Legendary Masyaf Castle, The Seat of The Assassins

The fortress of Masyaf in Syria will be known to fans of the blockbuster computer game series Assassin’s Creed. The castle of Masyaf was the headquarters of the infamous Assassins in the series, and this is not fiction – Masyaf was once home to the greatly feared ancient order of assassins.

A man named Hassan-i Sabbah founded an order of Nizari Ismailies in Persia and Syria in the late 11th century. These were the infamous Hashshashins, who took several mountain castles and posed a danger to Sunni Seljuk power in Persia. Perhaps the Hashshashin, from whence the term “assassins” originates, were most famed for the method by which they dispatched their opponents — through extraordinarily skillful assassinations.

According to archaeological evidence, the castle of Masyaf was erected during the Byzantine period, on top of a natural limestone hill that rose above the surrounding plain and settlement. This provided the castle with a strategic perch from which its inhabitants could monitor and govern the region. The Assassins originally seized the fortress in 1141, when they conquered it from the Sanqur, who held it for the Banu Munqidh of Shayzar, one of the region’s small Islamic kingdoms in the 12th century A.D.

Masyaf’s castle as it exists now.

The Assassins were well-known across the region for the speed with which they dispatched their foes. This gave them a level of political authority that several of the Middle East’s larger nations did not approve of. As a result, Masyaf became a target for those courageous enough to try to break the Assassins’ control. This endeavor was conducted by none other than Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty.

Saladin’s siege of the fortress in 1176 A.D., on the other hand, failed. An Assassin managed to penetrate Saladin’s tent as he was sleeping beneath Masyaf, according to folklore. As he was exiting the tent, Saladin awakened to catch a sight of this apparition. On the side of Saladin’s bed, there was a poisoned cake or hot scones with a poisoned blade. This pastry was accompanied by a message telling Saladin that if he would not retire, he would be slain. Saladin opted to make peace with the Assassins out of fear for his life.

‘Saladin the Great,’ DanarArt’s

Despite this, the Assassins were not unbeatable. Masyaf and three other Assassin fortresses surrendered to the invading Mongols in 1260 A.D. The Mongol success, however, was short-lived, as they were beaten by the Mamelukes in the following year at the Battle of ‘Ayn Jalut. After the Mongols were driven out of Syria, the Assassins regained control of Masyaf. Ten years later, the Mamelukes, led by Sultan Baibars, seized possession of Masyaf. Despite the fact that the Assassins finally disbanded, the castle remained a feature of the terrain.

Masyaf Castle conservation efforts began in 2000. The crumbling structure has been consolidated and restored as a result of this project, which was completed in 2006. Furthermore, it has given us a far greater knowledge of the Assassins throughout their occupation of the fortress. For example, the team revealed a tunnel that is thought to have been a covert escape route. Furthermore, a network of canals constructed to bring rainwater into cisterns beneath the castle was discovered. This demonstrates that the fortress was built to endure extended periods of hostile siege. Nonetheless, the castle has its pleasures, as evidenced by the discovery of a typical bathhouse.

‘Saladin the Great,’ DanarArt’s

It is worth noting that the Masyaf castle does not exist as an isolated point in the landscape, but rather coexists with the nearby historic city of Masyaf. Thus, the conservators, who considered the castle’s urban surroundings, made an attempt to protect and enrich the old city, upgrading markets and pedestrian spaces, and creating more appealing visitor amenities. By implementing these methods, the local community would profit from the tourism sector and would most likely fight to maintain the castle since they have a vested interest in it. As a result of incorporating the local populace, such old sites may be preserved for future generations.

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