The Network of Isma’ili Castles in the Alamut Region: Power and Governance
In 1090, Hasan-i Sabbah (1050s –1124), the mysterious leader of the Nizari Ismaʿilis in Persia, obtained control of Alamut Castle, one of the major existing castles in the northern part of Iran, and reinforced it as the headquarters of his activities against the Seljuq government. The Nizari Ismaʿilis gradually became a very influential community within the political and intellectual history of the Islamic world until the fall of Alamut in 1256. The principal strategy that helped them to resist their enemies and to survive in a hostile milieu was the establishment of networks of castles within inaccessible regions.
This research concerns the network of Ismaʿili castles in the Alamut region. Examining the distribution of the castles in the region, the paper questions the current scholarly assumption that the network of the castles functioned as part of a defensive system, which separated the Ismaʿili territory from their enemies with a linear border. Proposing several examples as evidence, through a detailed examination of historical texts, this paper takes an alternative position, suggesting that the castles should be considered as centers of power, which formed important spheres of influence for their surrounding environment; they were also employed as effective units of governance in the expansion of the Ismaʿili dominions.
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