Academic journal article Medium Aevum

From Martyr to Murderer: Representations of the Assassins in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Europe

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

From Martyr to Murderer: Representations of the Assassins in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Europe

Article excerpt

Meriem Pagès, From Martyr to Murderer: Representations of the Assassins in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Europe (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2014). xiv + 239 pp. ISBN 978-0-8156-3370-9. $39.95. The Assassins were a Shi'ite sect active from the later eleventh to thirteenth centuries, more properly known as the Nizari Isma'ilis (the spiritual heirs of the Fatimid imam Nizar d. 1097, who claimed descent through the sixth imam, Isma'il d. 719, from Muhammad). They were known above all for their total devotion to their ruler, the Senex or Old Man of the Mountain, and the heedless suicidal assassinations that he commanded. Meriem Pagès positions her study of the sect in Latin and French chronicles, chansons de geste, and travel literature as a response to the need to observe the differences between divergent groups in the medieval representations of Islam, not just treating their world as a 'monolithic whole'. She traces the presentation of the Assassins in more than a dozen selected texts representing different literary genres, both Latin and French, including William of Tyre, Walter Map, Burchard of Strasbourg, the Estoire dEracles empereur, Jacques de Vitry, Jean de Joinville, and Marco Polo, as well as the narratives of the murder of the newly elected King of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat, in the Chronique of Ernoul and Bernard le Trésorier, the Estoire de la guerre sainte, and William of Newburgh. …

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