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The Assassins (Arabic: حشّاشينḤashāshīn, also Hashishin or Hashashiyyin) were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Syria and Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265. Posing a strong military threat to Sunni Saljuq authority within the Persian territories, the Nizari Ismailis captured and inhabited many mountain fortresses under the leadership of the Persian Hassan-i Sabbah.

The name 'Assassins' was originally derogatory and used by their adversaries during the Middle Ages; the modern word "assassin" is derived from this name. Preserved within European sources, such as the writings of Marco Polo, they were depicted as trained killers, responsible for the systematic elimination of opposing figures. The term hashish connoted meanings such as "outcast" or "rabble".[Daftary 1] Various orientalist scholars[who?] believed the Nizaris consumed hashish before carrying out political killings.



The origins of the Assassins trace back to just before the First Crusade around 1080. It is difficult to find out much information about the origins of the Assassins because most early sources are either written by enemies of the cult or based on legends. Most sources dealing with the order’s inner working were destroyed with the capture of Alamut, the Assassin's headquarters. However, it's possible to trace the beginnings of the cult back to its first Grandmaster, Hasan-i Sabbah.

A passionate believer of the Isma’ili beliefs, Hasan-i-Sabbah was well liked throughout Cairo, Syria, and most of the Middle East by other Isma’ili, which led to a number of people becoming his followers. Using his fame and popularity, Sabbah founded the Order of the Assassins. While his motives for founding this order are ultimately unknown, it has been speculated that it was for his own political and personal gain and to also exact vengeance on his enemies. His motivation for political power probably came through what he thought to be dealings with other Muslims in the Middle East, particularly Sunnis, but because of the unrest in the holy land caused by the calling of the Crusades, Hasan-i-Sabbah found himself not only fighting for power with other Muslims, but also with the invading Christian forces.[1]

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