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An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath

61.      ASSASSIN

The dress of the Assassin was, as is that of his modern-day counterpart, in no way unusual. Disguises are often mentioned, however; the Assassins who killed Conrad of Montferrat, for instance, were dressed as monks, and other incidents see the dress of merchants, Frankish soldiers and Syrian Christians being worn. In their own strongholds Assassin brethren wore white cloaks and red caps.

They normally operated singly or in pairs, though on occasion considerably larger groups appear, perhaps to be doubly certain of success. Il-Bursuqi of Mosul was murdered by a band of 10 Assassins in 1126 and Caliph al-Mustarshid by as many as 15 or 17 in 1135.

Their weapon of execution was exclusively the dagger, sometimes poisoned and apparently sometimes engraved with the name of the intended victim, an early instance of 'if it's got your name on it . . .' Usamah even records battle anecdotes where Assassins appear to he armed only with daggers, but normally sword, spear and shield would have been added in combat, and fully-armed Assassins would have been indistinguishable from ordinary Moslem warriors.

A ceremonial dagger described by Joinville consisted of 3 daggers of which the top 2 had their blades sheathed in the handles of the lower 2. This was carried by one of the 3 envoys sent to Louis IX at Acre in 1252; another carried a funeral shroud wrapped round his arm, to be presented to the king for his own burial should he reject the Assassin demands! Another ceremonial weapon recorded by Joinville was a long-handled axe carried before the Old Man of the Mountain, the haft of which was covered in silver and had daggers fixed to it in some way.

See also the Assassination of Nizam al-Mulk from the 1314 Persian Jami' al-Tawarikh

Next: 62 & 63. MOSLEM MUSICIANS in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath

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