Medieval depiction of the Hashshashin.
"When the Christian crusaders in the Orient came across that unconquered Order of Assassins, that free-spirited order par excellence, whose lowest ranks lived a life of obedience of the sort no order of monks attained, then they received by some means or other a hint about that symbol and motto, which only the highest ranks kept as their secret, "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." . . . Well now, that was spiritual freedom. With that the very belief in truth was cancelled. . . Has a European, a Christian free spirit ever wandered by mistake into this proposition and its labyrinthine consequences?"
The Hashshashin were an Islamic community in The Middle East
around the time of The Crusades
, who both named
archetype, though only a few know to what extent their image has been Flanderized
Originally they were an esoteric Islamic cult
—usually classified as a radical offshoot of the Isma'ili sect of Shi'a Islam—founded by Hassan-i Sabbah, who was born of a Twelver Family, who had converted to Isma'ili, and then later broke off from them to form Nizariyya, an Isma'ili offshoot. They were a society of assassins
operating from the mountain fortress Alamut
and terrorizing the region's rulers with their attacks. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Hashshashin were said to be quite friendly towards common folk
, since their killings were actually carefully targeted and planned, rather than random acts of violence. Allegedly, Hashshashin recruits were drugged with hashish (the word hashishnote
is the source of the name), led to a paradisical garden full of lush greenery and beautiful women
(supposedly a glimpse of the Islamic paradise), and then told that only the "Old Man of the Mountain" had the means to let them return (i.e. if they died as martyrs), which resulted in their fanatical devotion
. There is no historical evidence whatsoever of hashish being used for anything else but medicinal purposes, and the connotation of the Assassins being drug-addicts was given to them by their enemies and by polemicists who were seeking to discredit the Assassins and the Nizari. Their downfall came when one of their strikes reached the Mongols
, who razed Alamut during their conquest of Persia.
In fiction, The Knights Templar
are often positioned as the Rivals
of the Hashshashin (and the two are often found alongside each other in Conspiracy Kitchen Sinks
); this can be quite frustrating to people who know the region's history, since Crusaders—though not necessarily the Templars themselves—were often allies
of the Shia Assassins, since they shared a common enemy (i.e. the Sunni Turkish and to a lesser extent Kurdish and Arab lords who ruled the region, including Zengi and Saladin
). Compare Ninjas
, the Far Eastern counterpart.
For more historical information see UsefulNotes.The Hashshashin
References to the Hashshashin in fiction:
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Anime And Manga
- In episode 14 of Kiddy Grade ("Steel/Heart"), Tweedledee infects La Muse and Donnerschlag with a virus called "hashish," which, she mentions, is the name of a drug used in ancient times to give one the willpower to kill even a member of their own family. And That's Terrible.
- The Destroyer series of novels, being about assassins with an ancient heritage, naturally mention the Hashshashin.
- In Foucaults Pendulum, the Templars learned from the Hashshashin during the Crusades to discover the secret of harnessing the power of telluric currents.
- There were a few Flashbacks featuring the Hashshashin in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
- The Dragon from Angels & Demons is a Hashashin, though the book portrays them as crazed, chaotic assassins.
- Parodied in Discworld with the hashishim, who are a bit too heavy on the hashish bit...
- Vladimir Bartol's novel Alamut embraces most of the historical legends of the hashshashin, and was the main inspiration for Assassin's Creed.
- The Mongols go up against the Hashashin in the third Conqueror book; aghast by the group's cowardly and bloodthirsty ways. Genghis Khan personally kills the Old Man.
- Mack Bolan, The Executioner, fought a revitalized cult in Assassin's Code. The Assassins in this one recruited various mercenaries including Ninjas, Thugee, and a rogue mossad agent.
Live Action TV
- Hawkwind's song "Hasan i Sahba" links the Hashshashin to modern Islamic fundamentalists.
- The song "Garden of Light" by Isis, a post-metal band, refers subtly to the Hashashin recruitment procedure.
- "Wine of Aluqah" by Therion. "Know that nothing's true and that everything is permitted,/So read the Old Man of the Mountain in his Book of Lies".
- The Dungeons & Dragons Al-Qadim setting has numerous "Holy Slayer" groups inspired by the Hashshashin. Adventure ALQ2 Assassin Mountain has the Everlasting, a cult that live in a mountain that are clearly based on them.
- In the wargame Infinity, Hashashin are special troops that can be fielded by the Haqqislam faction, divided into four distinct types: snipers/poisoners, close-combat specialists, stealth experts who can pretend to be an enemy unit, and explosives specialists.
- The Legend of the Five Rings CCG spin-off Legend Of The Burning Sands had a group called the Assassins in it, who excelled at killing in duels. While they were led by the "Old Man of the Mountain", most of the other characters in it were women.
- Vampire: The Masquerade has the Assamites, a vampire clan associated with the Hashshashin (a rogue Renfield of theirs in the 12th/13th centuries used the cult to help him hunt vampires). The clan is based in Alamut (albeit not the Hashshashin's Alamut) and hires themselves out as assassins.
- In Illuminati, in which players control ancient conspiracies, the Assassins are one.