The Riddle of Hassan II

David Footman on the conspiracies that surround the Order of Assassins.

For the student of ideological fanaticism, as for the student of conspiratorial technique, the Assassins of Alamout are a tantalizing subject. The sect maintained its independance for nearly two hundred years. Its leaders treated, more or less on terms of equality, with the rulers of the contemporary great powers of the Middle East. They themselves were men of outstanding intelligence and vast erudition, and amassed in the course of years a remarkable library. But this library, with the records and the dogma of the Order, was destroyed when their citadel fell to the Mongols in 1256. We have thus no inside sources on their activities or aspirations, and are dependent on references in the works of Arab and Persian chroniclers, whose knowledge at best was patchy, and whose hostile bias was nearly always sharpened by moral or theological indignation.

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