Dec 00 - View from the rock of Alamut (site of the 'Castle of the Assassins', the Hashishin, Ismaili sect), near Ghazvin
First the colourful legendary version of events here, from an old book, 'Persian Cities': "In 1090 AD, Hasan-i-Sabbah [the legendary 'old man of the mtn.s'] , founder of the Order of the Assassins, seized the Castle of Alamut, "only 2 days march N/NE of Ghazvin". Originally a Dailamite stronghold, Alamut had been rebuilt in @ 840 AD by a Shia propagandist named Hasan ad-Da'i ila'l-Haqq. The castle, situated on top of a precipitous rock [with a spring at the top] was so strong and difficult of access that Hasan-i-Sabbah made it his headquarters. Marco Polo and other writers have told us of the strange but effective manner in which he and his successors disposed of their more prominent opponents. Sturdy youths from the Dailamite country and other mountainous districts inhabited by brave and warlike tribesmen were specially recruited by Hasan, they were then drugged with hashish, and while under the influence were introduced into a beautiful garden which Hasan had made near here. In this there were streams, trees and flowers, and last, but by no means least, a number of maidens of great charm and beauty. When the youths came to their senses amid such pleasing surroundings, they not unnaturally imagined that they were in paradise - an idea which was sedulously fostered. After they spent a few most agreeable days disporting themselves in the garden and dallying with the fair houris, the youths were once more drugged. When they recovered consciousness, they found themselves back in the grim fortress of Alamut. The grand master would then summon them and ask where they had been. "In paradise" they would answer. "Would you like to return there?" On receiving an enthusiastic assent, he would say "Go now and slay so-and-so (naming some important person who was hostile to him). If you kill him, I shall cause you to be instantly transported to paradise. Should you perish in the attempt you shall nevertheless go straight there. So fear nothing!" The simple youths, thus assured of getting it both ways, would then depart on their murderous missions, which they carried out with a persistence and total disregard of danger that filled the enemies of the Assasins with the utmost terror and dismay." It was the drugging with hashish which caused the death-dealing emissaries of Hasan and his successors to be called the Hashishiyun. This was contracted to Hashishin, which the Crusaders (who came frequently into contact with the Syrian branch of the Order) corrupted to Assaci - hence our word "Assassin."
- The Assassins were considered a menace, not only to individual cities like Ghazvin, but also to the authority of the Seljuq rulers of the country. In Oct. 1220 a Mongol army under the famous general Subetei laid seige to Ghazvin and decimated it after 3 days, but in 1257, the Mongols captured Alamut and all but one of the sect's other strongholds. The Assassins regained Alamut in 1275, but lost it again almost immediately..."
- This was the history I'd read when I was there at the time. A more current, political take on these events continues under the photo of the dead man in Ghazvin.