The Terror of the Hashashin,
In the 11th century a Nazari missionary named Hassan-i Sabbah began a small community of worshipers in the mountains of Northern Persia. A follower of a Shia Islamic group called the Isma’li, Sabbah was a very charismatic leader who organized a very large movement in a very short period of time. To accommodate his followers his movement occupied the fortress of Alamut. After a few decades, his followers occupied dozens of fortresses in Northern Iran.
Immediately Sabbah’s movement fell under assault as regional powers such as the Persians, the Fatimid Empire, and later the Crusaders saw them as heretics who constituted a political and military threat. As a result, Sabbah made intense training in warfare and combat a centerpiece of his religious teachings. His followers were trained to be elite soldiers and religious fanatics. Despite the militaristic flavor of his movement, Sabbah knew that a well orchestrated assassination or the proper application of intimidation could achieve much more than military power.
To complement his warriors, Sabbah founded the Order of Assassins, also known as the Hashashin because they often imbibed in the drug hashish. The assassins were required to be young, experts in hand to hand combat, religious fanatics, and also cold, calculating, and intelligent.
Over the next two decades the Hashashin were the most feared assassins in the Middle East, Central Asia, and perhaps the known world. Targets were typically powerful men such as political leaders, generals, religious leaders, and Crusaders. One famous victim was the famed Egyptian Muslim leader named Saladin. Saladin survived two attempts on his life by the Hashashin. Throughout the rest of his life Saladin lived in terror and paranoia. In 1192 and Italian knight and nobleman named Conrad of Montferrat was elected as King of Jerusalem. Two days later he was stabbed to death by two Hashashin dressed as Christian monks. Most suspected that his rival, Richard the Lionheart, had hired the Hashashin to commit the deed. Another famous victim was Prince Edward Longshanks, future King of England featured in the film “Braveheart”. Prince Edward was badly wounded and forced to return home. Even the mere threat of murder by the Hashashin was enough to intimidate rulers to do their bidding. When the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar attempted to invade Hashashin territory, he awoke one morning to find a dagger with a threatening note stuck in his pillow. He then called of the invasion.
The terror of the Hashashin spread far and wide. Then in the 13th century the Hashashin messed with someone who was far worse than they. In 1253 the Hashashin attempted to assasinate the Mongke Khan, the Fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. Needless to say, the Mongols were not the sort to be intimidated, even by the feared Hashashin. Without pause the Mongols surrounded and stormed their many fortresses, ruthlessly slaughtering all Hashashin without mercy. In 1256 they destroyed the fortress of Alamut, the last bastion of the Hashashin. Those who survived the Mongols furry were tortured and beheaded, including the order’s last grandmaster Rukn al-Din Khurshah.