One of the most enduring images of the Mongolian Empire is that it was a model of religious tolerance, one where each of the Khan’s subjects were free to worship as they pleased. This is not a new belief; in the 18th century, Edward Gibbon presented Chinggis Khan as a forerunner of the enlightenment, and for modern audiences the notion was repopularized with Jack Weatherford’s book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Some use the notion to counter the common presentations of Mongol brutality, usually accompanying blanket terms that all religious clergy were exempted from taxation, labour and were respected- or go as far as to present the Mongols as the inspiration for modern liberal religious toleration. While there is an element of truth to be had here, as with so much relating to the Mongols, describing the Chinggisid empire as a state of religious tolerance where all religions east and west lived in harmony fails to capture the reality of the period.
Even before the founding of the empire, Chinggis Khan interacted with a variety of religions. During his war to unify Mongolia, Chinggis Khan was supported by men of various religious backgrounds: Mongolian shamanist-animists, Nestorian Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, one of whom, Jafar Khoja, was supposedly a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and stood with him at the muddy waters of Lake Baljuna during one of his lowest moments. The most prominent tribes in the Mongolian steppe in the 12th century were Nestorian Christians such as the Kereyid and Naiman, and on the declaration of the Mongol Empire in 1206 Chinggis Khan’s army and administration were quite mixed. Chinggis Khan himself was an animist: in Mongolian belief, all things in the world were inhabited by spirits which had to be consulted and placated. It was the job of shamans to intercede with these spirits on the Mongols’ behalf. Generally, shamanism is not an exclusive religion; one can consult a shaman and still practice other faiths. The shaman was not like a Christian priest or Islamic imam, but a professional one could consult with regardless of other religious affiliation. The persuasion and power of religion in the Mongol steppe came from the charisma of specific holy men -such as shamans- and their power to convene with spirits and Heaven on the Khan’s behalf in order to secure his victory.
This seems to have been the guiding principle for how Chinggis Khan, and most of his successors, approached religion. Some Mongols viewed the major religions they encountered -Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam- as all praying to the same God via different methods. This was more or less the statement that in the 1250s, Chinggis’ grandson Mongke Khaan provided to the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck during an interview, stating that “We Mongols believe that there is only one God through whom we have life and through whom we die, and towards him we direct our hearts [...] But just as God has given the hand several fingers, so he has given mankind several paths.”
Usually for the Khans, it did not matter who was right, as basically all of the major religions were. What mattered was that these religions should pray to God on behalf of the Chinggisids to ensure divine favour for their rule. Heaven’s will was manifested through victories and rulership, while it’s displeasure manifested in defeats and anarchy. Much like the concept of the Chinese Mandate of Heaven, the right to rule provided by heaven could be rescinded, and thus the Mongols hoped to continually appease Heaven.
But the Mongols’ views on religion were not static and took years to develop into their political theology- and nor were they inherently tolerant, and favours were allotted more on a personal basis. For example, in 1214 Chinggis Khan, or one of his sons, had an encounter with a Buddhist monk named Haiyun. Haiyun, with his head shaved bare in accordance with his role as a monk, was told by the Khan to grow his hair out and braid it in Mongolian fashion- for at that time, the Mongols were attempting to order the general population of north China to do so as a sign of their political subordination. Religions in China dictated how one should maintain their hair; Buddhist monks had to shave their heads, Daoist monks could keep their hair long, while the general Chinese population, on Confucian teaching, could not cut their hair in adulthood, as it was a gift from the parents, and thus was kept in topknots. Demanding that the general population adopt the unique, partly shaved Mongolian hairstyle, was therefore a decree against all of China’s major religions. The Mongols did not succeed in this policy and soon abandoned it’s implementation on its sedentary subjects, though other sources indicate it was enforced on nomadic Turkic tribes who entered Mongol service, indicating their submission to the Great Khan. Notably the Manchu would successfully implement such a policy after their conquest of China 400 years later, forcing the population to adopt the long queues at the back of the head. When the Chinese revolted against Manchu rule, the cutting of the queue was one of the clearest signs of rejecting the Qing Dynasty.
Back to the Buddhist monk Haiyun, who Chinggis had ordered to grow out his hair in Mongol fashion. Haiyun told Chinggis that he could not adopt the Mongol hairstyle, as growing his hair out violated his duty as a monk. Learning this, Chinggis Khan allowed Haiyun to maintain his baldness, then in time extended this allowance to all Buddhist and Daoist clergy. Even with this first privilege, Haiyun and his master did not receive coveted tax exempt status until 1219, and then on the recommendation of Chinggis’ viceroy in North China, Mukhali. This is the earliest indication of Chinggis Khan granting of such a favour, followed soon by the extensive privileges granted to the Daoist master Qiu Chuji. The Daoist had made the journey from North China to meet Chinggis Khan in Afghanistan on the Khan’s urging, ordered to bring Chinggis the secret to eternal life, as the Mongols had been told Qiu Chuji was 300 years old. Master Qiu Chuji told Chinggis that not only did he not have such power, but Chinggis should also abstain from hunting and sexual activity. Not surprisingly, Chinggis Khan did not take this advice, but he did grant the man extensive privileges, tax exempt status and authority over all Daoists in China. Importantly, Chinggis’ edict was directed personally at Qiu Chuji and his disciples, rather than Daoism as a whole. The value Qiu Chuji had to Chinggis was on his individual religious charisma and ability to intercede with the heavens on the Khan’s behalf, as well as his many followers who could be induced to accept Mongol rule. In Chinggis’ view, the fact that Qiu Chuji was a Daoist leader did not entitle him to privileges. Neither did the Mongols initially differentiate between Buddhism and Daoism. In part due to the vaguely worded nature of Chinggis’ edicts, Qiu Chuji’s Daoist followers used these decrees to exert authority over Buddhists as well, seizing Buddhist temples and forcing Buddhist monks to become Daoists, beginning a Buddhist-Daoist conflict that lasted the rest of the 13th century.
The point of these anecdotes is to demonstrate that the conquests did not begin with a specific policy of general religious tolerance or support for local religious institutions. Governmental support and privilege was provided on an ad hoc basis, especially when a group or individual was seen as influential with the almighty. Toleration itself was also advertised as a tool; in the Qara-Khitai Empire, in what is now eastern Kazakhstan and northwestern China, an enemy of Chinggis Khan, prince Kuchlug of the Naiman tribe, had fled to Qara-Khitai and eventually usurped power. Originally an Eastern Christian, that is a Nestorian, in Qara-Khitai Kuchlug converted to a violent strang of Buddhism and began to force the Muslim clerics, particularly in the Tarim Basin, to convert to Chrisitanity or Buddhism on pain of death. When Chinggis Khan’s forces under Jebe Noyan arrived in 1217 pursuing the prince, they recognized the general resentment against Kuchlug and, in order to undermine his support, declared that anyone who submitted to the Mongols would be free to practice their religion. The announcement worked well, as the empire was quickly and successfully turned over to the Mongols, and the renegade prince Kuchlug cornered and killed. Notably, this announcement did not come with statements of privileges or tax exemptions at large for the Islamic religious leaders. It was a decree spread to deliberately encourage the dissolution of the Qara-Khitai and ease the Mongol conquest- in this region, it was a comparatively peaceful conquest, by Mongol standards. But it was not coming from any specific high-mindedness for the treatment of religion, but an intention to expand into this territory and defeat the fleeing Kuchlug.
By the reign of Chinggis’ son Ogedai in the early 1230s, the Mongol stance towards religions became more solidified. A major advancement, on the insistence of advisers like the Buddhist Khitan scholar Yelu Chucai, was that privileges were to be granted on religious communities and institutions rather than based on individual charisma, which made them easier to regulate and manage. Chucai also impressed upon the Mongols that Buddhism and Daoism were distinct beliefs, though the Mongols seem to have often continually erroneously thought both creeds worshipped a supreme deity a la Christianity and Islam. Buddhist and Daoism became, alongside Christianity and Islam, the four main “foreign religions” which the Mongols would issue edicts regarding privileges. It was not an evenly applied thing. With Islam, for instance, it can be said the Mongols often had the greatest difficulties. For one thing, the rapid annihilation of the Khwarezmian empire, the world’s single most powerful islamic state at the time, resulted in the deaths of perhaps millions of Muslims as well as the belief that the Mongols were a punishment sent by God- a belief the Mongols encouraged. The reduction of Islam from “the state religion” to “just another religion of the Khan’s subjects,” was a difficult one for many an imam and qadi to accept. For a universalist religion like Islam, subjugation to a pagan entity was a difficult pill to swallow, and the destruction of cities, mosques, agriculture and vast swathes of the population would not have been eased by statements of how tolerant the Mongols supposedly were.
Further, it is apparent that the Mongols' rule for the first decade or two of their interaction with the Islamic world was not tolerant. Part of this comes to an inherent conflict between the sharia law of Islam, and the yassa of Chinggis Khan. The yassa and yosun of Chinggis Khan were his laws and customs set out to provide a framework for Mongol life, which regulated interactions for the state, individuals, the environment, the spirits and the heavenly. As a part of this, it was decreed that animals had to be slaughtered in the Mongolian fashion; the animal usually knocked unconscious, turned onto its back, an incision made in the chest and its heart crushed. The intention was to prevent the spilling of the animals’ blood needlessly upon the earth, which could beget misfortune. Contravening this was forbidden and punishable by death. The problem was that this is inherently conflicting with halal and kosher slaughter, which entailed slitting the throat and draining the blood. At various times over the thirteenth century, this was used as an excuse to punish and lead reprisals against Muslims. A number of Persian language sources assert that Ogedai Khaan’s brother Chagatai was a harsh enforcer of the yassa on the empire’s Muslim population. In the 1250s ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini asserted that Muslims in Central Asia were unable to make any halal killings due to Chagatai, and were forced to eat carrion from the side of the road. The Khwarezmian refugee Juzjani meanwhile said Chagatai planned a genocide of the Muslims. While these sources like to depict Chagatai as a foil to Ogedai’s more ‘friendly to islam’ image, it remains clear that for many Muslims, it was felt that the Mongol government had a particular hatred for them. But Chagatai was not the only one to enforce this. Ogedai himself briefly sought to enforce this rule, and the famous Khubilai Khan grew increasingly unfriendly to religion in his old age, and in the 1280s launched anti-muslim policies, banning halal slaughter and circumcision on pain of death. The incident which apparently set him off was a refusal of Muslim merchants in Khubilai’s court to eat meat prepared in the Mongolian manner, though it may also have been an attempt to appease some of the Chinese elite by appearing to reduce Islamic and Central Asian influence in his government, particularly after the assassination of Khubilai’s corrupt finance minister Ahmad Fanakati.
Even Daoism, favoured early by the Mongols thanks to the meeting of Qiu Chuji and Chinggis Khan, suffered stiff reprisals from the Mongol government. As the conflict between the Daoists and Buddhists escalated, in the 1250s on the behest of his brother Mongke Khaan, prince Khubilai headed a debate between representatives of the two orders. Khubilai, inclined to Buddhism on the influence of his wife and personal conversion, chose the Buddhists as the winners. Declaring a number of Daoist texts forgeries, Khubilai ordered many to be destroyed and banned from circulation, while also reducing their privileges. This failed to abate the tensions, and in the 1280s an older, less patient Khubilai responded with the destruction of all but one Daoist text, Lau Zi’s Daodejing, and with murder, mutilation and exile for the offending Daoists.
Privileges only extended to religions the Mongols saw as useful, or offered evidence that they had support from heaven. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheism and Hinduism were usually totally ignored by the Mongols and did not receive the same privileges as the Christian, Buddhist, Daoist and Islamic clergy. Judaism may have received tax exemption status in the Ilkhanate for a brief period in the 1280s and 90s due to the influence of a Jewish vizier, Sa’d al-Dawla, while in the Yuan Dynasty it took until 1330 for Judaism to earn such a status. As these religions lacked states which interacted with the Mongols, the Mongols saw these religions as having no power from heaven, and were therefore useless to them. Without any political clout, and of small representation within the Empire, these groups largely escaped the notice of the Khans.
The Mongols were also not above ordering the annihilation of a religion or religious groups when they defied them. The most well known case was a Shi’ite sect, the Nizari Ismailis, better known as the Assassins. Due to their resistance against the Mongol advance, the sect was singled out for destruction not just politically, but religiously, as Mongke Khaan had become convinced of this necessity by his more orthodox Islamic advisers. This task fell to his brother Hulegu, who enacted his brother’s will thoroughly. Soon after the destruction of the Ismaili fortresses, which was lauded by Hulegu’s Sunni Muslim biographer ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini, Hulegu famously sacked Baghdad and killed the Caliph in 1258. Juvaini’s chronicle, perhaps coincidentally, cuts off just before the siege of Baghdad. This attack on Baghdad was not religiously motivated; the Caliph had refused to accept Mongol authority. As a seemingly powerful head of a religion, his independence could not be abided. It was not a specifically anti-Islamic sentiment here, but a political one. Had the Mongols marched on Rome and the Pope also refused their mandate, such a fate would have awaited him as well. The presence of Christians in Hulegu’s army, many from the Kingdom of Georgia and Cilician Armenia who partook with great enthusiasm in the slaughter of Muslims on Hulegu’s request at Baghdad and in his campaign into Syria, as well as the fact that Hulegu’s mother and chief wife were Chrisitans, would not have been lost on many Muslims, as well as the fact that Hulegu himself was a Buddhist. Hulegu after the conquest of Baghdad ordered its rebuilding, but placed a Shi’ite Muslim in charge of this task and sponsored the restoration of Christian churches and monasteries, and other minority religions in his majority sunni-islam territories.
When the Mongols did convert to the local religions, they were not above carrying out with zeal assaults on other religious communities in their empire. Such was the case for Khans like Ozbeg in the Golden Horde or Ghazan in the Ilkhanate, who converted to Islam and struck against Christian, Buddhist and shamanic elements in their realms. These were as a rule very brief rounds of zealousness, as the economic usage of these groups and the uneven conversion of their followers to Islam made it politically and economically more useful to abandon these measures.
This is not to say of course, that there is no basis for the idea of Mongol religious tolerance, especially when compared to some contemporary states: just that when the favours, privileges and state support were granted, they were usually done to the four main religious groups the Mongols designated: again, Muslims, Christians, Daoists and Buddhists. So entrenched did these groups become as the “favoured religions” that in the Yuan Dynasty by the 14th century it was believed these four groups had been singled out by Chinggis Khan for their favours. This is despite the fact that Chinggis Khan had no recorded interactions with any Christian holymen.
But not idly should we dismiss the notion of there being a certain level of religious toleration among the Mongols. Not without reason was Ogedai Khaan portrayed as friendly in many Islamic sources, and he regularly gave the most powerful positions in the administration of North China to Muslims. European travellers among the Mongols, such as John De Plano Carpini, Marco Polo and Simon of St. Quentin, along with Persian bureaucrats like ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini and the Syriac Churchman Bar Hebraeus, generally reported Mongol indifference to what religions were practiced by their subjects, as long as said subjects accepted Mongol command. Sorqaqtani Beki, the mother of Mongke and Khubilai, was a Nestorian Christian famous for patronizing and supporting mosques and madrassas. Mongke Khaan held feasts to mark the end of Ramadan where he would distribute alms and at least one such feast held in Qaraqorum, listened to a qadi deliver a sermon. He show respect to his Muslim cousin Berke, and for him had halal meat at one imperial banquet. If the yassa of Chinggis Khan was upheld thoroughly, then the Khans and all princes present would have been executed. In the four level racial hierarchy Khubilai Khan instituted in China, Muslims and Central Asians were second only to Mongols and nomads, and ranked above all Chinese peoples.
Religious men visiting the Khans usually left with the belief that the Khan was about to convert to their religion, so favourably had they been received. Khubilai Khan asked Marco Polo’s father and uncle to bring him back 100 Catholic priests and holy oil from Jerusalem, and likely sent the Nestorian Rabban bar Sauma to Jerusalem for similar purposes. Marco Polo then goes on to present Khubilai as a good Christian monarch in all but name. Qaraqorum, the Mongol imperial capital, held Daoist and Buddhist temples across the street from Mosques and Churches. In Khubilai’s capital of Dadu and the Ilkhanid capital of Sultaniyya were Catholic archbishoprics by the early 14th century. So there certainly was a level of toleration within the Mongol Empire that contemporaries, with wonder or frustration, could remark truthfully that it was quite different from their own homelands.
Such religious syncretism survived well into the century, when claimants to the fragmenting successor Khanates in western Asia, in order to define their legitimacy amongst the largely converted Mongol armies and stand out amongst the many Chinggisids, latched onto Islamic identities. Eager to prove their sincerity, they pushed back violently against even traditional Mongol shamanism. Despite it’s early difficulties, in the end Islam largely won amongst the Mongols of the western half of the empire and their descendants, overcoming the brief revitalization Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism had enjoyed thanks to Mongol patronage. Such was the final outcome of the Mongols’ religious toleration
Our series on the Mongols will continue, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this, and would like to help us keep bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
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2.59. History of the Mongols: Franco-Mongol Alliance
23:37The Mongols were famous for their ultimatums of destruction and submission. No shortage of thirteenth century states received demands for their unconditional surrender to the Great Khan granted divine mandate to rule by Eternal Blue Heaven. Initially, the Mongol imperial ideology was extremely black and white: you could submit to Mongol rule, or face total annihilation. There was no room for other relationships, for the Great Khan had no allies, only subjects. But as the thirteenth century went on and the dream of Chinggisid world hegemony slipped away as the divisions of the Mongol Empire went their separate ways, the Mongol Khans in the west began to seek not the capitulation, but the cooperation of western Europe to aid in their wars against Mamluks. For the Ilkhanate’s sixty-year struggle against the Mamluk Sultanate, the Il-Khans sought to bring the Popes and Monarchs of Europe to a new crusade to assist in the defeat of the Mamluks, an ultimately fruitless endeavour, and the topic of today’s episode. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. The first Mongol messages to the Kings of Europe came in the late 1230s and 40s, accompanying Batu and Sube’edei’s western invasion, asking the Hungarians how they possibly could hope to flee the grasp of the Mongols. We know the Mongols sent a number of envoys to European monarchs and dukes, and employed a variety of peoples in this enterprise, including at least one Englishman. Over the 1240s and 50s, European envoys like John de Plano Carpini or William of Rubrucks to the Mongol Empire returned from Karakorum with orders for the Kings and Popes to come to Mongolia and submit in person.While Rus’ and Armenian lords and kings did do so, there is little indication that European rulers even responded to these demands. For the Mongols, who seemed poised to dominate everything under the Eternal Blue Sky, there was little reason to adopt more conciliatory language. From their point of view, the Europeans were only stalling the inevitable: soon Mongol hoofbeats would certainly be heard in Paris and Rome. The Mongols treated the European states as their diplomatic inferiors, subjects basically in a state of rebellion by fact that they had not already submitted. Cruel, threatening and demanding letters were the norm, and it’s safe to say any future efforts at alliance were greatly hampered by this opening salvo. The rare diplomatic exception was an embassy sent to King Louis IX of France during his stay in Cyprus in 1248 just before the 7th Crusade. There, messengers came from the Mongol commander in the west, Eljigidei, an ally to the reigning Great Khan, Guyuk. Headed by two Christians in Eljigidei’s service, the embassy bore letters from Eljigidei. These letters called Louis ‘son,’ and had no demand of submission, but mentioned Mongol favouritism to Christians, urged the French King not to discriminate between Latin and non-Latin Christians as all were equal under Mongol law, and wished him well in his crusade. The two Christian representatives of Eljigidei asserted that he was a Christian and that Guyuk himself had already been baptised. The urged Louis to attack Egypt, and prevent its Ayyubid prince from sending forces to aid the Caliph in Baghdad, who the Mongols were soon to attack. Louis, is should be noted, almost certainly had not been anticipating any cooperation from the Mongols; he had been well aware of their attacks on Hungary only a few years before, learned of Mongol demands and treatment of foreign powers from travellers like Carpini, and apparently received Mongol ultimatums for his submission in 1247. Further, a devout Christian, it is unlikely he would have gone looking for allies among “pagans,” even for fighting against Muslims. Still, he reacted well to Eljigidei’s messengers and sent a return embassy with gifts with them back to Eljigidei which were to be sent on to Guyuk, while the initial letter was forwarded back to France and ultimately to King Henry III of England. Ultimately, it was for naught. Guyuk was dead even before Louis received Eljigidei’s letter, and Eljigidei himself was soon put to death in the following political turmoil. Little is known of the embassy Louis sent back with Eljigdei’s representatives, but from the little heard of it through William of Rubruck a few years later, it seems to have achieved nothing beyond meeting Guyuk’s widow and the regent, Oghul Qaimish, who portrayed Louis’ gifts as tokens of the French King’s submission. Following the meeting on Cypress, Louis IX suffered a humiliating defeat in Egypt at Mansura, captured and was ransomed by the newly emerging Mamluks. By the time he returned to France and received Oghul Qaimish’s reply, not only was she dead, but the responding letter was essentially another demand for his surrender. This first non-threatening Mongol embassy succeeded only in making the King of France feel like he had been tricked, especially since the new Great Khan, Mongke, sent a letter back with William of Rubruck that disavowed Eljigidei’s embassy. It has been speculated that Eljigidei was using the embassy to spy on Louis, as he was wary of the sudden arrival of Louis’ army in Cyprus, and a desire to find out his military intentions, rather than any genuine interest in cooperation at this point. His hope may have been to ensure that this new army attacked Mongol enemies, rather than get in the way of the Mongols. The halting of the Mongol advance at Ayn Jalut by the Mamluks, and fracturing of the Empire into independent Khanates after Great Khan Mongke’s death left the new Ilkhanate in a precarious position. Surrounded by enemies on all sides, the only direction they could expand not at the expense of fellow Mongols was against the Mamluks, who fortified their shared border with the Ilkhans. Even a small raid could trigger the arrival of the full Mamluk army, a dangerous prospect against such deadly warriors. Yet the Ilkhans could not bring their full might to bear on the shared border with the Mamluks in Syria, as it would leave their other borders open to attacks from the Golden Horde, Chagatais or Neguderis, in addition to the trouble of provisioning an army in the tough, hot and dry conditions of the Levantine coastline, a route the Mamluks secured and fortified. Opening a new front against the Mamluks was necessary, and there were already convenient beachheads established in the form of the remaining Crusader States. A shadow of their former selves, the Crusader states were represented by a few major coastal holdings like Antioch, Tripoli, and Acre, and inland fortifications like Krak de Chevaliers and Montfort, as well as the Kingdom of Cyprus, whose ruler, Hugh III of Cyprus, took the title King of Jerusalem in 1268. The Crusader States had shown neutrality to the Mongols, or even joined them such as the County of Tripoli did in 1260 after the Mongols entered Syria. In early 1260, the papal legate at Acre sent an embassy to Hulegu, most likely to discourage him from attacking the Crusader holdings. Along with information from the Kings of Armenian Cilicia, their most important regional vassals, the Mongols would have had a vague knowledge of western Europe and their crusading history. The Ilkhanate’s founder, Hulegu, sent the first letter to the west in 1262, intended once more for King Louis IX, though this embassy was turned back in Sicily. This letter was friendlier terms than most Mongol missives, but still contained threats, if rather subdued. Pope Urban IV may have learned of the attempt, and the next year sent a letter to Hulegu, apparently having been told that the Il-Khan had become a Christian. Delighted at the idea, the Pope informed Hulegu that if he was baptised, he would receive aid from the west. In reality, Hulegu never converted to Christianity, and died in 1265 without sending any more letters. His son and successor, Abaqa, was the Il-Khan most dedicated to establishing a Franco-Mongol alliance and came the closest to doing so. Due to conflict on his distant borders with the Golden Horde and Chagatayids, as well as the troubles of consolidating power as new monarch in a new realm, for the 1260s he was unable to commit forces to the Mamluk frontier. As a good Mongol, Abaqa was unwilling to allow the enemy total respite, and made it his mission to encourage an attack from the west on the Mamluks. His first embassy was sent in 1266, shortly after becoming Il-Khan, contacting the Byzantines, Pope Clement IV and King James I of Aragon, hoping for a united Christian front to combine efforts with the Mongols against the Mamluks, inquiring which route into Palestine the Christian forces would take. The responses were generally positive, Pope Clement replying that as soon as he knew which route, he would inform Abaqa. Abaqa sent a message again in 1268, inquiring about this progress. James of Aragon found himself the most motivated by the Il-Khans requests, encouraged by the promises of Abaqa’s logistical and military support once they reached the mainland. James made his preparations, and launched a fleet in September 1269. An unexpected storm scattered the fleet, and only two of James’ bastard children made it to Acre, who stayed only briefly, accomplishing little there. Not long after, King Louis IX set out for Crusade once more, making the inexplicable choice to land in Tunis in 1270. Despite his well planned efforts, the Crusade was an utter disaster, and Louis died of dysentery outside the walls of Tunis in August 1270. Prince Edward of England with his army landed in Tunis shortly before the evacuation of the crusaders, and disgusted by what he saw, set his fleet for the Holy Land, landing at Acre in May 1271, joined by Hugh of Lusignan, King of Cyprus. Edward’s timing was good, as Abaqa had returned from a great victory over the Chagatai Khan Baraq at Herat in July 1270, though had suffered a major hunting accident that November. The Mamluk Sultan Baybars was campaigning in Syria in spring 1271, the famous Krak des Chevaliers falling to him that April. Tripoli would have fallen next, had Baybars not retreated back to Damascus hearing of the sudden arrival of a Crusader fleet, and was wary of being caught between European heavy cavalry and Mongol horse archers. Soon after landing Edward made his preparations for an offensive, and reached out to Abaqa. Abaqa was delighted, and sent a reply and orders for Samaghar, the Mongol commander in Anatolia, to head to Syria. Edward did not wait for Abaqa’s reply, and there is no indication he ever responded to Abaqa’s letter. He set out in mid-July, ensuring his army suffered the most from the summer heat, while missing the Mongols who preferred to campaign in the winter. Suffering high casualties and accomplishing little, he withdrew back to Acre. In mid-October Samaghar arrived with his army, raiding as far as to the west of Aleppo while an elite force of Mongols scouted ahead, routing a large group of Turkmen between Antioch and Harim, but was soon forced to retreat with the advance of the Mamluk army under Baybars. Missing Samagahr by only a few weeks, in November Edward marched south from Acre at the head of a column of men from England, Acre, Cyprus, with Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights. They ambushed some Turkmen on the Sharon plain, forced the local Mamluk governor to withdraw, but with the arrival of large Mamluk reinforcements the Crusaders fled, losing their prisoners and booty. That was the closest the Mongols and the Franks came to proper coordination. Edward helped oversee a peace treaty between the Mamluks and the Kingdom of Jersualem, but the heat, difficulties campaigning, political infighting and an assassination attempt on his life permanently turned him off of crusading. By September 1272, Edward set sail for England. A few weeks after his departure the Mongols again invaded, besieging al-Bira but were defeated by the Mamluks in December. Edward’s brief effort in Syria demonstrated the difficulties prefacing any Mongol-Frankish cooperation. The Mamluks were a cohesive, unified force, well accustomed to the environment and working from a well supplied logistic system and intelligence network, while the Franks and Mongols were unable to ever develop a proper timetable for operations together. The European arrivals generally had unrealistic goals for their campaigns, bringing neither the men, resources or experience to make an impact. Abaqa continued to organize further efforts, and found many willing ears at the Second Council of Lyons in France in 1274, a meeting of the great powers of Christendom intended to settle doctrinal issues, the division of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and plan the reconquest of the Holy land. Abaqa’s delegation informed the Council that the Il-Khan had secured his borders, that peace had been achieved between all the Mongols Khanates, and he could now bring his full might against the Mamluks, and urged the Christian powers to do likewise. The current Pope, Gregory X, fully supported this and made efforts to set things in motion, but his death in 1276 killed whatever momentum this process had had. Abaqa sent another round of envoys, who reached the King of France and the new King of England, Edward. The envoys brought the Il-khan’s apologies for failing to cooperate properly during Edward’s crusade, and asked him to return. Edward politely declined. This was the final set of envoys Abaqa sent west. Perhaps frustrated, he finally organized a proper invasion of Syria, only an army under his brother Mongke-Temur to be defeated by the Mamluks at Homs, and Abaqa himself dying soon after in 1282. His successors were to find no more luck that he had. The most interesting envoy to bring the tidings of the Il-Khan to Europe did not originate in the Ilkhanate, but in China: Rabban Bar Sawma, born in 1220 in what is now modern day Beijing, was a Turkic Nestorian priest who had set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before being conscripted to act as a messenger for the Il-Khan, in a journey which is a fascinating contrast to that of his contemporary Marco Polo. Even given him his own dedicated episode in this podcast series, but we’ll give here a brief recount of his journey. Writing his accounts down upon his return to Baghdad later in life, he described how he brought messages and gifts to the Byzantine Emperor Andronicos II Palaiologus, marvelled at the Hagia Sophia, then landed in Sicily and made his way to Rome, having just missed the death of Pope Honorius IV. Travelling on to France, he was warmly welcomed by King Phillip IV, and then on to Gascony where he met the campaigning King Edward of England, who again responded kindly to the Il-khan’s envoy. On his return journey, he met the new Pope Nicholas IV in 1288 before returning to the Ilkhanate. Despite the generous receptions Rabban Sauma was given by the heads of Europe, and despite the Il-khan’s promises to return Jerusalem to Christian hands, the reality was there was no ruler in the west interested, or capable of, going on Crusade. By now, the act of Crusading in the Holy land had lost its lustre, the final crusades almost all disasters, and costly ones at that. With the final Crusader strongholds falling to the Mamluks in the early 1290s, there was no longer even a proper beachhead on the coast for a Crusading army. The sheer distance and cost of going on Crusade, especially with numerous ongoing issues in their own Kingdoms at hand, outweighed whatever perceived benefit there might have been in doing so. Further, while Rabban Sauma personally could be well received, the Mongols themselves remained uncertain allies. From 1285 through to 1288, Golden Horde attacks on eastern Europe had recommenced in force. Even the new Khan of the Golden Horde, Tele-Buqa, had led an army into Poland. For the Europeans, the distinctions between the Mongol Khanates were hard to register; how could messages of peace from some Mongols be matched with the open war other Mongols were undertaking? All evidence seems to suggest that the western Franks did not understand that the Golden Horde and Ilkhanate were separate political entities. Recall earlier the conflicting letters Louis IX had received in the 1240s, where one Mongol general offered friendship, only to be tricked in seemingly submitting to the Mongols and then receive letters in the 1250s telling him to discount the previous envoys. Together these encouraged unease over perceiving the Mongols as allies, and served to further dampen interest to pursue these alliances. In contrast, the Mamluks had somewhat greater success in their own overseas diplomacy: in the 1260s Baybars initiated contact with the Golden Horde, ruled by the Muslim Berke Khan, encouraging him to keep up his warfare with his Ilkhanid cousins. Sultan Baybars also kept good relations with the Byzantine Empire and the Genoese, allowing him to keep the flow of Turkic slave soldiers from the steppes of the Golden Horde open, the keystone of the Mamluk military. There is also evidence they undertook some limited diplomacy with Qaidu Khan during the height of his rule over Central Asia and the Chagatayids. While the Mamluks and Golden Horde never undertook any true military cooperation, the continuation of their talks kept the Ilkhanate wary of enemies on all borders, never truly able to bring the entirety of its considerable might against one foe least another strike the Il-Khan’s exposed frontiers. But, did the Golden Horde, in the 1260s, perceive this as an alliance? We only have Mamluk accounts of the relationship, but scholarship often supposes that the Golden Horde Khans perceived this as the submission of the Mamluks, and any cooperation was the cooperation between overlord and subject. As many of the Mamluk ruling class were Qipchaqs, so the Mongols had come to see as their natural slaves, it may well be that Berke saw the submission of the Mamluks as a natural part of their relationship, especially since he already ruled the Qipchaq homeland. This alliance, alongside never resulting in direct cooperation, was also never always amicable. When the Jochid Khans grew annoyed with the Mamluks, they would halt the trade of Qipchaq slaves and threaten to deprive the Mamluks of their greatest source of warriors. During the long reign of Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, a daughter of the Golden Horde Khan Ozbeg was wed to him, in an effort to cement the relationship after a rocky start to the 1300s. Al-Nasir soon accused her of not actually being a Chinggisid, insulting her and infuriating Ozbeg. Yet the relationship survived until the invasions of Emir Temur at the close of the fourteenth century, when the Mamluks and Golden Horde once again took part in a doomed west-Asian effort to ally against Temur. Ilkhanid-European contacts continued into the 14th century, but with somewhat less regularity after Rabban bar Sawma’s journey. An archbishopric was even founded in the new Ilkhanid capital of Sultaniyya in 1318, and Papal envoys would travel through the Ilkhanate to the Yuan Dynasty in China until the 1330s. A few envoys came from the Il-Khans still hoping to achieve military cooperation; Ghazan Il-Khan continued to send them before his invasions, including the only one that actually defeated the Mamluk army and led to a brief Mongol advance down the coast, occupying Damascus. News of Ghazan’s successes did spread rapidly, for the Spanish Franciscan Ramon Llull learned of it and promptly sailed all the way across the Mediterranean, hoping to be among the first missionaries to land in the newly reclaimed Holy Land. But upon arriving in Cypress, Llull learned of Ghazan’s equally quick withdrawal. The combined news of a Mongol victory followed by sudden Mongol withdrawal must have only affirmed the opinion of many of the futility of taking part in any more crusades with the Mongols. Military operations against the Mamluks mostly ceased after Ghazan’s death, until a formal peace was achieved between them and the Ilkhanate at the start of the 1320s. Naturally, no further messages for alliances with the powers of Europe were forth coming, and consequently putting an almost total end to European interest and contacts with the Middle East for the next five centuries. European-Mongol relations would continue for some time longer in the territory of the Golden Horde, where the attention of our podcast moves next, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast for more. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, then consider supporting us on Patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.58. History of the Mongols: Fall of the Ilkhanate
36:15November, 1335. The Khan of the Ilkhanate, Abu Sa’id Bahadur, is dead. Allegedly poisoned by a spurned wife, Baghdad Khatun, his death was the unravelling of the Ilkhanate. Facing an invasion by the mighty Ozbeg of the Golden Horde, and a succession crisis due to Abu Sa’id’s failure to produce an heir, the Ilkhanate rapidly, and violently, tore itself to pieces. Today, we look at the disintegration of the Mongol Ilkhanate, the stories of two men named Hasan, and the history of the region up until the arrival of Emir Temur, fearsome Tamerlane, at the end of the fourteenth century. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. Abu Sa’id had not been an incompetent monarch by any stretch of the means, and his rule was remembered as a golden age, at least in comparison to the mess that followed. A great-great-grandson of the Ilkhanid founder Hulegu, Abu Sa’id’s reign had seen the consolidation of the islamization of the Mongol state, as well as the end of the long war with the Mamluks of Egypt. Il-Khan since 1316, Abu Sa’id had been controlled by the emir Choban, until he nearly eradicated the house of Choban in the late 1320s in an effort to marry Baghdad Khatun, one of Choban’s daughters. For a few years Abu Sa’id had enjoyed a comparatively quiet majority, pursuing art, culture, poetry, building and architecture, as well as efforts to produce an heir. Baghdad Khatun, despite her beauty and the violence he had undertaken to acquire her- which included, among others things, killing her father, brothers and forcing her to divorce her husband- simply did not provide him his much desired son. When Abu Sa’id’s eyes fell upon her niece, Dilshad Khatun, the Il-Khan basically forgot about his current wife, wed her niece and soon enough got her pregnant. For Baghdad Khatun to be humiliated like this, after suffering through the destruction of her family, this was the last straw. The widespread belief was that she had him poisoned in some manner- in Ibn Battuta’s account, this was administered via a handkerchief that she used to clean themselves after sexual intercourse. So did Abu Sa’id die, aged 30 years old, in what is now Azerbaijan while marching north to repel an invasion by the Khan of the Golden Horde, Ozbeg. With Abu Sa’id’s death, the line of Hulegu became extinct- or at least, the line through Hulegu’s son Abaqa, which had provided most of the Il-Khans. Abu Sa’id uncle, Ghazan, had done much to prune the lineage during his reign, and it seems alcoholism took care of much of the rest. The fact that few Il-Khans lived past 35, with fewer and fewer heirs each generation, has led many to search for underlying causes beyond just alcohol. Scholars such as Charles Melville and Anne F. Broadbridge have pointed to possible consequences of consanguinity among the Il-Khans: that is, essentially inbreeding, given the Il-Khan’s preferences for marrying into the same families, like the Oirats, over generations. The combined effects of rampant alcohol abuse among both men and women and the consanguinity may be the answer behind the alarming drop off in fertility of the Ilkhanid elite over the last decades of the thirteenth century. While Hulegu had produced quite the brood of little Chinggisids- at least 25 sons and daughters-, by the end of the century Ghazan had only a daughter survive childhood, while his brother Oljeitu Il-Khan had an alarming amount of children stillborn or died young. From his twelve wives, Oljeitu only had three children ever reach marriageable age; Abu Sa’id and two daughters, Sati Beg and Dawlandi: the last of whom still died before her father. For Abu Sa’id himself, despite considerable efforts, by his death he had only succeeded in getting his widow Dilshad Khatun pregnant. With no surviving brothers, sons or clear male figure to step into the role, the Ilkhanate suddenly faced a new problem; no clear monarch of the line of Hulegu to head the state. The explanation of Abu Sa’id’s death without heir directly causing the fall of the Ilkhanate has been, in the opinion of scholars like Charles Melville, somewhat overstated. The image of the Ilkhanate falling without a decline -a counter to the model popularized by Edward Gibbon so long ago- encourages us to overlook problems which had developed. Essentially, Melville notes, a gap had widened between the military elite, the noyad, and the Il-Khan, which accompanied a lack of respect for the Chinggisids. The death of a monarch with no clear heir was hardly a new issue in the Mongol Empire- in fact, the quriltai system wherein a candidate put his name forward and was confirmed by the princes served to supply new khans at need. Additionally, neither were regents unheard of within the empire’s history. The 1240s had seen two regencies, with Ogedai’s widow Torogene and Guyuk’s widow Oghul Qaimish steering the empire in the absence of a Khan- Oghul Qaimish of course, doing this much less successfully than her predecessor. In the form of Baghdad Khatun the Ilkhanate certainly had a powerful woman who could have stepped into the role. Well connected and from a prestigious family, she could have called upon connections established by her late father, Choban. Baghdad Khatun was described as an intimidating, intelligent and proud woman, who openly walked around with a sword strapped to her waist and greatly influenced matters of state. In the opinion of some, Abu Sa’id was bossed around by her. In a more classic Mongolian system, Baghdad Khatun would have guided the state until an heir could have been selected. But as Melville argues, the actions of the Khans from Ghazan onwards had alienated the military elite. More or less, they must have felt disenfranchised from the government and that the old Mongolian way of life was being abandoned. Certainly Islamization was the most obvious demonstration of this. Ghazan and Oljeitu both abandoned the traditional secret burials of Mongol Khans in favour of massive, expensive and very public mausoleums. The quriltai as a means of choosing the next ruler and affecting major decisions was abandoned, and even the end of the war with the Mamluks- not by conquest, but by diplomacy- must have felt like a betrayal of Mongol imperial ideology. Recall how the contemporary Chagatai Khan Tarmashirin was accused of abandoning the yassa as well- specifically by no longer continuing the annual assembles with the noyad in the eastern half of the Chagatai realm, and thus making them feel they no longer had a role, or a stake, in the Khanate’s government. Tarmashirin was overthrown by a rebellion in 1334, a year before Abu Sa’id’s death, which precipitated the descent of the Chagatai ulus into open war. By removing their stake in government, and not replacing it with a new loyalty to adhere to in the replacement system, the Ilkhans had gradually removed the need of the various noyans to maintain their loyalty to the Chinggisid ideology. When Abu Sa’id came to the throne in 1317, he was but a 12 year old boy. The long period of Choban’s regency further reduced the khan’s authority and increased that of the military elite. Abu Sa’id largely accepted and seems to have went along with Choban’s oversight up until Choban denied him Baghdad Khatun, at that time married to Shaykh Hasan Jalayir. Only from the very end of the 1320s, after Choban’s death, did Abu Sa’id really rule in his own right. While he did face minor rebellion, there is indication of resentment as efforts undertaken by the central Ilkhanid government. Abu Sa’id’s vizier, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, the son of the former vizier Rashid al-Din Hamadani, sought to enforce tax reforms that in effect, would have restrengthened the hand of the central government towards the regional princes and their appanages. As Melville notes, the details are poorly known but it seems to have been an ineffective measure that angered these military princes. Per Melville’s theory, the only outcome of such failed measures would only have been widening the gap between the Il-khan and the military elite. On Abu Sa’id’s death at the end of November 1335, it fell to the vizier Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad to try and steer the ship in the face of Ozbeg’s invasion. Only five days later, on December 5th, Ghiyath al-Din orchestrated the enthronement of a successor, a man named Arpa Ke’un. Arpa was a Chinggisid, and a member of the house of Tolui… but of the line of Ariq Boke, Hulegu’s younger brother who had fought their brother Khubilai for the throne in the 1260s. Plucked from obscurity by Ghiyath al-Din, it seems he was chosen for his ability to lead the army, for all indication is that Arpa Khan was a man of military background, a “old school Mongol,” in the words of every secondary source that mentions him. Arpa was given command of the Il-Khanid army, and in the snows of the Caucasus he forced back Ozbeg in winter 1335, who once again retreated to the Golden Horde. Arpa Khan returned triumphant, and Ghiyath al-Din must have had high hopes for his new protege. Arpa was a competent commander who was militarily proven in his defence of the Ilkhanate- a promising figure to rally the Mongols around. Apparently he had little taste for court procedure or niceties, and it is unclear if he was a Muslim. One anonymous Armenian chronicler asserts Arpa was a Christian, and at the very least he was very proud of the “old ways.” At best, he was a Muslim with little care for the specifics of the faith. We might wonder if Ghiyath al-Din was deliberate here too, choosing a man who would be more palatable to the noyad due to his distaste of courtly life. In the opinion of Oleg Grabar and Sheila Blair, it was shortly after Arpa’s ascension that Ghiyath al-Din ordered the commission of the Great Mongol Shahnama, a wonderful illustrated version of the Persian national epic, the Shahnama of Firdausi. An undertaking of massive expense, given the large and lovingly detailed artwork, it certainly indicates that the top levels of the Ilkhanid elite did not imagine they were entering into a crisis anytime soon. Arpa Khan was not on solid footing though. The fact that he was not of the line of Hulegu certainly hurt his legitimacy. The fact that Abu Sa’id’s widow, Dilshad Khatun, was pregnant and had fled to Abu Sa’id’s uncle, ‘Ali-Padshah, the governor of Diyarbakir, was unnerving too. ‘Ali-Padshah’s sister, Abu Sa’id’s mother Hajji Khatun, also opposed Arpa’s enthronement. Thus, his position needed to be shored up. A marriage was arranged to Abu Said’s sister, Sati Beg; commanders who had been alienated or jailed by Abu Sa’id were given expensive gifts or freed from prison. And the blame for Abu Sa’id’s death was laid squarely on Baghdad Khatun, who had never had the chance to assume the regency. Accused not just of poisoning Abu Sa’id, but of being in correspondence with Ozbeg Khan and inviting him to attack the Ilkhanate, Baghdad Khatun was found guilty and executed, supposedly beaten to death by a Greek slave with a club while she was in the bathhouse. A number of other executions followed of potential rivals. But Arpa Khan looked for enemies in the wrong direction. ‘Ali-Padshah, the Oirat governor of Diyarbakir, was becoming something of a rallying point for those unhappy with Arpa’s placement as Khan- or unhappy with an energetic man on the throne who might reduce their privileges. Dilshad Khatun had finally given birth to Abu Sa’id’s only child, a girl, but this did not stop ‘Ali-Padshah’s maneuvering. At the start of 1336 he raised his own candidate, Musa, as Il-Khan. Supposedly a grandson of Baidu, who had only held the throne for a few months before Ghazan’s rise, Musa was, unlike Arpa, entirely a puppet of ‘Ali-Padshah. In alliance with Hajji Khatun and Shaykh Hasan Jalayir, who had once been forced to give up his wife Baghdad Khatun to Abu Sa’id and now knew Arpa killed her, ‘Ali-Padshah in the name Musa Il-Khan armed a revolt against Arpa Il-Khan. In the April of 1336, Arpa’s army was defeated in the field. He and Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad fled to Sultaniyya, where they were captured and killed later that month. So ended the reign of Arpa Khan, the final Il-Khan to wield any individual authority. Arpa’s death in many ways can be considered the true end of the Ilkhanate, for it seems to have removed any attachment the regional commanders held to the Ilkhanid state. ‘Ali-Padshah’s enthronement of Musa Khan gave all of them the realization that each, too, could rule through his own puppet Chinggisid, if he happened to believe hard enough and have one on hand. From 1335 until 1343, no less than 8 Chinggisids were to be declared Il-Khan by these commanders. Little is known of most of them beyond their names and who controlled them. Shortly after Arpa’s death Shaykh Hasan Jalayir announced his own puppet khan, a young boy named Muhammad, and attacked ‘Ali-Padshah. By July 1336, ‘Ali-Padshah was dead and Musa Il-Khan sent running. Shaykh Hasan married Abu Sa’id’s widow, Dilshad Khatun. At the same time in the far east of the Ilkhanate, the noyans of Khurasan elected their own Il-Khan, Togha-Temur. Togha-Temur was not even a descendant of Chinggis Khan, but his brother Jochi-Qasar! But he came with military backing, and at the end of 1336 Togha-Temur’s armies had overrun Iran and pushed into Iraq and Azerbaijan, forcing Shaykh Hasan Jalayir to flee before him. Even the wandering Musa found his way into Togha-Temur’s employment, and it seemed that the Ilkhanate’s period of disunity would soon be ended… only for Togha-Temur to suddenly withdraw back east in spring 1337. Musa was left with an army to attempt to crush Shaykh Hasan, but Hasan defeated and killed him in July 1337. Though he would threaten Iraq and the Caucasus again on occasion, Togha-Temur mostly contented himself with mastery over Khurasan and Mazandaran for the next 16 years, until his death in 1353 at the hands of the Sarbadars of Sabzavar. With Togha-Temur’s withdrawal, Shaykh Hasan now faced a new challenger in the form of a different Shaykh Hasan. Our first Shaykh Hasan was of the Jalayirid lineage, a descendant of one of Hulegu’s top generals. Often you’ll see him called Hasan-i Buzurg, or “Big Hasan.” Hasan-i Kuchik, or “Little Hasan,” was meanwhile a grandson of Choban, via his son Temur-tash. Temur-tash had been governor of Anatolia and revolted twice against Abu Sa’id, before being killed by the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad when seeking support from him. Yet, Temur-tash’s name still carried weight in Anatolia. While the other Ilkhanid claimants fought for power in the Caucasus and northern Mesopotamia, Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf brought his father back to life, so to speak, in the form of a slave who looked a lot like him. Rather young, the boys lacked the experience or prestige to rally an army around themselves, and so required a puppet dead father. The slave, named Qarajari, in Mamluk accounts was the true leader of the uprising, while in Jalayirid and Temurid sources it was Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf. At the very least, it indicates the level of friction in the movement was apparent.With an army composed of urban militias, nomadic cavalry and military slaves, it was a bit of a motley force, but the return of the Chobanids undermined Big Hasan Jalayir. Big Hasan’s problem was the fact he just had so many members of Choban’s family in his entourage. His new wife, Dilshad Khatun, was a granddaughter of Choban; one of his most important supporters, Oljeitu’s daughter Sati Beg, had been married to emir Choban, and had a son by him, Surghan. With their help, and the help of a grandson of Choban named Pir Husayn, Big Hasan had overcome Musa Khan and retaken Tabriz, which had long been the capital of the Ilkhanate. But the rise of new Chobanid claimants made Big Hasan unsure of his own Chobanid supporters. Antagonizing his Chobanid followers, Sati Beg and her son Surghan fled to join Little Hasan, who forced Big Hasan from Tabriz in 1338, forcing him to retreat to Baghdad. In the process, Little Hasan succeeded in killing Big Hasan’s puppet Chinggisid, the young Muhammad Khan. But seizing Tabriz weakened the bonds between Little Hasan and his fake father; the Fake Temurtash decided he wanted real power and stabbed Little Hasan, who survived and escaped, then publicized the news that Fake Temurtash was actually, well, a fake. “You’re not my real dad!” We may imagine Little Hasan screamed as he ran out of the palace of Tabriz, blood dripping from a wound. Little Hasan fled to Georgia, meeting with Sati Beg and his cousin Surghan, while the isolated fake Temurtash was pushed from Tabriz by Big Hasan, who in turn was pushed out again by Little Hasan. Still, it was felt a non-Chinggisid could not rule yet in his own right, especially since Little Hasan had, in the eyes of most, simply been serving his “resurrected” father. So, Little Hasan made the nearest Chinggisid the new Il-Khan. And the nearest Chinggisid was none other than his grandfather Choban’s widow, Sati Beg, daughter of the late Il-Khan Oljeitu, sister of Abu Sa’id and also widow of Arpa Khan. For the first time, late in 1338, a Chinggisid woman became Khan- not regent, not khatun, but Khan. Coins were minted in her name bearing the title, the khutba was read in her name and she was officially the ruler of the Ilkhanate, such as it was. But Sati Beg Khan, the only Chinggisid female Khan, held no real power, and largely was a tool through which Little Hasan maintained his power. A scheming, cruel man, Little Hasan offered Sati Beg to be the bride of a rival, solely in an effort to lure the rival into a trap. He also sought to portray himself as a restorer of the Ilkhanate and its protector by commandeering symbols and persons associated with it, such as appointing descendants of Rashid al-Din and other Ilkhanid viziers to chief posts, while continuing to promote Tabriz as the capital in an effort at continuity with the Ilkhanate. Little Hasan himself, along with Sati Beg’s son and two other top figures, took the titles of the ulus emirs, the commanders of the realm, but there could be no question of who was actually in charge… … or could there be? Restoring a Chinggisid monarchy in place of their fake father Temurtash meant, in effect, the demotion of Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf. Making Little Hasan but one of the ulus emirs further divided his power. Coins in the name of Sati Beg Khan are found even outside of territory the Chobanids directly controlled in this period, suggesting Sati Beg’s enthronement had wider support. Rumours circulated that Sati Beg was in contact with Big Hasan Jalayir in Baghdad, and plotting to kill Little Hasan. Worse still, Togha-Temur, the “eastern Il-Khan,” returned to western Iran at the very start of 1339, having been invited to take the throne by Big Hasan. Togha-Temur’s great army seemed poised to wash away Little Hasan’s state. Sati Beg Khan and her soon fled west, leaving Little Hasan alone to face Togha-Temur. But the lil’ guy had one last card play. Knowing he faced no chance of overcoming Togha-Temur Khan in battle, instead Little Hasan sent messengers to Togha-Temur offering his submission, and that he would gladly come to submit to Togha-Temur in person, but could not dare leave Tabriz yet due to the danger posed by Big Hasan, at that time in Baghdad. Togha-Temur accepted this gladly, happy to take the former Ilkhanid capital without trouble. He promised to keep Little Hasan in power, and sent a letter describing how he would rid them of Big Hasan… which Little Hasan promptly forwarded to Big Hasan. The latter had already allied with Togha-Temur and was naturally unhappy to find his new overlord so willing to remove him from the scene, so Big Hasan abandoned Togha-Temur Khan. Losing face, his local allies and commanders unsatisfied with the process, Togha-Temur withdrew back east. The entire incident served to strengthen Little Hasan’s little hands. A few months later in July 1339, he forced Sati Beg Khan to marry another of Little Hasan’s allies, a descendant of Hulegu’s son Yoshmut, who took the throne name of Sulayman, and became Sulayman Khan, though the Mamluks suspected his ancestry was fictive. So ended Sati Beg’s nine month tenure as Khan, losing whatever little authority she held and subsequently disappearing from the sources, though coinage in her name continued to be minted in Georgia well into the 1340s. Her final fate remains uncertain. In the meantime, Big Hasan down in Baghdad had another ploy to employ. His requests to the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad for miltiary aid in recognition of Mamluk overlordship did not materialize into any actual support, in addition to the failure of the affair with Togha-Temur. Taking matters into his own hands, he appointed a grandson of Geikhatu Il-Khan, Jahan-Temur, as Il-Khan, then marched north to face Little Hasan in battle. In June 1340, the two Hasans, each with their khans, met on the field. Little Hasan had the better of the engagement, forcing Big Hasan to flee back to Baghdad. Angered at the turn of events, Big Hasan deposed his puppet Khan Jahan-Temur, and ruled in his own name- the official start of the independent Jalayir Dynasty. Ruling from Baghdad, the Jalayirids oversaw most of modern Iraq to the border with Syria. The Chobanids kept their puppet Chinggisid only a little longer. Sulayman Khan actually outlasted Little Hasan: the little trickster finally met his end when murdered by his own wife in December 1343. With no heir, he was succeeded by his brother, Malik Ashraf, who soon after deposed Sulayman and appointed another puppet monarch, a non-Chinggisid called Anushirvan, from an epithet for the ancient Sassanian shahanshah, Khosrow I. It was an interesting dabble in movement away from legitimacy associated with the house of Chinggis Khan, harkening even back to pre-Islamic Iran. What sort of lineage he was supposed to represent is unclear, as the Mamluks thought that he had essentially crowned a stable boy and then locked him in a gilded cage. Coins were minted in Anushirvan’s name until 1353, the year of Togha-Temur’s death. Little Hasan had been unpopular in Tabriz and Azerbaijan, but Malik Ashraf was widely hated. Paranoid, violent men, their oppressive tendencies alienated many supporters: both found it easy to be cruel to their families and vassals on the slightest hints of disloyalty- such cruelty was the certain cause of Little Hasan’s wife preemptively murdering him. Mongol allies were angered with the movement away from Chinggisid legitimacy or by the enfranchisement of non-Mongols. The cities of the Caucasus felt exploited as tax sources due to wild expenditure by both Little Hasan and Malik Ashraf, who built large public works in efforts to boost their images and to fund their standing army. The latter of which they struggled to fund, resulting in troops attempting to supply themselves by raiding Chobanid subjects from Azerbaijan, Georgia to eastern Anatolia. At one point at the very start of his reign, Malik Ashraf was locked out of Tabriz, the city barring its gates against him in reaction to his exploitative money grabbing. All of this was worsened by rounds of Plague- as in, Black Plague. The trade cities of the Caucasus which the Chobanids so relied upon were struck repeatedly and made the situation even more unstable, as the economy was disrupted, trade slackened and key demographic centres depopulated. To distract from troubles and bring in some glory- or share the suffering, Malik Ashraf decided to attack Baghdad in 1347, but the Jalayirids repulsed him. Either through order, or because he no longer had control over his troops, the Chobanid army then ravaged much of the Chobanid kingdom. Facing revolts and rebellions across his kingdom, somehow he managed to maintain his post into the 1350s, when faced with an overwhelming, ultimate threat: the new Khan of the Golden Horde, Jani Beg, son of Ozbeg Khan. Just as this episode began with the threat of a Jochid attack by Ozbeg, so this episode ends with his son coming to finish the job. The Jochids never forgot Hulegu’s seizure of the Azerbaijani pastures, and repeated attempts to regain were met with failures. Even great and long-reigning Ozbeg Khan had failed to seize them. Jani Beg, in all things, was determined to outdo his father, and in 1357 his messages arrived in Tabriz, bearing a clear ultimatum to Malik Ashraf: “I am coming to take possession of the ulus of Hulegu. You are the son of Choban whose name was in the decree of the four uluses. Today three realms are under my command, and I also wish to appoint you commander of the ulus; get up and come to meet me.” Malik Ashraf put on a brave face, dismissing the messenger and replied that Jani Beg only had claim to rule within the lands of Jochi, while Malik Ashraf was the protector of the lands of Hulegu. Malik Ashraf’s sudden claim to support the Toluids, not surprisingly, did not convince Jani Beg, or anyone else. His decision to then imprison Jani Beg’s ambassador did not help matters either. But Malik Ashraf’s defiance was hollow, and he was well aware of the danger he was in. We are told by the Azerbaijani writer al-Ahri, writing about 1360, that Malik Ashraf in fear turned to his attendants and admitted, “This is the son of Khan Ozbeg. He is of the family of Chinggis Khan and has an overwhelming army of three hundred thousand men. I cannot hold out against him.” Ashraf planned to flee to a fortress and hold out there until Jani Beg withdrew or, failing that, flee to Anatolia. News of his cowardice elicited a loud response from the elite and people of Tabriz, who cried out for resistance and claimed that Jani Beg’s only strength was his numbers, and in terms of equipment the Chobanid troops would have the better. Only once it seemed that government was breaking down in the face of the Golden Horde attack, reluctantly Malik Ashraf summoned the troops and rode out to face the approaching Jani Beg Khan. Promptly, his men fled when they caught sight of Jani Beg’s host. Years of mistreatment had generated no loyalty to the person of Malik Ashraf or his office, and none were willing to put their lives on the line in a doomed fight. His army disintegrated and looted his own coffers. Finally Malik Ashraf was betrayed, captured, and paraded through the streets of Tabriz and handed over to Jani Beg. Supposedly Jani Beg would have let him live, if the people of Tabriz had not demanded his death- though it should be said, mercy was not a quality Jani Beg ever had in abundance, so we might wonder about this detail. Malik Ashraf, son of Temur-Tash and brother of Little Hasan, grandson of Choban Noyan, was thus put to death on Jani Beg Khan’s orders in 1357. The Chobanid state, after a tumultuous two decades, was dismantled, its few surviving representatives scattered to the winds. Jani Beg Khan succeeded where no Jochid Khan had before, in occupying Tabriz and the pastures of Azerbaijan, Arran and the Mughan Plain. Many of the other regional powers, including the Jalayirids recognized Jani Beg’s overlordship. Jani Beg left his son Berdi Beg to govern Azerbaijan, then returned to the Qipchaq steppe- only to soon die, of sickness or, as some accuse, of being poisoned by Berdi Beg. This caused a general withdrawal of the Jochid troops as Berdi Beg left to assume the position of Khan, leaving one of Malik Ashraf’s former deputies in charge on behalf of the Golden Horde. Finally, it was time for the Jalayirids to return to Tabriz. Big Hasan’s son with Dilshad Khatun was Shaykh Uvays, who succeeded his father to the throne in 1356. Having accepted Jani Beg’s overlordship, the Jalayirids had managed the storm of the Jochid assault well. With their long time Chobanid enemies annihilated, it was now time to seize the Azerbaijani pastures. In summer 1358 Shaykh Uvays successfully retook Tabriz twenty years after his father had last been pushed from the city. In the historical sources, Jalayirid rule is contrasted heavily with the Chobanids. Where the Chobanids appear as scheming, violent and oppressive men, the Jalayirids in contrast are presented as benevolent, respectful to Islamic and Chinggisid norms, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity after years of upheaval. Ruling from the Caucasus across Iraq, the Jalayirids were mighty, and deserved a new title for it. So did Shaykh Uvays begin to style himself Sultan. It was not an easy task, for many former supporters of the Chobanids had to be hunted down, and indeed, in 1359 Uvays was pushed out of Tabriz by another Ilkhanid successor state, the Muzaffarids, albeit briefly. But by the next year Uvays had retaken Tabriz, killed Malik Ashraf’s still resisting son and properly secured Jalayirid control. The Jalayirid Sultanate saw a brief renaissance in art and culture, a restoration of economy and trade following the post-Ilkhanid disruptions. While respect was paid to the house of Chinggis Khan and certain norms associated with the Ilkhanate, this was no Chinggisid state. No Chinggisid puppet was maintained, and neither Uvays nor his sons based their rule on their Chinggisid ancestry, even though they could trace their lineage to a daughter of Arghun Il-Khan. Chinggisid legitimacy as the basis for governance did not long survive Abu Sa’id, and the Ilkhanid successors at most portrayed themselves as protectors of the Il-Khanid dynasty, rather than its continuators. Thus by the end of the fourteenth century, most of the western portion of the former Ilkhanate, that is the Caucasus, northwestern Iran and Iraq, was ruled by the Jalayirid Dynasty. Iran itself was largely divided between regional forces, the most prominent being the Muzaffarids and Injuids and Sarbadars of Sabzavar. None were of Mongol origin, but were rather local Persian dynasties which had emerged out of the Ilkhanid political structure. In rare cases, pre-existing dynasties like the Kartids of Herat simply reasserted themselves. A few Turkic nomadic confederations, of unclear political origins, emerged in the second half of the fourteenth century, most notably the Black Sheep Turkomans, the Qaraqoyunlu. In Anatolia, a number of Turkic beyliks rose out of the splintered ruins of the Ilkhanid government there, including one on the western end of the peninsula founded by a ghazi named Osman. You may know them better as the Ottomans. The Mamluks maintained their hold on Egypt, with al-Nasir Muhammad enjoying a very long third reign until his death in the 1340s, which then saw a rapid succession of his numerous sons and grandsons on the Mamluk throne, preventing any Mamluk expansion at the expense of the weak post-Ilkhanid states. Such was the more situation of the late fourteenth century post-Ilkhanid world, soon to be turned over by the rival of a powerful emir from the western Chagatai Khanate named Temur, or Tamerlane. But that’s a story for another day, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast for more. If you enjoyed this and would like to help up continue bringing you great content, then consider supporting us on Patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.57. History of the Mongols: Mongol-Mamluk Wars
35:29“Ket Buqa Noyan kept attacking left and right with all zeal. Some encouraged him to flee, but he refused to listen and said, “Death is inevitable. It is better to die with a good name than to flee in disgrace. In the end, someone from this army, old or young, will reach the court and report that Ket Buqa, not wanting to return in shame, gave his life in battle. The padishah should not grieve over lost Mongol soldiers. Let him imagine that his soldiers’ wives have not been pregnant for a year and the mares of their herds have not folded. [...]The life or death of servants like us is irrelevant.” Although the soldiers left him, he continued to struggle in battle like a thousand men. In the end his horse faltered, and he was captured. [...] After that, Ket Buqa was taken before Quduz with his hands bound. “Despicable man,” said Quduz, “you have shed so much blood wrongfully, ended the lives of champions and dignitaries with false assurances, and overthrown ancient dynasties with broken promises. Now you have finally fallen into a snare yourself.”[...] “If I am killed by your hand,” said Ket Buqa, “I consider it to be God’s act, not yours. Be not deceived by this event for one moment, for when the news of my death reaches Hülägü Khan, the ocean of his wrath will boil over, and from Azerbaijan to the gates of Egypt will quake with the hooves of Mongol horses. They will take the sands of Egypt from there in their horses’ nose bags. Hülägü Khan has three hundred thousand renowned horsemen like Ket Buqa. You may take one of them away.” So the great Ilkhanid vizier and historian Rashid al-Din records the heroic, and certainly greatly dramatized, account of Kitbuqa Noyan’s final stand at the battle of Ayn Jalut in September 1260. This was the famous Mongol defeat at the newly established, and rather fragile, Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. The Mongols however, did not see it as an irreversible cataclysm, but the defeat of a small force which would soon be avenged, for Heaven demanded nothing less. The defeat of the Mongols at Ayn Jalut in 1260 was not the end of the war between the Mongols and the Mamluks, and over the next 50 years Hulegu’s successors, the Ilkhans, tried repeatedly to avenge their losses only to be halted by the Mamluks’ valiant resistance. Here, we will look at the efforts by the Mongol Ilkhanate to bring their horses to the Nile. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. First, we should note that for anyone wishing to read more about the war between the Mongols and the Mamluks, the most detailed work on the subject can be found in Reuven Amitai-Preiss’ Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War, released in 1995. No other work details the entire conflict and its sources so fully, and is an absolute must read for anyone desiring the most effective overview on the subject possible. With the death of Grand Khan Mongke in 1259, the Mongol Empire was irrevocably broken: while Hulegu and his successors stayed on good terms with his brother Khubilai, the nominal Great Khan, Hulegu was independent, ruler of vast domain stretching from Anatolia to the Amu Darya, known as the Ilkhanate. Hulegu’s cousins in the neighbouring Golden Horde, Chagatai Khanate and the Neguderis were almost immediately antagonistic to the Ilkhans, who found themselves defending their distant frontiers from all three, in addition to internal revolts. For the Ilkhans, the Mamluks were but one frontier amongst several, one they could turn to only when the threat from the other Khanates was low. More often than not, this simple fact prevented any great Ilkhanid invasion of the Mamluk state. For the Mamluks though, their border with the Ilkhanate along the Euphrates river was of utmost importance. In the aftermath of Ayn Jalut, the Mamluk Sultan Qutuz was assassinated by the energetic Baybars, who had fought alongside Qutuz against Kitbuqa. We introduced Baybars back in episode 30 of this podcast. While much credit can be given to Qutuz and the quality of the Mamluk soldiery for the victory at Ayn Jalut, the reason for continued Mamluk successes against the Mongols can be attributed to Baybars. A Qipchaq from the great Eurasian steppe, as a young boy Baybars had been sold into slavery to the Ayybuid Sultan of Egypt. There, Baybars was converted to Islam and received extensive training in all matter of military affairs. An excellent soldier, coupled with immense ambition, endurance and drive, Baybars understood clearly the danger the Mongols posed, and set up his entire kingdom to defend against them. The new Sultan greatly expanded the Mamluk regiments, encouraging good relations with the Golden Horde, Genoese and Byzantine Empire to keep up the flow of Turkic slave soldiers from the Eurasian steppe, over the Mediterranean to the ports of Egypt. He established a sophisticated intelligence network to inform him on the Ilkhanate and spread misinformation within it, supported by a system of signal towers, messenger pigeons, improved roads, bridges and relay stations to rapidly send messages. This was the barid, which served as the Mamluks’ answer to the Mongol yam system. Its riders reported directly to the Mamluk Sultan. Frontier fortifications along the Euphrates River like al-Bira and al-Rahba were strengthened, and they served as the first line of defence when the armies of the Ilkhanate advanced. When messengers raced down from Syria to Egypt with news of a Mongol assault, Baybars would immediately march with an army from Cairo to meet them head on. More often than not, the Mongol attack party would return to the Ilkhanate rather than face Baybars head on. His swift reaction kept border officials loyal, feeling their Sultan would soon be there to assist them, or to punish defections. Rather than face the Mongols in battle, garrisons of cities in Syria past the Euphrates border were ordered to withdraw and regrouped at designated locations during invasions, facing the Mongols with united forces or awaiting the Sultan. Baybars would not allow the Mongols to overrun his empire piecemeal, as they had the Khwarezmian Empire some forty years prior. Baybars cultivated relations with bedouin nomads across Syria, who provided valuable auxiliaries, intelligence and also to keep them from allying with the Mongols. Finally, he strengthed his position domestically, controlling the economy and appointing his own Caliphs to legitimize himself, presenting himself as the defender of Islam. Baybars prepared his entire kingdom for Mongol attacks, a highly effective system the Ilkhanate struggled against. For the Ilkhans, the theater with the Mamluks was a sideshow, one to attack only when other frontiers were secured. The Mamluk Sultanate itself had no hope of conquering the Ilkhanate or seriously threatening it, so the various Ilkhans felt no great rush to overwhelm the Mamluks. In contrast, for the Mamluks the Ilkhanid border was of utmost importance: Baybars had to levy almost entirety of the Mamluk army to repel the Mongols, and thus not even a single defeat could be afforded for it would allow the Mongols to overrun Egypt, and the remainder of the Islamic west. Thus did Baybars finetune a system that proved remarkably successful at defending against the house of Hulegu, although it demanded great personal ability on the part of the monarch, and Baybars’ successors struggled to compare to his vision. Soon after Ayn Jalut in September 1260, a Mongol force of about 6,000 returned to Syria that December. Commanded by Baydar, an officer of Kitbuqa who had escaped Qutuz and Baybars’ great advance earlier that year, it was a serious threat. At that time Sultan Baybars had not tightened his hold over Syria, attacks by the Crusader states had wrought further confusion, and some of Qutuz’s loyalists had rebelled against Baybars’ rule, one of whom even declared himself sultan. There is implication in the Mamluk sources that the attack was not launched on Hulegu’s order, but Baydar’s own initiative to avenge Kitbuqa. As his army marched, they found that the garrisons of Syria had retreated before them. Placing a governor in Aleppo and other major cities, as the Mongols neared Homs they found the combined garrisons of Homs, Hama and Aleppo had retreated there and rallied before them. Greatly outnumbering the Syrian forces, perhaps 6,000 troops under Baydar to 1,400 under the Syrians, Baydar was ultimately defeated in battle, the Syrians aided by thick fog and the timely flanking of local Bedouin. Coincidentally, it was fought near the grave of Khalid ibn al-Walid, the great commander of the early Islamic conquests and victor at Yarmouk, which earned it double the symbolic value. This first battle of Homs, as it was to become known, strengthened the feeling that the Mongols were not invincible. The Mongol army outnumbered the Mamluk garrisons, and keenly demonstrated the importance of unified defense rather than each garrison hiding behind city walls. For many Mamluk writers, it was the first battle of Homs that stood as the great victory over the Mongols, rather than Ayn Jalut. It was also the last major Mongol offensive into Syria in the 1260s. Hulegu spent the next years fighting with Berke Khan of the Golden Horde over the valuable territory of Azerbaijan, which Berke believed belonged to the house of Jochi. With Hulegu’s death in February 1265, he was succeeded by his son Abaqa, who was distracted by Jochid attacks and the efforts of setting up a new empire. By then, the most entrenched Sultan Baybars could solidify his defences, and turn to the isolated Crusader strongholds. By this time, little remained of the former Crusader Kingdoms, baring some coastal cities like Antioch, Tripoli and Acre and a few inland fortresses like Krak des Chevaliers and Montfort. The Crusader States had shown neutrality to the Mongols, or even joined them such as the County of Tripoli in 1260 after the Mongols entered Syria. Their neutrality or allegiance to the Mongols, in addition to the possibility of them acting as a foothold to further European troops, meant that the Mamluks would unleash bloody vengeance on them whenever the opportunity arose. From February to April 1265 in the immediate aftermath of Hulegu’s death, Baybars conquered Caesarea, Haifa, Arsuf, Galilee and raided Cilician Armenia, the vassals of the Ilkhanate. In 1268 Baybars took Antioch, and in 1270-71 when Abaqa was fighting with Chagatayid and Neguderi armies in the far east, Baybars took the fortresses of Krak des Chevaliers and Montfort, and planned to attack Tripoli, another Ilkhanid vassal. Though it remains popular in some circles to portray the Mamluk conquest of the Crusader holdouts as titanic clashes, they were side affairs, undertaken by the Mamluks whenever the Ilkhans were occupied. Such was the slow and humiliating coup de grace which ended the Crusader states. The Mamluks’ ending of the Crusader kingdoms certainly served them strategically, for it was the most effective way to prevent any link up between European and Mongol forces. Hulegu and his successors sent letters to the Kings and Popes of Europe, encouraging them to take up crusade against the Mamluks and together defeat them, offering to return Jerusalem and other holy sites back into Christian hands, but this almost always fell on deaf ears or were greeted with empty promises. Louis IX’s highly organized crusades had resulted in utter debacles at Mansura in 1250 and Tunis in 1270, which dampened whatever minor enthusiasm for crusade was left in Europe. Few European monarchs ever seriously took up Mongol offers at military alliances, with two exceptions. King James I of Aragon found himself the most motivated by the Il-Khan Abaqa’s requests, encouraged by the promises of the Ilkhanate’s logistical and military support once they reached the mainland. James made his preparations, and launched a fleet in September 1269. An unexpected storm scattered the fleet, and only two of James’ bastard children made it to Acre, who stayed only briefly, accomplishing little there before departing. This was soon followed by the arrival of prince Edward of England, the future King Edward I, at Acre in May 1271 with a small force, and Abaqa sent an army under Samaghar, the Mongol commander in Rum, to assist him: but Samaghar’s force withdrew with the arrival of Baybars. Edward’s troops performed poorly on their own minor raids, and set sail for England in September 1272. One of the commanders who took part in Samaghar’s raid was Mu’in al-Din Sulaiman, better known as the Pervane, from sahib pervana, the keeper of the seals, though it literally means “butterfly.” The Pervane was the dominant figure of the rump state of the Seljuqs of Rum: when the previous Mongol installed Seljuq Sultan, Kilij Arlan IV, had challenged the Pervane, he succeeded in getting Abaqa to execute the Sultan and instate Arslan’s young son, a toddler enthroned as Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw III. Thus did the Pervane, in coordination with Samaghar Noyan, act as the master of Anatolia. Essentially co-governors, Samaghar and the Pervane had a stable relationship, enriching themselves along the way. But when Abaqa appointed his younger brother Ejei to oversee the Pervana and Samaghar. The Pervane chafed under the increased financial burden and supervision, and asked Abaqa to recall his brother, claiming Ejei was in cooperation with Baybars. Abaqa promised to recall him, but delayed. In his frustration, the Pervane himself reached out to Baybars. The Sultan’s curiosity was piqued, but didn’t commit; by the time his response reached the Pervane in 1274, Ejei and Samaghar had been replaced by Toqa Noyan, and the Pervane didn’t respond. Under Toqa Noyan, Mongol pressure was even greater in Anatolia, and the Pervane’s powers were more limited than ever. What followed was a terrible mess of political machinations. The Pervane got Toqa Noyan removed, Ejei was reinstated, the Pervane’s efforts to remove Ejei again frustrated Abaqa, who removed Ejei, killed some of his followers and reinstated the Pervane and Toqa Noyan. In November 1275, the Mongols besieged al-Bira, but Baybars had learned of it in advance allegedly due to contacts with the Pervane. After this, the Pervane was careful to rebuild trust with Abaqa, bringing him the Seljuq Sultan’s sister to wed. At the same time, with or without the Pervane’s support a group of Rumi amirs met with Baybars in July 1276, urging him to attack. Judging there was enough support in Rum for him he agreed, and Baybars mobilized his army over winter 1276, setting out in February 1277. As Baybars sped up the Levantine coast, the Pervane rapidly lost control of Rum as various Turkmen rebelled and a new Mongol army under Tudawan cracked down on the amirs who had contacted Baybars. In Syria, Baybars sent a diversionary force from Aleppo over the Euphrates, while his main army entered Anatolia in early April. After pushing off a Mongol advance force of 3,000 in the Taurus Mountains, news reaches Baybars that Tudawun was camped close by on a plain near the town of Abulustayn (Elbistan) and set out for them, the armies meeting on the 15th of April 1277. Tudawan’s army was about 14,000 Mongols, Turk and heavily armoured Georgian cavalry was joined by an army of Rumi troops similar size under the Pervane, but Tudawan distrusted them, and kept them away from his lines. Tudawan’s scouts had failed to judge the size of the Mamluk army, which he believed to be smaller and lacking Baybars. In reality, the Mamluks outnumbered the Mongols by a few thousand. As the Mamluks entered the plain at the narrow end they were unable to properly form up, and their centre was positioned before their left wing. The Mongol left flank began the battle, sending arrows into the Mamluk standard bearers in the centre before charging them. The Mamluk centre buckled under the charge, and the more exposed Mamluk left wing was similarly pounded by the Mongol right. The situation was critical for the Mamluks: likely at this stage, their bedouin irregulars fled. Baybars sent in his reserve, the garrison of Hama, to reinforce his left, and succeeded in forcing back the Mongols. A brief respite allowed the Mamluks to better deploy their lines, and counterattack. The Mongols fought fiercely, but the greater number of the Mamluks made the difference. Gradually forced back over the course of the day, their horses exhausted and unable to access remounts, the Mongols dismounted, signalling they were fighting to the death. With great struggle, the Mamluks defeated them and killed their commanders. The Rumi army took little part in the battle and dispersed, the Pervane escaping, with one of his sons captured by Baybars. The next day the Mamluk Sultan marched for Kayseri, reaching it on April 20th. Baybars ordered the Pervane and the Seljuq Sultan to him, but the Pervane held out in his own castle. Both realized that Baybars would not be able to hold this position, deep in enemy territory, supplies low and the rest of his kingdom unprotected while a furious Abaqa rallied his army. 5 days after entering Kayseri, Baybars was en route back to Syria and though his vanguard deserted to the Mongols, by June he was in Damascus. Abaqa arrived in Rum too late to catch Baybars, and in his fury was only narrowly persuaded out of massacring everything between Kayseri and Erzerum, while the summer heat kept him from invading Syria. He was able to catch the Pervane though, and put him to death: allegedly, his flesh was eaten by Abaqa and the senior Mongols. Thus ended one of Baybars’ most skillfully executed campaigns: lightning quick and devastating, creating a terrible mess for the Ilkhanate, though in itself brought no strategic gain or shift in the status quo. It was a great shock when the Lion of Egypt suddenly died at the beginning of July 1277 soon after his return. Baybars had hoped to establish a dynasty: he was seamlessly succeeded by his older son, named al-Sa’id Berke. The new Sultan quickly antagonized the Mamluk emirs through his efforts to limit their powers, and was forced to abdicate in favour of his younger brother, the 7 year old Sulamish. The boy was nothing but a puppet, and his guardian, one of the late Baybars’ Mamluks named Qalawun, soon forced the boy out and took power himself in November 1279. Like Berke, Qalawun had been taken from the Qipchap steppe and sold as a Mamluk. He had loyally served Baybars and proven himself an able commander, though something of a schemer. Though Qalawun’s line came to dominate the Mamluk Sultanate for essentially the next century, initially Qalawun faced stiff opposition in attempting to assert his authority. This disruption in the Sultanate was a golden opportunity for Abaqa, who decided it was time to press the Mamluk frontier. To this, he decided to put his younger brother Mongke-Temur to the task. Prince Mongke-Temur first raided Syria in November 1280 with King Lewon III of Armenian Cilicia, Bohemond VII of Tripoli and a contingent of Knights Hospitaller. In September 1281, Mongke-Temur returned again, a large force of perhaps 40-50,000 Mongols, Armenians under Lewon III, Georgians, Franks and troops from Seljuq Rum. Abaqa initially followed with another army, but may have been forced to hold due to rumours of an attack by the Golden Horde at Derbent. The Mongol invasion provided a common enemy to unite the Mamluk factions fighting for power, and under Qalawun they advanced, reinforced by Syrian garrisons and bedouins. They reached Homs a few days before the Mongols in late October, giving Qalawun’s troops a chance to dig in and rest on the plain north of the city. Their preparations were improved as a Mongol defector informed them of Mongke-Temur’s battle plan. Most of the Mongol army was to be placed in the center with the right wing also strong, intending to overpower the Mamluk left and centre where the Sultan’s banners would be. Qalawun thus reinforced his left wing, and positioned himself on a hill behind the vanguard to oversee the battle and act as reserve. Marching through the night, the Mongols arrived early on the 29th of October, 1281. It was a massive front, over 24 kilometres in length due to the size of both armies. The wings of both forces, so far apart, had little knowledge of what was occurring on the other side. While tired from the night march, the Mongols were eager: the battle was initiated when the Mongol right under Alinaq charged forth. The Mamluk left and part of their centre crumpled and routed under the onslaught. Alinaq continued his pursuit, and here Mongke-Temur’s inexperience and the scale of the battlefield began to tell. Proper communication with the command seemingly absent, Alinaq pursued the fleeing Mamluks off the battlefield, as far as the Lake of Homs where they dismounted to rest, evidently anticipating the rest of the army would soon arrive. A similar charge by the Mongol left wing lacked the numbers of the Mongol right, so the Mamluk right and centre were able to hold and counterattack. Qalawun’s actual role in this counterattack isn’t clear: some sources have him personally lead the attack, while in others he kept his position hidden, not even raising his banners so as to avoid Mongol arrows. The Mamluks pushed back the Mongol right and the bedouin came around to hit the Mongol flank. The Mongol right fell back to the centre, which under Mongke-Temur was being held in reserve. In the resulting confusion, perhaps thrown by his horse, Mongke-Temur was injured and unable to command. Most of the Mongols then dismounted to make a final stand around the prince, and ultimately routed under the Mamluk assault. The Mamluks chased the fleeing Mongols right to the border with the Ilkhanate, many drowning in the Euphrates or dying in the desert: so deadly was this rout that Mamluk authors said more Mongols were killed in flight than in the actual battle. Qalawun and a small guard remained on the battlefield: they were forced to hide their banners and stay silent when the Mongol right wing finally returned to the battlefield, too late to turn the tide. It seems it was able to take an orderly retreat back into the Ilkhanate. Abaqa was furious at this loss, and intended to return the next year, but died in April 1282. As we have covered in our previous episodes, Abaqa’s successors were not blessed with his same longevity or stability, and until 1295 the Ilkhanate saw a succession of short lived monarchs and infighting, internal revolts and renewed attacks by the Golden Horde. Though the succeeding Ilkhans continued to demand Mamluk submission, send threatening letters and continue to attempt an alliance with European powers, nothing materialized beyond border raids and skirmishes in both directions. For the time being, the immediate Mongol threat to the Mamluks had ended, and Sultan Qalawun turned to the remaining Frankish strongholds, all possible beachheads for European armies coming to assist the Ilkhans. Armenian Cilicia was pillaged, remaining inland Crusader strongholds were taken, and in April 1289 the Mongols’ vassal Tripoli fell. After the death of Abaqa’s son Arghun Il-Khan in March 1291, the Mamluks used the resulting distraction in the Ilkhanate to take the final major Frankish city in the Holy Land, Acre, leaving them with but miniscule holdings which fell in the following years. So ended 200 years of Crusader Kingdoms. Following Qalawun’s death in 1290, he was succeeded by his son al-Ashraf Khalil. A fearsome military commander, it was he who led the push to seize Acre and the final Crusader holdings of note. Yet he did not long to enjoy the throne, and was assassinated in the last days of 1293 due to his efforts to curb the power of the existing Mamluk emirs. With his assassination, the Mamluks entered a period of political instability over the Sultanate. Initially his younger brother al-Nasir Muhammad was placed on the throne, still a child and without any real power. After a year as Sultan he was forced out by his guardian and regent, a Mamluk named, of all things, Kitbuqa. Apparently of Mongol origin, he had been taken captive by the Mamluks at the first battle of Homs in 1260, and made in turn a Mamluk, that is, a slave soldier. Kitbuqa’s reign as Sultan was not particularly notable, mostly marked by intense political infighting and machinations. There was, however, a large body of Oirats who deserted the Ilkhanate to join the Mamluks Sultanate. Kitbuqa’s generous treatment of this body of nomadic troops, with whom it appeared he shared kinship, angered a number of the other Mamluk emirs and undermined his power. He was soon forced to flee as one of al-Ashraf Khalil’s assassins, the Emir Lajin, seized power. When Lajin was murdered in 1299, al-Ashraf Khalil’s young brother al-Nasir Muhammad was recalled to take the throne. Only 14 years old, al-Nasir Muhammad had no real power and was still a puppet for the emirs competing for power. In comparison, 1295 saw the beginning of the reign of the powerful Ghazan Khan, son of Arghun. Ghazan, as we have covered, was not the first Muslim Ilkhan but by his reign a majority of the Mongols within the Ilkhanate had converted, and made the Ilkhanate an Islamic state. Ghazan consolidated his position early on, executing a number of potential challengers to the throne and restabilizing the Ilkhanid economy, though you can listen to our episode dedicated to Ghazan for more on the internal matters of his reign. While Ghazan was a Muslim, this did not change Ilkhanid policy to the Mamluk. He continued to send letters to western Europe urging them to land an army behind enemy lines. In late 1298, while Mamluk armies ravaged the Ilkhan’s vassal Cilician Armenia, the na’ib of Damascus, Sayf al-Din Qibjaq and a few other top Mamluks deserted to the Ilkhanate during a particularly violent stretch within the Sultanate. Fearing for their lives, they inform Ghazan of Sultan Lajin and his vice-Sultan Manketamur’s purges and unstable positions. Then in summer 1299 a Mamluk raid into the Ilkhanate sacked Mardin, violating Muslim women and descretating a mosque during Ramadan. Ghazan was thus able to easily obtain a fatwa against the Mamluks for this, presenting himself not as an invader, but a holy warrior coming to avenge atrocities against Islam to encourage dissent among Mamluk ranks. Indeed, the ruler of Hama, a top Mamluk ally, believed the accusations. By December 1299, Ghazan and his army of Mongols, Georgians and Armenians under their King Het’um II, had crossed the Euphrates. By then, Sultan Lajin had been replaced by a al-Nasir Muhammad who was nearly toppled by the Oirat refugees to the Sultanate. Ghazan bypassed Aleppo and Hama, and hunted for the Mamluk army. While encamped on the edge of the Syrian desert, Ghazan learned the Mamluks were gathering at Homs, where they had defeated Mongke-Temur 18 years prior. Rather than fall into their trap, Ghazan chose to outflank them, crossing the Syrian desert and coming out onto a stream some 16 kilometres north of Homs on the 22nd of December. To the Mamluks, it appeared that Ghazan was retreating, and advanced out of their favourable position to pursue. In a reverse of the 2nd Battle of Homs, now the Mamluks were forced to cross the desert, exhausting themselves to reach Ghazan early the next morning, while his own troops rested, quenched their thirst and formed up. Crucially, the Ilkhanid army was under the firm control of Ghazan and his commander Qutlugh-Shah, while the young al-Nasir Muhammad could not control his senior emirs. On the morning of December 23rd, 1299, the Mamluks found Ghazan’s army was drawn up. Ghazan commanded the centre, while his general Qutlugh-Shah commanded the right. Qutlugh-Shah’s beating of war drums made the Mamluks believe Ghazan to be located there, and to him they charged, forcing the Mongol right back. Ghazan led the counterattack against them, and Qutlugh-Shah rallied what forces he could and rejoined the Il-Khan. From 11 a.m until nightfall, the battle raged, but finally the Mamluks broke and fled. Ghazan pursued them past Homs before encamping, not wishing to be drawn into a false retreat in the dark. Homs surrendered without a fight and Ghazan took the Sultan’s treasure, distributing it among his nokod, keeping for himself a sword, the title deeds to the Mamluk Sultanate and the muster roll of its army. Next Ghazan marched onto Damascus, which also surrendered without a fight, though its citadel held out. It seems almost the entire Mamluk garrison of Syria had retreated, perhaps recalled to defend the capital. Mongol raiding parties were making it as far as Gaza, with one source reporting they even entered Jerusalem, and the Sultanate seemed poised to fall. But on February 5th, 1300, Ghazan withdrew from Damascus, returning to the Ilkhanate. Qutlugh-Shah had been left to take the Citadel of Damascus, but he soon followed the Il-Khan. By the end of May, the Mamluks had retaken Syria. Exactly why Ghazan withdrew is unclear: possibly reports of a Neguderi invasion in the east of his realm demanded his attention, or he feared there would not be sufficient pasturage for his large army to make the trip to Egypt: the Mamluks were known to burn grassland and destroy supply depots on the routes they suspected the Mongols to take. Likely he was unaware of how dire the situation really was for the Mamluks, and suspected further armed resistance along the route would make the already treacherous crossing over the Sinai even harder on his army. Whatever the reason, Ghazan had lost the greatest chance to destroy the Mamluks. Ghazan did cross the Euphrates at the end of December 1300, reaching as far as Aleppo, but heavy rains rendered military operations untenable. In 1303 Ghazan ordered Qutlugh-Shah back into Syria, but he was defeated at Marj al-Suffar near Damascus in April. Ghazan’s death the next year, only 34 years old, prevented his next assault. His brother and successor, Oljeitu, ordered the final Ilkhanid attack on the Sultanate, an embarrassing effort in winter 1312 which saw the army retreat not from the Royal Mamluks, but the stiff resistance of ordinary townsfolk. Oljeitu’s son, Abu Sa’id, ultimately organized peace with the Mamluks in the early 1320s, ending the sixty years of warfare between the Mongols and the Mamluks. The Ilkhanate did not long outlive this treaty. Abu Sa’id death in 1335 without an heir saw the Ilkhanate torn apart by regional commanders -the Jalayirids, Chobanids, Muzaffarids and Injuids, among others- who appointed their own puppet Khans or abandoned the pretense entirely. For the Mamluks, they were unable to take advantage of the Ilkhanate’s disintegration as when al-Nasir Muhammad died in 1341, they entered their own period of anarchy: 8 of al-Nasir’s children and 4 of his grandsons would in turn become Sultan between 1341 and 1382, a period which culminated in the rise of the Circassian Burji Mamluk Dynasty. Whereas the Sultans from Qutuz, Baybars through Qalawun and his descendants were men of Qipchaq-Cuman or even Mongol origin, over the late thirteenth and first half of the fourteenth century a growing number of the Mamluks were sourced no longer from the Qipchaq steppe, but Circassia, a region along the Black Sea’s northeastern coastline. With the end of the Qalawunid Dynasty, Mamluks of Circassian origin took power and established their own dynasty. The Bahri and Burji distinction refers to the parts of Cairo each Mamluk garrison had been based. It was this Mamluk dynasty who would face the wrath of Temur-i-lang at the beginning of the fifteenth century. These post-Ilkhanid events will be the topic for a forthcoming episode, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow for that. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
History of the Mongols SPECIAL: Religious Tolerance
22:54One of the most enduring images of the Mongolian Empire is that it was a model of religious tolerance, one where each of the Khan’s subjects were free to worship as they pleased. This is not a new belief; in the 18th century, Edward Gibbon presented Chinggis Khan as a forerunner of the enlightenment, and for modern audiences the notion was repopularized with Jack Weatherford’s book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Some use the notion to counter the common presentations of Mongol brutality, usually accompanying blanket terms that all religious clergy were exempted from taxation, labour and were respected- or go as far as to present the Mongols as the inspiration for modern liberal religious toleration. While there is an element of truth to be had here, as with so much relating to the Mongols, describing the Chinggisid empire as a state of religious tolerance where all religions east and west lived in harmony fails to capture the reality of the period. Even before the founding of the empire, Chinggis Khan interacted with a variety of religions. During his war to unify Mongolia, Chinggis Khan was supported by men of various religious backgrounds: Mongolian shamanist-animists, Nestorian Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, one of whom, Jafar Khoja, was supposedly a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and stood with him at the muddy waters of Lake Baljuna during one of his lowest moments. The most prominent tribes in the Mongolian steppe in the 12th century were Nestorian Christians such as the Kereyid and Naiman, and on the declaration of the Mongol Empire in 1206 Chinggis Khan’s army and administration were quite mixed. Chinggis Khan himself was an animist: in Mongolian belief, all things in the world were inhabited by spirits which had to be consulted and placated. It was the job of shamans to intercede with these spirits on the Mongols’ behalf. Generally, shamanism is not an exclusive religion; one can consult a shaman and still practice other faiths. The shaman was not like a Christian priest or Islamic imam, but a professional one could consult with regardless of other religious affiliation. The persuasion and power of religion in the Mongol steppe came from the charisma of specific holy men -such as shamans- and their power to convene with spirits and Heaven on the Khan’s behalf in order to secure his victory. This seems to have been the guiding principle for how Chinggis Khan, and most of his successors, approached religion. Some Mongols viewed the major religions they encountered -Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam- as all praying to the same God via different methods. This was more or less the statement that in the 1250s, Chinggis’ grandson Mongke Khaan provided to the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck during an interview, stating that “We Mongols believe that there is only one God through whom we have life and through whom we die, and towards him we direct our hearts [...] But just as God has given the hand several fingers, so he has given mankind several paths.” Usually for the Khans, it did not matter who was right, as basically all of the major religions were. What mattered was that these religions should pray to God on behalf of the Chinggisids to ensure divine favour for their rule. Heaven’s will was manifested through victories and rulership, while it’s displeasure manifested in defeats and anarchy. Much like the concept of the Chinese Mandate of Heaven, the right to rule provided by heaven could be rescinded, and thus the Mongols hoped to continually appease Heaven. But the Mongols’ views on religion were not static and took years to develop into their political theology- and nor were they inherently tolerant, and favours were allotted more on a personal basis. For example, in 1214 Chinggis Khan, or one of his sons, had an encounter with a Buddhist monk named Haiyun. Haiyun, with his head shaved bare in accordance with his role as a monk, was told by the Khan to grow his hair out and braid it in Mongolian fashion- for at that time, the Mongols were attempting to order the general population of north China to do so as a sign of their political subordination. Religions in China dictated how one should maintain their hair; Buddhist monks had to shave their heads, Daoist monks could keep their hair long, while the general Chinese population, on Confucian teaching, could not cut their hair in adulthood, as it was a gift from the parents, and thus was kept in topknots. Demanding that the general population adopt the unique, partly shaved Mongolian hairstyle, was therefore a decree against all of China’s major religions. The Mongols did not succeed in this policy and soon abandoned it’s implementation on its sedentary subjects, though other sources indicate it was enforced on nomadic Turkic tribes who entered Mongol service, indicating their submission to the Great Khan. Notably the Manchu would successfully implement such a policy after their conquest of China 400 years later, forcing the population to adopt the long queues at the back of the head. When the Chinese revolted against Manchu rule, the cutting of the queue was one of the clearest signs of rejecting the Qing Dynasty. Back to the Buddhist monk Haiyun, who Chinggis had ordered to grow out his hair in Mongol fashion. Haiyun told Chinggis that he could not adopt the Mongol hairstyle, as growing his hair out violated his duty as a monk. Learning this, Chinggis Khan allowed Haiyun to maintain his baldness, then in time extended this allowance to all Buddhist and Daoist clergy. Even with this first privilege, Haiyun and his master did not receive coveted tax exempt status until 1219, and then on the recommendation of Chinggis’ viceroy in North China, Mukhali. This is the earliest indication of Chinggis Khan granting of such a favour, followed soon by the extensive privileges granted to the Daoist master Qiu Chuji. The Daoist had made the journey from North China to meet Chinggis Khan in Afghanistan on the Khan’s urging, ordered to bring Chinggis the secret to eternal life, as the Mongols had been told Qiu Chuji was 300 years old. Master Qiu Chuji told Chinggis that not only did he not have such power, but Chinggis should also abstain from hunting and sexual activity. Not surprisingly, Chinggis Khan did not take this advice, but he did grant the man extensive privileges, tax exempt status and authority over all Daoists in China. Importantly, Chinggis’ edict was directed personally at Qiu Chuji and his disciples, rather than Daoism as a whole. The value Qiu Chuji had to Chinggis was on his individual religious charisma and ability to intercede with the heavens on the Khan’s behalf, as well as his many followers who could be induced to accept Mongol rule. In Chinggis’ view, the fact that Qiu Chuji was a Daoist leader did not entitle him to privileges. Neither did the Mongols initially differentiate between Buddhism and Daoism. In part due to the vaguely worded nature of Chinggis’ edicts, Qiu Chuji’s Daoist followers used these decrees to exert authority over Buddhists as well, seizing Buddhist temples and forcing Buddhist monks to become Daoists, beginning a Buddhist-Daoist conflict that lasted the rest of the 13th century. The point of these anecdotes is to demonstrate that the conquests did not begin with a specific policy of general religious tolerance or support for local religious institutions. Governmental support and privilege was provided on an ad hoc basis, especially when a group or individual was seen as influential with the almighty. Toleration itself was also advertised as a tool; in the Qara-Khitai Empire, in what is now eastern Kazakhstan and northwestern China, an enemy of Chinggis Khan, prince Kuchlug of the Naiman tribe, had fled to Qara-Khitai and eventually usurped power. Originally an Eastern Christian, that is a Nestorian, in Qara-Khitai Kuchlug converted to a violent strang of Buddhism and began to force the Muslim clerics, particularly in the Tarim Basin, to convert to Chrisitanity or Buddhism on pain of death. When Chinggis Khan’s forces under Jebe Noyan arrived in 1217 pursuing the prince, they recognized the general resentment against Kuchlug and, in order to undermine his support, declared that anyone who submitted to the Mongols would be free to practice their religion. The announcement worked well, as the empire was quickly and successfully turned over to the Mongols, and the renegade prince Kuchlug cornered and killed. Notably, this announcement did not come with statements of privileges or tax exemptions at large for the Islamic religious leaders. It was a decree spread to deliberately encourage the dissolution of the Qara-Khitai and ease the Mongol conquest- in this region, it was a comparatively peaceful conquest, by Mongol standards. But it was not coming from any specific high-mindedness for the treatment of religion, but an intention to expand into this territory and defeat the fleeing Kuchlug. By the reign of Chinggis’ son Ogedai in the early 1230s, the Mongol stance towards religions became more solidified. A major advancement, on the insistence of advisers like the Buddhist Khitan scholar Yelu Chucai, was that privileges were to be granted on religious communities and institutions rather than based on individual charisma, which made them easier to regulate and manage. Chucai also impressed upon the Mongols that Buddhism and Daoism were distinct beliefs, though the Mongols seem to have often continually erroneously thought both creeds worshipped a supreme deity a la Christianity and Islam. Buddhist and Daoism became, alongside Christianity and Islam, the four main “foreign religions” which the Mongols would issue edicts regarding privileges. It was not an evenly applied thing. With Islam, for instance, it can be said the Mongols often had the greatest difficulties. For one thing, the rapid annihilation of the Khwarezmian empire, the world’s single most powerful islamic state at the time, resulted in the deaths of perhaps millions of Muslims as well as the belief that the Mongols were a punishment sent by God- a belief the Mongols encouraged. The reduction of Islam from “the state religion” to “just another religion of the Khan’s subjects,” was a difficult one for many an imam and qadi to accept. For a universalist religion like Islam, subjugation to a pagan entity was a difficult pill to swallow, and the destruction of cities, mosques, agriculture and vast swathes of the population would not have been eased by statements of how tolerant the Mongols supposedly were. Further, it is apparent that the Mongols' rule for the first decade or two of their interaction with the Islamic world was not tolerant. Part of this comes to an inherent conflict between the sharia law of Islam, and the yassa of Chinggis Khan. The yassa and yosun of Chinggis Khan were his laws and customs set out to provide a framework for Mongol life, which regulated interactions for the state, individuals, the environment, the spirits and the heavenly. As a part of this, it was decreed that animals had to be slaughtered in the Mongolian fashion; the animal usually knocked unconscious, turned onto its back, an incision made in the chest and its heart crushed. The intention was to prevent the spilling of the animals’ blood needlessly upon the earth, which could beget misfortune. Contravening this was forbidden and punishable by death. The problem was that this is inherently conflicting with halal and kosher slaughter, which entailed slitting the throat and draining the blood. At various times over the thirteenth century, this was used as an excuse to punish and lead reprisals against Muslims. A number of Persian language sources assert that Ogedai Khaan’s brother Chagatai was a harsh enforcer of the yassa on the empire’s Muslim population. In the 1250s ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini asserted that Muslims in Central Asia were unable to make any halal killings due to Chagatai, and were forced to eat carrion from the side of the road. The Khwarezmian refugee Juzjani meanwhile said Chagatai planned a genocide of the Muslims. While these sources like to depict Chagatai as a foil to Ogedai’s more ‘friendly to islam’ image, it remains clear that for many Muslims, it was felt that the Mongol government had a particular hatred for them. But Chagatai was not the only one to enforce this. Ogedai himself briefly sought to enforce this rule, and the famous Khubilai Khan grew increasingly unfriendly to religion in his old age, and in the 1280s launched anti-muslim policies, banning halal slaughter and circumcision on pain of death. The incident which apparently set him off was a refusal of Muslim merchants in Khubilai’s court to eat meat prepared in the Mongolian manner, though it may also have been an attempt to appease some of the Chinese elite by appearing to reduce Islamic and Central Asian influence in his government, particularly after the assassination of Khubilai’s corrupt finance minister Ahmad Fanakati. Even Daoism, favoured early by the Mongols thanks to the meeting of Qiu Chuji and Chinggis Khan, suffered stiff reprisals from the Mongol government. As the conflict between the Daoists and Buddhists escalated, in the 1250s on the behest of his brother Mongke Khaan, prince Khubilai headed a debate between representatives of the two orders. Khubilai, inclined to Buddhism on the influence of his wife and personal conversion, chose the Buddhists as the winners. Declaring a number of Daoist texts forgeries, Khubilai ordered many to be destroyed and banned from circulation, while also reducing their privileges. This failed to abate the tensions, and in the 1280s an older, less patient Khubilai responded with the destruction of all but one Daoist text, Lau Zi’s Daodejing, and with murder, mutilation and exile for the offending Daoists. Privileges only extended to religions the Mongols saw as useful, or offered evidence that they had support from heaven. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheism and Hinduism were usually totally ignored by the Mongols and did not receive the same privileges as the Christian, Buddhist, Daoist and Islamic clergy. Judaism may have received tax exemption status in the Ilkhanate for a brief period in the 1280s and 90s due to the influence of a Jewish vizier, Sa’d al-Dawla, while in the Yuan Dynasty it took until 1330 for Judaism to earn such a status. As these religions lacked states which interacted with the Mongols, the Mongols saw these religions as having no power from heaven, and were therefore useless to them. Without any political clout, and of small representation within the Empire, these groups largely escaped the notice of the Khans. The Mongols were also not above ordering the annihilation of a religion or religious groups when they defied them. The most well known case was a Shi’ite sect, the Nizari Ismailis, better known as the Assassins. Due to their resistance against the Mongol advance, the sect was singled out for destruction not just politically, but religiously, as Mongke Khaan had become convinced of this necessity by his more orthodox Islamic advisers. This task fell to his brother Hulegu, who enacted his brother’s will thoroughly. Soon after the destruction of the Ismaili fortresses, which was lauded by Hulegu’s Sunni Muslim biographer ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini, Hulegu famously sacked Baghdad and killed the Caliph in 1258. Juvaini’s chronicle, perhaps coincidentally, cuts off just before the siege of Baghdad. This attack on Baghdad was not religiously motivated; the Caliph had refused to accept Mongol authority. As a seemingly powerful head of a religion, his independence could not be abided. It was not a specifically anti-Islamic sentiment here, but a political one. Had the Mongols marched on Rome and the Pope also refused their mandate, such a fate would have awaited him as well. The presence of Christians in Hulegu’s army, many from the Kingdom of Georgia and Cilician Armenia who partook with great enthusiasm in the slaughter of Muslims on Hulegu’s request at Baghdad and in his campaign into Syria, as well as the fact that Hulegu’s mother and chief wife were Chrisitans, would not have been lost on many Muslims, as well as the fact that Hulegu himself was a Buddhist. Hulegu after the conquest of Baghdad ordered its rebuilding, but placed a Shi’ite Muslim in charge of this task and sponsored the restoration of Christian churches and monasteries, and other minority religions in his majority sunni-islam territories. When the Mongols did convert to the local religions, they were not above carrying out with zeal assaults on other religious communities in their empire. Such was the case for Khans like Ozbeg in the Golden Horde or Ghazan in the Ilkhanate, who converted to Islam and struck against Christian, Buddhist and shamanic elements in their realms. These were as a rule very brief rounds of zealousness, as the economic usage of these groups and the uneven conversion of their followers to Islam made it politically and economically more useful to abandon these measures. This is not to say of course, that there is no basis for the idea of Mongol religious tolerance, especially when compared to some contemporary states: just that when the favours, privileges and state support were granted, they were usually done to the four main religious groups the Mongols designated: again, Muslims, Christians, Daoists and Buddhists. So entrenched did these groups become as the “favoured religions” that in the Yuan Dynasty by the 14th century it was believed these four groups had been singled out by Chinggis Khan for their favours. This is despite the fact that Chinggis Khan had no recorded interactions with any Christian holymen. But not idly should we dismiss the notion of there being a certain level of religious toleration among the Mongols. Not without reason was Ogedai Khaan portrayed as friendly in many Islamic sources, and he regularly gave the most powerful positions in the administration of North China to Muslims. European travellers among the Mongols, such as John De Plano Carpini, Marco Polo and Simon of St. Quentin, along with Persian bureaucrats like ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini and the Syriac Churchman Bar Hebraeus, generally reported Mongol indifference to what religions were practiced by their subjects, as long as said subjects accepted Mongol command. Sorqaqtani Beki, the mother of Mongke and Khubilai, was a Nestorian Christian famous for patronizing and supporting mosques and madrassas. Mongke Khaan held feasts to mark the end of Ramadan where he would distribute alms and at least one such feast held in Qaraqorum, listened to a qadi deliver a sermon. He show respect to his Muslim cousin Berke, and for him had halal meat at one imperial banquet. If the yassa of Chinggis Khan was upheld thoroughly, then the Khans and all princes present would have been executed. In the four level racial hierarchy Khubilai Khan instituted in China, Muslims and Central Asians were second only to Mongols and nomads, and ranked above all Chinese peoples. Religious men visiting the Khans usually left with the belief that the Khan was about to convert to their religion, so favourably had they been received. Khubilai Khan asked Marco Polo’s father and uncle to bring him back 100 Catholic priests and holy oil from Jerusalem, and likely sent the Nestorian Rabban bar Sauma to Jerusalem for similar purposes. Marco Polo then goes on to present Khubilai as a good Christian monarch in all but name. Qaraqorum, the Mongol imperial capital, held Daoist and Buddhist temples across the street from Mosques and Churches. In Khubilai’s capital of Dadu and the Ilkhanid capital of Sultaniyya were Catholic archbishoprics by the early 14th century. So there certainly was a level of toleration within the Mongol Empire that contemporaries, with wonder or frustration, could remark truthfully that it was quite different from their own homelands. Such religious syncretism survived well into the century, when claimants to the fragmenting successor Khanates in western Asia, in order to define their legitimacy amongst the largely converted Mongol armies and stand out amongst the many Chinggisids, latched onto Islamic identities. Eager to prove their sincerity, they pushed back violently against even traditional Mongol shamanism. Despite it’s early difficulties, in the end Islam largely won amongst the Mongols of the western half of the empire and their descendants, overcoming the brief revitalization Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism had enjoyed thanks to Mongol patronage. Such was the final outcome of the Mongols’ religious toleration Our series on the Mongols will continue, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this, and would like to help us keep bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.56. History of the Mongols: Ilkhanate #6
26:27It was this Khudhābandah who embraced Islam [...] when he died, there succeeded to the kingdom his son Abū Sa’īd Bahādur Khān. He was an excellent and a generous king. He became king while of tender age, and when I saw him in Baghdād he was still a youth, the most beautiful of God’s creatures in features, and without any growth on his cheeks. His vizier at that time was the amīr Ghiyāth al-Dīn Muḥammad, son of Khwāja Rashīd; his father was one of the migrant Jews, and had been appointed vizier by the sultan Muḥammad Khudhābandah, the father of Abū Sa’īd. I saw both [the sultan and his vizier] one day on the Tigris in a launch [...]; in front of him was Dimashq Khwāja, son of the amīr [Choban], who held the mastery over Abū Sa’īd, and to the right and left of him were [...] musicians and dancers. I was witness to one of his acts of generosity on the same day; he was accosted by a company of blind men, who complained to him of their miserable state, and he ordered each one of them to be given a garment, a slave to elad him, and a regular allowance for his maintenance. So the great Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta describes Abu Sa’id in the early 1330s, the final ruler of the Ilkhanate to preside over the united ulus, and to hold any authority. Succeeding his father Oljeitu as a 12 year old boy in July 1317, Abu Sa’id spent his first years on the Ilkhanid throne in the shadow of the great emir, the Noyan Choban. Today, we take you through the life and reign of Abu Sa’id, the last of the Khan in the line of Hulegu, grandson of Chinggis and conqueror of Baghdad. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. Abu Sa’id’s early life was spent under the control of Choban. Unlike his contemporary, El-Temur, the Yuan Dynasty chancellor who left the boy-khan Toghon Temur a mistreated and ignored puppet who feared for his life; Choban protected the young Abu Sa’id and ensured he had a proper Islamic education, teaching him to read, write and speak Persian and Arabic, while also versing him in the history and genealogies of the house of Chinggis Khan and the noyans. In the opinion of the great historian of the Ilkhanate, Charles Melville, Choban viewed himself as a servant of the state, a man who combined pride in service to the Chinggisids while observing sharia law. He was, granted, an exceptionally powerful servant. But his Khan, Oljeitu, had put Abu Sa’id in the care of Choban, and Choban was going to provide for the young lad. Needless to say, almost all decrees of the early reign of Abu Sa’id, if not all of them, first had to pass the approval of Choban, if they did not come from his mind originally. A military man, Choban was not always aware of, or cared for, court protocols both in the Ilkhanate or those it engaged in diplomacy with. Yet he was still a pragmatist, who recognized the strengths and weaknesses of the khanate he now oversaw. Initially, Abu Sa’id Il-Khan and Choban had kept Rashid al-Din and Taj al-Din ‘Ali-Shah in place as Ilkhanid viziers. Rashid al-Din had of course served since the last years of Ghazan’s reign, and ‘Ali-Shah had been appointed to the position in 1312 by Oljeitu. Neither man much liked the other, and ‘Ali-Shah saw the new khan as an opportunity to oust Rashid. Only two months after Abu Sa’id’s enthronement, ‘Ali-Shah’s whispers succeeded in getting the young Khan to dismiss Rashid al-Din from service. Rashid’s retirement did not last long, as Choban swiftly recalled him, telling Rashid that his service to the state was as necessary as salt to food. Choban seemed to genuinely recognize Rashid al-Din’s talents and wanted to keep him on, but had not counted on Taj al-Din ‘Ali Shah conspiring with Rashid al-Din’s enemies, who loathed him for his wealth, success and still doubted the authenticity of his conversion to Islam. Rashid al-Din, of course, had been born and raised in a Jewish family. While he had converted to Islam over four decades prior, his Jewish heritage was reason enough for some to despise him. Rashid’s rivals, aided with money and whispers, raised new charges: that Rashid al-Din’s son Ibrahim had poisoned Oljeitu Il-Khan on Rashid’s orders. As Rashid al-Din had been Oljeitu’s physician during his final illness, it was a damning charge. Choban, never one skilled in the subtleties and conspiring of government, either believed the rumours or was paid off by ‘Ali-Shah. He informed Abu Sa’id of the accusation, and various bribed commanders affirmed the veracity. It was a tough trial, and Rashid al-Din fought vigorously. But Abu Sa’id wanted revenge for his father. In July 1318, Rashid al-Din watched helplessly as his son Ibrahim was decapitated before him. As the executioner's blade came for him, he yelled his final defiance: “say to ‘Ali Shah, “You have had me killed for no crime. It will not be long before fate will requite you of me, and the only difference between us will be that my grave will be older than yours.” Rashid al-Din was then cut in half at the waist and his head paraded around Tabriz while people chanted “this is the head of the Jew who abused the name of God; may God’s curse be upon him!” His quarter built outside the city, the Rab-e Rashidi was looted and burned. So ended the long career of Rashid al-Din Hamadani, vizier and historian, the author of our much relied on Compendium of Chronicles. Taj al-Din ‘Ali-Shah only outlived Rashid by six years, though he would be the only Ilkhanid vizier for sure known to have died a natural death. Following Rashid’s death, a more pressing crisis struck the Ilkhanate. The pax Mongolica achieved in 1305 finally unraveled violently in 1318 and 1319. A Chagatai prince in Ilkhanid service revolted and requested aid from his kinsmen in Central Asia, threatening an invasion from the east, while in the north an army under the new Khan of the Golden Horde, Ozbeg, raced over the Caucasus. It was narrowly fought. Husain Noyan was sent to crush the Chagatai uprising, while the young Abu Sa’id, always one to heedlessly dismiss risks, marched to face mighty Ozbeg. Defeated in the first battle, only the timely reinforcement by Choban Noyan saved Abu Sa’id and forced Ozbeg to retreat at the Kur River. The Chagatai and Jochid threat did not dissipate though. Both khanates invaded again over the 1320s, though repeatedly it was Choban’s family who proved decisive in repelling them. Ozbeg’s second invasion was defeated by Choban around 1325, and in 1326 an attack by the future Chagatai Khan Tarmashirin was overcome by Choban’s oldest son, Hasan. While these external foes were faced, internal rebellion also rocked the khanate. Commanders who fled before Ozbeg were severely punished by Choban, and in response they plotted to overthrow Abu Sa’id and replace him for his uncle, Irenjin. The plot was discovered, and Abu Sa’id once more led the army. This time victory was gained: despite even Irinjin’s wife, a Chinggisid warrior princess named Konchek, fighting for him on the battlefield, they could not overcome the Il-Khan. Konchek was so notable for her courage, at least, that according to the Persian writer Mustawfi in his Zafarnama, the Mongols recognized Konchek’s bravery on the battlefield by posthumously giving her a man’s name, Ahmad. She was not the only one recognized for courage in the revolt. The young khan himself showed great bravery in battle, riding into the thick of danger. For this he earned the sobriquet Baatar, “hero, brave, valiant.” Hence, you will often see his name as Abu Sa’d Bahadur Khan, by which he liked to style himself for the rest of his life. Despite their victories Choban was very aware of how stressed Ilkhanid resources were. In addition to natural disasters destabilizing things, the vast fronts they needed to protect against Ozbeg, the Chagatais, the Neguderis and internal rebellions left no extra troops for the frontier with the Mamluks. Having taken part in Ghazan and Oljeitu’s campaigns into Syria, Choban was under no illusion of the difficulty in operating there and dealing with the Mamluks in open battle. Not only that, in 1321 Choban’s own son Temurtash, the governor of Anatolia since 1316, had revolted and declared himself an independent monarch. Not just a steppe khan, mind you, but as the Islamic messiah who heralded the end of days, the mahdi. He had been in touch with the Mamluks for some time, upon his revolt Temurtash requested they provide him with an army to defend his frontiers. The Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, for his part, did not provide one. It was a great embarrassment for Choban, who dragged his son kicking and screaming back to the Ilkhanate in 1324. Even when not physically fighting, the Mamluks' potential to support rebellion, especially among the constantly seditious Anatolian governors, meant they were an intrinsic threat to order within the khanate. To protect the khanate, Choban needed an end to the fighting with the Mamluks, and he knew it could not be won through an invasion. Once Choban successfully convinced Abu Sa’id to the wisdom of the preposition, in 1321 a secret embassy reached Cairo to speak to Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad: it brought word of peace, an end to the 60 years of war the Mamluks and Ilkhans had fought. The 1321 embassy is the first recorded attempt, though feelers may have been secretly sent in either direction in the previous years. Al-Nasir Muhammad was immediately struck by the idea. Never had he been an effective military leader, and he still recalled with dread his defeat at Ghazan’s hands two decades prior. It helped that the Ilkhanid message bore no demands of submission or tribute; only fine gifts, and words of friendship between two equal states. Though there were conditions, such as asking al-Nasir to stop sending assassins after Mamluk defectors in the Ilkhanate like Qara-Sunqor and to end raiding each other’s borders, there was not even a hint of the ideology of Chinggisid world domination which had previously permeated all diplomacy between the two. Indeed, this has led some historians like Reuven Amitai to suggest Abu Sa’id abandoned the idea of Chinggisid global hegemony, though he maintained respect for his lineage and ancestry. We may suspect it was simply a recognition of the reality of the situation on the part of Abu Sa’id and Choban. Thus by 1322, the Mamluk Sultanate and Ilkhanate were at peace. Embassies went back and forth at regular intervals for the rest of Abu Sa’id’s life. Generally, they went well; the Mamluk ambassador to Abu Sa’id’s court was a man named Aytamish, of Mongolian heritage who knew the language and genealogies, as well as being a man of fine Islamic piety. He was absolutely adored by Abu Sa’id. The Il-Khan soon made a surprising suggestion: a marriage alliance linking their houses and solidifying the new order. Now, this was not itself uncommon. It was a regular Mongol ploy to tighten control over vassals with marriages, though a marriage alliance with a non-submitted state was a slightly different matter. Al-Nasir Muhammad himself had already married a princess from the Golden Horde, Tulunbey, in 1320 though it ended in divorce and was a rather embassasing matter all around, as the always paranoid al-Nasir had accused her of not actually being a Chinggisid. What al-Nasir wanted was to marry a Chinggisid princess of absolutely certain lineage in order to elevate his own dynasty. The Ilkhanid response did not fill him with much hope. They wanted a Mamluk princess to marry Abu Sa’id or one of Choban’s sons, with the hint being that they preferred the latter. The implication, as far as al-Nasir believed, was clear. The Il-Khan and Choban, despite the peace, did not think al-Nasir as a Qipchaq Mamluk was worthy to marry a Chinggisid. Al-Nasir’s reaction was, rather typical of himself, somewhat petulant. He made the bride price too high: demanding the city of Diyar Bakir, and for his own name to be read out in sermons in the Ilkhanate before Abu Sa’id’s. He always managed to insist that none of his daughters were of marriageable age. This is despite these talks going on over the entire 1320s, when al-Nasir married off a number of his daughters throughout the decade. No marriage would ever materialize between al-Nasir and the Ilkhanid dynasty. Though fighting came to an end, there was another space in which Abu Sa’id could challenge al-Nasir Muhammad: the religious one. Both Choban and Abu Sa’id were staunch Sunni Muslims, and wanted to press their claims as the heads of a good Muslim empire. One of the best ways to do this was charitable works and patronizing pilgrimages to the two holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina. The problem was the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad considered himself the Guardian of the two Holy Cities, and as an always suspicious man, any effort the Il-Khan undertook in that region looked like an attempt to undermine him. His most direct challenge to al-Nasir came in 1319. That year he had sent a fine new set of kiswa, or black curtains, to be placed on the Kaaba, the square structure at the centre of Mecca which serves as the holiest place in Islam. Placing new curtains on the Kaaba was one of the symbols of sovereignty as the chief Muslim monarch, and was perhaps Abu Sa’id’s most overt effort to challenge al-Nasir. For his part, al-Nasir ensured the pilgrim caravan he sponsored entered before Abu Sa’id’s, and prevented the curtains the Il-Khan sent from ever being used. Though Abu Sa’id did not try to so directly challenge al-Nasir’s hegemony there again, the Il-Khan and Choban continued to throw out suggestions and sponsor projects in the region. At one point Abu Sa’id proposed going on hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca himself. Choban meanwhile spent considerable sums to restore a much needed well outside Mecca for pilgrims, and also had a large public bath, school and tomb for himself built in Medina beside the mosque of the Prophet. Whenever news of their efforts came to al-Nasir, he would promptly panic and explode in anger. Personally going on hajj three times, he threw piles of money at the Holy Cities in an effort to remind everyone that he was the greater Muslim and their protector. After their peace in 1322, Abu Sa’id largely accepted al-Nasir’s superiority in religion and stewardship over Mecca and Medina, though on occasion surprised the Mamluk Sultan. In 1330 Abu Sa’id sent an elephant, with no immediate explanation, on the pilgrimage. It succeeded in doing little but confusing the locals and costing an inordinate amount of money to feed before dying near Medina. The most effective show of the power of the Chinggisid monarch, it was not. Another embarrassing matter soon surfaced. In a rather poor judgement of character, or perhaps on Choban’s urging, Abu Sa’id pardoned and reinstated Choban’s son Temurtash, who only in 1321 had declared himself an independent sovereign. The arrogance Temurtash had once he was secure back in Anatolia annoyed Abu Sa’id, as did the haughtiness of another of Choban’s sons, Dimashq Khwaja. As viceroy over Azerbaijan, Iraq and Iraq-i ‘ajam, Dimashq wielded extraordinary power, as if he were vizier. Worse still, according to Ibn Battuta, Dimashq had taken it upon himself to sleep with as many wives of the late Oljeitu Il-Khan as possible. One of these women, Dunya Khatun, urged Abu Sa’id to act before she too fell victim to him. Choban had provided his sons and followers valuable positions across the Ilkhanate, and the children walked around as if they were as mighty as Chinggisids. Their father continued to ignore complaints raised against them, as long as they did not declare open defiance of the Khan as Temurtash had done. As Abu Sa’id grew to manhood, he grew more and more impatient of the influence of the Chobani, which he increasingly felt was at his expense. His anger at Dimashq and the other sons of Choban were fanned by his vizer, Rukn al-Din Sa’in. A former protege of Choban, now he plotted against him, and convinced Abu Sa’id that he now ruled as khan in name only. The sentiment is echoed by Ibn Battuta, who wrote that “when the Sultan Abu Sa’id succeeded, being a young boy [...] the chief of the amirs, [Choban], gained control over him and deprived him of all powers of administration, so that nothing of sovereignty remained in his hands but the name. It is related that on the occasion of one of the festivals Abu Sa’id needed ready money to meet some expenses, but having no means of procuring it he sent for one of the merchants, who gave him what money he wished.” Entering adulthood and fed on stories of his mighty ancestors, Abu Sa’id chafed under the constraints placed on him by Choban. The tipping point came when Abu Sa’id set eyes on one of Choban’s daughters, the beautiful Baghdad Khatun. A proud woman who held her eye and apparently liked to carry around a sword, Abu Sa’id was instantly in love. This itself was not a problem; Choban himself had married two of Abu Sa’id’s sisters, the latest, Sati Beg, as recently as 1319. No, the problem was that Baghdad Khatun was already married to one of the most prominent noyans in the kingdom, Shaykh Hasan-i Buzurg of the Jalayir. Late in the summer of 1325, Abu Sa’id alerted Choban of his interests in his daughter. Choban was aghast; as a good Muslim, he would not allow his daughter to be led into adultery, even for the Il-Khan, and forbid the divorce. Attempting to discourage Abu Sa’id’s efforts, Choban quickly tried to move Baghdad Khatun and her husband out of the Khan’s sight. His plan was flummoxed when news came in 1326 of an attack by the Chagatai prince, the future Khan Tarmashirin, on the Ilkhanate’s eastern territory. Choban and his eldest son Hasan rode out and successfully defeated Tarmashirin, but in their absence Abu Sa’id decided it was time to rid himself of the house of Choban once and for all. Late in 1326, Abu Sa’id made his move. Choban’s son Dimashq Khwaja was captured and imprisoned in the citadel at Sultaniyya, where he was killed while trying to escape in summer 1327. Choban was furious, and turned back to avenge his son’s death. Abu Sa’id raised his own army and prepared to meet his former guardian. As their armies neared each other, Choban’s followers began to desert to the Il-Khan, and Choban was forced to flee. Mirroring the fall of Ghazan’s viceroy Nawruz some thirty years prior, Choban made his way to Herat, where in the winter of 1327 he was strangled to death. When Choban’s son in Anatolia, Temurtash, learned of his father’s death he once again declared his independence, and fled to the Mamluk Sultanate seeking military support. In 1328 he was killed when Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad suspected Temurtash of having designs on the Mamluk throne. Some of Choban’s other sons under the leadership of the eldest, Hasan, fled to the Golden Horde, where in time Ozbeg Khan had them killed. By the time the dust settled, Abu Sa’id had forced the divorce of Shaykh Hasan Jalayir and Baghdad Khatun, and married her himself. Abu Sa’id granted her the mercy of allowing Choban to be buried in his splendid tomb in Medina, though Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad had the final laugh over Choban. He denied Choban’s burial inside his tomb, forcing him to be buried in a cemetery outside the city, and sent Temurtash’s severed head to the Ilkhanid court. By 1328 Abu Sa’id was finally the man in full control of the Ilkhanate. He once again brought up the marriage between his family and al-Nasir Muhammad. Despite his initial receptiveness, once again al-Nasir stalled and no progress was made. In practice, little government changed under Abu Sa’id’s sole rule. Restrictions against Christian were reimposed: the jizya had been permanently reinstituted, and in 1334 the order went out that Christians were supposed to bear tattoos to mark them out, in addition to signs sewn into their clothing to make them easy to distinguish. How far these were implemented remains unclear, as Abu Sa’id did not seem to interfere with the archbishopric at Sultaniyya founded in his reign. Abu Sa’id remained infatuated with Baghdad Khatun, whose influence over the Il-Khan grew. In this manner she was able to protect the remainder of her siblings and family, aided by the fact that Abu Sa’id showed a willingness to forgive. Baghdad Khatun’s former husband, Shaykh Hasan Jalayir, was accused of attempting to assassinate Abu Sa’id and imprisoned, before being pardoned and given a new position in Anatolia in 1333. Even the memory of Rashid al-Din, once accused of poisoning Abu Sa’id’s father Oljeitu, was rehabilitated, as Abu Sa’id made Rashid’s son Ghiyath al-Din his new vizier. Able to devote himself to artistic pursuits, Abu Sa’id in his spare time composed poetry in Arabic and Persian to al-Nasir Muhammad in Cairo, comparing and discussing Abu Sa’id’s ability. So the early 1330s passed by relatively quietly in the Ilkhanate. Indeed, the reign of Abu Sa’id would be remembered as a Golden Age, the “Good ol’ days,” for writers of the succeeding generation. Ibn Battuta passed through the Ilkhanate for the first time in these years, and was amazed at the power and glory of the Il-Khan. Abu Sa’id’s only problem facing him was his lack of a male heir. The efforts of Ghazan had greatly pruned the house of Hulegu, and Abu Sa’id had no son or brother to succeed him, though not for lack of trying on his part. When Baghdad Khatun failed to produce an heir for him, it seems Abu Sa’id’s interest began to wane. In accounts such as Ibn Battuta’s, Abu Sa’id doted upon Baghdad Khatun until he saw Dilshad Khatun. She was Baghdad Khatun’s niece, the daughter of her late brother Dimashq who Abu Sa’id had so hated. He apparently found her even more beautiful than he had his current wife. Once the Il-Khan married the girl, he seemingly forgot about Baghdad Khatun. Ignored, her influence dwindling, Baghdad Khatun’s fury smoldered over the following months. In the summer of 1335, word came to Abu Sa’id that Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde was planning another invasion on the Caucasus. Abu Sa’id called up his armies and advanced to defend his borders, but on the 30th of November, 1335, Abu Sa’id died en route in Azerbaijan, only thirty years old. According to Ibn Battuta, Abu Sa’id had been poisoned by the scorned Baghdad Khatun. With no child except for a pregnant Dilshad Khatun left behind, the Ilkhanate awas about to rip itself apart. Our next episodes deal with the disintegration of the Ilkhanate so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue producing great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.55. History of the Mongols: Ilkhanate #5
21:32Our last episode dealt with the reign of Ghazan Khan, ruler of the Mongol Ilkhanate from 1295 to 1304. A powerful Muslim monarch, Ghazan’s reign reinvigorated the Khanate, greatly advancing the already underway islamization of the region’s Mongol population. With his death, we enter the final phase of the Ilkhanate’s history. First, we will look at the reign of Ghazan’s brother and successor, Oljeitu Khudabandah, the penultimate ruler of the united Ilkhanate. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. When Ghazan Khan succumbed to his illness on the 17th of May, 1304, the always thorough Ghazan had been prepared. Leaving no male heirs behind and wishing to avoid having the realm descend into warfare, he had forced the military elite and princes to elect his younger brother Oljeitu as Khan. The 24 year old Oljeitu was duly enthroned that July, under the title of Sultan Ghiyath al-Din. The process was remarkably peaceful, with no resistance or massacres accompanying it- with the exception of Oljeitu preemptively having Prince Ala-Fireng, a son of the former Il-Khan Geikhatu, killed, for he had been seen as a potential rival. As far as Ilkhanid successions went, it was nearly as calm as you could hope for. Granted, Ghazan had killed most potential claimants during his own reign. Oljeitu was a son of Arghun Il-Khan, born in 1280. He and Ghazan were of different mothers: Ghazan was born to one of Arghun’s concubines, whereas Oljeitu was born to Arghun’s third wife, a Kereit Nestorian Christian named Orug Khatun. If Oljeitu’s life could be remarked upon for one thing, even before he became Il-Khan, it was experimentation with religion, usually accompanied by a change of name. Firstly, it seems he was born and raised a Buddhist, much like Ghazan and their father Arghun. The name he was originally given is unclear: in some sources it was Oljeitu or Oljei Buqa, a Mongolian Buddhist name meaning “blessed.” Yet in others, he is confusingly called Kharbandah or Khudabandah. The two names confused even medieval sources. Khudabandah in Persian means “servant of God,” and it seems that Oljeitu often went by this name in his adult life. However, he was also called Kharbandah, which means “donkey driver,” or “servant of the donkey.” No one, medieval or modern, has provided a fully accepted explanation for why he bore such competing names. The Mongols had a custom for a child to be named after the first thing the mother saw after giving birth. Ibn Battuta, travelling through the Ilkhanate in the 1330s, reported that Oljeitu’s mother Orug Khatun had first seen a donkey driver. Yet, as none of her other children bore Persian names, it is confusing that she would not have given him the Mongolian equivalent, Qulanchi. Other sources have him first called Kharbandah, and then change it to Khudabandah upon his enthronement, while others have him take Oljeitu at that time, after the reigning Great Khan, Khubilai’s grandson Temur Oljeitu. Historian Timothy May suggests the kharbandah/khudabandah matter was a rude pun given to him by Sunni schoalars upon Oljeitu’s conversion to Shia Islam. Of course, this is not helped by the fact that the main biography of Oljeitu’s life, written by Qashani soon after the Il-Khan’s death, has him also called Temuder at some point in his youth too. Regardless if Oljeitu had the name of Oljeitu or Khudabandah at birth, when he was around 10 years old he was given another name and religion: Nicholas, after Pope Nicholas IV. Arghun, during negotiations with said Pope, had Oljeitu baptised and given a Christian name, or rather it’s Mongolian form, Nikolya. The young Oljeitu did not stick with Christianity, as he returned to Buddhism in his teenage years. But this was not to be his final conversion, no sir. He soon joined his brother Ghazan in becoming a Muslim, when he took the name Muhammad. This was not enough for him: first he was an adherent to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, before choosing the school of Shafi’ism. Disgusted by infighting between these schools, some of the noyans who had less love for Islam convinced Oljeitu to “return to the Old ways.” This meant a brief return to Buddhism, possibly a dabble in traditional Mongol Tengriism, before in 1309 or 1310, settling onto Twelver Shi’a Islam. And if that wasn’t enough for you, some authors then have him return to Sunni Islam on his deathbed in 1316, though this may just be a posthumous effort by Sunni authors in the Ilkhanate to rehabilitate him. So, for those of you who had trouble following that, his full name and title was Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad Khudabandah Oljeitu, and his religious path went Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Buddhism, Sunni Islam in two different schools, Buddhism, Shi’a Islam and then a possible return to Sunni Islam. As Oljeitu is the most common name by which he is known, we’ll stick with that. When Oljeitu became Khan of the Ilkhanate in 1304, he was in the midst of his Sunni Islam phase. Much of his initial years in power was spent following in the footsteps of his late brother, whose tomb he regularly visited for guidance and solace. He reaffirmed the viziers Rashid al-Din and Sa’d al-Siwaji in their posts, as well as Ghazan’s great commander Qutlughshah as the viceroy. Like Ghazan, Oljeitu initially called for the destruction of Christian churches and imposition of the jizya, the poll-tax Christians and Jews had to pay under Islamic law. Also like Ghazan, he quickly rescinded these measures, and by 1305 was writing letters to the Pope and Kings of England and France seeking to orchestrate a military alliance against the Mamluks. Unlike Ghazan, he was greeted soon after his enthronement with messengers from the Great Khan, his namesake Temur Oljeitu, from the Chagatai Khan Du’a and the Ogedeid Khan Chapar. They bore glad tidings: news of the Great Mongol Peace. Du’a and Chapar had already recognized Temur Oljeitu’s overlordship, and now Oljeitu Il-khan was invited to reaffirm the Ilkhante’s loyalty as well. He promptly agreed, as did the then reigning Khan of the Golden Horde, Toqta. By 1305 the pax Mongolica was properly established, and Oljeitu and his son, Abu Sa’id, born in 1305, sent tribute to Temur Oljeitu’s heirs for the remainder of their lives. Of course, the peace did not long last anywhere. Even before Oljeitu’s death in 1316, conflict resumed with the Chagatai Khanate, and when a new Khan came to the Golden Horde in 1313, Ozbeg, he immediately eyed the pastures of the Caucasus. With his Mongol borders secured for the time being, Oljeitu could focus on other issues on his mind. One was the building of a new capital, Sultaniyya. Originally begun by his father Arghun, it had lain largely derelict since his death. Some 320 kilometres southeast of the current capital, Tabriz, Oljeitu restored and built upon the site in 1305, naming it Sultaniyya. Laying in excellent hunting grounds, the city became a home for the scholars and artists who Oljeitu richly patronized. It also housed his massive tomb complex, which still partially stands today; in fact, Oljeitu’s 49 metre tall tomb, the Dome of Sultaniyya, is one of the few structures remaining of the city, a monument to Oljeitu’s love of building. From 1318 onwards, it was also home to an archbishopric. Sultaniyya sits in northwestern Iran, and its location may have been behind one of Oljeitu’s next moves, the conquest of the Iranian province of Gilan. This hard to access region lies on the southernmost coast of the Caspian Sea, a mountainous enclave of dense forest and humidity. Since the time of Chormaqun in the 1230s, Gilan had escaped the might of the Mongols, and Oljeitu decided to end its independence, and in May 1307, a four-pronged assault on Gilan was launched. Initial successes met with the submission of a number of local rulers, but were followed with the defeat and death of the great Noyan Qutlughshah in battle. Efforts to avenge Qutlughshah were unsuccessful, and a disappointed Oljeitu ordered a withdrawal, having failed to fully annex the region. The campaign had one great consequence for the Ilkhanate. The death of Qutlughshah left open the route for the rise of another military leader, Choban. Having been high in the noyad since the accession of Geikhatu, Choban’s wealth and prestige had only increased. A staunch Muslim and firm supporter of Chinggisid rule, Choban Noyan, or the Emir Choban as he is often known, deftly filled the vacuum left by Qutlughshah’s death. We will return to him in a few minutes. It was not long after the return from Gilan that Oljeitu experienced his crisis of faith with Sunni Islam. A judicial dispute over a marriage held before the court in 1308 or ‘09 between representatives of the two main Sunni schools of thought, Hanafi scholars and a Shafi qadi, devolved into mud-slinging between the representatives of the two schools. The Mongols of Oljeitu’s court were annoyed by the constant argumentation, and disgusted by the insults levied between the parties involved. The sources indicate that both parties looked the worse afterwards, and the Mongols' frustration with complicated Islamic thought and law is evident. This was compounded when lightning struck and killed some of Oljeitu comrades in his attendance. Worried that this was the displeasure of the almighty, some of Oljeitu’s noyans decided that this was a sign that the Mongols needed to return to their own faith. As a first step, it was suggested that Oljeitu should, in classic Turko-Mongolian custom, pass between two fires in order to purify himself, after the misfortune of the lightning strike. The Il-Khan attempted a brief flirtation with his pre-Islamic faiths, but found it either personally or politically untenable, for by then enough of the noyad was Muslim that going too far back could release a violent response. The solution presented itself in the form of Shi’a Islam. Why Oljeitu chose the Shi’a branch of Islam varies widely in the sources, as various sufis, qadis or members of the military elite are credited with converting him. In one account he is touched by a visit to the shrine of ‘Ali in Najaf, while in another account he is convinced of the merits of Shi’a Islam when someone compared the succession to the Prophet Muhammad to the succession of a Chinggisid monarch. The first four caliphs recognized by Sunni Muslims, it was argued, was akin to having a non-Chinggisid succeed a Chinggisid. Regardless of whoever or whatever convinced him, around 1309 Oljeitu became a Twelver Shi’a Muslim, recognizing ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib as the rightful heir to the Prophet. Oljeitu like his late brother Ghazan adored ‘Ali and honoured his lineage. While not seeking to convert the population of the Ilkhanate en masse to the Shi’a faith, Oljeitu had the names of the twelve Shi’a imams on his coinage and the khutba, the Friday sermons, which prompted resistance in cities like Baghdad and Tabriz. If we believe Mamluk accounts, Oljeitu’s conversion led to rebellions across Iran. Speaking of the Mamluks, Oljeitu’s next military action was directed against this old enemy. Ever since Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil’s assassination in 1293, the Mamluk Sultanate had been wrought with political intrigue and instability and a series of short lived usurpers. By 1312, al-Ashraf Khalil’s younger brother al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun had been enthroned three times, deposed once and abdicated once. On his third enthronement in 1310, the 25 year old al-Nasir had effectively spent his entire life a puppet thrown around between rivals, and had little military experience. He had been in nominal command during the humiliating defeat at Wadi al-Khaznadar against Ghazan in 1299. Initially on his own enthronement, Oljeitu had sent rather conciliatory messages to the Mamluks, nearly approaching a temporary ceasefire in tone. But Oljeitu was by no means opposed to an attack on the Mamluks: he simply needed time to recoup from the invasions of Ghazan’s final years, while holding out hope that the requested European aid would come to fruition. As he had indicated in his letters in 1305, the Mongol khanates were now at peace: why could the Europeans not see this was a prime time to attack, when the Il-Khan needn’t worry over his distant frontiers? But as the years passed with no responses and no signs of any forthcoming alliance, Oljeitu gave up hope on their assistance. Therefore, when another round of Mamluk defectors entered the Ilkhanate with news of Mamluk weakness with the reenthronement of the young al-Nasir Muhammad, Oljeitu must have thought it an auspicious time for an assault. Unlike Ghazan’s campaign, Oljeitu’s was poorly planned. Launched late in 1312, the Mongols led a halfhearted siege of Rahbat al-Sham along the Euphrates River that December. There, it was not royal Mamluks who were levied against Oljeitu’s army, but desperate townsfolk who offered stiff resistance, inflicting heavy casualties on Oljeitu’s ill-provisioned force. By the time al-Nasir’s army had rallied and advanced, Oljeitu’s forces had already crossed back over the river into the Ilkhanate. Though neither side knew it, this abysmal showing was the final full-scale invasion the Mongols launched into Syria. Only minor border raids and diplomatic posturing would follow. Oljeitu continued to welcome and reward Mamluk defectors though, who he used to help build up the Ilkhanate’s own version of Mamluk slave soldiers, largely Mongol boys who had been sold into slavery and then later purchased by the Il-Khans. One of the Mamluk defectors, to Oljeitu’s glee, was a fellow named Qara-Sunqor, who had played a major role in the assassination of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad’s older brother and predeceassor al-Ashraf Khalil. The housing of Qara-Sunqor remained a sore point in Ilkhanid-Mamluk relations until the end of the 1320s. Oljeitu was not finished with his military exercises, ordering an army to annex parts of Afghanistan in order to clamp down on the raids by the Negudaris. The Chagatai Khan Esen-Buqa not only saw the Negudaris as his subjects, but had feared the Yuan Dynasty and Ilkhanate were planning a two-pronged attack on his central kingdom. In an attempt to strike first, Esen-Buqa and his brother Kebek lead an invasion into Ilkhanid Khurasan in 1315, which despite early successes was called off when they learned that the Yuan Dynasty had actually invaded their eastern territory, as we saw previously in this podcast in episode 48, the second part on the Chagatai Khanate. Afterwards, Oljeitu placed his eight year old son, Abu Sa’id, as governor over Khurasan, the traditional position for Ilkhanid heirs. Oljeitu himself had held it for his brother Ghazan. Ghazan had favoured the vizier, Rashid al-Din, and Oljeitu likewise continued to honour him. Soon after becoming Il-Khan Oljeitu instructed Rashid al-Din to expand his History of Ghazan, turning it into the great Compendium of Chronicles we know it as. In 1312, Oljeitu took the side of Rashid al-Din when he fell out with the other vizier, Sa’d al-Din Savaji. Corrupt and arrogant, he had made many enemies over his tenure, and once he lost the support of Rashid al-Din, Savaji was alone. When Rashid made his report to Oljeitu, which included charges of embezzlement, Oljeitu had Savaji tried and executed in February 1312. His replacement was Taj al-Din ‘Ali-Shah, a former jewel seller who turned out to have all of Savaji’s negative traits in spades. ‘Ali-Shah is usually remarked upon for two things, the first being that he would be the only Ilkhanid vizier known to have died of natural causes in his own bed, and the second being his role in the death of Rashid al-Din. Rashid and ‘Ali-Shah did not get along well, and their fighting led to Oljeitu dividing the Ilkhanate into two separate administrative zones to keep them apart. Rashid al-Din’s standing with Oljeitu did not falter though, and he nursed Oljeitu when he fell ill in winter 1316. Suffering from severe stomach pain and intense diarrhea, Rashid’s attempt to help purge the illness by providing laxatives only weakened Oljeitu’s hold over his bowels. On the 17th of December 1316, Oljeitu Il-Khan died in Sultaniyya. He was only 36 years old. Like many Mongol princes, his alcoholism seems to have been the key factor in his premature death. Oljeitu had been adamant that his son Abu Sa’id should succeed him, and luckily had picked a good man to help ensure it was achieved. Choban Noyan, who had only grown in influence over Oljeitu’s life and married the Il-Khan’s daughter, though as devout Sunni Muslim seems to have not cared for Oljeitu becoming a Shi’ite. Wealthy, powerful, influential and respected among the princes and military elite, Choban also had the strength to boss around whoever failed to listen in the first place. Thus in July of 1317, under Choban’s guidance, did Abu Sa’id peacefully succeed his father, without any accompanying assassinations. Oljeitu was the first Il-Khan to be directly succeeded by his son since Abaqa succeeded Hulegu back in 1265. Of course, as a 12 year old boy Abu Sa’id could not do much ruling, and Choban oversaw the actual runnings of government. Until he came of age, Choban protected the boy and ensured he received a proper Islamic education, while also being versed in Chinggisid history. Abu Sa’id was the only Il-Khan to have been a Muslim his entire life, and unlike Ghazan and Oljeitu would show no attachment to Shia Islam. In the meantime, Choban’s sons were placed in prominent positions around the empire, and if the Chobanid family happened to enrich themselves even further along the way while leaving Abu Sa’id out of power, then where were the consequences in that? Well, there may have been a few. To see those consequences, be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue producing great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.54. History of the Mongols: Ilkhanate #4
33:21Of all the rulers of the Ilkhanate, perhaps none matched the might or the glory of Ghazan. Of a prestigious lineage: son of Arghun Ilkhan, grandson of Abaqa Ilkhan, great-grandson of Hulegu Ilkhan, great-great-grandson of Tolui and great-great-great-grandson of Chinggis Khan, Ghazan ruled with the self-assured confidence of a proud Chinggisid, who at the same time was veiled in an Islamic legitimacy. For Ghazan, while not the first Muslim monarch of the Ilkhanate, was the one who permanently islamicized the khanate. The Ilkhanate after Ghazan was a very different entity from the time before him, and the course of this we will examine in today’s episode. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. Ghazan did not come to the throne peacefully. As we covered in our last episode on the Ilkhanate, since the reign of his father Arghun Ghazan had been the top commander on the Ilkhanate’s eastern border, defending against Chagatais, Neguderis and the rebelling general Nawruz. Though Ghazan was not happy with his uncle Geikhatu’s election as Il-Khan in 1291, he accepted it. Geikhatu was murdered in early 1295 and an invitation soon came to Ghazan for the throne, he happily accepted. But when a cousin, Baidu, was hurriedly elected by a group of rambunctious princes led by Taghachar Noyan, Ghazan was furious. The result was skirmishing and near full out civil war only narrowly averted. In the end, on the urging of his former foe Nawruz, Ghazan converted to Islam, rallied his forces and stole away Baidu’s supporters. On Ghazan’s order, Baidu was executed, and Ghazan was finally elected as Il-Khan in autumn 1295; taking the title of Sultan Mahmad, as well as padishah-i islam, Emperor of Islam. Twenty-four years old when he stepped onto the throne, Ghazan was already an individual who had made himself known for his military ability and defence of the Ilkhanate’s eastern border. Having brought about the submission of the former rebel Nawruz Noyan, Ghazan had made Nawruz his number two man. A staunch and loyal supporter of Ghazan, especially once he had convinced the young prince to convert to Islam, Nawruz became Ghazan’s na’ib, viceroy, and acted a sword and shield for Ghazan… as long as Ghazan did as he wished. It seems that at the start of his reign, Ghazan struggled to control Nawruz, and on Nawruz’s urging, Ghazan’s first decree had been to order the destruction of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist places of worship in Islamic cities in the Ilkhanate, especially in Tabriz and Baghdad, the empire’s chief cities. While Ghazan, as a new convert to Islam, may have sought to establish his credentials as a good Muslim monarch, Nawruz seems to have been the more zealous of the two and behind this pogrom. Once Ghazan reached Tabriz in October 1295 and was officially enthroned the following November, his first orders of business were to set out allotments, who would govern where, who was rewarded for their loyalty, and other enthronement celebrations. One of his bodyguard commanders, Mulai, was made the governor of Diyarbakir, and in a decidedly un-islamic ceremony, Ghazan married one of his father’s widows, Bulughan Khatun. Already it was clear that Ghazan’s conversion to Islam and lofty islamic titles had not replaced his Mongolian identity; while such a marriage, called levirate, was not just encouraged but expected among Mongols, particularly their monarchs, this sort of marriage was expressly forbidden in islam. Ghazan’s servants sought to justify it based on the fact that Ghazan’s father Arghun had not been a Muslim, and hence the marriage never truly legal. Whether this convinced anyone is debatable, but none could tell Ghazan “no.” But in what was to be a common trend in Ghazan’s reign, punishment was also to be violently meted out once celebrations were done. Ghazan had seen the noyans who had proven themselves duplicitous over the previous reigns, jumping from candidate to candidate as fortunes change. Ghazan would have none of it. The noyan Qunchuqbal was put on trial and executed. Qunchuqbal’s comrade, Taghachar Noyan, who had betrayed every Il-Khan since Teguder Ahmad, was too powerful with too many friends to be so summarily executed, so he was instead “rewarded” with a cushy appointment in Anatolia, where he was quietly murdered. The murder of Taghachar angered one of his friends, the governor of Anatolia named Baltu Noyan. Baltu rebelled at the start of 1296, and Ghazan responded with a large army led by his loyal commander and brother-in-law, Qutlughshah Noyan. It took until the winter of 1296 for Qutlughshah’s forces to defeat and kill Baltu. This was not the only plot Ghazan faced. In the winter of 1295 forces from the Chagatai Khanate attacked Khurasan and Mazandaran. Ghazan sent Nawruz Noyan and two princes, Sögä and Barula, to repulse them, but the princes soon began to plot against Ghazan. Once learning of their plots, Ghazan ordered Nawruz to turn back and kill them. Another Chinggisid prince, a descendant of Chinggis Khan’s brother Qasar named Arslan, also revolted and was quickly put down. By the end of 1296, Ghazan had faced rebellion from five imperial princes, who were all killed on his order. By the end of his reign, at least seven Chinggisid princes, 31 noyans and 10 high ranking Persian officials perished by the will of Ghazan. One of the most significant was the former vizier, Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani, who was executed in October 1296 on Ghazan’s order, after a trial which would ultimately bring down Nawruz as well. Dastjirdani’s great rival was Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, who has popped up repeatedly over our previous episodes, usually seeking the vizierate and generally causing trouble. Having been vizier under Geikhatu Il-Khan, he had lost the position under Geikhatu’s successor Baidu, who gave it to Zanjani’s rival Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani. During Ghazan’s final march on Baidu, Zanjani was one of the first to abandon Baidu for Ghazan, and was rewarded with the position of vizier. However, Ghazan found himself displeased with his viziers; Zanjani was removed after a few months, replaced with Sharaf al-Din Simnani, who was in turn replaced in September 1296 by Zanjani’s old foe, Dastjirdani. Dastjirdani was a close ally to Nawruz, and to reclaim the position of vizier Zanjani would need to take down both men. First, he whispered in Ghazan’s ear of Dastjirdani’s corruption, that he had been embezzling a huge quantity of funds from the treasury. Ghazan quickly had Dastjirdani put on trial and executed, after only a month as vizier. Zanjani was given the position for the third time, and quickly looked to undermine Nawruz. His timing was good, as Nawruz’s standing with Ghazan had already fallen. Once Ghazan had sent Nawruz east to push the Chagatais out of Khurasan, Ghazan rescinded the most extreme prosecutions against Christians and Jews, who could reconstruct their churches and synagogues. In fact, Ghazan would punish Muslims who led assaults on Christian and Jewish buildings later in his reign. The same privilege was not extended to Buddhists, who permanently lost their standing in the Ilkhanate and Iran. They were given the choice of conversion, or of leaving the Ilkhanate. Once victory was achieved over the Chagatais, Nawruz returned to Tabriz to visit his very sick wife. As he journeyed west, some of the troops Nawruz left in Khurasan revolted, pillaged territory and joined the Chagatais. Ghazan was furious, insulted Nawruz and ordered him back to his post. Nawruz cooly replied that he would, once he had visited his ill wife. Ghazan’s now poor disposition to Nawruz was taken advantage of by his new vizier, Zanjani. When a clerk in service of a Baghdadi merchant who travelled often to Mamluk Egypt was arrested in March 1297, Zanjani struck. Zanjani and his brother fabricated letters from Nawruz to the Mamluk Sultans, which depicted Nawruz as a man conspiring with them. Planting the letter into the clerk’s belongings, they watched and waited. When Ghazan personally interrogated the clerk, he swore his innocence and made no mention of the letters. But when Ghazan searched the man’s possessions and found the letter ascribed to Nawruz, he was apoplectic with rage. On the spot, Ghazan ordered the clerk beaten to death, then called for the deaths of Nawruz’s family and servants, then ordered Nawruz’s arrest. Nawruz fled upon learning of this, but was captured at Herat and turned over to Noyan Qutlughshah in August 1297, who had Nawruz cut in half. The late noyan’s severed head spent some years adorning one of Baghdad’s gates. Nawruz’s downfall saw the stars of both Zanjani and Qutlughshah rise. In the meantime, Ghazan continued to advance his image as an almighty Muslim monarch, educating himself on Islamic laws and in 1297, donning a turban. He even experimented with bearing black banners as the ‘Abbasids once did, portraying himself as a sort of replacement ‘Abbasid Caliph, in part to challenge the puppet ‘Abbasid Caliphs the Mamluks kept in Cairo. Zanjani was finally confident in his position as vizier and wielded extreme power. But in the fashion of all Ikhanid viziers, his arrogance bred enemies. In March 1298, news came to Ghazan’s ears that Zanjani was stealing funds from the imperial treasury. Fearing for his life, Zanjani decided to shift the blame away from himself. He went before Ghazan and bravely made accusations against one of his deputies and friends, a physician in Ghazan’s keshig named Rashid al-Din. Ghazan saw through Zanjani’s effort to condemn Rashid, and put a stop to it, though Zanjani maintained his position. The vizier needed a new plot, and to deal with Rashid al-Din. When Qutlughshah Noyan returned from crushing a rebellion in Georgia, the Noyan argued with Zanjani over tribute from the kingdom. Fearing the powerful Qutlughshah’s wrath, Zanjani thought of himself a devilish plan to rid himself of both Qutlughshah and Rashid al-Din. He notified Ghazan that Qutlughshah had ruined the economy of Georgia. Ghazan was then mad at Qutlughshah, who openly wondered who had made the accusation to Ghazan. Zanjani told Qutlughshah that it had been Rashid al-Din, and Qutlughshah stormed off to question Rashid over the matter. But Zanjani had not counted on one thing: the friendly relations between Qutlughshah and Rashid al-Din from their time in the keshig together. When Qutlughshah questioned Rashid as to why the physician had denounced him, Rashid convinced Qutlughshah of his innocence in the matter. Returning to Ghazan, they quickly deduced that it was the plotting of Zanjani turning them against each other. In April 1298, Zanjani was put on trial and given over to Qutlughshah for execution, who had Zanjani killed in the same manner as Nawruz; cut in half. So ended the third vizierate of Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani. Following Zanjani’s bisection, Ghazan lifted two men into the position of vizier in 1298: Sa’d al-Siwaji and Rashid al-Din Hamadani. If the latter name is familiar, it is because Rashid al-Din has been a voice we have commonly consulted in our podcast. Indeed, we could say that Rashid al-Din is one of, if not the, most important single medieval author on the Mongols, for he is the author of the massive Compendium of Chronicles, which he began soon after Zanjani’s fall. First we should finally give mr. Rashid al-Din an introduction. He was born in the northwestern Iranian city of Hamadan around 1247 into a Jewish family. Like his father, Rashid was trained as a physician. As Hamadan was an important centre for Iranian Jews, featuring a Rabbinical college, and as evidenced from his knowledge of Jewish customs and Hebrew in the Compendium of Chronicles, we can say that Rashid was educated and raised in Jewish law. Yet for unclear reasons, he converted to Sunni Islam around the age of 30, perhaps in order to benefit his entrance into the majority Muslim bureacracy of the Ilkhanate. Most of his life between these broad strokes before the end of the thirteenth century is unknown. Perhaps as early as the reign of Abaqa Il-Khan did Rashid enter service of the Il-Khans in the role of a physician, and likely served Il-Khan Geikhatu as a steward and prepared his food. According to his own testament, during the failed effort to implement paper money in the midst of economic woes under Geikhatu, Rashid spent his own money to support the vizier’s office of Zanjani with food and cooks. By the time of Zanjani’s final vizierate during Ghazan’s reign, Rashid al-Din appears as a trusted associated respected by Ghazan and Qutlughshah Noyan, though we know nothing of how this relationship came about beyond Rashid’s presence in the keshig, the imperial bodyguard, in which he had served as steward. Surprisingly little is known of Rashid al-Din’s activities before he became Sa’d al-Siwaji’s associate in the vizierate. Rashid al-Din was a highly educated man, well read in the Qur’an, poetry and the great Iranian national epic, the Shahnama of Firdausi, and was a man proud of Persian culture. A trained physician, he also showed interest in science, history and agriculture, all interests he pursued during his long reign at the top of the Mongol bureaucracy. Soon after reaching this lofty position, he was commissioned by Ghazan to begin a history of the Mongol Empire, from Chinggis Khan to Ghazan himself. This work was to be the beginning of the vast Jami’ al-Tawarikh, the Compendium of Chronicles, which under Ghazan’s successor Oljeitu was expanded to become a universal history covering Chinese, Turkish, Islamic, Indian and, to a lesser extent, Frankish history. Much of the central part of the Compendium of Chronicles is the Ghazanid Chronicle, his history of the Mongol Empire. Named for his patron, this is a history of the Mongol Empire relying on now lost sources, including a Mongolian source on Chinggis Khan’s life, the Authentic Chronicle of Chinggis Khan, also called the Veritable Record of Chinggis Khan. Though this source is no longer extant, it was used by Rashid al-Din and two of the most important surviving Chinese sources on Chinggis Khan, the Shengwu Qinzheng lu and the first chapter of the Yuan Shi. The compilers of the Secret History of the Mongols used the same sources the Authentic Chronicle did, and the authors of the Authentic Chronicle made use of the Secret History of the Mongols, which Rashid himself did not have access to. It was, you know, secret, after all. Additionally, Rashid made use of earlier Arabic and Persian sources on the Mongols, such as ibn al-Athir, al-Nasawi and ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini’s History of the World Conqueror, who of course had been the older brother of Shams al-Din Juvaini, one of Rashid al-Din’s predecessors as Ilkhanid vizier. Further information in Rashid al-Din’s Compendium of Chronicles was collected from envoys from other Mongol khanates, a high ranking judge from the Yuan Dynasty named Bolod Chingsang, and apparently from Ghazan himself. Fittingly, Rashid al-Din’s history is the main source for Ghazan’s reign, to whom he devotes a very lengthy chapter, which concludes with forty stories illustrating Ghazan’s character and supreme ability. If we take Rashid’s account of Ghazan’s life at face value, then Ghazan was fluent in Mongolian, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Kashmiri, Tibetan, Chinese and a “Frankish” language. As well, he was a master goldsmith, blacksmith, carpenter and painter who also loved history, medicine, astronomy and alchemy. A perfect Muslim monarch who loved and cared for his people, and refused to harm even a fly if it landed in his food. In Rashid al-Din’s account, the period before Ghazan is one of almost total anarchy, where inept khans more interested in hunting and feasting allowed their viziers and noyans to run the empire; in contrast, Ghazan took true interest in running the government, and under his guidance numerous reforms were launched to rejuvenate the struggling Ilkhanate. How much of this is true is hard to say; we know, for instance, that Ghazan had to rely on interpreters for dealing with Arabic speaking embassies from Damascus, and it seems doubtful the 30 year old Ghazan had found time to master so many industries during his military career. The fact that most of our Persian sources were written during or after Ghazan’s reign makes it hard to check many of Rashid’s statements on the earlier period. The glowing nature of Rashid’s descriptions of Ghazan is often humorous when compared to other contemporaries, such as the Armenian Het’um of Corycus, who describes Ghazan as exceptionally short and ugly. Regardless, Rashid al-Din’s work is incredibly valuable, and few histories on the Mongol Empire will fail to make reference to it. While Rashid played up Ghazan’s glory, there can be no doubt that under Ghazan serious reforms were undertaken, though whether Ghazan was the inspiration for them, or they came from Rashid himself is unknown. A major effort was directed to reducing abuses of the empire’s agricultural base and farming population. From limiting the numbers of officials and clerks who took advantage of their gereg privileges to collect supplies from the yam routes, to stamping out bandity with more highway patrolmen and new laws. They also tried to prevent the Mongols from harassing the sedentary population. As the Mongols were not provided a salary, many had to support themselves by collecting what they needed through force from the Ilkhan’s subjects. Ghazan sought to solve this by granting lands to Mongol minghaans. The income from these allotted farms and villages would be used to support these Mongols, and stop their pillaging. These were accompanied by monetary reforms and new silver currency, bearing not Mongolian inscriptions but the shahada and Ghazan’s title of padishah-i islam. Measurements and weights throughout the Ilkhanate were ordered to be standardized largely based on what was used in Tabriz, in order to facilitate trade between regions. Canals and underground waterways were built to provide water for cities and irrigation. He also forbid the practice of enticing young women into prostitution. Under Ghazan, the Ilkhanid treasury was reformed and refilled. The poorly managed treasury had before been subjected to theft from its own guards, and no accounts were made regarding what was contained within or spent. Ghazan and his vizers al-Siwaji and Rashid al-Din remedied this, with a more effective system under better protection. Evidently this was not mere rhetoric on Rashid al-Din’s part, as evidenced by Ghazan’s massive building projects and army mobilizations which indicate a substantial financial backing. At Tabriz, the Ilkhanid capital, Ghazan spent great sums improving the city. A new wall was built around it, along with entire new districts; one of these Ghazan made “New Tabriz,” and encouraged merchants and travellers to frequent it. Rashid al-Din was allotted funds to build himself an entire suburb in Tabriz, the famed Rab-e Rashidi. Here, Rashid al-Din oversaw a community of scholars, scientists and artists from across Iran to as far away as China and Italy. It became a veritable factory that was, in time, tasked by Rashid in copying and reproducing the Compendium of Chronicles, both its text and artwork. Rashid al-Din hoped for his magnum opus to become a medieval bestseller, and dreamed of a copy in every city of the Ilkhanate. Ghazan was not above a little indulgence in Tabriz, in the form of a massive tomb complex for himself. It was a massive construction that was supposed to be larger than even the mighty mausoleum of the Seljuq Sultan Sanjar. Unfortunately, little of these projects remain. Even Rashid al-Din’s suburb is now little more than a dusty mound outside of Tabriz today. The cause of this we will see in our next episode. While these efforts were ongoing, Ghazan turned his eyes to military matters. Initially, these were defensive, as with the Chagatais, or crushing rebellions. After the end of Baltu’s revolt in Anatolia, one of the men left in charge of the peninsula, Sulemish, a grandson of Baiju Noyan, began to have his own designs on the region. In contact with the Mamluks, when thick snowfall in winter 1298 cut Anatolia off from the rest of the Ilkhanate, Sulemish revolted. Ghazan of course, would have none of this. When spring came in 1299, an army under Qutlughshah Noyan was sent to bring Sulemish to heel. When his army was defeated, Sulemish fled to the Mamluks, left his brother as a hostage with them and returned to Anatolia with an army. This too was quickly defeated, and Sulemish brought captive to Tabriz, where late in 1299 he was publicly, and very violently, executed. The revolt, brief as it was, brought the Mamluks to Ghazan’s full attention. Their now shared religion was no cause for peace between them. Like Teguder Ahmad, Ghazan believed it should have made it easier for the Mamluks to submit to him, but their failure to respond to his declaration of his conversion in 1295 infuriated him. Ghazan had no love for them: intensely proud of his Chinggisid ancestry, to Ghazan the Mamluks - lowly slave soldiers who had become kings and were, even worse, Qipchaqs - were nothing but natural servants of the Mongols. Their submission, either through diplomacy or conquest was necessary and inevitable, and the fact they now shared a God did not change that. In March of 1299, defectors came to the Ilkhanate from the Mamluk Sultanate, and brought Ghazan up to speed on what had been happening in Cairo. The news pleased him. From the highs of the might of Baybars, Qalawun and al-Ashraf Khalil, the position of Sultan had become decidedly vulnerable. A young son of Qalawun, al-Nasir Muhammad, had been enthroned following al-Ashraf Khalil’s murder, but his regent, a man of Mongolian origin named, somewhat ironically, Kitbuqa, seized power. al-Nasir Muhammad was deposed and Kitbuqa became Sultan, only to be in turn pushed out by another Mamluk named Lajin. Lajin ruled for three years until his murder at the start of 1299, and the 14 year old al-Nasir Muhammad was recalled to resume the Sultanic title, though real power was in the hands of the emirs. Thus, as Ghazan had stomped down on threats to his throne and strengthened his power by 1299, the Mamluk Sultanate was ruled over by a young boy with no power fought over between squabbling emirs. It was as perfect a time as any to complete the conquest started by Hulegu some 40 years prior. Ghazan, always with an eye to the message, found a perfect pretext for war when during Ramadan in summer 1299, a Mamluk raiding party raped women in a mosque in an Ilkhanid town. With this, Ghazan was able to get a fatwa declared, coming into Syria in the final weeks of 1299 not as a Mongol conqueror, but a jihadi warrior come to preserve the dignity of Muslims. The fact that he brought a significant body of Christian soldiers from Armenia and Georgia was not lost on his Mamluk critics, especially the famous Hanbali jurist ibn Taymiyyah. In terms of execution, Ghazan’s 1299 campaign was brilliantly orchestrated. His timing was perfect, and he kept tight discipline over his troops to limit raiding on the population of Syria. On December 22nd, 1299, Ghazan met the army of al-Nasir Muhammad outside of Homs, where his great-uncle Mongke-Temur had been defeated in 1281. Unlike Mongke-Temur, Ghazan was a very experienced captain. He positioned his army at the nearby water source and forced the Mamluks to cross the desert to attack him. The young al-Nasir Muhammad could not overawe the infighting between the emirs, and Ghazan soundly outmaneuvered them. Known as the battle of Wadi al-Khaznadar, Ghazan inflicted a devastating defeat on the Mamluk army- the only major victory enjoyed by the Mongols in all their conflict with the Mamluks. The sultan fled all the way back to Egypt, his army routed, his baggage abandoned and looted by the Mongols. The news of the Mamluk defeat spread rapidly across the region, and Mamluk garrisons from Syria and Palestine melted away or ran to join the sultan in Cairo. In the last days of the thirteenth century, Ghazan took the submission of Damascus. Here, if we believe Rashid al-Din, he took the time to further humiliate the Mamluks. He is supposed to have asked the assembled Damascene delegation who his ancestors were. They explained that he was Ghazan, son of Arghun, son of Abaqa, son of Hulegu, son of Tolui, son of Chinggis Khan. And who, Ghazan asked, was al-Nasir Muhammad’s father? They answered that it was Sultan Qalawun. And who, Ghazan asked again, was Qalawun’s father? Those assembled could not answer, for Qalawun’s father was an unknown Qipchaq slave from the great steppe, from where Qalawun had been taken as a boy. Ghazan’s point had been to demonstrate his own exalted lineage, from the grandest of all conquerors, the family given command by heaven to conquer the world. In contrast, the Mamluks were slaves, nobodies, and without right to rule. Whether or not Ghazan really had this interaction, it does play into the skillful propaganda he employed during the campaign. As Damascus he had letters read out in Arabic signalling that he would spare the population and denounced Mamluk rule. These letters are rich with Qor’anic references, and it would have felt they were now the subjects of a Muslim, rather than a Mongol. Not all were drawn in by Ghazan’s efforts. A Mamluk scholar in Damascus, ibn Taymiyyah, virulently decried Ghazan as a false Muslim served by a Jew, Rashid al-Din, and accused Ghazan of venerating Chinggis Khan as a prophet. Seeking to encourage resistance against Ghazan, Taymiyyah claimed to have rarely seen the Mongols pray, that they were ignorant of Islam or had Shi’a leanings. The latter is not entirely false; Ghazan had a deep affection for the Caliph ‘Ali and his family, the first legitimate caliph in the eyes of Shi’a Muslims, and like many Mongols was annoyed at infighting between Sunni schools. Damascus was not put to the torch, and Mongol forces advanced down through Palestine. In some reports, they even entered Jerusalem itself. The path seemed open to Egypt. Yet, in February 1300 Ghazan suddenly turned back to the Ilkhanate, leaving a smaller force under Qutlughshah and the King of Cilicia Armenia, Het’um II, to briefly hold the region until they too retreated. By the start of the summer, the Mamluks had retaken their lost territory. Why Ghazan withdrew is unclear; the most common explanation is that he chose to avoid the summer heat, judging that he lacked the resources to supply an army all the way into Egypt once the summer sun beat down. Certainly, it was not because he lacked desire: in the autumn of 1300 he resumed the campaign, entering Syria again only for sudden extreme rainfall to turn the roads into deep mud that trapped men and horses. Unable to advance, he withdrew the army. Letters were sent to Europe following the first invasion seeking to organize an alliance, but brought, as usual, no actual results. He launched another invasion in spring 1303 under Qutlughshah Noyan, while Ghazan hung back. Qutlughshah suffered a great defeat against the Mamluks at Marj al-Suffar, for which Ghazan had him beaten with a rod upon his return. Yet another invasion was ordered in fall 1303, but was halted when Ghazan’s health took a downward turn. Ghazan seems to have suffered from routine inflammation of the eyes, mentioned by Rashid al-Din for the first time in 1299. In September 1303, the inflammation returned and quickly became serious. Rashid mentions that Ghazan was cauterized in two places, though unclear where or why. The Il-Khan made a show of moving about on a platform built on the backs of two elephants, an effort to hide the fact he could barely walk and could no longer ride his horse due to the pain. In January 1304, his youngest wife Kärämün Khatun died, which became an emotional blow on top of his physical ailments. The vigorous monarch became depressed, the death of a wife making his own impending mortality seem all the greater. As the weather warmed he recovered some strength, and was able to ride and hunt again. Almost immediately, perhaps as a show of vitality or change of scenery, he set out for Rayy. The decision was foolhardly. On the road his symptoms returned and he lost his appetite. It became clear to all, especially himself, that he was dying. Retaining his mental faculties even as his body failed him, he summoned the noyans to him, and made them swear over and over again to confirm his brother Oljeitu as his successor. Perhaps only once he felt confident their oaths were genuine, did Ghazan allow himself to pass. On the 17th of May, 1304, Ghazan Il-Khan succumbed to his illness. He was 32 years old. His body was returned to Tabriz and entombed in his massive mausoleum, the first Il-Khan to abandon the secret burials of the Mongols. As per his wishes, his brother Oljeitu was enthroned as Khan of the Ilkhanate, setting off the final stage of the Khanate’s history. The reign of Oljeitu begins our next episode, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue producing great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
History of the Mongols SPECIAL: Islamization
28:37The Mongols were known for unleashing a series of unrelenting horrors upon the Islamic world, from the catastrophic destruction of the Khwarezmian Empire under Chinggis Khan, to the sack of Baghdad under his grandson Hulegu, where the Caliph himself was killed on Mongol order. No shortage of Islamic authors over the thirteenth century remarked upon the Mongols as a deathblow to Islam, a punishment sent by God for their sins. Yet, many of the Mongols of the west end of the empire even before the end of the thirteenth century converted to Islam, and in time some of the heirs of Chinggis Khan held the sharia over the yassa. In today’s episode, we explore why so many Mongols chose to convert to Islam. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. The Mongolian interaction with Islam began in the twelfth century, as Muslim merchants came to Mongolia with expensive goods such as textiles or metal weapons and tools to exchange for furs and animals to sell in China or Central Asia. Some of these merchants took up valued roles among the up and coming Mongol chiefs; at least two Muslims, Hasan the Sartaq and Ja’far Khoja, were among the warlord Temujin’s close allies during his fabled escape to lake Baljuna, where they swore long lasting loyalty to him. Hasan’s arrival brought much need flocks of sheep to help feed Temujin’s starving men, while Ja’far Khoja was supposedly a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Ja’far served Temujin in valued roles for the rest of his life, acting as an embassy to the Jin Emperor and as daruqachi, or overseer, over the Jin capital of Zhongdu and its environs once the Mongols took it in 1215. When Temujin took the title of Chinggis Khan and began to expand the Mongol Empire, initially Muslims found little reason to lament the expansion of the Great Khan. Muslim merchants continued to serve in prominent roles, acting as emissaries and spies on behalf of Chinggis Khan, who rewarded them handsomely: gladly did Chinggis give them gifts and overpay for their wares in order to encourage them to make the difficult journey to Mongolia, as well as bring him useful information of Central Asia. One such Central Asian, Mahmud, served as Chinggis’ loyal envoy to the Khwarezm-Shah Muhammad. His actions earned him the title of Yalavach, becoming Mahmud the Messenger. In the Tarim Basin in 1218, the local Muslim population had suffered oppression under the Naiman prince Kuchlug, who had usurped power in the Qara-Khitai Empire. When Chinggis Khan’s great general Jebe Noyan entered the region pursuing Kuchlug, he proclaimed that all those who willingly submitted would be free to worship as they chose. The region largely seems to have swiftly thrown out Kuchlug’s garrisons and officers and happily accepted Mongol rule, not as conquerors but liberators. This, of course, was not the case for the next stage of Mongol expansion. The highly destructive campaign against the Kwarezmian Empire launched in 1219 resulted in the deaths of perhaps millions of people from what is now Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan through eastern Iran and Afghanistan, a predominatly Muslim region. There are no shortage of accounts of horrendous atrocities suffered throughout the former domains of the Khwarezm-shahs. Though most of what is now modern Iran submitted peacefully to the Mongol commander Chormaqun over the 1230s, with the arrival of Hulegu in the 1250s a new wave of massacres were unleashed, culminating in the infamous sack of Baghdad in 1258 and death of the ‘Abbasid Caliph, an immense blow the psyche of the ummah. At the end of the 1250s it seemed reasonable to anticipate that soon the whole of the remaining Muslim world would become the subject of the Grand Khan. The initial period after the Mongol conquest was, for many Muslims, not easier. Statements by modern writers of Mongol religious toleration have been greatly over-exaggerated. While it is true that the Mongols in the early years of the Empire generally did not persecute on the basis of religion, the Mongols did persecute on the basis on specific beliefs that they felt ran contrary to steppe custom or the laws of Chinggis Khan, the great yassa. For example, for slaughtering animals the Mongols forbid the spilling of blood. This differed greatly from Muslim and Jewish halal and kosher slaughter, that mandated the draining of it. This in particular became a frequent source of conflict over the thirteenth century, with the Mongols feeling the spilling of blood on the earth would bring misfortune. We are told from the Persian writer Juvaini, a member of Hulegu’s entourage in the 1250s, that Chinggis Khan’ second son Chagatai so thoroughly enforced this prohibition that “for a time no man slaughtered sheep openly in Khorasan, and Muslims were forced to eat carrion.” Essentially, the Mongol viewpoint was that as long as a given religion adherents remained loyal and did not perform the tenets the Mongols forbid, then the worshippers could practice freely. But such freedoms could be revoked: Khubilai Khan in the 1280s, upon feeling insulted when a group of Muslims at his court refused to eat meat he offered them, banned halal slaughter and circumcision, on pain of property loss and death, for almost the entire decade. A Khwarezmian refugee to the Delhi Sultanate writing around 1260, Juzjani, wrote of his sincere belief that Chagatai and other members of the Mongol leadership intended a genocide of the Muslims. Why then, did Islam succeed in converting the Mongols of western Asia, after such a low-point? It was a matter of proximity. The majority of the population in the major centres in the Golden Horde, Ilkhanate and Chagatai Khanate were Muslims, ensuring that not only could sufis and others proselytize to the Mongol leadership, but also their military. Efforts by Buddhists or various Christian representatives, be they Catholic, Syriac or Nestorian, lacked comparable resources or presence, and their efforts were generally restricted to attempting to convert the highest ranking Mongols. While this brought them some influence, in contrast to the image in most historical narrative sources monarchs tended to convert once enough of their followers had done so for it to be a sound decision for their legitimacy. More Mongols simply had closer proximity to Muslims populations than they ever did Christian or Buddhist, leading to a more thorough conversion than any Franciscan friar could ever accomplish. Similar proximity prompted the slow sinicization of the Mongols in Yuan China. While the Mongols disliked certain tenets of Islam, they still found use of it. Islamic craftsmen, administrators and healers were quickly spread across the Mongol Empire, accompanying every Khan and Noyan everywhere from campaigns to their personal camps. In short order they commanded armies, often of their own locally raised forces, to fight for the khans. The various Islamic peoples of Central Asia, be they Turkic or Iranic, could provide a plethora of skills and manpower the Mongols found useful or themselves lacked. Various Mongol armies, particularly the tamma garrison forces, were stationed in close proximity to Islamic centres for extended periods of time. Mongol princes from the highest ranks of the empire, including Chinggis Khan and his own sons, took Muslim wives and concubines. For the lower ranking soldiers forced to leave their families behind in Mongolia, they took Muslim wives and began new Muslim families which replaced their own. By the reign of Chinggis Khan’s son and successor Ogedai, Muslims made up many of the highest ranking members of the bureaucracy and administration from eastern Iran to Northern China. Some of these men, such as Mahmud Yalavach, his son Mas’ud Beg, and ‘Abd al-Rahman, served as heads of the Branch Secretariats the Mongols established to govern Asia. These men were answerable only to the Great Khan, and held immensely powerful positions. The proximity of high ranking Muslims throughout the Mongol government and army in significant numbers made them an influential force. The presence of well educated Islamic jurists in the courts of the Khans is very well attested, and a merchant who showed great fiscal ability could find himself richly rewarded in lucrative ortogh arrangements with Mongol princes, where a Mongol prince would provide silver and other currencies, taken via conquest, tribute and taxation, to a merchant as a loan, who would then use it for trade, make money and pay back the prince. Sometimes a well connected merchant could even be rewarded with prominent government position once they won the favour of a prince or khan. The Mongol search for whatever skills they saw as useful particularly rewarded Muslims with aptitude in alchemy and astrology. The Khans of the Ilkhanate spent considerable sums of money on the alchemists who claimed to be able to produce gold or prolong life, much to the chagrin of the Ilkhanid vizier and historian Rashid al-Din. Astrologists who could help determine the future or courses of action also received great reward, for the Mongols put great stock in this, as it was a position similar to the occupation of their own shamans. With the mention of the shamans, we should give a brief account of the Mongols pre-Islamic religion, and in what ways it helped pave the way for their conversions. Though often dubbed “shamanism,” this is a poor description. Shamans occupied only a part of the Mongol folk religion, which was a series of practices relating to the appeasement and interpretation of spirits which inhabited every part of the natural world. It was the fear of offending these spirits which was behind the Mongols’ own methods of slaughter, refusing to spill blood on the earth, place dirty things into running water or urinate or place knives into fire and ashes. It was the job of shamans to communicate, appease or harness these spirits, and ensure no misfortune befell the family or, after 1206, the Empire. The duties of shamans strictly fell to influencing events within the current life, rather than with a next level of existence. Thus, for the Mongols it was useful to accumulate other holymen who could interact with the supernatural on their behalf beyond what their own shamans did. It also demonstrates why, once they did convert, the Mongols saw it fit to continue to commune with shamans, and makes it so difficult for many to accept the conversion of the Mongols as sincere. In fact, as historians like Devin DeWeese or Peter Jackson have thoroughly argued, we are in no place to gauge the authenticity of any Mongol’s conversion. Our vantage point centuries later, and nature of our sources, leaves us unable to actually determine the conviction of each convert, and makes it inappropriate to reduce the story of a given khan’s conversion to simply a matter of political convenience. The Mongols actively selected aspects of sedentary societies which benefitted themselves, and therefore could choose to profess Islam while continuing observe shamanic practices and standard cultural actions, all the while seeing no juxtaposition between this. The earliest conversions of the Mongols or their servants began in the 1230s and 40s. One of the earliest, most prominent figures to convert was not even a Mongol, but a Uyghur named Korguz, Ogedai’s appointment to the new Branch Secretariat of Western Asia, covering Iran and the Caucasus, towards the end of his life. Korguz was one of the most powerful civilian officials in the empire, and his conversion to Islam from Buddhism at the start of the 1240s marked the highest profile convert yet in the Mongol government, though he was killed in 1244 on the order of Ogedai’s widow, the regent Torogene. Batu, shortly before the climactic battle against the Hungarians at Mohi in 1241, certainly had a number of Muslims in his army. According to Juvaini, while preparing for the confrontation Batu ascended a hill to pray to Eternal Blue Heaven, and asked the Muslims in his army to pray for victory as well. It is unclear if they were Muslim troops raised from Central Asia and the steppe, or Mongol converts to Islam in his army. The exact mechanics of conversion are unknown. Though the historical sources like to portray the people following a prominent prince or khan’s conversion, it seems generally that it was the other way around, where the lower ranks converted in enough numbers to make it useful or safe for a prince to convert. For example, one of the primary army units in Mongol expansion and consolidation were the tamma, a sort of garrison force permanently stationed in a region, made up of a mixed body of nomadic and sedentary troops. The Mongols in these troops were usually forbidden to have their wives and families accompany them. Separated from their homeland, families or local shamans, and taking new, local wives who were generally Muslims, these Mongols were largely removed from the infrastructure that would have encouraged the maintenance of their traditional religion and made them more susceptible to conversion. If not themselves, then their children. Perhaps the best example comes from the tamma commander Baiju, stationed in the Caucasus and Anatolia from the early 1240s until the start of the 1260s. Over the twenty or so years of his career, he appears in a variety of historical accounts, which demonstrate not only the presence of a great number of Muslims in his camp, as advisers, administrators and sufis, but also demonstrate the gradual conversion of his men. By the end of his life, according to sources like the Mamluk encyclopedist al-Nuwayri, Baiju himself became a Muslim and asked to be washed and buried in the Muslim fashion on his death. Perhaps the most famous convert though, was Berke. A son of Jochi and grandson of Chinggis Khan, Berke is most well known for his war against his cousin Hulegu over the Caucasus. Conflicting accounts are given for his conversion, with some having him raised a Muslim, while others suggest a conversion in the 1240s, drawn to Islam through the efforts of the sufi Shaykh Sayf al-Din Bakharzi. Certainly by the 1250s Berke was a Muslim, and quite a sincere one: the Franciscan Friar William of Rubruck remarks during his trips through the Jochid territories in 1253 that Berke was a Muslim, and forbid the consumption of pork in his camp. Juvaini reported that meat at Mongke Khaan’s enthronement feast in 1251 was slaughtered in halal fashion out of deference to Berke, and Juzjani in distant Delhi had learned of Berke’s Islam by 1260. Mamluk accounts present him having a Muslim vizier and showing great respect for qadis and other Muslim holymen. Yet, the Mamluk embassy also remarked that Berke still continued to dress and wear his hair in the distinctive Mongolian style, rather than don Islamic clothing. While Berke’s war with Hulegu is often portrayed as his anger over the death of the Caliph, it seems this was a secondary concern to him. His own letter to Sultan Baybars remarks on his anger over Hulegu’s infringement of the yassa of Chinggis Khan, by failing to send Berke loot from Baghdad and Iraq or consult with him. The fact that war began three years after Baghdad’s fall, and that Hulegu occupied Jochid territory in northern Iran and the Caucasus after Mongke’s death, suggests that Berke’s immediate concerns were more strategic than spiritual. Islam for the early converts like Berke was not a change of identity, but an acceptance alongside their existing beliefs and incorporated into a Chinggisid world view. Almost certainly Berke, like his Islamic successors, continued to consult with shamans and the yassa, yet never felt disloyal to the sharia. While Berke’s conversion was accompanied by some of his brothers and commanders, it did not precipitate the Islamization of the emerging Golden Horde. Following Berke’s death around 1266, it took some 14 years for another Islamic Khan to sit on the throne of the Jochids. At the start of the 1280s, both the westernmost khanates of the Mongol Empire saw the enthronement of Muslim rulers: Töde-Möngke taking the throne in the Golden Horde between 1280 and 1282,, and from 1282 to 1284 Tegüder Ahmad in the Ilkhanate. Once more, the sources hint that shaykhs and sufis were behind the conversion of both men, and continued to be held in great esteem in both courts. For the Ilkhan Tegüder, who upon his enthronement went by the name of Sultan Ahmad, we have a variety of sources which describe his commitment to Islam, which vary widely and demonstrate why it remains difficult for many to accept the authenticity of the early conversions. In a letter Tegüder sent to the Mamluk Sultan Qalawun, Tegüder spoke of establishing sharia law in the Ilkhanate, protected pilgrimage routes and built new religious buildings, similar claims to what Töde-Möngke made in his first letter to the Mamluks around similar time. Tegüder argued that based on the fact of their now shared religion it was easier for the Mamluk Sultans to submit to him. Cilician Armenian writers like Het’um of Corycus and Step’annos Orbelian generally portray Tegüder as a prosecutor of Christians. Yet at the same time the Syriac churchman Bar Hebraeus wote of Tegüder as a friend to Christians, an upholder of religious toleration who exempted them from taxation and allowed Hebraeus to build a new church, while the Mamluks were largely skeptical of his conversion. Ghazan, the great reformer of the Ilkhanate, sought to portray himself as a powerful Muslim monarch and an heir to the defunct ‘Abbasid Caliphate, but also as the first true Muslim Ilkhanate. For this reason, his two predeceassers who were attached to Islam, Tegüder and Baidu, were both denigrated in official accounts from his reign. Ghazan was raised a Buddhist, and only came to Islam a few weeks before his enthronement, urged to convert by his commander Nawruz Noyan and the Shaykh Sadr al-Din al-Hamuwayi during his rebellion against Ilkhan Baidu. While his biographer Rashid al-Din desperately sought to portray Ghazan’s conversion causing his commanders and soldiers to follow suit, it seems almost certain that it was in fact the opposite, and that by converting Ghazan hoped to gain the wavering support of Baidu’s Muslim followers. Ghazan did so successfully, and overthrew Baidu only a few months after he had himself seized the throne. Upon becoming IlKhan, on the instigation of his zealous general Nawruz, Ghazan order the destruction of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Zoroastrian centres in Muslim cities in his empire and imposed the jizya. However, these harsh measures were quickly rescinded by 1297 with the downfall of Nawruz, though Buddhists did not return to the prominence they had previously enjoyed. Ghazan before the end of the 1290s donned a turban and even declared jihad against the Mamluks. Though some Mamluk scholars, none more famous than the jurist and scholar Ibn Taymiyya, were not convinced of Ghazan’s Islam. Outside of Damascus in 1300, Ibn Taymiyya insulted both Ghazan and his vizier, the Jewish convert to Islam Rashid al-Din, of being false Muslims. Ghazan, he stated, continued to worship Chinggis Khan in place of sharia. The life of Ghazan’s brother and successor Oljeitu demonstrates perhaps the most extreme example of a Mongol prince’s flexible approach to religion. His father Arghun had the young Oljeitu baptized a Nestorian Christian and given the name of Nicholas, supposedly after the Pope Nicholas IV, with whom Arghun was attempting to ally with against the Mamluks. As a teen, he converted to Buddhism, when he took the Buddhist name of Oljeitu. Under the influnece of a wife, he then converted to Sunni islam, taking the name of Muhammad Khudabanda, servant of God, which became the source of rude puns on his name: kharbunda, donkey driver. First he attached himself to the Sunni school of Hanafism, then to Shafi’ism, before frustration with fighting between the schools turned him back to Buddhism, before in 1309 returning to Islam, but this time abandon the Sunnis for Shi’ism. A number of different sources offer explanations for what drove Oljeitu to become a Shi’a, generally focusing on how a various princes, commanders, scholars and others convinced upon Oljeitu the merits of Shi’a Islam. One particularly detailed account has a Shi'a Scholar describe the succession of the first of the Rashidun Caliphs, those accepted in Sunni Islam, to the Prophet Muhammad instead of 'Ali, remarking to Oljeitu it would be as if a non-Chinggisid general were to succeed Chinggis Khan. According to the Mamluk sources, Oljeitu’s conversion to Shi’ism prompted a series of rebellions across Ilkhanid Iraq. In some accounts, Oljeitu converted back to Sunni Islam shortly before his death in 1316. His son, Abu Sa’id, followed him to the throne, a Sunni Muslim who did not waver in his faith as his father. Following Ghazan’s reign from 1295 until 1304, the Ilkhanate became an Islamic state, with the majority of its army and upper echelons converted to Islam. The process was slower in the Golden Horde and Chagatai Khanate. After Töde-Möngke’s deposition in 1287, the Golden Horde would not have another Muslim monarch until the reign of Özbeg, who took the throne in 1313. It seems he converted shortly after his accession, seemingly to gain the support of influential noyans within the Horde. In legendary accounts Özbeg was converted by a sufi named Baba Tükles, who proved the veracity of his religion when he comfortably survived an oven wearing nothing but chain maille, while the shaman he challenged was burnt to death in his oven. However, Baba Tükles does not enter into accounts of Özbeg’s life until centuries after his death. It seems likely that Özbeg was converted by influential sufi and islamic jurists in his entourage, and the increased islamization of members of military and aristocracy making it a viable political choice to convert as well. To cement his reign and his religion, Özbeg ordered the executions of over a hundred Chinggisid princes and noyans. Other prominent converts, such as Ghazan in the Ilkhanate and Tughluq Temur in the eastern Chagatai Khanate, also carried out large scale purges though none matched those of Özbeg. So extensive was Özbeg’s purge that within a generation, the line of Batu had died out within the Golden Horde. In the Chagatai Khanate, Islamization proceed in stops and starts. In the western half of the Chagatai realm, centered as it was around the trade cities of Transoxania and closer to the Iranian world, islamization went quicker, more or less winning out by the mid 14th century. It would take another century in the eastern half of the Chagatai realm, Moghulistan, where steppe lifestyle maintained greater influence. Not until the reign of Tughluq Temur’s grandson, appropriately named Muhammad Khan, in the fifteenth century did Islam win out most of the remaining holdouts, according to the mid-sixteenth century source of Mirza Haidar Dughlat. For the eastern Chagatais, where the local islamic population was much smaller, there was much less interaction with the faith, and thus it took much longer for the military and the noyans to fully convert, despite the conversion of the Khans themselves. Still, in policy men like Özbeg, Ghazan and Oljeitu largely matched their forebears in providing taxation exemptions, favours and other privileges to Christians, especially Franciscan missionaries, though on a lesser scale than earlier in the thirteenth century. Their successors, Özbeg’s son Janibeg and Oljeitu’s son Abu Sa’id, proved less welcoming, as even Christians found their privileges revoked. Janibeg ordered his men to dress in the fashion of Muslims, while Abu Sa’id sought to become the protector of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, one year even sending an elephant there for inexplicable reasons. Still, these monarchs showed themselves to continue in their traditions, such as acts of levirate marriage, that is marrying their father’s wives, something forbidden by Islam. Islam proved an aspect of these monarch’s identities, but it took many generations in Iran for all elements of Mongol culture and Chinggisid ideology to be driven out, and in the steppes the process, it can be argued, never truly fully replaced the memory of the house of Chinggis Khan. Our series on the Mongols will continue, and we will visit in detail the topic of Mongol religious tolerance very soon, which ties closely to this matter, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast. If you’d like to help us continue to bring you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. Please also consider leaving us a positive review and rating on the podcast catcher of your choice, and sharing us with your friends; each one helps the podcast out alot. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.53. History of the Mongols: Ilkhanate #3
25:10After the death of the Ilkhan Arghun in 1291 at the end of our last episode, the Ilkhanid throne came to Arghun’s brother, Geikhatu, the governor of Anatolia. Geikhatu’s ascension set off one of the most unstable periods in the Ilkhanate’s history so far, which would ultimately culminate in the rise of perhaps the most significant ruler of the Ilkhanate’s later history, Ghazan, who would skillfully weld Chinggisid ideology with Islam. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. On the death of Arghun Ilkhan due to excessive consumption of mercury and sulphur in at the start of 1291, there were three candidates for the throne: Arghun’s brother Geikhatu, the governor of Anatolia; Arghun’s cousin Baidu, based in Baghdad, and Arghun’s son, Ghazan, who was stationed in the east of the Khanate battling the rebelling general Nawruz. While some members of the military elite, particularly the noyans Taghachar and Qunchuqbal, wished for Baidu to take the throne, a number backed Geikhatu. Among those who flocked to Geikhatu were the noyans Qurumshi, son of Alinaq, and Choban, better known as the Emir Choban.This is the first mention of Choban in the sources, though for today’s episode he will play on a minor role. On the 23rd of July, 1291 Geikhatu was elected as Khan of the Ilkhanate. Neither Baidu nor Ghazan challenged him, though in accounts such as Marco Polo’s, Ghazan was rather quietly furious at the matter. In his early thirties when he took the throne, like his late brother Arghun, Geikhatu was a Buddhist. Arghun had placed Geikhatu as the viceroy of Anatolia, bringing a region considered a distant frontier into closer connection with the rest of the Ilkhanate. Perhaps the greatest distinction from his brother though was his clemency. In part, it seems to have been a mixture of a personally more peaceful nature, and a belief that Arghun’s reign was cut short by the many executions he had ordered in his final years. One of Geikhatu’s first actions upon taking the throne was personally overseeing an investigation and trials into events surrendering the deaths of Arghun, his vizier Sa’d al-Dawla and other misdeeds undertaken by the noyans in Arghun’s final days. The blame for these murders and abuses were, rightfully, laid onto the noyans Taghachar and Qunchuqbal, who had led the efforts. While Arghun would have met their disloyalty with the removal of heads, Geikhatu showed himself of a different ilk. Almost all of the conspirators received simple pardons, while others were subject to a temporary prison sentence. Taghachar, who was making a habit of being a traitorous sot, was given a pardon as well. Once the trials were completed, and Geikhatu hoped everyone could now start off fresh, the new Il-Khan immediately returned to his preferred Anatolia. His Noyan Shiktur was left to oversee almost the entirety of the Ilkhanate east of Anatolia as a supreme deputy. The Ilkhan’s sudden removal back to Anatolia left a sort of vacuum behind. It’s not clear to us today exactly what Geikhatu was doing in Anatolia, and it certainly wasn’t clear to contemporaries as rumours spread that the Ilkhan had been killed in an uprising by local Turkic tribes. In Geikhatu’s absence, his clemency paid dividends as the noyans he forgave almost immediately conspired against him. Taghachar Noyan, aided by his deputy Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, started to organize a coup to topple Geikhatu and enthrone one of Geikhatu’s cousins, Anbarchi. The plot was discovered and foiled, but again, Geikhatu pardoned most of the conspirators. Taghachar himself was given an army to relieve an Ilkhanid fortress besieged by the Mamluks late in 1292 (something which he was unsuccessful at) and Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, after a brief imprisonment, was even made Geikhatu’s vizier before the end of the year. Suffice to say, these men did not learn their lessons. While these plotters continued to plot, most of Geikhatu’s reign was spent apparently enjoying the… uh, benefits of being king, if we should say politely. Effectively every medieval source which comments on Geikhatu presents him as a man of utter vice, enjoying constant parties, revelry, and the sons and daughters of the nobility. To quote the continuator of the Syriac churchman Bar Hebraeus, writing not long after Geikhatu’s death: Now [Geikhatu] being ruler, [...] occupied himself with nothing except riotous living, and amusement and debauchery. He had no thought for anything else except the things which were necessary for kings, and which they were bound to have, and how he could get possession of the sons and daughters of the nobles and have carnal intercourse with them. And he would wanton with them without shame and without modesty. And very many chaste women among the wives of the nobles fled from him, and others removed their sons and their daughters, and sent them away to remote districts. But they were unable to save themselves from his hands, or to escape from the shameful acts which he committed with them. And when he had led this blameworthy manner of life for nearly four years, more or less, and he had polluted himself with the mire of wanton desire of this kind, and he had amused himself with the lusts of the body which do not bring profit, he was hated with a very great hatred by all those who held the reins of his kingdom. If it was merely Bar Hebraeus’ continuator writing these things, we might dismiss them as regular medieval slander by one disgruntled writer. But these sorts of details make up most of Geikhatu’s source depictions. Wassaf, a Persian writer in the early 14th century Ilkhanate for instance, describes Geikhatu ignoring all duties of the throne to focus on his own pleasure, at one point writing: “at length sovereign rule in turn presented to him his heart’s desire, viz. The backside.” Marco Polo, who passed through the Ilkhanate in the final year of Geikhatu’s rule, wrote of Geikhatu that he “enjoyed himself much with the ladies, for he was excessively given to his pleasures.” The Ilkhanid vizier Rashid al-Din is, as per usual, too respectable to comment on such indecency directly. It was in the reign of Geikhatu that Rashid al-Din became attached to the Ilkhanid court, and besides that, Geikhatu had been the uncle of his patrons Ghazan and Oljeitu. Still, Rashid speaks of the wild spending habits of Geikhatu, politely describing it as incredibly generous gift giving. Wassaf and other writers instead describe wasteful extravagance by Geikhatu, encouraged by vizier Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, which compounded some sort of troubles facing Mongol herds at the time, resulting in widespread reverberations on the Ilkhanate’s economy. Of course, no talk of Geikhatu and the Ilkhanate’s fiscal status can be complete without mentioning his most famous disaster: an attempt to impose Chinese style paper money, or ch’ao, in the Ilkhanate. This is the first known example of an effort to implement Chinese block printing for currency outside of China, and every source describes it as an unmitigated disaster, though modern retellings of the incident have certainly exaggerated it. The inspiration for the idea came from Geikhatu’s vizier, Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, who had been interested in it for some time. In May 1294 Sadr’ al-Din finally broached it to Geikhatu Khan, who was interested and spoke on the matter further with Bolod Chingsang, a representative from the Yuan Dynasty at the Ilkhan’s court. Zanjani successfully convinced Geikhatu of its advantages, such as being much more difficult to forge or tamper with. Despite the opposition of some members of Geikhatu’s court, especially Shiktur Noyan, Geikhatu gave the order to proceed with a trial run in the Ilkhanate’s chief city, Tabriz, one of the major merchant hubs of western Asia. Printing started in the summer of 1294, and circulation began that September. Orders were put out that anyone who refused to accept it would be put to death. The result was not great. People did not understand how the paper was worth anything compared to metal coinage, and very quickly merchants were fleeing Tabriz altogether. The humid climate resulted in the Ilkhanid paper apparently nearly falling to pieces. Food and goods became scarce, and when Zanjani himself went to the streets he was threatened and insulted to his face. As Tabriz neared a tipping point of theft, starvation and anarchy, finally the paper money was withdrawn and the regular coinage made the tender again. The effort lasted hardly two months, and was not tried elsewhere. Claims that this episode had long lasting repercussions on the Ilkhanate’s economy are likely overstated due to the limited reach of the experiment. Rather, they encouraged ongoing economic woes in Geikhatu’s reign and did nothing to help the Ilkhan’s already struggling reputation. The failed episode with the ch’ao is routinely mentioned alongside Geikhatu’s massive expenditure, gift giving and debauchery in the sources on his reign, and it is no surprise that not long after the end of the fling with paper money, Geikhatu found himself next on the chopping block. In the summer of 1294, Geikhatu’s cousin Baidu visited the Ilkhan’s camp. Though he appeared reluctant to claim the throne in 1291, Baidu must have still felt some resentment at losing his chance, in addition to his distaste in how Geikhatu ran the kingdom. It would explain how, when Baidu got quite drunk one evening, he lashed out and insulted Geikhatu to his face. The normally easy going Geikhatu responded furiously and probably drunkenly, ordering Baidu beaten. Once they had sobered up Geikhatu regretted his action and sought to make amends, which Baidu made a show of accepting. Once out of the Khan’s camp, Baidu returned to his own territory and began to organize a rebellion over the winter of 1294. When Geikhatu learned of it, he sent an army against Baidu commanded by the always loyal [sarcasm] Taghachar. Whatever was behind Geikhatu’s choice is unknown. Perhaps he was a large fan of multiple chances, or thought this was an opportunity for Taghachar to display his loyalty. Geikhatu was sorely mistaken. Taghachar immediately sided with Baidu and brought his army to Baidu’s service. A panicked Geikhatu tried to flee to Anatolia, but was overtaken and captured. His captors were men he had imprisoned for earlier crimes, but who Geikhatu had later released on the urging of Taghachar. In late March 1295, Geikhatu’s captors had him strangled to death with a bow string, apparently without the knowledge or approval of Baidu. So ended the reign of the fifth Ilkhan, Geikhatu, only in his mid-30s and having reigned hardly four years. A few weeks after Geikhatu’s death, Baidu was enthroned as the new Ilkhan in April 1295. A grandson of Hulegu via his son Taraqai, Baidu appears to have been raised a Chritian but converted to Islam. Bar Hebraeus’ continuator remarks that Baidu’s conversion to Islam was a half hearted one aimed to bring him support for the throne; an indication of the growth of Islam among the Mongols of the Ilkhanate. Marco Polo meanwhile was under the impression that Baidu was a Christian throughout his reign. We may suspect he simply was an exponent of Mongol religious tolerance, and did not favour any of these religions but instead tried to appear a friend to each, though it is difficult to tell due to the nature of his reign. Unlike his predecessors, Baidu appears as a much quieter figure, one who seemed lacking in vision for the position of Khan, and was overshadowed by his powerful noyans like Taghachar. Taghachar was given immense power, and Taghachar’s allies, the murderers of Geikhatu, were granted governorships and other positions throughout the empire. Baidu’s reign had a major obstacle in the form of Geikhatu’s nephew and Arghun’s son, Ghazan. The oldest son of Arghun, Ghazan had since his father’s reign taken a prominent position in the eastern part of the Ilkhanate, Khurasan, where he had acted as chief military governor. Almost yearly he fought off raids by the Qara’una Mongols and from 1289 onwards, fought the rebelling general Nawruz. These conflicts kept him too preoccupied to act after the death of Arghun, and from playing any role in the politics that led to Geikhatu’s overthrow. Nonetheless, Ghazan had been primed for leadership. Well educated, able to read and write the Uighur script for Mongolian and seemingly proficient in Persian as well as athletic and a skilled warrior, the powerful position Ghazan had been granted by Arghun as military commander of the east gave Ghazan useful contacts and backing. Having both military experience and reputation was always a useful boon for claiming leadership among the Mongols. If we are to believe Rashid al-Din, Ghazan’s energetic biographer, then even Abaqa Il-Khan, Ghazan’s grandfather, had recognized the boy’s talent and loved him dearly, though we can suspect this is reminiscent of Qaidu’s claims as a boy that Ogedai Khan had loved him and wanted to make him his successor. More of a useful claim for legitimacy, rather than a necessarily true representation of their relationship, though perhaps Ghazan remembered it fondly. Certainly Ghazan was seen as a prime candidate for the throne; before his untimely death, the Jewish vizier of Arghun, Sa’d al-Dawla, had tried to contact Ghazan to bring him to his father’s death bed to make his stake for the throne. Following Geikhatu’s murder, Ghazan was also a favourite to succeed his uncle, and had apparently received letters from Baidu asking him to assume the throne- another indication that Baidu was personally reluctant to take the position. Ghazan seemed to not anticipate trickery. He had recently taken the submission of the former rebel, Nawruz, taking control of his army on top of his own. Feeling strong and secure, he began to travel west to the Ilkhanate’s Caucausian territory with only a small guard. Hearing of Ghazan’s movement seems to have sparked Baidu’s followers to hold a snap quriltai and quickly declared Baidu the Il-Khan. As Ghazan advanced across northern Iran, emissaries from Baidu arrived politely but firmly telling Ghazan to turn back, that he would not be granted safe passage. Evidently, Baidu and his allies recognized that Ghazan expected to have the throne, and wished to dissuade him rather than have to fight off another contender. Baidu’s position as Khan after overseeing the murder of his predeceassor left him with shaky legitimacy. Finally, it was told to Ghazan that Baidu would consider it rebellion if Ghazan advanced any further. Ghazan could not back down now; he quickly summoned Nawruz and his army, which prompted Baidu to rally his own army; by the 19th of May, 1295, the two sides faced off at a site called Qurban Shire in northwestern Iran. After a round of skirmishing, apparently on Baidu’s urging a truce was called and negotiations held. The meeting was cordial and respectful, and progress was made. Baidu did not wish to fight, but now that he was declared Il-Khan he could not step down. His solution was to essentially divide the Ilkhanate between them, granting Ghazan all of the eastern half of the empire. Ghazan was amenable to the idea, but tensions did not abate. It seems, to Baidu’s frustration, that he continued to be reinforced. As the negotiations went on, more and more of Baidu’s forces trickled in. Seeing Baidu’s army grow, Ghazan feared a trap and slid away, leaving Nawruz, now his lieutenant, to continue the talks. This infuriated Baidu, who felt Ghazan was acting in bad faith. He sent some forces to pursue Ghazan and promptly took Nawruz prisoner. Some called for Nawruz’s execution, but others persuaded Baidu against it. Chief of them was Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani. Though Baidu had not reappointed Zanjani to the position of vizier -instead giving it to one of Zanjani’s rivals, Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani- Sadr’ al-Din did not go far from the court lest the position open up again. He encouraged Baidu and those of the noyans whose ears he had access to -chiefly Taghachar- to spare Nawruz and offer him a deal. If Nawruz would hunt down Ghazan and bring his head in a bag to Baidu, then Nawruz would be greatly rewarded. In the meantime, Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani and Taghachar made their own agreements with Nawruz. On the 31st of May 1295, Nawruz departed Baidu’s camp to hunt down Ghazan. It took only a few days to find him. Not long after, a rider came to Baidu’s camp, carrying a bag sent by Nawruz. Somewhat reluctantly, Baidu Il-Khan must have ordered an officer forward to open the bag and reveal the dreaded proof of his kinsman’s death. To their surprise, a large cauldron fell out. It was a bit of word play on the part of Nawruz and Ghazan. Qazan in Turkic languages refers to a large pot, cauldron or brass kettle. So Nawruz had brought Ghazan in a bag to Baidu; just not the Ghazan he was hoping for. Nawruz could claim to have kept his word to Baidu, while once more affirming his loyalty to Ghazan. In the words of Rashid al-Din, Nawruz and Ghazan’s pun sparked quite the reaction among Baidu and his men. To quote Rashid’s Compendium of Chronicles, as per the Thackston translation: Baidu and his amirs were amazed by this subtle word play and rare joke, but there was nothing they could do about it. To Baidu the amirs said, “The lion you caught in a trap you let go, and you were made ridiculous.” He regretted having let Nawroz go, but there was nothing to be done—as has been said, anyone who overcomes his foe but allows the advantage to slip away will never again have power over him, and regret and remorse profit nothing. Baidu likely did not have immense respect among the noyans in the first place, given that he had largely been placed on the throne by their efforts entirely. To have lost both Ghazan and Nawroz, after they had been in his hands, and then to be so humiliated by them, further undermined him. In essence, he had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and his prestige among the military elite crumbled accordingly. While Baidu’s standing worsened, Ghazan undertook a rather momentous decision. On the urging of Nawruz and other influential advisers in his camp, shortly after Nawruz’s return to him Ghazan converted to Islam. Ghazan had been raised and educated as a Buddhist, a religion which his father Arghun and grandfather Hulegu had both been attached to. Even during his tenure in Khurasan, Ghazan had sponsored the construction of Buddhist temples. If we are to believe Rashid al-Din though, Ghazan had always had a questioning mind and found himself skeptical of some aspects of Buddhism. It is possible, though we may suspect it was also a matter of Mongol religious indifference. In the accounts of Ghazan’s chroniclers, when Nawruz impressed upon him the need to convert to Islam, all of Ghazan’s generals, and indeed, the Mongols in Iran, followed suit, a fairly regular aspect of stories of Mongol khans converting to Islam. Generally, historians are of the opinion that Ghazan’s conversion reflects the fact that a great many Mongols, both among the regular soldiers and the military aristocracy, had already become Muslims. While Nawruz may have urged Ghazan to convert out of concern for his soul, for Nawruz was a very sincere and ardent Muslim, it is not difficult to imagine that Nawruz also pointed out the political advantage it could provide Ghazan; by demonstrating that he was a true and devout Muslim, Ghazan could claim the loyalty of all the Mongols who were Muslims, as well as Persian and Arabic members of the bureaucracy. Hence, why post-Ghazan chroniclers tend to cast doubt on Baidu’s claim to be a Muslim as well. Ghazan certainly showed some fervour early after his conversion, though in the coming years it cooled whenever he did not have an urgent political usage for it. Immediately after Ghazan and his noyans began to proclaim the shahada, they observed the Ramadan of summer 1295 then advanced onto Baidu. As Ghazan and his army moved west once again, Baidu’s camp was still in shambles. Baidu seemed frozen in place, unable to take decisive action. His foundation built on sand, it washed away with the rising tide of Ghazan, now reinforced by his brother Oljeitu. When Baidu sent emissaries to Ghazan, they told Ghazan of the sympathy he had among Baidu’s followers, and then promptly joined him. The former vizier for the late Geikahtu, Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, was among the first to openly desert Baidu for Ghazan. Choban Noyan and Quremshi Noyan joined with their troops and joined Nawroz in the vanguard. The duplicitous Taghachar, as usual, jumped for the winning side. He who had once abandoned Geikhatu to join Baidu, now left Baidu to back Ghazan. As the summer of 1295 drew to a close Baidu tried to flee, but was swiftly captured and taken back to Tabriz. There, he sent word that he wished for an interview with Ghazan, but Ghazan refused. He ordered Baidu executed, which was carried out on the 4th of October 1295, ending Baidu’s seven month reign as Il-Khan. Only once the deed was done, did Ghazan finally enter Tabriz later that day. He was swiftly enthroned; not as Il-Khan, but with the title of padishah-i-islam, Emperor of Islam, and took the name of Mahmud. So began the reign of Ghazan Il-Khan, or Padishah Ghazan Mahmud, the 7th ruler of the Ilkhanate and a great-great-great-grandson of Chinggis Khan. The Ilkhanate was about to be permanently transformed. Our next episode focuses on the reign of Ghazan, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you’d like to help us continue bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. Please also consider leaving us a positive review and rating on the podcast catcher of your choice, and sharing us with your friends; each one helps the podcast out alot. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.
2.52. History of the Mongols: Ilkhanate #2 (FIXED VERSION)
28:39After the long reign of Abaqa Il-Khan, as covered in our previous episode, the Ilkhanate entered it’s somewhat messy “middle period.” These are the years between the death of Abaqa, in 1282, and the ascension of Ghazan in 1295. In these 13 years, four men came to the Ilkhanid throne: Teguder Ahmad, Arghun, Geikhatu and Baidu. Their reigns, if we believe the historians writing under Ghazan and his successors, constituted a period of disorder and anarchy before the stabilizing and centralizing rule of Ghazan. Usually glossed over in favour of Abaqa or Ghazan, today we take you through one of the lesser known periods of the Ilkhanate, beginning with the ilkhans Teguder and Arghun. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. Our last episode ended with the death of Abaqa, son of Hulegu and a great-grandson of Chinggis Khan. A capable enough monarch, Abaqa had ruled the Ilkhanate stably from the mid 1260s until his death in April 1282. His death left three primary candidates: two of his brothers, Mongke-Temur and Teguder, and Abaqa’s eldest son Arghun. The death of Mongke-Temur only a few weeks after Abaqa’s death removed him from the running, and the more senior, powerful and well connected Teguder was able to claim the throne over the young Arghun. Prince Arghun was very bitter of the loss, and nursed his resentment though accepted Teguder’s election. In June 1282 Teguder was installed as the third Ilkhan. In many ways he sought continuity with late brother. The beleaguered vizier Shams al-Din Juvaini and his brother ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik Juvaini, the historian and governor of Baghdad, were retained in their posts, as were many other officials in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy. The new Ilkhan’s reign differed from his late brother’s in one significant respect though: Teguder was a Muslim, who on his enthronement took the name of Ahmad and the title of Sultan. For this reason he is often known, somewhat interchangeably, as Teguder Ahmad or Ahmad Teguder in modern writing, and usually just as Sultan Ahmad in the 13th and 14th century sources. As with so many Mongol converts to Islam, it is unclear when he converted; according to the contemporary Armenian writer Het’um Patmich’, known also as Het’um of Corycus, Teguder had been a Christian in his youth with the baptismal name of Nicholas, but had converted sometime before taking the throne in 1282. It seems he was converted by sufis, as a number of dervishes were attached to his court and inner circle. One sufi in particular, Shaykh Kemal al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman held such great influence over Teguder that he continually consulted with him and referred to him as father. Teguder’s Islam has been a tricky thing to define, as his commitment to islam varies depending on the source. In a letter Teguder sent to the Mamluk Sultan Qalawun, Teguder spoke of how he has established sharia law in the Ilkhanate, protected pilgrimage routes and built new religious buildings. Indeed, Teguder argued, based on their shared religion it should have been now easier for the Mamluk Sultanate to submit to him. Armenian writers from Cilicia like Het’um of Corycus generally portray Teguder as a great prosecutor of Christians who also destroyed churches, while his countryman Step’annos Orbelian believed Teguder wanted to exterminate Christianity. Yet at the exact same time, the Syriac churchman Bar Hebraeus wote of Teguder as a friend to Christians, an upholder of religious toleration who exempted churches and Christians from taxation and allowed Hebraeus to build a new church. 14th century writers from both the Mamluk Sultanate and the Ilkhanate write of Teguder’s Islam in doubting terms. The Mamluks seem to have been largely skeptical of his conversion, while the great Ilkhanid vizier and historian Rashid al-Din, writing at the start of the 1300s under the aegis of the mighty Muslim monarch Ghazan and his brother Oljeitu, remarked Teguder only “claimed to be a Muslim.” Teguder’s conversion to Islam was not the start of Islamization of the Mongols; it instead reflects the gradual trend for conversion among some of the younger generation, but at the same time it does not seem to have been an issue for the acceptance of the new Ilkhan, with the exception of the opinion of the his nephew Arghun. Arghun, as Abaqa’s oldest son, felt the throne was his by right. Teguder Ahmad’s extended generosity on his enthronement, including many gifts for Arghun, did not ease Arghun’s hard feelings. The always suspicious Teguder must have taken note of it, but Teguder had an empire to run and wanted to avoid civil strife so showed Arghun his due respect. In our last episode, we left of with the Juvaini brothers, the vizier Shams al-Din and the historian ‘Ala al-Din, placed in a bind due to the efforts of their enemy, Shams al-Din’s former protege Majd al-Mulk. Majd al-Mulk had found a willing ear in Prince Arghun, who in Abaqa’s final years managed to imprison, fine, and generally harass the powerful Juvainis. On Teguder’s ascension in summer 1282, the new Ilkhan had ‘Ala al-Din released from prison and restored to favour, bestowing on him gifts to make up for his expenses. Likewise was ‘Ala al-Din’s younger brother Shams al-Din maintained in his role as vizier. Majd al-Mulk was also summoned to speak before Teguder, and worried for his future. As Shams al-Din Juvaini spoke to Teguder Ilkhan of Majd al-Mulk’s misdeeds, Majd al-Mulk reached once again to his associate Prince Arghun, and convinced him that the Juvainis had poisoned his father Abaqa. This time Majd al-Mulk could not outmaneuver the Juvainis. A dried piece of lion skin was found in Majd al-Mulk’s belongings covered in unintelligible script of red and yellow ink. The shamans and buddhist monks in Teguder’s court- another indication he was not the most devout of Muslims- confirmed that the item was one used in sorcery. Majd al-Mulk knew his game was up. The Mongols saw sorcery as one of the most heinous of charges. Despite efforts by Shams al-Din Juvaini to argue for a pardon, Teguder Ilkhan ordered Majd al-Mulk’s death. In August 1282 he was tossed to an angry mob in Tabriz, and torn to pieces. It can be imagined that Arghun only saw this as proof of the Juvaini’s scheming, though he felt he could not at the moment go after vizier Shams al-Din. That winter Arghun moved to Baghdad with a body of Qara’unas troops. ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini had been reinstated as governor of Baghdad, but had not returned to the city. This was lucky for him, as while in Baghdad Arghun demanded that ‘Ala al-Din pay up the rest of the money he owed from the fines Majd al-Mulk and Arghun had levied against him, fines that Teguder had dismissed. In the process of making noise around the city, Arghun ordered one of ‘Ala al-Din’s recently deceased officers to be disinterred and his body thrown onto the street and descrecrated. Arghun’s actions were insulting and were met with great concern by the Ilkhan’s court. Teguder positioned an army near Dayirbakir in the event that Arghun decided to strike northwards towards Tabriz, and poor ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini was so distressed by the event that he died in March of 1283. On his return to Khurasan in spring 1283, Arghun stopped in Rayy, modern Teheran, and had Teguder’s governor there beaten, placed in bonds and sent on the road to Tabriz on a donkey, as clear an insult as any. He sent envoy after envoy to the Ilkhan, demanding that he hand over Shams al-Din Juvaini for his role in poisoning Abaqa. Teguder’s patience grew thin with his nephew. Prince Arghun’s actions looked like sedition, aimed to undermine the reigning Ilkhan. Teguder grew more suspicious; when word came to him that his brother Qongqurtai, who he had placed in command of Anatolia, had been in contact with Arghun, Teguder ordered his brother executed. The murder of an imperial prince antagonized some members of the artstiocracy, who then fled to Arghun. Among them were Arghun’s brother Geikhatu, his cousin Baidu, and the Noyans Taghachar and Nawruz, all names to know in this episode and the following. The death of Qongqurtai was not the only cause for some of these princes and commanders to side with Arghun; some had wanted Arghun to succeed his father Abaqa in the first place, others had been frustrated with Teguder’s haughty and often insulting behaviour to them, and still others were simply annoyed at having a Muslim in the throne of Hulegu Khan. As tensions rose, at the start of 1284 Teguder finally sent an army under his brother-in-law, Alinaq, to bring Arghun to heel. Over May 1284, Alinaq’s army skirmished with Arghun’s forces, forcing him to retreat. Arghun simply lacked the strength to battle the forces of the Ilkhan in a direct encounter, and ignoring requests by some of his followers to flee the Ilkhanate altogether, in the summer of 1284 Arghun surrendered to Alinaq. Teguder was very pleased with Arghun’s capture, and went to visit his captive nephew. Teguder resisted calls to have Arghun executed- perhaps judging, from the reaction to Qongqurtai’s death, executing another imperial prince would not do him any favours. He did order the execution of a number of Arghun’s followers, but considering the matter done with, in July 1284 Teguder was content to leave Arghun under guard in Alinaq’s camp while the Ilkhan took a small force to visit his new wife. The move ultimately cost Teguder his throne. In Teguder’s absence, Buqa Noyan moved to free Arghun. Buqa had already sympathized with Arghun, and Teguder had further antagonized Buqa by insulting and idly threatening him; according to the Mamluk historian ibn ‘abd al-Zahir, Teguder had a habit of reminding Buqa and his comrades that he could have their heads cut off at anytime. While Teguder Ahmad rode off to his wife’s camp, Buqa got Alinaq drunk and with a small party broke Arghun free, armed him, then rode into Alinaq’s tent and decapitated the noyan. Tossing his severed head to the officers and killing those who refused to submit, by the morning Arghun commanded the army. In the words of Rashid al-Din: “Arghun, who had been a prisoner when night fell, woke up in the morning as the emperor of the face of the earth.” Ilkhan Teguder learned of the revolt and tried to flee with his small party but was overtaken. After a quick trial he was charged with the murder of his Qongqurtai and punished to be killed in the same manner: kicked to death, according to the chronicler ibn ‘abd al-Zahir, in August of 1284. So ended the reign of Ilkhan Teguder Ahmad, after only two years on the throne. The day after Teguder’s execution, Arghun was declared Ilkhan, after threats were made to those who considered other candidates. Arghun heaped rewards upon those who had helped him to the throne; Buqa Noyan was given so much gold that he was briefly buried in it. The new Ilkhan was in many respects similar to his father Abaqa and grandfather Hulegu. He was a devout Buddhist, one who regularly sought wisdom from Buddhist monks and was gifted Buddhist relics from other prominent Chinggisids in neighbouring Khanates. Like Hulegu, Arghun loved to build; he constructed a series of new palaces in Tabriz and began construction of a new city near Rayy, which under his son Oljeitu would become Sultaniyya. Also like his grandfather, he was enchanted by alchemy, an attraction which ultimately cost him his life. One of the most associated traits of Arghun’s reign is an anti-Islamic sentiment. Hulegu tolerated Muslims and Islam; Abaqa had shown respect to Muslims in his empire and was remembered as a just ruler; Teguder of course had been a Muslim. However, Arghun became associated, somewhat undeservedly, as a militant hater of Islam. While the Juvainis and other Muslims had occupied the top positions of civilian government in the twenty years since Hulegu’s death, under Arghun the top positions came into the hands of non-Muslims, Mongols and even a Jewish physician. His aggressive letters to the Mamluks differed greatly from Teguder’s more polite suggestions of submission, but despite his rhetoric Arghun never led an invasion into the Mamluk Sultanate. He showed friendship to Christians in his empire, particularly with the Nestorians Mar Yahballaha and Rabban bar Sauma; it was on Arghun’s order that Rabban bar Sauma took his lengthy trip to Europe in an effort to organize a Frankish-Mongol alliance against the Mamluks, a trip we dedicated a special episode to already. Such was his favour to Christianity that Arghun’s son newborn son was baptized and named after the current pope, Nicholas IV. That son in time became the Ilkhan Oljeitu. While Arghun may have played to anti-Islamic rhetoric at times, perhaps to galvanize the support of “traditional Mongols,” against the converted Teguder, Arghun did not unleash a swath of anti-Islamic policies. During his rebellion against Teguder, Arghun prayed at the shrine of a Muslim saint, Bayazid of Bistam, for victory. While he was Ilkhan, he attended and sponsored festivals marking the end of Ramadan, demonstrating his largesse as a ruler. It seems that rather than really undergoing an anti-Islamic policy, Arghun favoured minorities in his empire, notably Christians and Buddhists. In a Muslim-majority empire, it was a rather deliberate snub, particularly when he overthrew a Muslim monarch, but hardly unusual for a Mongol ruler. Arghun began his reign by executing some of Teguder’s loyalists, among them Shams al-Din Juvaini. Having retained the vizierate through Teguder’s reign, when Arghun’s rebellion toppled Teguder, Shams al-Din fled. Knowing that Arghun hated him and blamed him for poisoning Abaqa, it was a logical move to get out of Arghun’s sight. But guilt overcame him, knowing his sons were still within Arghun’s reach. Supposedly remarking that only a foolish man left his son in the hands of the Mongols, he returned upon learning that Arghun was apparently offering clemency. Shams al-Din also hoped his old friend Buqa would intercede on his behalf. After a warm reunion with Buqa, and an icy meeting with Arghun, Shams al-Din anxiously awaited his fate. When news came that he was to be fined 20,000,000 gold dinars, money he did not have, Shams al-Din knew his time was up. He urged Buqa to stop the plot, warning him that if the Mongols began to kill their viziers, they would not stop. Buqa did nothing. Shams al-Din consigned himself to his fate, writing his will as the guards came for him. In it, he forbid his younger sons from entering imperial service for the Mongols. On October 16th 1284, Shams al-Din Juvaini was executed on the order of Ilkhan Arghun, thus ending the career of a man who had served as vizier for twenty years, the last in a line of Juvainis who had served as administers for the Khwarezmshahs, the Seljuqs, and according to family legend, all the way back to ‘Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Shams al-Din’s lands were confiscated and one of his younger sons killed as well. He proved to be the longest lasting Ilkhanid vizier, as his warning to Buqa Noyan of the Mongols beginning to kill their viziers was accurate. Only one Ilkhanid vizier, Taj al-Din ‘Ali Shah, is known for certain to have died of natural causes in 1324. Every other vizier found their careers end bloodily, though sometimes only murdered after their dismissal. Few viziers between Shams al-Din’s death in 1284 and the appointment of Rashid al-Din in 1298 held the position even for a few years. Following Shams al-Din Juvaini’s death, Buqa dominated his late friend’s position. A proud Mongol, Buqa proved to have a taste for power. Arghun, after appointing Buqa to the position of na’ib and sahib-diwan, that is, viceroy and vizier, essentially left the running of the Ilkhanate to him. Once Buqa was in his place, and Arghun had made other regional governor appointments, such as his brother Geikhatu to Anatolia, his cousin Baidu to Mesopotamia, and his son Ghazan to Khurasan, Arghun mainly concerned himself with hunting, feasting, his many wives, and building programs, as well as diplomacy with the Mamluks and European powers. Government was largely left to Buqa, who grew in stature and placed his family in key positions. His brother Aruq, for example, became master of Baghdad, still one of the chief cities of the empire and the Eurasian trade routes even after Hulegu’s sack in 1258. This was the way things continued from 1284 until 1288. For four years, Buqa held almost total authority in the empire, over the military, the imperial family, economic affairs and the court. No document was valid without his signature. This seemed to suit Arghun fine, and it was a relationship recognized as far as the Yuan Dynasty. When a yarliq came from Khubilai Khan in 1286 investing Arghun as Ilkhan, it came with a title to grant to Buqa, chingsang, denoting chancellor. Yet Buqa’s growing arrogance from his might and immense wealth disgruntled other members of the military aristocracy. When Buqa began freely insulting them to their faces while court was in session, it pushed many of his former allies against him. In Baghdad Buqa’s brother Aruq acted like a king, ignoring Arghun’s messengers and failing to send tax revenue from the city to the imperial treasury. The annoyed generals began to whisper to Arghun of the brothers’ actions. First they succeeded in getting Arghun to remove Aruq from Baghdad, replacing him with a skillful Jewish physician named Sa’d al-Dawla, who quickly turned Baghdad’s finances around, discovering over 5 million dinars in unpaid taxes that were promptly shipped off to the treasury. The Noyan Taghachar, once an ally of Buqa who had deserted early to Arghun during the revolt, commissioned his deputy and a future vizier, Sadr al-Din Zanjani to undermine Buqa before Arghun - a ploy which gave Taghachar plausible deniability depending on the response of Buqa or Arghun. To the Ilkhan, Sadr al-Din Zanjani told him of Buqa’s ambition, how there were those who spoke of Buqa as the true emperor, that even yarliqs and paiza commissioned by the Ilkhan were not considered valid unless they bore Buqa’s red seal. These reports finally irritated Arghun to the scale of Buqa’s power, but he did not wish to throw out so dear an ally. When Buqa fell so ill he had to be briefly removed from his duties, Arghun did not remove his office, but did permanently shift a number of his responsibilities to others, including Noyan Taghachar. When Buqa resumed his office, his influence had been greatly reduced, and it did not take him long to discover what had happened. Feeling insulted, Buqa began to spend less time at court with Arghun, to the point he began to fake illnesses to avoid seeing the Ilkhan. When he learned of this disrespect, Arghun had Buqa’s men removed from prominent office. Feeling himself out of favour and perhaps soon to be directly in the Ilkhan’s ire, Buqa moved to treachery, and spent huge sums to organize a coup. Arghun only caught wind of it when prince Jushkeb, another grandson of Hulegu, betrayed the conspirators and informed the Ilkhan. A furious Arghun rounded up Buqa and his associates late in 1288, including Buqa’s brother Aruq and their sons. Jushkeb himself delivered Buqa’s sentence, which involved a very sharp blade and the side of Buqa’s neck. The rest of Buqa’s family was killed, but Arghun’s suspicions did not end there, and it seems Buqa’s betrayal unhinged Arghun. Even Jushkeb was put to death a few months later, a death which prompted the revolt of Nawruz, son of the late Arghun Aqa, the former head of the Mongolian Imperial Secretariat of Western Asia. When Nawruz revolted in Khurasan, Ilkhan Arghun commissioned his son Ghazan to rein him in. Other princes and officers accused of being in contact with Nawruz, such as Hulachu and Qara Nogai, a son and grandson of Hulegu respectively, were executed on Arghun’s order. If you feel that Arghun had suddenly become rather execution happy, you’re not the only one. By the end of his reign, Arghun executed, just in Rashid al-Din’s chapter on him, 41 named men. 16 were members of the Turko-Mongolian aristocracy. Mostly these occurred in Arghun’s final years after 1288. The fourteenth century Ilkhanid writer Wassaf remarked that Arghun had initially been adverse to blood letting, until the rise of his Jewish vizier, Sa’d al-Dawla. Of course, this comes from the Muslim writer Wassaf’s distaste for a Jewish man to have become overseer of the Ilkhanate’s Muslim population, and Sa’d al-Dawla did not become sahib-diwan until after Arghun started removing heads. Sa’d al-Dawla was a good choice for the position of vizier. Chosen to replace Buqa, Sa’d al-Dawla was an excellent fiscal mind. He had shown his skill in Baghdad, and when placed at the top of the Ilkhanate’s economy he quickly recouped losses for the imperial treasury and gained Arghun’s full backing. Some Muslim voices in the government were outraged with the appointment of a Jewish man in such a prominent position, but when Arghun had the chief complainer executed, Sa’d al-Dawla was able to comfortably go about his business without inordinate resistance, and was able to put his brother as well as Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani, a future vizier, in charge of Baghdad. This favouring of a Jewish man probably did much to cement Arghun, to writers like Bar Hebraeus and Wassaf, as a bitterly anti-Muslim man. Sa’d al-Dawla was not in total control, however. When he tried to provide lands to support the destitute sons of the late Shams al-Din Juvaini, Arghun had those lands confiscated and Shams al-Din’s sons killed. By 1290 Arghun was feeling comfortable and secure in his empire. Sa’d al-Dawla restored the Ilkhanate economy after mismanagement by Buqa. His son prince Ghazan fought Nawruz in Khurasan. The noyan Taghachar repulsed a Golden Horde attack on the Caucasus in 1290, and Arghun waited for news of the expected arrival of Christian forces from Europe to aid in an attack on Mamluk Egypt. Arghun was planning for the future, and needed to be around for it, for he anticipated great things. So in order to maintain a longer life, in 1290, on the advice of an Indian mystic, Arghun began taking a concoction of mercury and sulphur. For 8 months he took this mixture, topped off by a 40 day retreat to the fortress in Tabriz where he cut himself off from the world. Not surprisingly, he fell seriously ill. Once Sa’d al-Dawla, a well trained physician, had Arghun removed from the mystics, his health improved dramatically, but during a lapse in guard, or on Arghun’s approval, they were let back into his presence and gave him another concoction, supposedly of wine. Almost immediately Arghun relapsed, and in the closing days of 1290 it was clear that Arghun was dying. Certain high ranking noyans used this opportunity to get their retaliation in first. The noyans Taghachar and Qunchuqbal began rounding up their enemies and killing them. When vizier Sa’d al-Dawla contacted Arghun’s son Ghazan to return and put a stop to this, and likely to assume rulership, they had him killed as well. On the 10th of March, 1291, Arghun, son of Abaqa, grandson of Hulegu, great-grandson of Tolui and great-great-grandson of Chinggis Khan, died. He was 30 years old. Such was the effort at prolonging his life. Immediately the various noyans supported different candidates; Taghachar and Qunchuqbal supported Arghun’s cousin Baidu, another grandson of Hulegu, though Baidu himself seems to have been a reluctant candidate. However, the noyans Choban and Qurumshi backed Arghun’s brother Geikhatu, the governor of Rum’, a very wealthy man who controlled the Anatolian silver mines. Arghun’s son Ghazan was an obvious contender, but was still occupied battling the rebelling Nawruz in the far east. Geikhatu, at a quriltai, won the day, and on July 23rd, 1291, was enthroned as the fifth Khan of the Ilkhanate. It is his reign we begin with in our next episode, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you’d like to help us continue bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. Please also consider leaving us a positive review and rating on the podcast catcher of your choice, and sharing us with your friends; each one helps the podcast out alot. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.