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The Shocking History of Assassins

Unveiling the Myth: The Real Story of the Assassins

By Med KarimPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
The Shocking History of Assassins
Photo by Irham Setyaki on Unsplash

If you've frequented the cinema lately, you've likely observed Hollywood's tendency to romanticize nearly every profession it depicts. Take archaeology, for instance; very few archaeologists have stumbled upon priceless treasures while raiding tombs. Finding a Harvard professor who globe-trots thwarting ancient secret societies via LinkedIn is highly improbable. Your average hacker is more inclined to be in their parents' basement searching for COD exploits than battling the FBI from a penthouse apartment. Another vocation often misrepresented is that of the assassin. These characters appear so frequently in TV, film, and games that one might assume assassination is a thriving industry and an excellent career choice. From Jason Bourne to Agent 47, from Deadpool to John Wick, the portrayal of assassins has captured the imagination of audiences worldwide. Yet, a glance at job boards reveals a scarcity of assassination opportunities. Nonetheless, humanity remains captivated by the notion of a lethal assassin emerging from the shadows to eliminate unsuspecting targets with precision. Assassination, in various forms, has existed as long as humans have walked the earth. However, the modern archetype of the assassin—a skilled, stealthy killer eliminating influential figures for religious or political motives—can be traced back nearly a millennium to a group known as the Order of Assassins.

Led by the enigmatic figure known as the Old Man of the Mountain, the Order of Assassins gained renown for effortlessly eliminating some of the world's most powerful individuals. Operating in the Middle East from the 11th to the 13th centuries, they orchestrated hundreds of high-profile assassinations. Their association with political killings is so profound that they lend their name to the act itself. The Order's influence transcends history, inspiring modern media such as the Assassin's Creed franchise. However, the real Assassins diverge significantly from their fictional counterparts. They were not a global force for peace but a group surviving in a hostile world, willing to resort to murder to ensure their survival.

The Order of Assassins, originally a religious faction, emerged from a schism within Islam during the late 11th century. Following a succession crisis in the Fatimid Caliphate, adherents of the ousted Prince Nizar fled to Persia, where they established Nizari Isma'ilism under the leadership of Hassan-I Sabbah. Hassan's missionary efforts attracted followers but also drew the ire of the ruling Seljuk Empire. Forced into hiding, Hassan sought a secure base and found it in Alamut Castle, an impregnable fortress in Persia. Seizing the castle without violence, Hassan established a stronghold for his followers.

Facing overwhelming military opposition, Hassan devised a strategy that would become synonymous with the Assassins—targeting enemy leaders through assassination. Trained as Fida’i, the Assassins employed stealth and infiltration to eliminate key figures, sowing fear among their adversaries. Their methods were as diverse as they were effective; some assassinations were public spectacles, while others were discreet and covert. The Assassins' reputation for bravery and effectiveness grew, as did the legends surrounding their tactics and lifestyle.

Despite the legends, evidence regarding the Assassins' alleged drug use and initiation rituals remains speculative. Propaganda from their enemies likely embellished these accounts to discredit them. Nevertheless, the Assassins' impact on history is undeniable. They operated as a shadowy force, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies. Their techniques revolutionized warfare, demonstrating that even a small, dedicated group could challenge far larger adversaries.

The Order of Assassins eventually met its demise at the hands of the Mongol horde in the 13th century. Despite their defeat, the Assassins' legacy endures, influencing popular culture and military strategy to this day. Though they vanished nearly a millennium ago, their mark on history remains indelible, a testament to the enduring power of stealth, strategy, and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Today, the Nizaris continue their legacy as the largest branch of Ismaili Muslims, a reminder that from the shadows of history, echoes of the Assassins still resonate in the modern world.

True CrimeThrillerHistoryHistorical FictionFictionFantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Med Karim

"When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go."

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