-deen also adhered to his determination, I excused myself by pleading the narrowness of my circumstances. Noor-ed-deen then gave me all that was requisite for my outfit, but I felt as if I was going to death."--Abulfeda.

109:* William of Tyre xx. 12.

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« Reply #36 on: January 04, 2009, 11:04:39 pm »

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Sinan the Dai-al-Kebir of Syria--Offers to become a Christian--His Ambassador murdered by the Templars--Cardinal de Vitry's Account of the Assassins--Murder of the Marquis of Montferrat--Defence of King Richard.

THE person who had the chief direction of the affairs of the society in Syria in the time of Saladin was one of the most remarkable characters which appear in the history of the Assassins. His name was Rasheed-ed-deen (Orthodox in Religion) Sinan, the son of Suleiman of Basra. Like so many others of the impostors who have appeared from time to time in the east, he had the audacity to give himself out for an incarnation of the Divinity. No one ever saw him eat, drink, sleep, or even spit. His clothing was of coarse hair-cloth. From the rising to the setting of the sun he stood upon a lofty rock, preaching to the people, who received his words as those of a superior being. Unfortunately for his credit, his auditors at length discovered that he had a halt in his gait, caused by a wound which he received from a stone in the great earthquake of 1157. This did not accord with the popular idea of the perfection which should belong to the corporeal vehicle of Divinity. The credit of Sinan vanished at once, and those who had just been adoring the god now threatened to take the life of the impostor. Sinan lost not his self-possession; he calmly entreated them to be patient, descended from his rock, caused food to be brought, invited them to eat, and by the persuasive powers of his eloquence induced them to recognise

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him as their sole chief, and all unanimously swore obedience and fidelity to him.

The neglect of chronology by the oriental historians, or their European translators and followers, is frequently such that we are left in great uncertainty as to the exact time of particular events, and are thus unable to trace them to their real causes and occasions. The mention of the earthquake of 1157 would however seem to make it probable that it was about that time that Sinan put forward his claims to divinity; and as, at that very period, Hassan, the son of Keäh Mohammed, was giving himself out for the promised imam, we may suppose that it was his example which stimulated Sinan to his bold attempt at obtaining independent dominion over the Syrian branch of the Ismaïlites.

Sinan was, like Hassan, a man of considerable learning. His works are held in high estimation by the remains of the sect of the Ismaïlites still lingering among the mountains of Syria. These works, we are told, consist of a chaotic mixture of mutilated passages of the Gospel and the Koran, of contradictory articles of belief, of hymns, prayers, sermons, and regulations, which are unintelligible even to those who receive and venerate them.

The sacred books of the Christians formed, as we see, a part of the studies of the Sheikh of Massyat, and, as it would appear, he thought he might derive some advantage from his acquaintance with them. The religio-military society of the Knights of the Temple, whose history we shall soon have to record, had possessions in the neighbourhood of those of the Assassins, and their superior power had enabled them, at what time is uncertain, to render the latter tributary. The tribute was the annual sum of 2,000 ducats, and Sinan, to whom probably all religions were alike, and who had unbounded power over the

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minds of his people, conceived the idea of releasing himself from it by professing the same religion with his neighbours. He accordingly sent, in the year 1172, one of his most prudent and eloquent ministers on a secret embassy to Amalric King of Jerusalem, offering, in the name of himself and his people, to embrace the Christian religion, and receive the rite of baptism, provided the king would engage to make the Templars renounce the tribute of 2,000 ducats, and agree to live with them henceforward as good neighbours and friends and brethren. Overjoyed at the prospect of making converts of such importance, the king readily assented to the desires of the Ismaïlite chief, and he at the same time assured the Templars that their house should not be a loser, as he would pay them 2,000 ducats annually out of his treasury. The brethren of the Temple made no objection to the arrangement; and after the Ismaïlite ambassador had been detained and treated honourably for some days by the king, he set out on his return, accompanied by a guide and escort sent by the king to conduct him as far as the borders of the Ismaïlite territory. They passed in safety through the country of Tripolis, and were now in the vicinity of the first castles of the Ismaïlites, when suddenly some Templars rushed forth from an ambush, and murdered the ambassador. The Templars were commanded by a knight named Walter du Mesnil, a one-eyed, daring, wicked man, but who, on this occasion, it would appear, acted by the orders of his superiors, who probably did not consider the royal promise good security for the 2,000 ducats; for, when Amalric, filled with indignation at the base and perfidious action, assembled his barons at Sidon to deliberate on what should be done, and by their advice sent two of their number to Ado de St. Amand, the Master of the Temple, to demand satisfaction for the iniquitous

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deed, the master contented himself by saying that he had imposed a penance on brother Du. Mesnil, and had moreover directed him to proceed to Rome without delay, to know what farther the apostolic father would order him to do, and that, on this account he must, in the name of the pope, prohibit any violence against the aforesaid brother. The king, however, was not regardless of justice and of his own dignity. Shortly afterwards, when the master and several of the Templars were at Sidon, he assembled his council again, and, with their consent, sent and dragged Du Mesnil from the house of the Templars, and threw him into prison, where he would probably have expiated his crime but for the speedy death of the king. All hopes of the conversion of the Ismaïlites were now at an end.

It is on this occasion that the Archbishop of Tyre gives an account of what he had been able to learn respecting the Assassins. As what we have previously related of them has been exclusively drawn from eastern sources, it will not be useless to insert in this place the accounts of them given by the Cardinal de Vitry, who has followed and enlarged the sketch of the archbishop *.

"In the province of Phœnicia, near the borders of the Antaradensian town which is now called Tortosa, dwells a certain people, shut in on all sides by rocks and mountains, who have ten castles, very strong and impregnable, by reason of the narrow ways and inaccessible rocks, with their suburbs and the valleys, which are most fruitful in all species of fruits and corn, and most delightful for their amenity. The number of these men, who are called Assassins, is said to exceed 40,000 †. They set a captain over

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themselves, not by hereditary succession, but by the prerogative of merit, whom they call the Old Man (Veterem seu Senem), not so much on account of his advanced age as for his pre-eminence in prudence and dignity. The first and principal abbot of this unhappy religion of theirs, and the place where they had their origin and whence they came to Syria, is in the very remote parts of the east, near the city of Bagdad and the parts of the province of Persia. These people, who do not divide the hoof, nor make a difference between what is sacred and what is profane, believe that all obedience indifferently shown by them towards their superior is meritorious for eternal life. Hence they are bound to their master, whom they call the Old Man, with such a bond of subjection and obedience that there is nothing so difficult or so dangerous that they would fear to undertake, or which they would not perform with a cheerful mind and ardent will, at the command of their lord. The Old Man, their lord, causes boys of this people to be brought up in secret and delightful places, and having had them diligently trained and instructed in the different kinds of languages, sends them to various provinces with daggers, and orders them to slay the great men of the Christians, as well as of the Saracens, either because he is at enmity with them for some cause or other, or at the request of his friends, or even for the lucre of a large sum of money which has been given him, promising them, for the execution of this command, that they shall have far greater delights, and without end, in paradise, after death, than even those amidst which they had been reared. If they chance to die in this act of obedience they are regarded as martyrs by their companions, and being placed by that people among their saints, are held in the greatest reverence. Their parents are enriched with many gifts by the master, who is called the Old Man, and

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« Reply #37 on: January 04, 2009, 11:05:06 pm »

if they were slaves they are let go free ever after. Whence these wretched and misguided youths, who are sent from the convent (conventu) of the aforesaid brethren to different parts of the world, undertake their deadly legation with such joy and delight, and perform it with such diligence and solicitude, transforming themselves in various ways, and assuming the manners and dress of other nations, sometimes concealing themselves under the appearance of merchants, at other times under that of priests and monks, and in an infinity of other modes, that there is hardly any person in the whole world so cautious as to be able to guard against their machinations. They disdain to plot against an inferior person. The great men to whom they are hostile either redeem themselves by a large sum of money, or, going armed and attended by a body of guards, pass their life in suspicion and in dread of death. They kept the law of Mahomet and his institutions diligently and straitly beyond all other Saracens till the times of a certain master of theirs, who, being endowed with natural genius, and exercised in the study of different writings, began with all diligence to read and examine the law of the Christians and the Gospels of Christ, admiring the virtue of the miracles, and the sanctity of the doctrine. From a comparison with these he began to abominate the frivolous and irrational doctrine of Mahomet, and at length, when he knew the truth, he studied to recall his subjects by degrees from the rites of the cursed law. Wherefore he exhorted and commanded them that they should drink wine in moderation and eat the flesh of swine. At length, after many discourses and serious admonitions of their teacher, they all with one consent agreed to renounce the perfidy of Mahomet, and, by receiving the grace of baptism, to become Christians."

We may, from this account, perceive that the Crusaders

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had a tolerably clear idea of the nature and constitution of the society of the Assassins. The Cardinal de Vitry plainly describes them as forming a religion, that is, an order under an abbot; and perhaps the resemblance which Hammer traces between them and the Templars, which we shall notice when we come to speak of this last society, is not quite so fanciful as it might at first sight appear. It is curious, too, to observe that the Christians also believed that the Sheikh-al-Jebal had some mode of inspiring the Fedavee with a contempt of life and an aspiration after the joys of paradise.

The dagger had not been unsheathed against the Christian princes since, forty-two years before (1149), Raymond, the young Count of Tripolis, was murdered as he knelt at his devotions, and the altar was sprinkled with his blood. A more illustrious victim was now to bleed; and, as the question of who twas the real author of his death forms a curious historical problem, we shall here discuss it at some length.

Conrad Marquis of Montferrat, a name celebrated in the history of the third crusade, had just been named King of Jerusalem by Richard Lion-heart King of England. In the latter end of the month of April 1192 the marquis, being at Tyre, went to dine with the Bishop of Beauvais. One writer says that, the marchioness having stayed too long in the bath, and the marquis being averse to dining alone, he mounted his horse and rode to dine with the Bishop; but, finding that that prelate had already finished his meal, he was returning home to his palace. As he passed through a narrow street, and was come near the toll-house, two Assassins, having watched their opportunity, approached him. The one presented a petition, and, while he was engaged reading it, both struck him with their daggers, crying,

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[paragraph continues] "Thou shalt be neither marquis nor king." One of them was cut down instantly, the other sought refuge in a neighbouring church, and, according to an Arabian historian, when the wounded marquis was brought into the same church, he rushed on him anew, and completed his crime. Others relate that the marquis was carried home to his palace, where he lived long enough to receive the holy sacrament and to give his last instructions to his wife. The two accounts, we may perceive, are by no means repugnant.

These Assassins, who were both youths, had been for some time--six months it is said--in Tyre, watching for an opportunity to perform the commission which had been given them. They had feigned a conversion from Islam, or, as some say, had assumed the habit of monks, in order to win the confidence of the marquis, and thus procure more ready access to him. One of them, we are told, had even entered his service, and the other that of Balian of Ibelin.

The question now comes, at whose instigation was the murder committed? Here we find several both oriental and occidental witnesses disposed to lay the guilt on Richard, King of England, those writers who were his own subjects indignantly repelling the accusation, and some indifferent witnesses testifying in his favour. Previous to examining these witnesses we must state that king Richard was at enmity with Philip Augustus, King of France; that though he had given the crown of Jerusalem to the Marquis of Montferrat, there was little kind feeling between them, and they had been enemies; and, finally, that the history of the English monarch exhibits no traits of such a generous chivalrous disposition as should put him beyond suspicion of being concerned in an assassination.

Of the writers who charge king Richard with the

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murder it is to be observed that the only ones that are contemporary are the Arabian historians. The following passage is quoted from the History of Jerusalem and Hebron, by Hammer, who regards it as quite decisive of the guilt of the English king--"The marquis went, on the 13th of the month Rebi-al-Ewal, to visit the Bishop of Tyre. As he was going out he was attacked by two Assassins, who slew him with their daggers. When taken and stretched on the rack, they confessed that they had been employed by the King of England. They died under the torture." Boha-ed-deen, the friend and biographer of Saladin, writes to the same effect. It is therefore evident that, at the time, it was reported that the marquis had been murdered by persons employed by the King of England; and Vinisauf and the other English writers assure us that the French party and the friends of the murdered marquis endeavoured to throw the odium of the deed on king Richard. As that mode of getting rid of an enemy was far too familiar in the east, it was natural enough that the Arabian writers should adopt the report without much inquiry. This consideration alone ought very much to invalidate their testimony. Some German chroniclers also, following the reports which were industriously spread to the disadvantage of the English king at the time he was a prisoner in Austria, did not hesitate to accuse him of the murder of the marquis; but, as has been justly observed, these, as well as the preceding, were either partial or at a distance *.

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« Reply #38 on: January 04, 2009, 11:06:19 pm »

In opposition to these assertions, we have the unanimous testimony of all the English writers, such as Vinisauf (the companion and historian of king Richard's crusade), Hoveden, Brompton William of Newbridge.

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[paragraph continues] The Syrian bishop, Aboo-’l-Faraj, mentions the report of the Assassin who was put to the rack having laid the guilt on king Richard, but adds that the truth came afterwards to light. Hugo Plagon, a judicious and impartial writer, so far from imputing the death of the marquis to king Richard, assigns the cause which moved the Assassin prince to order the death of the marquis, namely, the same which we shall presently see stated in the letter ascribed to the Old Man of the Mountain. Rigord, who wrote the history of Philip Augustus, does not by any means impute the murder of the marquis to king Richard, though he says that while Philip was at Pontoise letters were brought to him from beyond sea, warning him to be on his guard, as Assassins (Arsacidæ) had been sent, at the suggestion and command of the King of England, to kill him, "for at that time they had slain the king's kinsman, the marquis." Philip, in real, but more probably feigned alarm, immediately surrounded his person with a guard of serjeants-at-mace. The Arabic historian, Ebn-el-Athir, the friend of Saladin, says that the sultan had agreed with the Old Man of the Mountain, for a sum of 10,000 pieces of gold, to deliver him of both king Richard and the marquis, but that Sinan, not thinking it to be for his interest to relieve the sultan of the English king, had taken the money and only put the marquis out of the way. This narrative is wholly improbable, for treachery was surely no part of the character of Saladin; but it serves to prove the impartiality which is so justly ascribed to the Arabic writers in general. The testimony of Abulfeda is as follows: "And in it (the year of the Hejra 588, or A.D. 1192,) was slain the Marquis, Lord of Soor (or Tyre); may God, whose name be exalted, curse him! A Batinee, or Assassin (in one copy Batinees),

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who had entered Soor in the disguise of a monk, slew him *."

We thus see that the evidence in favour of the King of England greatly preponderates, not a single writer who was on the spot laying the murder to his charge; on the contrary, those who had the best means of being informed treated the imputation with contempt, as a base calumny devised by the French party. But there is a still more illustrious witness in his behalf, if the testimony ascribed to him be genuine--the Old Man of the Mountain himself. Brompton gives two letters purporting to have been written by this personage, the one to the Duke of Austria, the other to the princes and people of Europe in general. The latter is also given by William of Newbridge, with some variation. Both have been admitted by Rymer into his Fœdera. Gibbon, who seems to have known only the last, pronounces it to be an "absurd and palpable forgery." Hammer, whose arguments we shall presently consider, undertakes to demonstrate that these epistles are forgeries. Raumer, more prudently, only says that this last is not genuine in its present form.

The following are translations of these documents:--

"The Old Man of the Mountain to Limpold, Duke of Austria, greeting. Since several kings and princes beyond sea accuse Richard, King of England, and lord, of the death of the marquis, I swear by the God who reigneth for ever, and by the law which we hold, that he had no guilt in his death; for the cause of the death of the marquis was as follows.

"One of our brethren was coming in a ship from Satelia (Salteleya) to our parts, and a tempest chancing to drive him to Tyre the marquis had him taken and slain, and seized a large sum of money

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which he had with him. But we sent our messengers to the marquis, requiring him to restore to us the money of our brother, and to satisfy us respecting the death of our brother, which he laid upon Reginald, the Lord of Sidon, and we exerted ourselves through our friends till we knew of a truth that it was he himself who had had him put to death, and had seized his money.

"And again we sent to him another of our messengers, named Eurisus, whom he was minded to fling into the sea; but our friends made him depart with speed out of Tyre, and he came to us quickly and told us these things. From that very hour we were desirous to slay the marquis; then also we sent two brethren to Tyre, who slew him openly, and as it were before all the people of Tyre.

"This, then, was the cause of the death of the marquis; and we say to you in truth that the lord Richard, King of England, had no guilt in this death of the marquis, and these who on account of this have done evil to the lord King of England have done it unjustly and without cause.

"Know for certain that we kill no man in this world for any hire or money, unless he has first done us evil.

"And know that we have executed these letters in our house at our castle of Messiat, in the middle of September. In the year from Alexander M. D. & V."


"The Old Man of the Mountain to the princes of Europe and all the Christian people, greeting.

"We would not that the innocence of any one should suffer by reason of what we have done, since we never do evil to any innocent and guiltless person; but those who have transgressed against us we do not, with God to aid, long suffer to rejoice in the injuries done to our simplicity.

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"We therefore signify to the whole of you, testifying by him through whom we hope to be saved, that that Marquis of Montferrat was slain by no machination of the King of England, but he justly perished, by our will and command, by our satellites, for that act in which he transgressed against us, and which, when admonished, he had neglected to amend. For it is our custom first to admonish those who have acted injuriously in anything to us or our friends to give us satisfaction, which if they despise, we take care to take vengeance with severity by our ministers, who obey us with such devotion that they do not doubt but that they shall be gloriously rewarded by God if they die in executing our command.

"We have also heard that it is bruited about of that king that he has induced us, as being less upright and consistent (minus integros et constantes), to send some of our people to plot against the King of France, which, beyond doubt, is a false fiction, and of the vainest suspicion, when neither he, God is witness, has hitherto attempted anything against us, nor would we, in respect to our honour, permit any undeserved evil to be planned against any man. Farewell."

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« Reply #39 on: January 04, 2009, 11:07:07 pm »

We will not undertake to maintain the genuineness of these two epistles, but we may be permitted to point out the futility of some of the objections made to them. Hammer pronounces the first of them to be an undoubted forgery because it commences with swearing by the law, and ends by being dated from the era of the Seleucides. Both, he says, were equally strange to the Ismaïlites, who precisely at this time had begun to trample the law under foot, and had abandoned the Hejra, the only era known in Mohammedan countries, for a new one commencing with the reign of Hassan II. He further

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sees, in the circumstance of a letter from the Old Man of the Mountain (Sheikh-al-Jebal) being dated from Massyat, a proof of the ignorance of the Crusaders respecting the true head and seat of the Ismaïlite power. These objections are regarded by Wilken as conclusive. They will, however, lose much of their force if we bear in mind that the letters are manifestly translations, and that the chief of Massyat at that time was Sinan, who some years before had offered to become a Christian, and who does not seem at all to have adopted the innovations of Hassan the Illuminator. Sinan might easily have been induced by the friends of the King of England, one of the most steady of whom was Henry of Champagne *, who succeeded Conrad of Montferrat in the kingdom, to write those letters in his justification, and it is very probable that the translations were made in Syria, where the Arabic language was of course better understood than in Europe, and sent either alone or with the originals. The translator might have rendered the title which Sinan gave himself by Senex de Monte, which would be better understood in the west, and he may also have given the corresponding year of the era of the Seleucides (the one in use among the Syrian Christians) for the year of the Hejra used by the Ismaïlite chief, or indeed Sinan may have employed that era himself. In this case there would remain little to object to the genuineness of the letter to the Duke of Austria. Hammer regards the expression our simplicity (simplicitas nostra) as being conclusive against the genuineness of the second letter. We must confess that we can see no force in the objection. Sinan might wish to represent himself as a very plain, simple, innocent sort of person. It might further be doubted

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if a European forger would venture to represent the prince of the Assassins--the formidable Old M a n of the Mountain--in such a respectable light as he appears in these two epistles *.

But there is another account of the death of the Marquis of Montferrat, which is probably much better known to the generality of readers than any of the preceding ones. The far-famed author of "Waverley" has, in his romantic tale of the "Talisman," made Conrad to be wounded and vanquished in the lists by the son of the King of Scotland, the champion of king Richard, and afterwards slain by the dagger, not of the Assassins, but of his confederate in villany the Master of the Temple, to prevent his making confession of their common guilt!

Yielding to none in rational admiration of the genius of Sir W. Scott, we cannot avoid expressing a wish that he had ceased to write when he had exhausted that rich field of national feelings and manners with which he was alone familiar, and from which he drew the exquisite delineations of "Waverley" and its Scottish brethren. All his later works, no doubt, exhibit occasional scenes far beyond the power of any of his imitators; but when his muse quits her native soil, she takes leave of nature, truth, and simplicity. Even the genius of a Scott is inadequate to painting manners he never witnessed, scenery he never beheld.

The tale of the "Talisman" is a flagrant instance. Topography, chronology, historic truth, oriental manners, and individual character, are all treated with a most magnanimous neglect, indeed, even, we might say, with contempt; for, careless, from "security to please," as the author is known to have been, his vagaries must sometimes have proceeded from mere

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wilfulness and caprice. It would, we apprehend, perplex our oriental travellers and geographers to point out the site of the fountain named the Diamond of the Desert, not far from the Dead Sea, and yet lying half-way between the camp of the Saracens and that of the Crusaders, which last, we are told, lay between Acre and Ascalon, that is, on the sea-coast, or to show the interminable sandy desert which stretches between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. As to historic truth, we may boldly say that there is hardly a single circumstance of the romance in strict accordance with history; and as to the truth of individual character, what are we to say to the grave, serious, religious Saladin, but the very year before his death, being in the flower of his age, rambling alone through the desert, like an errant knight, singing hymns to the Devil, and coming disguised as a physician to the Christian camp, to cure the malady of the English monarch, whom he never, in reality, did or would see *? We might enumerate many additional instances of the violation of every kind of unity and propriety in this single tale †.

Let not any deem it superfluous thus to point out the errors of an illustrious writer. The impressions made by his splendid pages on the youthful mind

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are permanent and ineffaceable, and, if not corrected, may lead to errors of a graver kind. The "Talisman" moreover affects a delusive show of truth and accuracy; for, in a note in one part of it, the author (ironically, no doubt) affects to correct the historians on a point of history. The natural inference, then, is that he has himself made profound researches, and adhered to truth; and we accordingly find another novelist, in what he terms a history of chivalry, declaring the "Talisman" to be a faithful picture of the manners of the age. Sir W. Scott, however, has himself informed us, in the preface to "Ivanhoe," of his secret for describing the manners of the times of Richard Coeur de Lion. With the chronicles of the time he joined that of Froissart, so rich in splendid pictures of chivalric life. Few readers of these romances perhaps are aware that this was the same in kind, though not in degree, as if, in his tales of the days of Elizabeth and James I., he had had recourse to the manner-painting pages of Henry Fielding; for the distance in point of time between the reign of Richard I. and that of Richard II., in which last Froissart wrote, is as great as that between the reigns of Elizabeth and George Il.; and, in both, manners underwent a proportional change. But we are in the habit of regarding the middle ages as one single period of unvarying manners and institutions, and we are too apt to fancy that the descriptions of Froissart and his successors are equally applicable to all parts of it.


117:* Gesta Dei per Francos, vol. i. pp. 994, 1062.

117:† William of Tyre makes their number 60,000. He declares his inability to give the origin of the name Assassins.

122:* Raumer, Geschichte der Hohenstauffen, ii., p. 490. Wilken, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, iv., 489.

124:* Annales Muslemici, tom. iv., pp. 122, 123. Hafniae, 1792.

127:* An instance of Henry's intimacy with the Assassins has been given in p. 81.

128:* Sir J. Mackintosh (History of England, i. 187) seems to regard the letters as genuine.

129:* May it not be said that real historic characters should not be misrepresented? Sir W. Scott was at full liberty to make his Varneys and his Bois Gilberts as accomplished villains as he pleased; he might do as he pleased with his own; but what warrant had he from history for painting Conrad of Montferrat and the then Master of the Templars under such odious colours as he does?

129:† The author invariably writes Montserrat for Montferrat. The former is in Spain, and never was a marquisate. As it were to show that it was no error of the press, it is said, "The shield of the marquis bore, in reference to his title, a serrated and rocky mountain." We also find naphtha and bitumen confounded, the former being described as the solid, the latter as the liquid substance.

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« Reply #40 on: January 04, 2009, 11:23:16 pm »

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Jellal-ed-deen--Restoration of Religion--His Harem makes the Pilgrimage to Mecca--Marries the Princess of Ghilan--Geography of the Country between Roodbar and the Caspian--Persian Romance--Zohak and Feridoon--Kei Kaoos and Roostem--Ferdoosee's Description of Mazanderan--History of the Shah Nameh--Proof of the Antiquity of the Tales contained in it.

THE unhallowed rule of Mohammed II. lasted for the long space of thirty-five years, during which time all the practices of Islam were neglected by the Ismaïlites. The mosks were closed, the fast of Ramazan neglected, the solemn seasons of prayer despised. But such a state can never last; man must have religion; it is as essential to him as his food; and those pseudo-philosophers who have endeavoured to deprive him of it have only displayed in the attempt their ignorance and folly. The purification of the popular faith is the appropriate task of the true philanthropist.

We may often observe the son to exhibit a character the diametrically opposite of that of his father, either led by nature or struck by the ill effects of his father's conduct. This common appearance was now exhibited among the Assassins. Mohammed disregarded all the observances of the ceremonial law; his son and successor, Jellal-ed-deen (Glory of Religion) Hassan, distinguished himself, from his early years, by a zeal for the ordinances of Islam. The avowal of his sentiments caused considerable enmity and suspicion between him and Mohammed; the father feared the son, and the son the father. On the days of public

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audience, at which Jellal-ed-deen was expected to appear, the old sheikh used the precaution of wearing a shirt of mail under his clothes, and of increasing the number of his guards. His death, which occurred when his son had attained his twenty-fifth year, is ascribed by several historians, though apparently without any sufficient reason, to poison administered to him by his successor.

The succession of Jellal-ed-deen was uncontested. He immediately set about placing all things on the footing which they had been on previous to the time of On his Memory be Peace. The mosks were repaired and reopened; the call to prayer sounded as heretofore from the minarets; and the solemn assemblies for worship and instruction were held once more on every Friday. Imams, Koran-readers, preachers, and teachers of all kinds, were invited to Alamoot, where they were honourably entertained and richly rewarded. Jellal-ed-deen wrote to his lieutenants in Kusistan and Syria, informing them of what he had done, and inviting them to follow his example. He also wrote to the khalif, to the powerful Shah of Khaurism, and to all the princes of Persia, to assure them of the purity of his faith. His ambassadors were everywhere received with honour, and the khalif and all the princes gave to Jellal-ed-deen, in the letters which they wrote in reply, the title of prince, which had never been conceded to any of his predecessors. The imams, and the men learned in the law, loudly upheld the orthodoxy of the faith of the mountain-chief, on whom they bestowed the name of Nev (New) Musulman. When the people of Casveen, who had always been at enmity with the Ismaïlites, doubted of his orthodoxy, Jellal-ed-deen condescended to ask of them to send some persons of respectability to Alamoot, that he might have an opportunity of convincing them,

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[paragraph continues] They came, and in their presence he committed to the flames a pile of books which he said were the writings of Hassan Sabah, and contained the secret rules and ordinances of the society. He cursed the memory of Hassan and his successors, and the envoys returned to Casveen, fully convinced of his sincerity.

In the second year of his reign Jellal-ed-deen gave a further proof of the purity of his religious faith by permitting, or, perhaps, directing, his harem, that is, his mother, his wife, and a long train of their female attendants, to undertake the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, to worship at the tomb of the Prophet. The sacred banner was, according to custom, borne before the caravan of the pilgrims from Alamoot, and the Tesbeel, or distribution of water to the pilgrims, usual on such occasions *, was performed by the harem of the mountain-prince on such a scale of magnificence and liberality as far eclipsed that of the great Shah of Khaurism, whose caravan reached Bagdad at the same time on its way to Mecca. The khalif Nassir-ladin-Illah even gave precedence to the banner of the pilgrims from Alamoot, and this mark of partiality drew on him the wrath of the potent prince of Khaurism. Twice did the latter afterwards collect an

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army to make war on the successor of the Prophet. With the first, consisting of nearly 300,000 men, he marched against Bagdad, and had reached Hamadan and Holuan, when a violent snow-storm obliged him to retire. He had collected his forces a second time, when the hordes of Chinghis Khan burst into his dominions. His son and successor resumed his plans, and reached Hamadan, when again a snow-storm came to avert destruction. from the City of Peace. As the power of the Mongol conqueror was now great and formidable, the prudent prince of Alamoot sent in secret ambassadors to assure him of his submission, and to tender his homage.

Jellal ed-deen took a more active part in the politics of his neighbours than his predecessors had done. He formed an alliance with the Atabeg Mozaffer-ed-deen (Causing the Religion to be victorious), the governor of Azerbeijan, against the governor of Irak, who was their common enemy. He even visited the Atabeg at his residence, where he was received with the utmost magnificence, and each day the Atabeg sent 1,000 dinars for the expenses of his table. The two princes sent to the khalif for aid; their request was granted; and they marched against, defeated, and slew the governor of Irak, and appointed another in his place. After an absence of eighteen months Jellal-ed-deen returned to Alamoot, having in the mean time, by his prudent conduct, greatly augmented the fame of his orthodoxy. He now ventured to aspire to a connexion with one of the ancient princely houses of the country, and asked in marriage the daughter of Ky Kaoos, the prince of Ghilan. The latter having expressed his readiness to give his consent, provided that of the khalif could be obtained, envoys were despatched to Bagdad, who speedily returned with the approbation of Nassir-ladin-Illah, and the princess of Ghilan was sent to Alamoot.

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #41 on: January 04, 2009, 11:23:42 pm »

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The mention of Ghilan and of Ky Kaoos presents an opportunity, which we are not willing to let pass, of diversifying our narrative by an excursion into the regions of Persian geography and romance, which may cast a gleam of the sunshine of poetry over the concluding portion of our history of the dark and secret deeds of the Ismaïlites.

The mountain range named Demavend, on the south side of which Roodbar, the territory of the Ismaïlites, lies, is the northern termination of the province of Irak Ajemee, or Persian Irak. Beyond it stretches to the Caspian Sea a fertile region, partly hilly, partly plain *. This country is divided into five districts, which were in those times distinct from and independent of each other. At the foot of the mountains lay Taberistan and Dilem, the former to the east, the latter to the west. Dilem is celebrated as having been the native country of the family of Buyah, which, rising from the humblest station, exercised under the khalifs, and with the title of Ameer-al-Omra (Prince of the Princes), a power nearly regal over Persia during a century and a half †. North of Dilem lay Ghilan, and north of Taberistan Mazenderan, the ancient Hyrcania. In the midst of

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these four provinces lay Ruyan and Rostemdar, remarkable for having been governed for a space of 800 years by one family of princes, while dynasty after dynasty rose and fell in the neighbouring states. In these provinces the names of the royal lines recall to our mind the ancient history, both true and fabulous, of Irân (Persia), as we find it in the poem of Ferdoosee, the Homer of that country. The family of Kawpara, which governed Ruyan and Rostemdar, affected to derive their lineage from the celebrated blacksmith Gavah, who raised his apron as the standard of revolt against the Assyrian tyrant Zohak; and the family of Bavend, which ruled for nearly seven centuries, with but two interruptions, over Mazenderan and Taberistan, were descended from the elder brother of Noosheerwan the Just, the most celebrated monarch of the house of Sassan.

This region is the classic land of Persia. When, as their romantic history relates, Jemsheed, the third monarch of Iran after Cayamars, the first who ruled over men, had long reigned in happiness and prosperity, his head was lifted up with pride, and God withdrew from him his favour. His dominions were invaded by Zohak, the prince of the Tauzees (Assyrians or Arabs); his subjects fell away from him, and, after lurking for a hundred years in secret places, he fell into the hands of the victor, who cut him asunder with a saw. A child was born of the race of Jemsheed, named Feridoon, whom, as soon as he came to the light (in the village of Wereghi, in Taberistan), his mother Faranuk gave to a herdsman to rear, and his nourishment was the milk of a female buffalo, whose name was Poormayeh. Zohak meantime had a dream, in which he beheld two warriors, who led up to him a third, armed with a club which terminated in the head of a cow. The warrior struck him on the head with his club, and took him and chained

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him in the cavern of a mountain. He awoke with a loud cry, and called all the priests, and astrologers, and wise men, to interpret his dream. They feared to speak. At last they told him of the birth and nurture of Feridoon, who was destined to overcome him. Zohak fell speechless from his throne at the intelligence. On recovering, he sent persons in all directions to search for and put to death the fatal child; but the maternal anxiety of Faranuk was on the watch, and she removed the young Feridoon to the celebrated mountain Elburz, where she committed him to the care of a pious anchorite. Zohak, after a long search, discovered the place where Feridoon had been first placed by his mother, and in his rage he killed the beautiful and innocent cow Poormayeh.

Zohak is represented as a most execrable tyrant. Acting under the counsel of the Devil, he had murdered his own father to get his throne. His infernal adviser afterwards assumed the form of a young man, and became his cook. He prepared for him all manner of curious and high-seasoned dishes; for hitherto the food of mankind had been rude and plain. As a reward, he only asked permission to kiss the shoulders of the king. Zohak readily granted this apparently moderate request; but from the spots where the Devil impressed his lips grew forth two black snakes. In vain every art was employed to remove them, in vain they were cut away, they grew again like plants. The physicians were in perplexity. At length the Devil himself came in the shape of a physician, and said that the only mode of keeping them quiet was to feed them with human brains. His object, we are told, was gradually in this way to destroy the whole race of man.

The design of the Devil seemed likely to be accomplished. Each day two human beings were slain, and the serpents fed with their brains. At length

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two of the tyrant's cooks discovered that the brain of a man mixed with that of a ram satisfied the monsters, and, of the two men who were given to be killed each day, they always secretly let go one, and those who were thus delivered became the progenitors of the Koords who dwell in the mountains west of Persia. Among those unfortunate persons who were condemned to be food for the serpents was the son of a blacksmith named Gavah. The afflicted father went boldly before the tyrant, and remonstrated with him on the injustice of his conduct. Zohak heard him with patience and released his son. He also made him bearer of a letter addressed to all the provinces of the empire, vaunting his goodness, and calling on all to support him against the youthful pretender to his throne. But Gavah, instead of executing the mandate, tore the tyrant's letter, and, raising his leathern apron on a lance by way of standard, called on all the inhabitants of Iran to arise and take arms in support of Feridoon, the rightful heir to the throne of Jemsheed.

Meantime Feridoon, who had attained the age of twice eight years, came down from Elburz, and, going to his mother, besought her to tell him from whom he derived his birth. Faranuk related to him his whole history, when the young hero, in great emotion, vowed to attack the tyrant, and avenge on him the death of his father; but his mother sought, by representing the great power of Zohak; to divert him from his purpose, and exhorted him to abandon all such thoughts, and to enjoy in quiet the good things of this life. But a numerous army, led by Gavah in search of the true heir to the throne, now came in sight. Feridoon, joyfully advancing to meet them, adorned with gold and precious stones the leathern banner, placed upon it the orb of the moon, and, naming it Direfsh-e-Gavanee (Gavah's Apron),

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #42 on: January 04, 2009, 11:24:16 pm »

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selected it for the banner of the empire of Iran. Each succeeding prince, we are told, at his accession, added jewels to it, and Direfsh-e-Gavanee blazed in the front of battle like a sun. Feridoon, then calling for smiths, drew for them in the sand the form of a club, with a cow's head at the end of it,

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #43 on: January 04, 2009, 11:25:04 pm »

From the Shah Nameh, illuminated Persian MS.
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« Reply #44 on: January 04, 2009, 11:25:23 pm »

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and when they had made it he named it Gawpeigor (Cow-face), in honour of his nurse. Taking leave of his mother, he marches against the tyrant; an angel comes from heaven to aid the rightful cause; Zohak is deserted by his troops; he falls into the hands of Feridoon, who, by the direction of the angel, imprisons him in a cavern of the mountain Demavend. Feridoon, on ascending the throne of his forefathers, governed with such mildness, firmness, and justice, that his name is to the present day in Persia significative of the ideal of a perfect monarch *.

Mazenderan is not less celebrated in Persian romance than the region at the foot of Demavend. It was the scene of the dangers of the light-minded Kej Kaoos (supposed to be the Cyaxares of the Greeks), and of the marvellous adventures called the Seven Fables or Stages of the Hero Roostem, the Hercules of Persia, who came to his aid. When Kej Kaoos mounted the throne of Irân, he exulted in his wealth and in his power. A deev (Demon), desirous of luring him to his destruction, assumed the guise of a wandering minstrel, and, coming to his court, sought to be permitted to sing before the padisha (Emperor). His request was acceded to,--his theme was the praises of Mazenderan, and he sang to this effect:--

"Mazenderan deserves that the shah should think on it; the rose blooms evermore in its gardens, its hills are arrayed with tulips and jessamines, mild is the air, the earth is bright of hue, neither cold nor heat oppresses the lovely land, spring abides there

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evermore, the nightingale sings without ceasing in the gardens, and the deer bound joyously through the woods. The earth is never weary of pouring forth fruits, the air is evermore filled with fragrance, like unto rose-water are the streams, the tulip glows unceasingly on the meads, pure are the rivers, and their banks are smiling: ever mayest thou behold the falcon at the chase. All its districts are adorned with abundance of food, beyond measure are the treasures which are there piled up, the flowers bend in worship before the throne, and around it stand the men of renown richly girded with gold. Who dwelleth not there knoweth no pleasure, as joy and luxuriant pastime are to him unknown."

Kej Kaoos was beguiled by the tempter, and, eager to get possession of so rich a land, he led a large army into it. The Shah of Mazenderan was aided by a potent demon or enchanter named the Deev Seffeed (White Deev), who, by his magic arts, cast a profound darkness over the Irânian monarch and his host, in which they would have all been destroyed but for the timely arrival of Roostem, who, after surmounting all the impediments that magic could throw in his way, slew the Deev Seffeed, and delivered his sovereign.

Kej Kaoos, we are afterwards told by the poet, formed the insane project of ascending to heaven, which he attempted in the following manner. A stage was constructed on which a throne was set for the monarch; four javelins were placed at the corners, with pieces of goat's flesh on them, and four hungry eagles were tied at the bottom, who, by their of arts to reach the meat, raised the stage aloft into the air; but when the strength of the birds was exhausted the whole fell with the royal aëronaut in the desert, where he was found by Roostem and the other chiefs.

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