Imágenes de páginas

thought that in so doing they were acting right, and promoting the cause of truth. Such sanctifying of crime is not confined to the East; the maxim that the end sanctions the means is of too convenient a nature not to have prevailed in all parts of the world; and the assassins of Henry III. and Henry IV. of France displayed all the sincerity and constancy of the Ismaïlite Fedavees. Without, therefore, regarding the heads of the Ismaïlites, with Hammer, mere ruthless and impious murderers, who trampled under foot religion and morals with all their obligations, we may assent to the opinion of their leading doctrine being Soofeïsm carried to its worst consequences.

The followers of Hassan Sabah were called the Eastern Ismaïlites, to distinguish them from those of Africa. They were also named the Batiniyeh (Internal or Secret), from the secret meaning which they drew from the text of the Koran, and Moolhad, or Moolahid (Impious) on account of the imputed impiety of their doctrines,-names common to them with most of the preceding sects. It is under this last appellation that they were known to Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller. The name, however, by which they are best known in Europe, and which we shall henceforth chiefly employ, is that of Assassins. This name is very generally derived from that of the founder of their society; but M. De Sacy has made it probable that the oriental term Hashisheen, of which the Crusaders made Assassins, comes from Hashish, a species of hemp, from which intoxicating opiates were made, which the Fedavee were in the habit of taking previously to engaging in their daring enterprises, or employed as a medium of procuring delicious visions of the paradise promised to them by the Sheikh-al-Jebal.

It is a curious question how Hassan Sabah con

trived to infuse into the Fedavee the recklessness of life, joined with the spirit of implicit obedience to the commands of their superiors, which they so invariably displayed. We are told* that the system adopted for this purpose was to obtain, by purchase or otherwise, from their parents, stout and healthy children. These were reared up in implicit obedience to the will of the, Sheikh, and, to fit them for their future office, carefully instructed in various languages. The most agreeable spots were selected for their abode, they were indulged in the gratification of their senses, and, in the midst of their enjoyments, some persons were directed to inflame their imaginations by glowing descriptions of the far superior delights laid up in the celestial paradise for those who should be admitted to repose in its bowers; a happiness only to be attained by a glorious death met in obedience to the commands of the Sheikh. When such ideas had been impressed on their minds, the glorious visions ever floated before their eyes, the impression was kept up by the use of the opiate above-mentioned, and the young enthusiast panted for the hour when death, obtained in obeying the order of the Sheikh, should open to him the gates of paradise to admit him to the enjoyment of bliss never to end.

The celebrated Venetian, Marco Polo, who traversed the most remote parts of the East in the 13th century, gave on his return to Europe an account of the regions which he had visited, which filled the minds of men with wonder and amazement. As is usual in such cases this was followed or accompanied by unbelief, and it is only by the inquiries and discoveries of modern travellers that the veracity of Marco Polo, like that of Herodotus, has been established and placed beyond doubt.

Among other wonderful narratives which we meet *Wilken, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, vol. ii.

in the travels of Marco Polo is the account which he gives of the people whom he calls Mulehetites (that is, Moolahid), and their prince the Old Man of the Mountain. He describes correctly the nature of this society, and gives the following romantic narrative of the mode employed by that prince to infuse the principle of implicit obedience into the minds of his followers*.

"In a beautiful valley," says he, "enclosed between two lofty mountains, he had formed a luxurious garden, stored with every delicious fruit and every fragrant shrub that could be procured. Palaces of various sizes and forms were erected in different parts of the grounds, ornamented with works of gold, with paintings, and with furniture of rich silks. By means of small conduits contained in these buildings streams of wine, milk, honey, and some of pure water, were seen to flow in every direction. The inhabitants of these palaces were elegant and beautiful damsels, accomplished in the arts of singing, playing upon all sorts of musical instruments, dancing, and especially those of dalliance and amorous allurement. Clothed in rich dresses, they were seen continually sporting and amusing themselves in the garden and pavilions, their female guardians being confined within doors, and never suffered to appear. The object which the chief had in view in forming a garden of this fascinating kind was this: that Mahomet having promised to those who should obey his will the enjoyments of paradise, where every species of sensual gratification should be found in the society of beautiful nymphs, he was desirous of its being understood by his followers that he also was a prophet, and a compeer of Mahomet, and had the power of admitting to paradise such as he should choose to favour. In order that none without his licence should find their way into this delicious valley, he caused a strong and inexpugnable Marsden's Translation.

castle to be erected at the opening of it, through which the entry was by a secret passage. At his court, likewise, this chief entertained a number of youths, from the age of twelve to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants of the surrounding mountains, who showed a disposition for martial exercises, and appeared to possess the quality of daring courage. To them he was in the daily practice of discoursing on the subject of the paradise announced by the Prophet and of his own, of granting admission, and at certain times he caused draughts of a soporific nature to be administered to ten or a dozen of the youths, and when half dead with sleep he had them conveyed to the several apartments of the palaces in the garden. Upon awakening from this state of lethargy their senses were struck with all the delightful objects that have been described, and each perceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing, and attracting his regards by the most fascinating caresses, serving him also with delicious viands and exquisite wines, until, intoxicated with excess of enjoyment, amidst actual rivers of milk and wine, he believed himself assuredly in paradise, and felt an unwillingness to relinquish its delights. When four or five days had thus been passed, they were thrown once more into a state of somnolency and carried out of the garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence, and questioned by him as to where they had been, their answer was, 'In paradise, through the favour of your highness;' and then, before the whole court, who listened to them with eager curiosity and astonishment, they gave a circumstantial account of the scenes to which they had been witnesses. The chief thereupon addressing them said, 'We have the assurance of our Prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit paradise, and if you show yourselves devoted to the obedience of my orders, that happy lot


awaits you.' Animated to enthusiasm by words of this nature all deemed themselves happy to receive the commands of their master, and were forward to die in his service."

This romantic narrative, more suited to a place among the wonders of the "Thousand and One Nights" than to admission into sober history, has been very generally rejected by judicious inquirers such as De Sacy and Wilkin, the able historians of the Crusades; but it has found credence with Hammer, to whose work we are indebted for the far greater part of the present details on the subject of the Assassins. This industrious scholar has, as he thinks, found a proof of its truth in the circumstance of similar narratives occurring in the works of some Arabian writers which treat of the settlements of the society in Syria, forgetting that a fabulous legend is often more widely diffused than sober truth. All, therefore, that can be safely inferred from this collection of authorities is that the same marvellous tale which the Venetian traveller heard in the north of Persia was also current in Syria and Egypt. Its truth must be established by a different species of proof.

In the Siret-al-Hakem (Memoirs of Hakem), a species of Arabian historic romance, the following account of the gardens at Massyat, the chief seat of the Assassins in Syria, was discovered by Hammer*:

"Our narrative now returns to Ismaïl the chief of the Ismaïlites. He took with him his people laden with gold, silver, pearls, and other effects, taken away from the inhabitants of the coasts, and which he had received in the island of Cyprus, and on the part of the king of Egypt, Dhaher, the son of Hakembiëmr-Illah. Having bidden farewell to the sultan of Egypt at Tripolis, they proceeded to Massyat, when * Fundgruben des Orients, vol. iii.

« AnteriorContinuar »