|Castle of Masyaf||View of Masyaf||Apartments of Masyaf|
The most famous of the Syrian castles, Masyaf, or Masyad, has a long history going back to the early Byzantine period, which is demonstrated by its architecture. It is situated about 40 kilometres to the west of Hamat in Syria and it subsequently became the usual headquarters of the chief da‘i of the Syrian Nizaris. It stands on a platform about 20 metres above the surrounding plane guarding the approach to other Ismaili castles in the Jabal Ansariya. It was captured by the Ismailis in 535/1141 and was later refortified by Rashid al-Din Sinan (d. 589/1193). Writing in 1170, William of Tyre mentions there were about 60,000 Ismailis in Syria, holding ten castles.
- In 535/1141, the Ismailis captured Masyaf from Sanqur who held the palace on behalf of the Banu Munqidh of Shayzar.
- On 11 Dhu’l-Qa‘da 571/22 May 1176, Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, invaded Nizari territory and besieged Masyaf. The siege did not last long and Saladin concluded a truce with Rashid al-Din Sinan and withdrew his forces from the area.
- In 658/1260 Masyaf and three other fortresses surrender to the Mongols.
- After the Battle of ‘Ayn Jalut on 25 Ramadan 658 / September 3, 1260, where the Nizaris collaborated with the Mamluks and other Muslim rulers in repelling the Mongols from Syria, the Ismailis recovered four of the fortresses which they had earlier lost.
- Baybars (d. 675/1277) takes hold of Masyaf in Jumada II 668/February 1270.
- In 1223/1808, the Nusayris succeeded in murdering Mustafa Mulhim, the Ismaili amir of Masyaf and also seizing the fortress. The Ismailis later regained possession of Masyaf on the intercession of the Ottoman authorities.
- The community received a blow in the 1830s from an Ottoman expedition led by Ibrahim Pasha who caused much damage to Ismaili castles and villages.
The castle of Masyaf dominating the surrounding town
A view of Masyaf from the plane.
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Apartments of Masyaf
The apartments of Masyaf, generally associated with Rashid al-Din Sinan, made popular in medieval European literature as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’.