How the Assassins Dreaded the Templars and the Hospitallers

August 27, 2015

Statue of Louis IX de France (Saint Louis), scultped by James Pradier, in Aigues-Mortes

Statue of Louis IX de France (Saint Louis), sculpted by James Pradier, in Aigues-Mortes

While the king [St. Louis IX] was sojourning at Acre, envoys came to him from the Old Man of the Mountain. When the king returned from his mass, he caused them to be brought before him. The king had them seated in such manner that there was, in front, an emir well clothed and well appointed, and behind the emir, a young bachelor, well appointed, who held in his fist three knives, of which the one entered into the handle of the other; and these knives, if the emir’s proposals were rejected, he was to present to the king in token of defiance. Behind the bachelor who held the three knives, was another, and he had a strong (winding) sheet wound round about his arm, and this he was to present to the king for his burial, if he refused the demands of the Old Man of the Mountain.

The Hospitalians' Fortress in Acre, Palestine. Inside is a 350m long tunnel 350m long, was constructed by the Knights Templar to serve as a strategic underground passageway linking the fortress with the port., was constructed by the Knights Templar to serve as a strategic underground passageway linking the fortress with the port.

The Crusader fortress in Acre, Palestine. Inside is a 350m long tunnel constructed by the Knights Templar to serve as a strategic underground passageway linking the fortress with the port.

The king told the emir to say what was his will; and the emir presented his letters of credence, and spoke thus: “My lord sends me to ask if you know him?” And the king answered that he did not know him, for he had never seen him, but that he had often heard tell of him. “And seeing that you have heard tell of my lord,” said the emir, “I marvel greatly that you have not sent him so much of your substance as would keep him for your friend—like as the Emperor of Germany, the King of Hungary, the Sultan of Babylon, and the rest do year by year, because they know of a certainty that they can only keep their lives as long as my lord pleases. And if it does not suit you to do this, then cause him to be acquitted of the tribute that he owes to the Hospital and to the Temple, and he will cry quits wit you.” (Now at that time the Old Man of the Mountain paid a tribute to the Temple and to the Hospital, for the Templars and Hospitallers stood in no fear of the Assassins, seeing that the Old Man had nothing to gain by the death of the Master of the Temple or of the Hospital, inasmuch as he knew very well that if he caused one to be killed, another, equally good, would be put in his place. Wherefore he had no wish to sacrifice his Assassins in a service where there was nothing to be gained.)

The king answered the emir that he would see him again in the afternoon.

Rashīd ad-Dīn Sinān, also known as the Old Man of the Mountain.

Rashīd ad-Dīn Sinān, also known as the Old Man of the Mountain.

When the emir returned, he found the king seated so that the Master of the Hospital was on the one side of him and the Master of the Temple on the other. Then the king told the emir to say again what he had said in the morning. And the emir replied he had no intention of repeating what he had said save in the presence of those who had been with the king in the morning. Then the two masters said: “We command you to repeat what you said.” and he answered that as they commanded it he would do so. Then the two masters caused him to be told, in the Saracen tongue, that he should come on the morrow and speak to them at the Hospital.

Livonia KnightWhen he came to them on the morrow the two masters caused him to be told that his lord was very rash in daring to address such rude words to the king; and they caused him to be told further, that if it were not for the king’s honor, to whom they had come as envoys, they should have been drowned in the foul sea of Acre, in their lord’s despite. “And we command you to return to your lord, and to come back here within fifteen days, bringing to the king, on the part of your lord, such letters, and such jewels, that the king may hold himself appeased, and have you in his good grace.”

Subscription5

Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Jean de Joinville, Memoirs of the Crusades, trans. Sir Frank Marzials (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., n.d.), 248-9.

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 489

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Previous post:

Next post: