History of Assassinations Throughout the World Part 1

About the history of assassinations through time and the world, origins of the word, examples of assassins from ancient times to modern.

Assassinations--Successful and Unsuccessful

The word "assassin" is derived from the word "hashishim," or taker of hashish. Marco Polo told of an impregnable fortress in the mountains of Persia wherein lived the Old Man of the Mountain. He was the head of a religious sect called the Ismailis (1090-1256 A.D.). When he wanted a religious or political enemy killed, the Old Man would ask for volunteers. Those persons who stepped forward were given wine drugged with hashish. While they were asleep, they were transported to a lush green valley where they were given fruit, dope, and sexual treats. After an interval they were again drugged and returned to the fortress. This was their glimpse of heaven, of eternal paradise, which was promised to them in exchange for their total loyalty. Polo said that the Old Man would sometimes order them to jump out of high windows, simply to impress guests.

The practice of assassination has existed since time immemorial. Tens of thousands of political killings have occurred in recorded history. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 assassinations have been carried out since the end of W.W. I alone. Obviously, the majority of these were of low- or middle-level significance, but at least 70 of them were heads of state.

The Old Testament describes the slaying of King Eglon and Sisera in the 12th century B.C. Twenty of Rome's emperors were assassinated, including Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. (after a conspiracy involving over 60 persons). Cicero, the Roman orator who approved of Caesar's killing because too much power had been centralized in one man, was himself assassinated by Mark Antony's soldiers. His tongue, which had so often criticized Antony, was cut out by Antony's wife (43 B.C.).

In 12 centuries of Irish history, from 4 A.D. to 1172 A.D., 31 of 78 kings were murdered. Thomas a Becket was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 because he effectively challenged Henry II's move to consolidate power in the state.

Jean-Paul Marat, one of the violent leaders of the French Revolution, was stabbed to death by Charlotte Corday, who was 25 at the time (July 13, 1793). She said, "Having seen civil war on the verge of blazing out all over France, and persuaded that Marat was the principal author of this disaster, I preferred to make the sacrifice of my own life in order to save my country."

Russia, under the Czars and under the communists, had had a very heavy record of assassinations, including the murders of Paul I, Alexander II, Nicholas II, and Rasputin, as well as numerous deadly purges.

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