Assassin

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Assassin

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.

Bibliography

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 ?
Sticky predators: a comparative study of sticky glands in harpactorinae assassin bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae).
There are many different kinds of assassin bugs. The one I found is called a giant wheel bug.
Molecular phylogeny of the assassin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), based on mitochondrial and nuclear ribosomal genes.
The male assassin bug sacrifices some of his offspring during his vigil, says Manica.
Revisiting paternal care in the assassin bug, Atopozelus pallens (Heteroptera: Reduviidae).
It includes bed bugs, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, and lace bugs.
Both the videotape and the posters revealed their accurate understanding of the physical attributes and behaviors of the assassin bug.
The use of chemosensory information from webs was demonstrated experimentally for Stenolemus bituberus, another assassin bug that preys on web-building spiders (Wignall & Taylor, 2009).
Chagas disease is transmitted by the bite of the assassin bug or vinchuca and is particularly endemic in poorer areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.
All but one species of the assassin bug genus Zelus Fabricius (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) (~60 spp.) are restricted to the New World where they are roughly distributed between Argentina and Canada, including the Caribbean (Maldonado 1990; Hart 1972; 1986, 1987).
Key words: Thread-legged assassin bug, Emesinae: Reduviidae: new species.