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The Knights Templar: The Knights Assassin?

During the First Crusade, the Knights Templar and their Muslim counterparts, the “Order of Assassins,” were far from friendly with one another. However, many historians have asserted that over time the two factions did come to some kind of understanding, which in turn may have led to the eventual appropriation of certain rituals and principles from one order to the other.

Who Were the Order of Assassins?

The term “assassin” as it is used by speakers of the English language today bears little resemblance to the name of the mystical Muslim killers who countered the Christians during the Crusades – although that hasn’t stopped the two terms from sharing the same etymology. Originally, the name the “Order of the Assassins” was actually derived from a poor translation of an Arabic word meaning “hashish smoker.” Today, it is used to refer most specifically to those who kill for political motives.

The original Order, indeed, was a band that practiced murder as a means of abolishing their enemies. It was founded in 1090 by Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, and began expanding quickly afterward, until eventually spreading over Persia and Syria. Its members were strictly monitored, and were organized in a hierarchical fashion – with those denoted as “devotees” receiving the most prized status. Those belonging to this group were martyrs and thus instruments of assassination.

Their power was finally overcome in the mid 1300s after the invasion of the Mongols, who destroyed their strongholds in Persia, while the Crusaders carried out the same fate in Syria.

Relationship to the Knights Templar

While the Knights Templar’s relationship to the Order of Assassins at first appeared clearly antagonistic, many have posited that over time the two made concessions – and even appropriations – in order to have their objectives met.

For example, in 1129 the Grand Master of the Templars, Hugh de Payens, led some 300 knights to accompany a train of European pilgrims to Jerusalem. It is said that during this time, the Templars allied with the Assassins to conquer the city of Damuscus. The Assassins were also rumored to be willing to become Christians if their needs were met. In addition, the existence of a 3,000 gold piece payment given to the Templars by the Assassins appears to be evidence of some kind of tribute.

It should also be noted that many of the Templars were of Palestinian descent, and thus were conscious of the East’s religious sects and doctrines.

Other similarities between the groups have been documented through time, including:

  • similar official colors – red and white;
  • same hierarchical nature of organization;
  • both have been supposed as dissenters of the religions which they publicly endorsed.

The exact nature of the relationship between the Templars and the Assassins, however, still remains a mystery.


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