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Assassin (əsăsˈĭn), European name for the member of a secret order of the Ismaili sect of Islam. They are known as Nizaris after Nizar ibn al-Mustansir, whom they supported as caliph; the European term Assassin is derived from the Arabic for “users of hashish.” The members of the order were distinguished by their blind obedience to their spiritual leader (known in the West as the Old Man of the Mountain) and by their use of murder to eliminate foes.

The order was founded by Hasan ibn al-Sabbah when he gained control (c.1090) of the mountain fortress of Alamut, located S of the Caspian Sea. The order spread over Persia and Syria, gaining control of many strongholds, and it soon inspired terror throughout the Muslim world. Members were organized into strict classes, according to degree of initiation into the secrets of the order. The most important of the classes were the devotees, who sought martyrdom and were the instruments of assassination.

Hasan and the grand masters who ruled the order after him wielded great political power until the coming of the Mongols. Hulagu Khan attacked and destroyed (1256) their fortresses and massacred most of the Persian branch of the sect. The Syrian branch, with which the Crusaders came in contact, suffered a similar fate at the hands of Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt. Only scattered groups of the order survived; they are said to persist today, particularly in N Syria. Tales of the Crusaders and the writings of Marco Polo brought the Assassins and the Old Man of the Mountain into European folklore. The term assassin came into English and is used today to mean murderer, particularly one who kills for political motives.


See B. Lewis, The Assassins (1967); E. Franzius, History of the Order of Assassins (1969).

assassin bug

assassin bug, common name for members of the family Reduviidae, one of the largest and most varied groups belonging to the order Hemiptera (suborder Heteroptera). Assassin bugs are generally brownish to black, medium-sized to large insects, with heads that are elongate and narrow compared to the thorax. The raptorial front legs are used for grasping prey. Most assassin bugs are found on foliage, and some occasionally enter houses. The majority of species are predaceous on other insects, but a few are bloodsucking and will bite humans if carelessly handled. The bite of some species is painless, while the bite of others is extremely painful, resulting from a venom produced by the bug, the effect of which lasts for months. A painful biter is the common, black, wheel bug (Arilus cristatus), easily identified by the semicircular crest resembling a cogwheel on the top of its prothorax. Another is the masked hunter (Reduvius personatus), often found in houses where it preys on bedbugs and other insects. The adults often bite humans around the mouth and eyes, hence its other common name, the kissing bug. In the United States assassin bugs of the genus Triatoma are found in the south, and are most common in the Southwest. Often also called conenoses, chinches, or Mexican bedbugs, they can invade houses and may bite humans. Certain species of this genus are the vectors for a sometimes fatal trypanosome disease known as Chagas' disease, which is most common in rural Central and South America. Assassin bugs are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Hemiptera, family Reduviidae.
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References in periodicals archive ?
The Old Man of the Mountain can still be "seen" thanks to the series of steel rods at the existing plaza at Franconia Notch State Park.
The Fatimids still held sway in Egypt and part of Palestine, but the Middle East, from the Mediterranean coast to the Persian plateau, was becoming inhospitable for Shiite Muslims, including Ismailis like the Old Man of the Mountain and his associates.
Old Man of the Mountain, whose downfall was simply a downer.
This unbuilt project was started in December of 2004 as a replacement for The Old Man of the Mountain, the famous icon of the State of New Hampshire that collapsed May 3, 2003.
194) as the "grand old man of the mountain." Washburn's 1960 map is now the classic map of Mt.
Vermont is only split from New Hampshire by a skinny river and a line slapped on a map, but its culture is completely distinct, organic spinach versus the Old Man of the Mountain. Residents of Massachusetts think Rhode Islanders are parochial, and Iowans think Kansans are hopeless hicks.
New Hampshire's quarter depicts the "Old Man of the Mountain," but that famous rock formation collapsed shortly after the coins were minted.
history, arts and entertainment, science and technology, written word, and world history); a new feature, bulletins, consisting of monthly regional news articles (e.g., "The Old Man of the Mountain Loses Face") and listings of special events; profiles (an updated alphabetical list of the men and women profiled within the various state units), games (e.g., Who Came First?
In early May, New Hampshire lost its state symbol, and main tourist attraction, when the rock formation known as the Old Man of the Mountain crumbled and fell.
In the late 11th and early 12th centuries, Sabbah (popularly known as the "Old Man of the Mountain" or the First Lord of Alamut fortress) earned for himself and his Nizaris a reputation for ruthlessness and cunning.
New' Hampshire's rendering of its famous natural rock formation, The Old Man of the Mountain, is one of the more interesting designs.
From a base camp in Franconia, we'll take moderate to strenuous dayhikes in the rugged forest famous for "the Old Man of the Mountain," gorgeous scenery, old Yankee history and culture, and the Appalachian Trail.