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While "Assassins" typically refers to the entire sect, only a group of acolytes known as the fida'i actually engaged in conflict.Lacking their own army, the Nizari relied on these warriors to carry out espionage and assassinations of key enemy figures, and over the course of 300 years successfully killed two caliphs, and many viziers, sultans, and Crusader leaders.They were trained by their masters to disguise themselves and sneak into enemy territory to perform the assassinations, instead of simply attacking their target outright.The Assassins were finally linked by the 19th-century orientalist scholar Silvestre de Sacy to the Arabic word hashish using their variant names assassin and assissini in the 19th century.The Nizari were acknowledged and feared by the Crusaders.The stories of the Assassins were further embellished by Marco Polo.The Assassins were generally young in age, giving them the physical strength and stamina which would be required to carry out these murders.
Most sources dealing with the order's inner workings were destroyed with the capture of Alamut, the Assassins' headquarters, by the Mongols in 1256.
However, it is possible to trace the beginnings of the cult back to its first Grandmaster, Hassan-i Sabbah (1050s–1124).
A passionate devotee of Isma'ili beliefs, Hassan-i Sabbah was well-liked throughout Cairo, Syria and most of the Middle East by other Isma'ili, which led to a number of people becoming his followers.
Because of the unrest in the Holy Land caused by the Crusades, Hassan-i Sabbah found himself not only fighting for power with other Muslims, but also with the invading Christian forces.
After creating the Order, Sabbah searched for a location that would be fit for a sturdy headquarters and decided on the fortress at Alamut in what is now northwestern Iran.
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He had established a secret society of deadly assassins, which was built on a hierarchical structure.