Following the discovery of a sextant in the legendary castle of Alamut in central Iran, experts now believe Hassan Sabbah, the leader of Ismaili sect, has been an astronomer.
Historical documents assert he was a scientist who dabbled in all major science fields of his lifetime, including medicine, architecture and astronomy.
"During recent excavations in Alamut, archeologists have discovered some pieces of metal, including a circular and flat plate. After some studies, they concluded it was a sextant," said Hamideh Chobak, head of the research team.
Now Iranian experts speculate that the theory long-maintained about Sabbah's astronomical pursuits could be verified. "In Iran's history of astronomy, Sabbah is not mentioned as an astronomer, but since he was a famed weather forecaster and was a close friend to Iranian scholar and poet Hakim Umar Khayyam, we could guess he dealt with the science as well," noted Zahra Mobeini, research manager at Tehran's Astronomical Sciences Center.
Hasan Sabbah (circa 1034 - 1124), or "The Old Man of the Mountain", was the charismatic leader of the Hashshashin, an Islamic mystery cult, known to us as the Assassins.
An Ishmaelite (or Ismali; this still-extant branch of Shiite Islam is headed by the Aga Khan) political intriguer of the late 11th century, Hassan Sabah became a major political force in Persia and the entire Islamic world by use of some surprisingly modern political techniques. Hassan Sabbah's followers, based out of his mountain fortress of Alamut were possibly amongst the best spies in the region, working with Christian Crusaders and any of the varied sects & nations of Islam at the time. And, of course, his followers left at least one lasting legacy-the English word "assassin" (from the Arabic for "guardian"). Alamut fell to the Mongols in 1260.
Not much is known about Sabbah, but legends abound as to the tactics used to inculcate members into his quasi-religious political organization. A future assassin was subjected to rites very similar to those of other mystery cults in which the subject was made to believe that he was in imminent danger of death. But the twist of the assassins was that they drugged the person to simulate a "dying" to later have them awaken in a garden flowing with wine and served a sumptuous feast by virgins. The supplicant was then convinced he was in Heaven and that Sabbah was a minion of the divinity and that all of his orders should be followed, even to death.
... Payvand News - 8/30/04 ... --