Masyaf Castle

View of Masyaf Castle

Masyaf Castle is located in the town of Masyaf in Hama Governorate, Syria. The castle dates to the Aramaic Era (8th Century BC), with the latest building phases dating to the Ismaili occupation in the 12th century.[1] The citadel became famous as the stronghold from which Rashid ad-Din Sinan, known as the Old Man of the Mountain ruled. He was a leader of the Syrian wing of the Hashshashin sect and a figure in the history of the Crusades.

History of the castle

The castle dates back to the Byzantine era. It is situated in the lush Orontes Valley, about 60 kilometers to the west of Hama. It served to protect the trade routes to cities further inland such as Banyas. The castle itself stands about 20 meters above the surrounding plain.

Evidence suggests that the lower layers and foundations of the castle are of Byzantine origin. Later levels were added by the Nizari Ismailis, Mamluks, and Ottomans. The castle was captured by the Ismailis in 1141 from Sanqur (who had held it on behalf of the Banu Mundiqh of Shayzar) and was later refortified by Rashid al-Din Sinan. Masyaf and the surrounding town functioned as the capital of a Nizari emirate from the middle of the 12th century until the end of the 13th century. Saladin besieged it in May of 1176 but the siege did not last long and it concluded with a truce. Current research indicates it was held by the Hashshashins at that time.[2]

In 1260, the castle was surrendered to the Mongols. Later that year in September, the Nizaris allied with the Mamluks to drive the Mongols out from Syria and reclaim the castle. Baybars took hold of the castle in February of 1270. In 1830, an Egyptian expedition led by Ibrahim Pasha did some damage to the castle. Restoration funded by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Programme began in 2000.[3]

See also


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