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The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Bernard Lewis
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Présentation de l'éditeur

The history of an extremist Islamic sect in the 11th-12th centuries whose terrorist methods gave the English language a new word: assassin.



The word 'Assassin' was brought back from Syria by the Crusaders, and in time acquired the meaning of murderer. Originally it was applied to the members of a Muslim religious sect - a branch of the Ismailis, and the followers of a leader known as the Old Man of the Mountain. Their beliefs and their methods made them a by-word for both fanaticism and terrorism in Syria and Persia in the 11th and 12th centuries, and the subject of a luxuriant growth of myth and legend.



In this book, Bernard Lewis begins by tracing the development of these legends in medieval and modern Europe and the gradual percolation of accurate knowledge concerning the Ismailis. He then examines the origins and activities of the sect, on the basis of contemporary Persian and Arabic sources, and against the background of Middle Eastern and Islamic history. In a final chapter he discusses some of the political, social and economic implications of the Ismailis, and examines the significance of the Assassins in the history of revolutionary and terrorist movements.

The Economist

"Learned, lucid and elegant...with great skill [Lewis] disentangles truth from legend."

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1671 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 176 pages
  • Editeur : Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Édition : New Ed (17 février 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004LX0D8Q
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°193.872 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Assassins 6 février 2012
Par Boyd Hone
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
While reading two books on Richard Lionheart, Frank McLynn's RICHARD AND JOHN and James Reston's WARRIORS OF GOD, I came across the story of Sinan, the head of a hashish cult called the Assassins, an organization capable of doing, in real life, what the godfather had done in film fiction with the horse's head. Both Richard and Saladin were so terrified of him that they did everything in their power to placate the old man. (One of many Sultans, upon awakening, found a dagger on his pillow; so warned, the Sultan awarded Sinan a yearly pension of 3,000 dinars.) Boys were accepted into the cult very young, and when the moment came for them to be used as killers, they were drugged and then admitted into a garden where they found, upon awaking, fountains, wonderful food and all the girls their young bodies could accommodate. They were told that this was Paradise, and that if they were lucky enough to be killed during their mission, this is what awaited them in recompense. So I ordered Bernard Lewis' book THE ASSASSINS. Lewis tells the story from the very beginning, with the founding of Islam, a story as dense as algebra and as convoluted as calculus. There are Imamates, Imams, viziers, Sultans, Caliphs, Caliphates, emirs, muftis, Shi'a, Sunni, Mongols, Ismailis, this sect and that sect, and murder galore. Here are some of the words I made note of concerning the interactions of these groups, words extracted from just 2 of the book's 134 pages: cunning, skin stuffed with straw, torture, flayed alive, beheaded, massacre, killing, conquest, death, assault, burned him. There are also some astonishing photos of the Assassins' mountain strongholds. Immensely complicated, extremely erudite, it is a 5-star effort, although stories of the assassination attempts should have been far more developed, because as it is, the book is often as dry as hay.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5  42 commentaires
86 internautes sur 100 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The First Islamic Terrorists 28 novembre 2002
Par jeffergray - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
It's probably a fair guess that sales of Bernard Lewis's "The Assassins" were a lot slower before 9/11 than they are today. Many who purchased this book over the past year probably did so hoping that it would help provide some insight into Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network he heads. This book doesn't really do that, although that's no reflection on what Lewis has actually accomplished here. He wrote "The Assassins" more than a third of a century ago, and there are very significant differences between the Nizari Ismaili Order and the hate-filled fanatics of Al-Qaeda. But although this book won't help you understand what makes Osama bin Laden and his acolytes tick, it will introduce you to an important and little-known chunk of medieval Islamic history in which a lot of intriguing historical personalities play starring or supporting roles. This should be more than reward enough.
The group we call the Assassins are more accurately known as the Nizari Ismailis, an offshoot sect of Shi'i Islam. Their sect still survives today in the followers of the Aga Khan, whose communities from India to southern California reflect a progressive and humane face of Islam. From the late eleventh to thirteenth centuries, however, the Nizaris' struggle for survival in the midst of their more numerous and militarily powerful Sunni enemies led them to develop a form of defensive terrorism that proved remarkably effective in ensuring their security for almost two hundred years. In the end, however, the sect's lurid reputation proved its undoing -- for the Mongol khans ultimately concluded that their own safety could only be secured by the Assassins' extermination.

There are some similarities between the Assassins' modus operandi and that of today's Al-Qaeda terrorists. In each case, terrorists assigned to carry out missions for the group did not concern themselves with escape and expected to die whether their mission succeeded or not - a fact that added greatly to the apprehension of their enemies and their own mystique. Each group treated acts of terrorist violence as having a sacramental component - the Assassins always killed their victims up close and personal, choosing to use knives rather than poison or arrows, much as Mohammed Atta and his confederates observed certain rituals of personal hygiene and dress before carrying out their terrorist acts. The young men selected to carry out the actual terrorist operations in each case believed that their sacrifice for the sake of the cause would open the gates of paradise. And each group answered to the commands of s single leader, who styled himself as both a religious teacher and a political and military strategist.

But there the similarities end. Indeed, after reading Lewis's account, the most striking thing about the medieval Assassins is how much more civilized they seem to have been than the terrorists of Al-Qaeda. Their use of political assassination as a weapon was both highly focused and thoroughly pragmatic. Because they lacked the military strength to defeat their powerful enemies (primarily the Great Seljuks) in open combat, it made sense instead to strike at their opponents' command structure. Mass slaughter of faraway civilians for its own sake would have been incomprehensible to them. The Nizaris could plausibly have viewed their use of political assassination as both just and humane. They had legitimate grievances, for their community frequently suffered pogroms at the hands of their Sunni enemies that echoed the atrocities inflicted on the Jews of western Europe during this same period. By striking directly at the political, religious or military figures who had attacked their own communities, the Assassins could punish a current enemy, deter Sunni political and religious leaders from future attacks, and win the security they sought without the necessity of killing masses of their enemy's rank-and-file soldiery or risking the lives of more than a handful of their own members.

As Lewis points out, the Assassins were also masters of psychological warfare. They sometimes planted "sleeper" agents in the households of prospective enemies just in the event they might ultimately be needed. These agents did not always have to actually strike in order to achieve deterrence - a knife or a note left by an enemy's bedside while he was sleeping served to emphasize his vulnerability and was often sufficient to achieve the Assassins' political ends. (Sometimes, in fact, the Assassins did not even need to plant sleeper agents to accomplish their objectives - they might simply bribe an otherwise loyal member of their enemy's household to leave the note or the knife, thereby accomplishing the same effect without the need of even committing one of their own personnel.)

Lewis tackles and persuasively debunks most of the popular legends about the Assassins, such as the claim that their Grand Master secured the fanatical loyalty of his young followers by drugging them with narcotics and then conveying them for short periods to an artificial "paradise" of his own creation that was staffed by sensuous and accommodating young women. Lewis instead finds that a more straightforward (and plausible) explanation for the willingness of the Assassins' fida'is to offer themselves up for suicidal missions: religious passion and commitment to the Nizari community.

Lewis's short (140 pages) and elegant account will thus introduce you to an intriguing period of medieval Islamic history, one populated by a collection of memorable figures - the brilliant and ascetic Assassin leader Hassan i-Sabah, the real founder of the Order; the "Old Man of the Mountain," Sinan, who commanded the Order's Syrian branch during the most critical years of the Crusades; Saladin, who was at different times both a target and an ally of the Assassins; Hulegu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who finally succeeded where the Seljuks had failed, rooting out the Order from its mountaintop fortresses and then ordering mass exterminations of its communicants; and last but not least, Marco Polo, to whose vivid tales can be ascribed much of the lingering fascination that continues to surround the Assassins.
23 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A thoroughly enjoyable book on a fascinating topic 23 mai 2000
Par Aaron A. Ranck - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This well-written book is obviously the work of an erudite writer. Lewis provides a thorough examination of what became known to the Europeans as the Assassins. From explaining likely explanations of where the word "Assassin" came from to describing the shadowy ruler of the group, known as "The Old Man of the Mountain," Lewis keeps the reader interested by making insightful comments and offerring thoughtful analysis. Lewis writes about the origins of the Assassin movement, the affects of the Assassins on European Crusaders, Sunni rulers and others. He explains probably causes for their existence with a thorough examination of primary source material. The Assassins are a fascinating study for not only those interested in the history of Islam or the Near East, but is also perfect for those who are interested in fundamentalism, comparative religion, radicalism or someone who wants to learn more about different peoples in a different time period (sometimes the similarities between the Assassin movement and modern fundamentalist and/or radical religious movements are striking). Another fascinating aspect of this book is its sociological explanations of why the Assassins lived primarily in the mountains compared to the Sunni who lived in the fertile river vallies. I especially recommend this book to professors of Religion/History classes who are looking for a very well-written book that provides valuable information while keeping the student interested.
24 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scholarly and thought provoking 17 janvier 2003
Par Scott Chamberlain - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This new edition has come out in the wake of the Sept 11 bombings and and upsurge in interest in Bernard Lewis's works. Those expecting a "glossy," ripped-from-the-headlines history might be put off by this book... it is a slightly updated reprinting of his classic history written a half-century ago. While it may not be a popular coffee table book, it is a throrough, highly informed work on the group that gave its name to political murder. To be honest, I got much more out of it the second time I read through it... some of the names, medieval politics, and Islamic debates left me feeling lost. The second time through, more things fell into place and I appreciated the details a great deal more. Also, I greatly appreciated his incredible knowlege of the subject and the region as a whole, as well as his keen insights into Islamic thinking. Clearly, Lewis is one of the most important Middle East scholars in a long time. Those looking for a scholarly, de-mystifying, and on its own terms readable work on the Assassins will like this book. If you're simply curious about this mysterious group, you may get more out of this volume if you first read one of Lewis's broader introductions to Islam... click on the authors name and several good choices will show up.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting overview of a misunderstood sect of Islam 24 septembre 2006
Par David W. Nicholas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
The Assassins are part of the legend of the Crusades. The legend of their intoxicants, and the pleasures that initiates were allowed to sample before being sent on missions, are almost part of our historical lore, and of course the sect has lent its name to a word in the English language. This scholarly account by historian Bernard Lewis is detailed, and relentless at least in terms of sentimentality, brushing away legends and folklore and sticking to what's known of this splinter group of Islam and their culture, activities, motives, and fate.

It turns out that, as far as anyone knows, the Assassins are merely a splinter of the group called Ismailis (which still exists in Muslim countries, as a partially suppressed heresy). They existed for about three centuries, between the mid 11th century and the late 14th, in what is now northern Iran, and southern Syria. They never controlled a major city, and as a political entity, they appear to have survived largely through personal intimidation. While they were only so-so when it came to defeating armies, they were very effective at eliminating their leadership. In that era in which personal leadership, through monarchs and their surrogates, was the order of business for most governments in the area, this was particularly effective.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. If I do have a complaint, it's that the sum of knowledge about the Assassins, at least when Lewis wrote this, was rather thin, and so of course you don't get that much on them. The book itself runs to just about 150 pages in length, with an appendix which is another 50 pages tacked onto the end. The paucity of information isn't Lewis's fault, though, it's due to the secretiveness of the sect itself. Aside from that, the book is very well-done, interesting, and informative.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scholarly treatise on the Assassins 3 juillet 2004
Par W. Sean McLaughlin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Bernard Lewis's The Assassins is a supremely academic introduction to one of the most well-known and most feared sects within historical Islam.
The work, originally written in 1967, begins with a detailed explanation of the historical roots of the Assassins, a Nizari Ismaili sect within Shi'a Islam that used targeted killings in the Middle Ages to achieve political, military, and religious goals. Lewis uses a wealth of historical sources to untangle the myths of the Assassins and trace the group's history throughout Medieval Islam. While many people have a general knowledge of or interest in the Assassins, Lewis's book provides in-depth information about the inner workings of this secretive sect.
While the title and subject of this book may appeal to the general reader, the book is extremely scholarly. This is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Lewis's use of primary source material, much of it previously undiscovered or unused, lends an extraordinary authoritativeness to the book. Lewis is able to fluidly weave this historical source material throughout the book, making it invaluable for historians and regional specialists. However, the book's extensive use of historical sources and quotes limits its accessibility to the general reader. As someone with an academic background in the Middle East and Islam, I still occasionally found myself overwhelmed by the density and scholarliness of Lewis's writing.
The book is a must-read for Middle East/Islamic specialists and historians. It is a superb example of succinct, historical, scholarly writing. However, general readers looking for insights into modern day Islamic terrorism and fanaticism will likely find themselves disappointed and overwhelmed by The Assassins.
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