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Alamut and Lamasar


Auteur : W. Ivanow
Éditeur : Kayhan Press Date & Lieu : 1960, Teheran
Préface : Pages : 106
Traduction : ISBN :
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 175x250mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Iva. Ala. N° 863Thème : Général

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Alamut and Lamasar

Alamut and Lamasar

W. Ivanow

Kayhan Press

he name of Alamut apparently descends from great antiquity and belongs to one of the now long extinct non-Aryan languages which were spoken by the various tribes of local inhabitants before the advent of the Iranians, which took place about the eighth or seventh c. B.C. Every historical mediaeval work offers the supposed etymology of the word, which means some absurdity like “education of eagles” and so forth. Now, surely, the etymology of a word belonging to an unknown language, cannot be reconstructed. But it is very probable that in this term we have a name with a suffix denoting a place, or a tribe which inhabited it, -ut, -uttu, -utti, -utta, -utu, etc., which appear in the numerous local names preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings, recording the “victories” in these localities won ...



PREFACE

The purpose of this publication is to give students of Ismailism a reliable idea of the terrain on which the drama of Alamut was enacted. The 170 years of the Alamut period in the history of Ismailism is of great importance for the correct understanding of the evolution of the Ismaili religious and philosophical thought as well as generally mediaeval civilisation of Iran. In Persian historiography we have at our disposal only a few works, all written from a highly biased standpoint, and a profusion of legend. Most unfortunately, even those few historical works which were produced by the Ismailis themselves, have perished centuries ago. As to the present state of the locality we have little beyond the impressions of casual visitors, mostly “pik-nickers”.

The history of Alamut, that is the fortified enclave under the domination of the Ismailis, however, raises a great many questions in which proper acquaintance with the nature of the locality often supplies valuable clues to their solution. In addition to this, not only the condition of the ruins, but even of the whole territory itself, owing to continuous erosion of softer rocks, appreciably changes more quickly than is generally realised, and an attempt at fixing its present state comes not a day too early.

The initiative of the present attempt comes from the Ismaili milieu itself. This is an important matter to note. The cultural revolution which is going on in the East gradually intensifies the re-valuation of many age-long ideas and ideals. The fact that this involves such conservative bodies as Islamic sectarian communities, speaks for itself. New outlook brings serious interest to the real facts of their own history which heretofore was substituted by miracle stories and moralising legends. This new current, as far as the more advanced strata of the Nizari Ismaili community are concerned, expressed itself in the formation of what became known as “study groups”, that is voluntary associations of educated persons, jointly working over different problems in the story of their ancestral past. The idea of exploring properly the site of Alamut belongs to the “study group” of Mombasa, Kenya (British East Africa), with C.K.R. Paroo and M. H. Rashid at the head. Funds were raised, and later on augmented by Mr. Ismail Mohammed Jaffer and Mr. Hasham Ali Jhaveri of Bombay, and the author of what is the present “report” was commissioned to undertake a survey in the seasons of 1957 and 1958.

It often happens that what appears to be a well defined and properly considered work, turns into a far more complex task when one actually confronts it. What most probably the members of the study group had in view, was careful examination of the “Rock of Alamut”, that is the stronghold raised by Hasan b. as-Sabbah. It included excavations, and the expectation of interesting finds bearing on the history of Ismailism. What, however, has been found on the spot, introduced substantial modifications in this plan. Excavations in fact could not be carried out in what was solid rock. Their equivalent was clearing the site from debris, in other words removing thousands of tons of loose stone and earth. Local conditions make this task extremely difficult and costly, because the “Rock”, rising seme 300 metres (over a thousand feet) over the surrounding lands, has no room for piling the debris in some reserved place. All must be thrown down, and when falling from such height, may seriously affect the gardens and fields situated below. Therefore the only way would be to purchase such lands, and this would far exceed the available funds, in addition to cost of labour and other expenses. To this should be added the cost of the “Rock”itself. It also has owners, the inhabitants of the village Gazur-Khan, at its foot, who collect grass for fodder on it. If denuded from soft earth, it would have to become simply barren rocks, and the owners would have rightful claims for compensation. In addition to this, there was a long series of questions of financial and other nature to be solved before “excavations” could be undertaken. Therefore the plan should have been expanded far beyond that which was originally contemplated.

Having thus realised all such complications on the spot, I had also to realise that isolated study of the “Rock” as it is, would be of limited utility without a proper survey of the whole area of “Alamut”, in the sense of the Ismaili fortified enclave of which the stronghold on the “Rock” formed a part, being for a long period of time its capital. The whole its purpose was to serve as a centre of such an enclave, it would be quite useless if taken by itself, isolated. To study the “Rock” only would be something like studying the head without paying any attention to the rest of the body. For the purpose of historical research this would be of little value.

I therefore submitted a suggestion to the initiators of the plan, and received their consent, to use the available funds for a general survey of the whole area, including the counterpart of the ’“Rock”, the site of Lamasar, which, on the whole, is far better preserved and is most important for the correct understanding of many aspects of the “Rock” which have been obliterated by time and treasure-hunters.

Everything was done to record “facts” about the “Rock” and Lamasar, plans were drawn, and every building accessible without special mechanical aids was examined and described. It may be noted, however, that there remains much of examining of what was not accessible. There are various objects which either are situated in the places which cannot be reached without the help of special mechanical devices, or are concealed by huge accumulations of debris. These have to wait their chance, together with several other ancient sites connected with the history of Persian Ismailism, such as Gird-Kuh, the castle of Muhtasham near Qa’in, the ruins of Tun, etc.

A hope may be expressed that the present report of the survey of the enclave of Alamut, with all its imperfections, may be of help to future explorers, relieving them from much of the preliminary work which will have to be done anyhow, and also to historians who would like to have reliable background for their study of the “Alamut episode.”

I have, in conclusion, the duty to acknowledge my profound gratitude not only to the organisers of this attempt at exploration of the Alamut enclave, but also to the Iranian authorities at th« Centre and on the spot for their good-wili, hospitality and readiness to offer their valuable help. In the first instance I feel immensely indebted to Mr. M. Mustafawi, now retired, who was Director General of Archaeology in Iran during my work in 1957 and 1958, also his successor, Mr. S.Samimi, and learned colleagues, the authorities of the University of Teheran, and also many Iranian friends who have often rendered invaluable help in my work.

To the Ismaili Society go my sincerest thanks for their help and their acceptance of this work for publication in their series devoted to the study of the history of Ismailism.

Tehran, September 1959.

W. Ivanow.

Note: The Department of Publication of the University of Tehran was so kind as to offer to me facilities for printing this work in the University Press. Most unfortunately, when the setting of the present publication was started, a big fire in the Press, on the 12th of August, 1959, had destroyed the whole of the Latin type. It was therefore necessary to start the setting afresh in another press which, unfortunately, had neither italics nor type with diacritical signs required for the transliteration of Persian and Arabic names and terms.

1

1. Alamut, the Meaning of the Term

The name of Alamut apparently descends from great antiquity and belongs to one of the now long extinct non-Aryan languages which were spoken by the various tribes of local inhabitants before the advent of the Iranians, which took place about the eighth or seventh c. B.C. Every historical mediaeval work offers the supposed etymology of the word, which means some absurdity like “education of eagles” and so forth. Now, surely, the etymology of a word belonging to an unknown language, cannot be reconstructed. But it is very probable that in this term we have a name with a suffix denoting a place, or a tribe which inhabited it, -ut, -uttu, -utti, -utta, -utu, etc., which appear in the numerous local names preserved in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings, recording the “victories” in these localities won in their rapacious and brutal inroads.1 It may be remembered that even as late as the time of Strabo (XI, 7,1), who lived in the I c. A.D., there was a people on the Western shores of the Caspian, called Uitii or Utii.2 All this is mentioned here not as a positive reference to the true derivation, but as a suggestion of the direction in which the solution may be sought, and as a warning against “home-made” mediaeval etymologies.

Now, and as far as mediaeval sources permit us to look back into the past, the name Alamut was solely applied to the district, namely the valley of the stream of Alamut, not to any particular hill. In Iran, as is known, very few isolated peaks are honoured by a special name which belongs solely to themselves. In the great majority of cases a mountain is named after the nearest village, ...

1. Information is taken from I.M. Diakonov’s "History of Media” (In Russian), Moscow, 1956. It may be added that there is a village with the name Alamut, shown on a recent map in Persian, on the middle part of the Chalus river, flowing into the Caspian, not far from the “original” Alamut. This Information needs checking.

2. Ibid. p.93. Modern researches trace the indentity, or close connection, of Strabo’s Utii with modern Udins in the North-Eastern hills of the Caucasus (Vartashen, Nidj, etc.). Z.I. Yampolsky (in his paper “The Question of the homonymity of the ancient population of Atropatene and Albania”, in the “Transactions of the Institute of History and Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Adherbayjan S.S. Republic, IV, Baku, 1954), pointed out the identity of the ethnonymic terms for Geloi (or Cadusii, now Gilaks) with the Geloi who lived North of Albania, in the Caucasus mountains, and also with the Utii who inhabited the same locality.




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