Assassins in popular culture

This article is a list of depictions of the historical Assassinsi.e., the Order of Assassins, formally known as the Nizari Ismailis, a Shia Islamic sect (ca. 1090 to 1275) in the mountains of Persia and Syria — in later literature and modern popular culture.


  • Marco Polo, in his travelogue known as The Travels of Marco Polo (ca. 1300), described the founder of the Assassins as a charlatan who devised plots to convert young men to his sect. At the "court" of the so-called "Old Man of the Mountain" "...they were educated in various languages and customs, courtly etiquette, and trained in martial and other skills".[1] At the Castle of Alamut they had "...impressive libraries whose collections included books on various religious traditions, philosophical and scientific texts, and scientific equipment".[2]
  • Dante, in the 19th canto of the Inferno (1308–1321), speaks of `the treacherous assassin' (lo perfido assassin). The assassin also appear in the loosely based video game Dante's Inferno. Also known as "The Avenger" he was one of the Kurdish prisoners whom Dante was tasked with guarding at Acre during the crusades. In exchange for his freedom, as well as her own, the man's wife, who claimed to be his sister, offered to "comfort" Dante. Dante took her offer, which only further enraged the man. After the Siege of Acre, he travelled to Dante's villa in Florence, where he assaulted and killed both Alighiero and Beatrice. In the Hall of Gluttons, Dante learns that the Avenger was the slave girl's cuckolded husband, not his brother, when Lucifer makes him witness Beatrice's murder. He is seen again in the downloadable prequel Dark Forest. When Dante apprehends him, he repeats his line "She wasn't my sister! She was my wife!"
  • The most widespread awareness of the Assassins in modern Europe, and their incorporation into the Romantic tradition, was created by Austrian historian and Orientalist Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall though his 1818 book, Die Geschichte der Assassinen aus morgenländischen Quellen[3] (translated into English in 1835 as The History of the Assassins[4]). This work was the standard one on the history of the Assassins in the West until the 1930s.
  • The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche gives prominent focus to what he terms "the Brotherhood of Assassins", in section 24 of On the Genealogy of Morality (1887). Nietzsche's signature work is to point to the worthlessness of religion[citation needed], and to attempt at the transvaluation of values, that is, to transcend the inherited Jewish and Christian politics, psychology and ethics of ressentiment or guilt. He aims at going beyond the categories of good and evil since they suppress the full potential of the strong and talented[citation needed]. Nietzsche heralds the arrival of the so-called 'free spirits' who no longer believe in truth.[5] Thus, they alone are capable of redeeming the world of the modern ills of comfort, mediocrity, and nihilism.
Importantly, Nietzsche attacks the false spirits who are the host of self-describing 'unbelievers' of modern times who claim to reject religious deception as scholars and philosophers and yet retain the traditional beliefs in good and evil, and truth. Nietzsche compares the genuine free spirits with the Assassins: "When the Christian crusaders in the Orient came across that invincible order of Assassins – that order of free spirits par excellence whose lowest order received, through some channel or other, a hint about that symbol and spell reserved for the uppermost echelons alone, as their secret: "nothing is true, everything is permitted". Now that was freedom of the spirit, with that, belief in truth itself was renounced."[6]
  • The character of Axël, in French playwright Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's 1890 drama of that name, is modeled on the founder of the Assassins,[7] Hassan-i Sabbah, the so-called "Old Man of the Mountain". Axël is a Romantic figure in the Byronic mode, a wealthy, aristocratic genius living in self-exile in a remote castle in the Black Forest.
  • The Assassins (1902), a historical novel by Nevill Myers Meakin (1876-1912), is set during the Third Crusade and features the Order of Assassins as characters.[8][9]
  • Rider Haggard's 1904 novel The Brethren features the Assassins as characters.[10]
  • Vladimir Bartol's novel Alamut, published in 1938, deals with Hassan-i Sabbāh and the Assassins, and is named after the fortress of Alamut. Bartol's view of the Assassins is highly negative, seeing Sabbāh as unscrupulous and manipulative, and his followers as fanatics. Bartol was influenced by the recent assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.
  • In the novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by Jin Yong, a group of Persian Zoroastrianism leaders who are trying to take over the Chinese derivative of the sect derived their martial arts from the assassins. The novel also discusses the origin of the assassins as an anecdote.
  • In the novel The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour, Mathurin Kerbouchard has to rescue his father from the Alamut.
  • Mark Frost's novel The List of Seven features an antagonist named Alexander Sparks (based closely on Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty) who has been trained by several dangerous cults, including the Assassins.
  • The Assassins appear in the Dan Brown novel Angels & Demons. A hashashin appears in the novel as a major antagonist, often murdering cardinals and letting the protagonist race to find him.
  • The main characters in Peter Berling's The Children of the Grail live in Alamut until its destruction.
  • The Assassins and the Old Man on the Mountain appear in several novels by William S. Burroughs. Burroughs was inspired to using Hassan in his menagerie by the book The Master of the Assassins by Betty Bouthoul.[11]
  • A latter-day version of the Assassins and the Old Man of the Mountain figure into the labyrinthine plot of A.W. Hill's alternate reality novel Nowhere-Land, which also features the chimerical CIA agent known as Philby Greenstreet.
  • Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno includes a former fedayeen principal character.
  • The Destroyer series of novels, being about assassins with an ancient heritage, naturally mention the Hashshashin.


  • The Brick Bradford comic strip pitted the titular hero against a group of modern descendants of the Assassins in the 1938–1939 storyline In the Fortress of Fear (reprinted in 1971 as Brick Bradford in the Fortress of Fear).[12]
  • Jonah Hex fights a Hashshashin brought to the Wild West as part of a Carnival of Killers during the "Six Gun War" storyline.
  • The League of Assassins are an ancient secret order which serves as antagonist in many DC Comics plots.


  • The Al-Qadim setting of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game has numerous "Holy Slayer" groups inspired by the Hashshashin. * Adventure ALQ2 Assassin Mountain has the Everlasting, a cult that live in a mountain that are clearly based on them.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade had the Assamites, which were basically what happens when an ancient vampire decides to take over the Hashshashin from within and bend them to his purpose. The clan still works out of Alamut and hires themselves out as assassins.
  • In the wargame Infinity, Hashashin are special troops that can be fielded by the Haqqislam faction, divided into four distinct types: snipers/poisoners, close-combat specialists, stealth experts who can pretend to be an enemy unit, and explosives specialists.
  • The Legend of the Five Rings CCG spin-off Legend Of The Burning Sands had a group called the Assassins in it, who excelled at killing in duels. While they were led by the "Old Man of the Mountain", most of the other characters in it were women.


Assassin is a character class common to many RPG games. Such characters typically combine elements of combat gaming with strong stealth skills, and specialise in defeating an enemy without becoming involved in a protracted melee. They are seen as the "fragile, but deadly" ninja-esque character class and are usually recommended to more experienced players in the game.

Video gamesEdit

  • The Exile series of action role-playing games, first released by Telenet Japan in 1988, revolves around a time-traveling Syrian Assassin who assassinates various religious/historical figures and world leaders.[13][14]
  • The adventure game Broken Sword shows the main character following the trail of an Assassin preventing the reforging of a sword by the Templars.
  • In the fantasy role-playing video game Gothic 3, the Hashishin (completely based on Assassins) is a playable faction, located in the southern area of the World in the desert known as Varant.
  • Assassins appeared in the video games Knights of the Temple and its sequel Knights of the Temple II as enemies the player will encounter early in the game.
  • They also appear again as enemies in the medieval game The First Templar.
  • In Medieval II: Total War, Islamic factions can build Hashshashin Guilds in settlements where large numbers of spies and assassins are being recruited. Doing so improves the effectiveness of spies and assassins recruited there subsequently, as well as allowing the faction to produce specialized Hashshashin infantry units, which serve as small, elite heavy infantry capable of ambushing on the battlefield.
  • The Alik'r Warriors from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is said to be based on the Hashshashin, a way that they're an organisation of assassins who come from a Middle Eastern-like setting – albeit one based more on Morocco than Arabia.
  • Corvo Attano from Dishonored is an assassin getting revenge on the people who conspired against him and framed him for murder
  • According to the Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame's "bible", written by Jordan Mechner, the guards who protects Jaffar from the Prince in the last level are Assassins.
  • Dota 2 has a total of 5 assassins playable. Those being Bounty Hunter, Riki, Nyx Assassin, Phantom Assassin, and Templar Assassin.

Assassin's Creed seriesEdit

Visual novelsEdit

  • The Old Man of the Mountain is the identity of numerous Assassin class servants in TYPE-MOON's Fate series of visual novels. So far, four different incarnations of Hassan i Sabbah have appeared, each with different abilities but similar appearances.



  • The Hawkwind album Quark, Strangeness and Charm contains a track called "Hassan I Shibbah" which refers to the Assassins and their leader. It links the group to modern Islamic fundamentalists and the socio-economic-political relationship between the Middle East and Europe in the 1970s.
  • The song "Garden of Light" by Isis, a post-metal band, refers subtly to the Hashashin recruitment procedure.
  • "Wine of Aluqah" by Therion. "Know that nothing's true and that everything is permitted,/So read the Old Man of the Mountain in his Book of Lies".
  • 'Assassin' by Muse. "Whatever they say / These people are torn / Wild and bereft / Assassin is born".
  • The song "Hassan I Sabbah" by the post-industrial band Zero Kama in the album The Secret Eye Of L.A.Y.L.A.H.


  • In the Robin of Sherwood episode "The Greatest Enemy", the Saracen band member, Nasir, gets a visit from two mysterious Saracens. When questioned about them later, Nasir confesses to the others that they were Assassins (hashashin) and that he used to be one of them. In the Series Three episode The Sheriff of Nottingham, an old enemy and former hashashin comes to Nottingham in search of him.
  • In an episode of the anime series Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG entitled 左眼に気をつけろ POKER FACE, there is a story recounted about the exploits of the Hashshashin.
  • In an episode of The West Wing, Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler, played by Rob Lowe and Richard Schiff respectively, educate a group of students on the origins of terrorism, explaining that the first acts of terrorism were committed by a group known as the Assassins. [21]


  1. ^ Wasserman, James (August 8, 2017). "A Note to the Reader on the Historical Context". Templar Heresy: A Story of Gnostic Illumination. Destiny Books. ISBN 978-1-62055-658-0.
  2. ^ "Episode Synopses". The Ismaili. Islamic Publications Limited. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  3. ^ Stuttgart und Tübingen, 1818
  4. ^ London, 1835; translated by O. C. Wood
  5. ^ On the Genealogy of Morals, by Friedrich Wilhem Nietzsche, Walter Arnold Kaufmann. p. 148
  6. ^ On the Genealogy of Morals, by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Walter Arnold Kaufmann. p. 150
  7. ^ Emanuel J. Mickel, in notes to The Complete Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, published in 1993 by Indiana University Press, n. 90, pg 156.
  8. ^ Ernest A. Baker, A Guide to Historical Fiction. London : G. Routledge and Sons, 1914. (p.401)
  9. ^ Satia, Priya Spies in Arabia : the Great War and the cultural foundations of Britain's covert empire in the Middle East. Oxford; Oxford University Press 2010. ISBN 9780199734801 (p.174)
  10. ^ "REVIEWS OF BOOKS". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 19 November 1904. p. 9. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  11. ^ Miles, Barry (2000). The Beat Hotel. New York: Grove Press. p. 204. ISBN 0-8021-3817-9.
  12. ^ "Brick Bradford", in I Grandi Eroi del Fumetto, by Franco Fossati. Rome : Gremese Editore, 1990 ISBN 8876054960 (pp 59–60).
  13. ^ Szczepaniak, John (2009-04-11). "Hardcore Gaming 101: Exile / XZR". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
  14. ^ Leo Chan, Sunsoft scores Telenet Japan franchises, Neoseeker, December 10, 2009
  15. ^ Nick Doerr. "Assassin's Creed producer speaks out, we listen intently [update 1]". Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  16. ^ "Interview: Assassin's Creed". Computer and videogames. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (18 October 2016). "Michael Fassbender Time-Travels to the Spanish Inquisition in New 'Assassin's Creed' Trailer". Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  18. ^ Makuch, Eddie (22 September 2016). "Assassin's Creed Movie's 15th Century Spain Scenes Will Be in Spanish". GameSpot. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  19. ^ Reparaz, Mikel (3 June 2016). "Assassin's Creed Movie: Close up with Maria's Assassin Costume". Ubiblog. Ubisoft Entertainment. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  20. ^ Wilson, Sean (27 December 2016). "Who's that girl? Why Assassin's Creed badass Ariane Labed is one to watch". Cineworld Cinemas. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Episode Guide: Isaac and Ishmael". NBC. Archived from the original on July 15, 2006. Retrieved September 18, 2010.

See alsoEdit