"This book sheds new light on changing representations of the Nizari Ismailis in European sources of medieval times. The author also produces new interpretations of the well-known medieval European sources. . . . An excellent case study, showing how tales, if repeated long enough, become accepted as facts."—Farhad Daftary, codirector of The Institute of Ismaili Studies
"Pages’s study complements other recent efforts to take stock of the variety of religious orientations within medieval Islam, showing how European Christian audiences struggled to maintain a monolithic view of the Muslim world while also recognizing the peculiar power and significance of the Nizari Isma’ilis in their fantasy of the exotic 'assassin.' From Martyr to Murderer begins to fill in an important gap in our understanding of pre-modern conceptions of the Orient."—Suzanne Conklin Akbari, University of Toronto
Ever since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism, scholars have attempted to apply Western notions of the exotic Muslim “other” to medieval texts. In this book, Pagès examines the extremist Shi’ite Nizari Isma’ilis, a sect commonly known as the Assassins, to provide a fascinating case study of one such endeavor, one essential to our understanding of modern prejudices about Islam.
Historical representations of this sect—known for its use of political assassination and its complicated relationship with Western Europe—closely paralleled commonly held views of Islam during the Middle Ages. Latin Christendom’s conceptions of the sect were actually more nuanced and complex, however, resulting in divergent readings that ranged from an emphasis on potential alliances in the earliest texts to exoticization in the works of the thirteenth century and later.
By tracing how portrayals of the sect developed in medieval texts, From Martyr to Murderer shows that the Assassins did not originally inspire alienation in medieval Europe and that, on the contrary, they were even seen as potential converts to Christianity. Ultimately, Pagès’s adroit exploration of the Assassin legends leads readers to question preconceived notions about the image of Islam dating back to the Middle Ages.
Meriem Pagès is associate professor in the Department of English at Keene State College in New Hampshire.
6 x 9, 264 pages