In the intricate tapestry of history and mythology, few rivalries are as enduring and deeply-etched as between the Assassins and the Templars. These two covert, influential groups have been locked in a seemingly eternal struggle for power, with shifting allegiances, secret wars, and complex ideologies shaping the contours of their relationship.
Understanding the Historical Context
To comprehend why Assassins harbor a deep-seated antipathy for Templars, it’s essential to dive into the rich context of their historical origins. The ‘Assassins’ – a term derived from ‘Hashashin’ – were an actual historical sect, the Nizari Ismailis, active during the Middle Ages in Persia and Syria. On the other hand, the Templars, or the Knights Templars, were a medieval Catholic military order founded in the early 12th century.
In the realm of history, these two factions had different paths and purposes. The Assassins, known for their deadly skills in stealth and elimination, sought to assert their influence and protect their interests against the backdrop of a tumultuous political climate. In contrast, the Templars, heavily engaged in the Crusades, aimed to secure Christian dominion in the Holy Land and protect Christian pilgrims.
The Portrayal in Popular Culture
The animosity between the Assassins and Templars seeps into the popular consciousness mainly through the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise. Here, the feud is framed within the context of two opposing philosophical outlooks. With their credo of “Nothing is true; everything is permitted,” the Assassins value individual freedom and strive to prevent the Templars from controlling humanity.
Conversely, the Templars, believe that peace and order can only be established through carefully controlled structures of power. They see the Assassins as agents of chaos, disrupting their noble mission of creating a harmonious world.
The Ideological Divide
The Creed of Freedom
The Assassins believe in the sanctity of free will and the right of individuals to shape their destinies. They see themselves as defenders of humanity against those who seek to control and manipulate. To them, the Templars are the embodiment of that oppression. Their struggle is an extension of their commitment to safeguard human autonomy and resist any form of absolute control.
The Desire for Order
The Templars, meanwhile, hold a fundamentally different view of human nature. They believe that people if left to their own devices, are inclined towards chaos and destruction. Thus, their primary goal is to impose a strict hierarchical order to prevent society’s collapse. To the Templars, the Assassins are a disruptive force, standing in the way of a peaceful, orderly world.
Shaping the World from Shadows
Another critical aspect of the Assassins-Templars conflict is their clandestine nature. Both factions have always operated from the shadows, using guile, influence, and covert tactics to shape the course of history according to their ideologies. This secretive approach and the consequent mistrust it breeds further fuel their hostility.
The Cycle of Retribution
The ongoing feud has claimed countless lives on both sides. Each act of violence stokes the fires of retribution, perpetuating a cycle of hate and aggression. An Assassin’s mission often involves eliminating key Templar figures, which incites retaliation, further escalating the conflict.
Pursuit of Precursor Artifacts
The struggle over the Pieces of Eden, powerful artifacts left by an ancient civilization, adds another dimension to the Assassins-Templars feud. Both factions understand the immense power these artifacts hold and seek them to further their respective causes – the Templars, to control humanity; the Assassins, to prevent this from happening.
Influence on Real-World Politics and Society
While the dramatized conflict between Assassins and Templars is often viewed within the realm of fiction, its influence transcends into real-world politics and society in intriguing ways.
Firstly, in their historical contexts, the Templars and Assassins did influence the politics of their times. The Assassins’ elimination of key political figures sent ripples across the regions they were active in, changing power dynamics and reshaping political landscapes. Similarly, with their economic prowess and military might, the Templars significantly impacted the Crusades’ course and the broader Christian-Islamic relations during the Middle Ages.
In a more contemporary sense, the Assassin-Templar rivalry provides a metaphorical lens through which we can examine modern power struggles. The ideological divide — Assassins representing freedom and autonomy and Templars symbolizing control and order — mirrors many contemporary debates. Issues such as state surveillance versus individual privacy, authoritarian regimes against democratic societies, or even the tension between law enforcement and civil liberties echo this enduring feud.
Furthermore, conspiracy theories about secret societies influencing world events often draw parallels with the Assassins and Templars, further enhancing their cultural significance. While these theories vary in credibility, they underscore how deeply the Assassin-Templar narrative has permeated our collective consciousness.
The conflict, though rooted in history and popularized in fiction, offers a powerful allegory for real-world politics and societal issues, making its influence far more pervasive than one might initially perceive.
The Role of Religion in the Assassin-Templar Feud
The historical and fictional narratives of the Assassins and Templars are profoundly intertwined with religion, which adds another layer of complexity to their enduring conflict.
In the historical context, the Nizari Ismailis – or Assassins – were a sect of Shia Islam, and their political and religious views often put them at odds with both the Christian crusaders and the dominant Sunni Caliphate. They used assassination as a tool not only to protect their communities but also to exert influence and power within a highly fragmented Islamic world.
The Knights Templar, meanwhile, was a Christian military order founded in the aftermath of the First Crusade. Their mandate was to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Yet, their influence quickly grew, and they became key players in the broader political and military struggles of the Crusades.
In Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, the religious aspects are more symbolic than literal. The conflict is presented as a philosophical war between two factions interpreting the teachings of an ancient precursor civilization in different ways. The Templars, seeking order and control, take a more dogmatic approach, similar to religious fundamentalists. The Assassins, valuing freedom and skepticism, reflect more liberal religious views, arguing for individual interpretation and free thought.
Interestingly, despite the historical origins of both groups in specific religious contexts, the game series consciously avoids turning the conflict into a religious war. Instead, it uses the religious backdrop to highlight the universal struggle between freedom and control, underlining the idea that these battles occur within all societies and all religions.
Religion, therefore, plays a crucial role in the Assassin-Templar feud. It informs their historical roots, shapes their ideological clash, and provides a rich, symbolic framework within which the conflict unfolds. At the same time, it allows the narrative to engage with broader themes of belief, faith, dogmatism, and freedom, transcending the specifics of any single creed.
Famous Assassins and Templars: Personalities that Shaped the Conflict
The grand narrative of the Assassin-Templar feud is not merely driven by ideology and group dynamics; it is also shaped by influential personalities on both sides. These individuals have left indelible marks on their respective factions and have driven the conflict forward in significant ways.
In historical context, Hassan-i Sabbah, the founder of the Assassins, stands out as a critical figure. His leadership, charisma, and strategic foresight shaped the Nizari Ismailis into an influential force in the Middle East, despite their limited numbers.
In the Assassin’s Creed series, characters like Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, Ezio Auditore, and Edward Kenway have become iconic figures. Altaïr, the protagonist of the first game, revolutionizes the Assassin Brotherhood and codifies many of their practices. Ezio Auditore, a fan favorite, not only brings down powerful Templars but also experiences a transformative personal journey, reflecting the cost and commitment of the Assassin’s life. Edward Kenway’s journey from selfish pirate to devoted Assassin highlights the group’s appealing ideology.
Historically, the Templars boasted many powerful figures, including their founder, Hugues de Payens, and Jacques de Molay, their last Grand Master. De Payens built the order into a respected and influential institution, while de Molay’s tragic end became a symbol of the Templars’ downfall.
In the Assassin’s Creed series, figures like Grand Master Robert de Sablé, the Borgia family, and Haytham Kenway are compelling characters. De Sablé’s cunning and Borgia’s ruthless quest for power underline the Templar’s manipulative control. Haytham Kenway, a complex character who questions the lines between the Assassins and Templars, further blurs the boundaries, emphasizing the nuanced nature of this conflict.
These influential individuals not only provide faces to the Assassin-Templar conflict but also enrich the narrative by offering personal perspectives, driving the story forward, and underlining the human cost of this centuries-old feud.
Implications for Modern Secret Societies: Parallels and Differences
While the conflict between Assassins and Templars has roots in historical reality, it has come to symbolize the broader phenomenon of secret societies and their influence on world events. In examining modern secret societies, we can draw interesting parallels with the Assassin-Templar feud while noting significant differences.
Modern secret societies, like the Freemasons, Illuminati, or Skull and Bones, often have complex initiation rituals, a hierarchical structure, and a sense of shared purpose – traits we see in both Assassins and Templars. They often work behind the scenes, aiming to exert influence without public recognition, mirroring the covert operations of Assassins and Templars.
Furthermore, the perception of these societies as powerful, behind-the-scenes manipulators echoes the roles that Assassins and Templars play in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The idea that these organizations hold immense power, potentially shape world events, and may be at odds with each other, resonates with the fictional narrative of the Assassin-Templar conflict.
However, the linearity and clarity of purpose found in the Assassin-Templar feud are often absent in modern secret societies. While Assassins and Templars have clear goals and ideologies, modern secret societies are generally less ideologically driven, more multifaceted, and less engaged in a grand struggle for humanity’s future.
Moreover, modern secret societies rarely have the scope and influence attributed to the Assassins and Templars in the game series. Often, their influence is exaggerated by conspiracy theories and pop culture, whereas their real-world impact is more subtle and localized.
Ultimately, the Assassin-Templar feud provides a dramatic and engaging template for understanding the role of secret societies in our world. Still, the reality is often more nuanced and less clearly defined, reminding us to approach such narratives critically, separating fact from fiction while appreciating the intrigue they add to our understanding of social dynamics.
The Enduring Enmity
The ideological chasm between the Assassins and Templars, fueled by their contrasting visions of peace and freedom, is at the heart of their enduring enmity. This deep-seated hatred, echoed in historical texts and popular culture, is likely to persist as long as the concepts of control and freedom continue to clash.
In conclusion, the reasons Assassins hate Templars are multifaceted – historical, ideological, and practical. While woven into the fabric of fiction, their feud offers valuable insights into human nature, power dynamics, and the eternal struggle between control and liberty.