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Inside Secret Societies

The Order of the Assassins  |  Season 1  |  Episode 6  |  The History Channel

The Assassins are a legend in the Muslim world. Part freedom fighters, part special forces and part Islamic fundamentalists, they were set up back in the 11th century in today's Syria around the time of the First Christian Crusade in the Holy Land. They were an elite sect of highly trained killers who often operated behind enemy lines, in deep cover, assassinating military leaders and rulers. Their covert tactics and ruthless operations spread fear and terror across the medieval world. Assassinations were primarily carried out with a dagger, which was sometimes tipped with poison. As their legend and infamy grew they started to carry out their assassinations in public spaces so as to instil terror in their foes. They would often assimilate themselves in the cities, palaces and fortresses of their targets and, over time, stealthily insert themselves into strategic positions. Although many scholars believe that they died out after the Crusades, there are those who say that they simply went 'underground' with reports of their activities in the early 20th century. Certainly, the Assassins have inspired, and possibly given rise to, many of today's Islamic fundamentalist groups, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and even ISIS. The training methods, secrecy, ruthlessness and covert operations of all these groups are directly the result of The Assassins.

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