Active in Persia and Syria from the 8th to 14th centuries, the original Assassins were members of the Nizaris, a Muslim group who opposed the Abbasid caliphate with threats of sudden assassination by their secret agents. Other populations of the area regarded the Nizaris as unorthodox outcasts, and from this attitude came one of the names for the group, an, a word originally meaning "hashish users," which had become a general term of abuse. Reliable sources offer no evidence of hashish use by Nizari agents, but sensationalistic stories of murderous, drug-crazed an or Assassins were widely repeated in Europe. Marco Polo tells a tale of how young Assassins were given a potion and made to yearn for paradise as their reward for dying in action by being given a life of pleasure. As the legends spread, the word an passed through French or Italian and appeared in English as assassin in the 16th century, already with meanings like "treacherous killer."
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