Which texts/works were lost due to the Mongol invasions of Baghdad?

Which texts/works were lost due to the Mongol invasions of Baghdad?

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Which texts/works were lost due to the Mongol invasions of Baghdad? Baghdad was a center for learning and there seems to be an immense literature loss during the sack of that city, just like the losses from Alexandria library.

The main library in Baghdad was Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom. A very good article about its content and activities is here.

There were different phases. In the beginning they just interpreted Quran. Then they started translating foreign works. Later they started doing their own research in chemistry, algebra, medicine, and other disciplines.

From Britannica I read:

In that same capital city was founded the great library Bayt al-Ḥikmah (“House of Wisdom”), which, until the sack of the city by the Mongols in 1258, served as a huge repository for the series of works from the Hellenistic tradition that were translated into Arabic. Al-Andalus became to the rest of Europe a model of a society in which the religions and cultures of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism could work together and create a system of scholarship and teaching that could transmit the heritage of older civilizations and the rich cultural admixture of Andalusian society. Western science, mathematics, philosophy, music, and literature were all beneficiaries of this fascinating era, of whose final stages the fabulous Alhambra palace complex in Granada, Spain, remains the most visible token.

There also were mathematical texts:

The subsequent acquisition of Greek material was greatly advanced when the caliph al-Maʾmūn constructed a translation and research centre, the House of Wisdom, in Baghdad during his reign (813-833). Most of the translations were done from Greek and Syriac by Christian scholars, but the impetus and support for this activity came from Muslim patrons. These included not only the caliph but also wealthy individuals such as the three brothers known as the Banū Mūsā, whose treatises on geometry and mechanics formed an important part of the works studied in the Islamic world.

Of Euclid's works the Elements, the Data, the Optics, the Phaenomena, and On Divisions were translated. Of Archimedes' works only two-Sphere and Cylinder and Measurement of the Circle-are known to have been translated, but these were sufficient to stimulate independent researches from the 9th to the 15th century. On the other hand, virtually all of Apollonius's works were translated, and of Diophantus and Menelaus one book each, the Arithmetica and the Sphaerica, respectively, were translated into Arabic. Finally, the translation of Ptolemy's Almagest furnished important astronomical material.

Of the minor writings, Diocles' treatise on mirrors, Theodosius's Spherics, Pappus's work on mechanics, Ptolemy's Planisphaerium, and Hypsicles' treatises on regular polyhedra (the so-called Books XIV and XV of Euclid's Elements) were among those translated.

Aftermath of Mongol Dominance notes

Two naval campaigns against Japan in 1274 and 1281 failed and ended in complete disaster. The campaigns took place because the Japanese shoguns refused to submit to Mongol demands after the arrival of Mongol ambassadors to Japan in 1268 and 1271. After an attack on one of the ambassadors, the Mongols launched their first campaign in 1274 to avenge the ambassador.

The campaign failed miserably, largely due to the weather. Sailing off the coast of Japan, the Mongols never reached land as a large portion of their fleet was destroyed by a typhoon. The Japanese believed the storm was divinely sent and called it kamikaze or the "divine wind." This started the belief that the Japanese islands were divinely protected and could not be invaded by outside forces. The Mongols launched a second, larger fleet. Again, a typhoon struck and damaged the fleet, forcing the Mongols to stop the invasion.

The Mongols would soon experience similar results in their attacks and invasions of mainland Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam. Although victorious at first, the Mongols eventually would be forced to withdraw because of disease and bad weather. The Mongols simply were not skilled in naval or tropical land fighting. Each failed campaign resulted in vast sums of money being lost and the empire growing weaker.

Their extensive public works projects also contributed to the beginning of the Mongol collapse. These projects included the construction of a summer capital in Shangdu, the building of roads and a network of postal stations, the extension of the Grand Canal, and the construction of the capital city in Daidu. All of these projects required large investments of money and labor gained by raising taxes on peasants and merchants. Toward the end of Kublai Khan's reign, a deliberate inflation of the currency took place to cover the costs.

The westernmost territory of the empire, modern-day Russia—which was given to Batu Khan—was not under Mongol rule. Beginning in 1237, Batu's forces crossed the Volga River and invaded Russia. Moving rapidly through Russia, Batu conquered the cities of Kolumna, Moscow, Novgorod, and Kiev. With the fall of Kiev, the Mongols became the only group in history to successfully complete a large-scale winter invasion of Russia. As a result of the Mongol conquest of Russia, many groups fled to Europe.

The Mongol forces swept into Europe in 1241 and within one month, they defeated Poland and Hungary. By early 1242, Batu considered going further into Europe until he received news of the death of Khan Ogodei. This news was significant to say the least. Batu was concerned over the possibility that Guyuk Khan—another grandson—would be chosen as the next Great Khan. Batu decided to return to Russia and politically establish his domain. This decision resulted in the Mongol army withdrawing from Poland and Hungary. Europe was abandoned as Batu returned to his capital city north of the Caspian Sea. With his brother Orda, the two formed the khanate of the Golden Horde. This also foreshadowed the civil disunity that would ultimately bring down the Mongol Empire.

Guyuk became the Great Khan but died in 1248, just two years after his enthronement. His death averted a major civil war between Guyuk and Batu. Still another of Genghis's grandsons, Mongke—the next Khakhan—had ambitions to conquer the Song Empire in northern China and destroy the Muslim caliphs who threatened the western provinces. This campaign would include Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East. Mongke Khan led the attack against the Song and chose his brother Hulegu to lead the attack into the Middle East.

Hulegu began an advanced military campaign with the latest military weapons. Hulegu's experienced army marched into Persia and annexed the local dynasty of the Assassins on the south side of the Caspian Sea. Advancing westward, he captured Alamut and marched to Baghdad. The Caliph of Baghdad was easily defeated, and Baghdad was looted. Its fall was a great blow to Islam.

After the fall of Baghdad, Hulegu withdrew his entire army except for a small force to maintain control. The Mameluks in Egypt mounted a large army against the Mongols and defeated them at Ain Jalut. This defeat, coupled with the death of Mongke Khan, saved Egypt from falling to the Mongols—much as the death of Ogodei Khan had saved Europe from a similar fate years earlier.

The death of Mongke Khan in 1259 was a turning point in the history of the empire. For the western empire, it meant that Hulegu's campaign was ended. The unstable political environment in the East forced Hulegu to return to his land in Persia. Hulegu's campaign against the Caliph angered the Muslim Khan Berke of the Golden Horde (Batu Khan's younger brother and successor). With the absence of a Great Khan, a civil war erupted between Berke and Hulegu. This forced Berke to abandon his military plans to invade Europe once again.

Drawing from his peasant roots, Hongwu adopted laws that improved peasant life. Land taxes were lowered, the storage granaries were stocked in case of famine, and large land estates were divided among the poor. Hongwu repaired and maintained the irrigation dikes and canals on the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers to control the seasonal floods. Despite these reforms, Hongwu lacked the vision to develop trade and commerce. In true Confucian style, he felt that agriculture should remain the country's source of economic wealth. Following the Confucian view, Hongwu felt that trade was an inferior occupation and that merchants were evil capitalists.

Although merchants were looked down upon, China had established sea routes that were used for trade with South Asia and Japan. Around 1405, Zheng He began a series of seven naval expeditions that went as far as the east coast of Africa. The trips were mainly diplomatic and were completed in 1433. China was far ahead of the rest of the world in naval exploration at this time. However, no more exploration took place, and shipbuilding was reduced to small-size vessels. Pirate attacks on China's coast increased as a result.

The military, however, was not an inferior occupation under the Ming dynasty. In fact, a new militant class developed that ranked higher than other government position. Maintaining a strong military was important for the continual defense against the Mongol threat to China. The Ming completed the building and repair of the Great Wall as a defense against invading nomadic tribes. The name Hongwu means "vast military" and reflects the importance of this group.

Numerous cultural developments took place during the years of the Ming dynasty. A major development was the writing of Ming novels. These novels were written by Chinese storytellers in everyday language—not the language of the nobility. The stories were divided into chapters. These were the points where the storyteller stopped to collect money from listeners.

Block and wood-cut printing became more popular during this period. The people moving into the cities from the rural areas were the main market for the prints. Porcelain was popular in the normal colors of blue and white, but experiments were attempted in two or even three colors. Encyclopedias and dictionaries were also written. The total number of signs for Chinese characters was reduced by almost one-half.

Government was controlled by the Hongwu Emperor to prevent any group from gaining enough power to overthrow him. So he eliminated many government positions such as the prime minister's office and secretariat. This left many vacancies in the government. These vacancies were filled by lower class citizens.

Broadly defined, the term includes the Mongols proper (also known as the Khalkha Mongols), Buryats, Oirats, the Kalmyk people and the Southern Mongols. The latter comprises the Abaga Mongols, Abaganar, Aohans, Baarins, Gorlos Mongols, Jalaids, Jaruud, Khishigten, Khuuchid, Muumyangan and Onnigud.

The designation "Mongol" briefly appeared in 8th century records of Tang China to describe a tribe of Shiwei. It resurfaced in the late 11th century during the Khitan-ruled Liao dynasty. After the fall of the Liao in 1125, the Khamag Mongols became a leading tribe on the Mongolian Plateau. However, their wars with the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty and the Tatar confederation had weakened them.

In the thirteenth century, the word Mongol grew into an umbrella term for a large group of Mongolic-speaking tribes united under the rule of Genghis Khan. [14]

In various times Mongolic peoples have been equated with the Scythians, the Magog, and the Tungusic peoples. Based on Chinese historical texts the ancestry of the Mongolic peoples can be traced back to the Donghu, a nomadic confederation occupying eastern Mongolia and Manchuria. The identity of the Xiongnu (Hünnü) is still debated today. Although some scholars maintain that they were proto-Mongols, they were more likely a multi-ethnic group of Mongolic and Turkic tribes. [15] It has been suggested that the language of the Huns was related to the Hünnü. [16] [17]

The Donghu, however, can be much more easily labeled proto-Mongol since the Chinese histories trace only Mongolic tribes and kingdoms (Xianbei and Wuhuan peoples) from them, although some historical texts claim a mixed Xiongnu-Donghu ancestry for some tribes (e.g. the Khitan). [18]

In the Chinese classics

The Donghu are mentioned by Sima Qian as already existing in Inner Mongolia north of Yan in 699–632 BCE along with the Shanrong. Mentions in the Yi Zhou Shu ("Lost Book of Zhou") and the Classic of Mountains and Seas indicate the Donghu were also active during the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE).

The Xianbei formed part of the Donghu confederation, but had earlier times of independence, as evidenced by a mention in the Guoyu ("晉語八" section), which states that during the reign of King Cheng of Zhou (reigned 1042–1021 BCE) they came to participate at a meeting of Zhou subject-lords at Qiyang (岐阳) (now Qishan County) but were only allowed to perform the fire ceremony under the supervision of Chu since they were not vassals by covenant (诸侯). The Xianbei chieftain was appointed joint guardian of the ritual torch along with Xiong Yi.

These early Xianbei came from the nearby Zhukaigou culture (2200–1500 BCE) in the Ordos Desert, where maternal DNA corresponds to the Mongol Daur people and the Tungusic Evenks. The Zhukaigou Xianbei (part of the Ordos culture of Inner Mongolia and northern Shaanxi) had trade relations with the Shang. In the late 2nd century, the Han dynasty scholar Fu Qian (服虔) wrote in his commentary "Jixie" (集解) that "Shanrong and Beidi are ancestors of the present-day Xianbei". Again in Inner Mongolia another closely connected core Mongolic Xianbei region was the Upper Xiajiadian culture (1000–600 BCE) where the Donghu confederation was centered.

After the Donghu were defeated by Xiongnu king Modu Chanyu, the Xianbei and Wuhuan survived as the main remnants of the confederation. Tadun Khan of the Wuhuan (died 207 AD) was the ancestor of the proto-Mongolic Kumo Xi. [19] The Wuhuan are of the direct Donghu royal line and the New Book of Tang says that in 209 BCE, Modu Chanyu defeated the Wuhuan instead of using the word Donghu. The Xianbei, however, were of the lateral Donghu line and had a somewhat separate identity, although they shared the same language with the Wuhuan. In 49 CE the Xianbei ruler Bianhe (Bayan Khan?) raided and defeated the Xiongnu, killing 2000, after having received generous gifts from Emperor Guangwu of Han. The Xianbei reached their peak under Tanshihuai Khan (reigned 156–181) who expanded the vast, but short lived, Xianbei state (93–234).

Three prominent groups split from the Xianbei state as recorded by the Chinese histories: the Rouran (claimed by some to be the Pannonian Avars), the Khitan people and the Shiwei (a subtribe called the "Shiwei Menggu" is held to be the origin of the Genghisid Mongols). [20] Besides these three Xianbei groups, there were others such as the Murong, Duan and Tuoba. Their culture was nomadic, their religion shamanism or Buddhism and their military strength formidable. There is still no direct evidence that the Rouran spoke Mongolic languages, although most scholars agree that they were Proto-Mongolic. [21] The Khitan, however, had two scripts of their own and many Mongolic words are found in their half-deciphered writings.

Geographically, the Tuoba Xianbei ruled the southern part of Inner Mongolia and northern China, the Rouran (Yujiulü Shelun was the first to use the title khagan in 402) ruled eastern Mongolia, western Mongolia, the northern part of Inner Mongolia and northern Mongolia, the Khitan were concentrated in eastern part of Inner Mongolia north of Korea and the Shiwei were located to the north of the Khitan. These tribes and kingdoms were soon overshadowed by the rise of the First Turkic Khaganate in 555, the Uyghur Khaganate in 745 and the Yenisei Kirghiz states in 840. The Tuoba were eventually absorbed into China. The Rouran fled west from the Göktürks and either disappeared into obscurity or, as some say, invaded Europe as the Avars under their Khan, Bayan I. Some Rouran under Tatar Khan migrated east, founding the Tatar confederation, who became part of the Shiwei. The Khitan, who were independent after their separation from the Kumo Xi (of Wuhuan origin) in 388, continued as a minor power in Manchuria until one of them, Ambagai (872–926), established the Liao dynasty (907–1125) as Emperor Taizu of Liao.

Mongol Empire

The destruction of Uyghur Khaganate by the Kirghiz resulted in the end of Turkic dominance in Mongolia. According to historians, Kirghiz were not interested in assimilating newly acquired lands instead, they controlled local tribes through various manaps (tribal leader). The Khitans occupied the areas vacated by the Turkic Uyghurs bringing them under their control. The Yenisei Kirghiz state was centered on Khakassia and they were expelled from Mongolia by the Khitans in 924. Beginning in the 10th century, the Khitans, under the leadership of Abaoji, prevailed in several military campaigns against the Tang dynasty ' s border guards, and the Xi, Shiwei and Jurchen nomadic groups. [22]

Khitan royalty led by Yelü Dashi fled west through Mongolia after being defeated by the Jurchens (later known as Manchu) and founded the Qara Khitai (1125–1218) in eastern Kazakhstan while still maintaining control over western Mongolia. In 1218, Genghis Khan incorporated the Qara Khitai after which the Khitan passed into obscurity. Some remnants surfaced as the Qutlugh-Khanid dynasty (1222-1306) in Iran and the Dai Khitai in Afghanistan. With the expansion of the Mongol Empire, the Mongolic peoples settled over almost all Eurasia and carried on military campaigns from the Adriatic Sea to Indonesian Java island and from Japan to Palestine (Gaza). They simultaneously became Padishahs of Persia, Emperors of China, and Great Khans of the Mongols, and one became Sultan of Egypt (Al-Adil Kitbugha). The Mongolic peoples of the Golden Horde established themselves to govern Russia by 1240. [23] By 1279, they conquered the Song dynasty and brought all of China proper under the control of the Yuan dynasty. [23]

. from Chinggis up high down to the common people, all are shaven in the style pojiao. As with small boys in China, they leave three locks, one hanging from the crown of their heads. When it has grown some, they clip it the strands lower on both sides they plait to hang down on the shoulders. [24]

With the breakup of the empire, the dispersed Mongolic peoples quickly adopted the mostly Turkic cultures surrounding them and were assimilated, forming parts of Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Tatars, Bashkirs, Turkmens, Uyghurs, Nogays, Kyrgyzs, Kazakhs, Caucasaus peoples, Iranian peoples and Moghuls linguistic and cultural Persianization also began to be prominent in these territories. Some Mongols assimilated into the Yakuts after their migration to Northern Siberia and about 30% of Yakut words have Mongol origin. However, most of the Yuan Mongols returned to Mongolia in 1368, retaining their language and culture. There were 250,000 Mongols in Southern China and many Mongols were massacred by the rebel army. The survivors were trapped in southern china and eventually assimilated. The Dongxiangs, Bonans, Yugur and Monguor people were invaded by Chinese Ming dynasty.

Northern Yuan

After the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, the Mongols continued to rule the Northern Yuan dynasty in northern China and the Mongolian steppe. However, the Oirads began to challenge the Eastern Mongolic peoples under the Borjigin monarchs in the late 14th century and Mongolia was divided into two parts: Western Mongolia (Oirats) and Eastern Mongolia (Khalkha, Inner Mongols, Barga, Buryats). The earliest written references to the plough in Middle Mongolian language sources appear towards the end of the 14th c. [25]

In 1434, Eastern Mongolian Taisun Khan's (1433–1452) prime minister Western Mongolian Togoon Taish reunited the Mongols after killing Eastern Mongolian another king Adai (Khorchin). Togoon died in 1439 and his son Esen Taish became prime minister. Esen carried out successful policy for Mongolian unification and independence. The Ming Empire attempted to invade Mongolia in the 14–16th centuries, however, the Ming Empire was defeated by the Oirat, Southern Mongol, Eastern Mongol and united Mongolian armies. Esen's 30,000 cavalries defeated 500,000 Chinese soldiers in 1449. Within eighteen months of his defeat of the titular Khan Taisun, in 1453, Esen himself took the title of Great Khan (1454–1455) of the Great Yuan. [26]

The Khalkha emerged during the reign of Dayan Khan (1479–1543) as one of the six tumens of the Eastern Mongolic peoples. They quickly became the dominant Mongolic clan in Mongolia proper. [27] [28] He reunited the Mongols again. The Mongols voluntarily reunified during Eastern Mongolian Tümen Zasagt Khan rule (1558–1592) for the last time (the Mongol Empire united all Mongols before this).

Eastern Mongolia was divided into three parts in the 17th century: Outer Mongolia (Khalkha), Inner Mongolia (Inner Mongols) and the Buryat region in southern Siberia.

The last Mongol khagan was Ligdan in the early 17th century. He got into conflicts with the Manchus over the looting of Chinese cities, and managed to alienate most Mongol tribes. In 1618, Ligdan signed a treaty with the Ming dynasty to protect their northern border from the Manchus attack in exchange for thousands of taels of silver. By the 1620s, only the Chahars remained under his rule.

Qing-era Mongols

The Chahar army was defeated in 1625 and 1628 by the Inner Mongol and Manchu armies due to Ligdan's faulty tactics. The Qing forces secured their control over Inner Mongolia by 1635, and the army of the last khan Ligdan moved to battle against Tibetan Gelugpa sect (Yellow Hat sect) forces. The Gelugpa forces supported the Manchus, while Ligdan supported Kagyu sect (Red Hat sect) of Tibetan Buddhism. Ligden died in 1634 on his way to Tibet. By 1636, most Inner Mongolian nobles had submitted to the Qing dynasty founded by the Manchus. Inner Mongolian Tengis noyan revolted against the Qing in the 1640s and the Khalkha battled to protect Sunud.

Western Mongolian Oirats and Eastern Mongolian Khalkhas vied for domination in Mongolia since the 15th century and this conflict weakened Mongolian strength. In 1688, Western Mongolian Dzungar Khanate's king Galdan Boshugtu attacked Khalkha after murder of his younger brother by Tusheet Khan Chakhundorj (main or Central Khalkha leader) and the Khalkha-Oirat War began. Galdan threatened to kill Chakhundorj and Zanabazar (Javzandamba Khutagt I, spiritual head of Khalkha) but they escaped to Sunud (Inner Mongolia). Many Khalkha nobles and folks fled to Inner Mongolia because of the war. Few Khalkhas fled to the Buryat region and Russia threatened to exterminate them if they did not submit, but many of them submitted to Galdan Boshugtu.

In 1683 Galdan's armies reached Tashkent and the Syr Darya and crushed two armies of the Kazakhs. After that Galdan subjugated the Black Khirgizs and ravaged the Fergana Valley. From 1685 Galdan's forces aggressively pushed the Kazakhs. While his general Rabtan took Taraz, and his main force forced the Kazakhs to migrate westwards. [29] In 1687, he besieged the City of Turkistan. Under the leadership of Abul Khair Khan, the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungars at the Bulanty River in 1726, and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729. [30]

The Khalkha eventually submitted to Qing rule in 1691 by Zanabazar's decision, thus bringing all of today's Mongolia under the rule of the Qing dynasty but Khalkha de facto remained under the rule of Galdan Boshugtu Khaan until 1696. The Mongol-Oirat's Code (a treaty of alliance) against foreign invasion between the Oirats and Khalkhas was signed in 1640, however, the Mongols could not unite against foreign invasions. Chakhundorj fought against Russian invasion of Outer Mongolia until 1688 and stopped Russian invasion of Khövsgöl Province. Zanabazar struggled to bring together the Oirats and Khalkhas before the war.

Galdan Boshugtu sent his army to "liberate" Inner Mongolia after defeating the Khalkha's army and called Inner Mongolian nobles to fight for Mongolian independence. Some Inner Mongolian nobles, Tibetans, Kumul Khanate and some Moghulistan's nobles supported his war against the Manchus, however, Inner Mongolian nobles did not battle against the Qing.

There were three khans in Khalkha and Zasagt Khan Shar (Western Khalkha leader) was Galdan's ally. Tsetsen Khan (Eastern Khalkha leader) did not engage in this conflict. While Galdan was fighting in Eastern Mongolia, his nephew Tseveenravdan seized the Dzungarian throne in 1689 and this event made Galdan impossible to fight against the Qing Empire. The Russian and Qing Empires supported his action because this coup weakened Western Mongolian strength. Galdan Boshugtu's army was defeated by the outnumbering Qing army in 1696 and he died in 1697. The Mongols who fled to the Buryat region and Inner Mongolia returned after the war. Some Khalkhas mixed with the Buryats.

The Buryats fought against Russian invasion since the 1620s and thousands of Buryats were massacred. The Buryat region was formally annexed to Russia by treaties in 1689 and 1727, when the territories on both the sides of Lake Baikal were separated from Mongolia. In 1689 the Treaty of Nerchinsk established the northern border of Manchuria north of the present line. The Russians retained Trans-Baikalia between Lake Baikal and the Argun River north of Mongolia. The Treaty of Kyakhta (1727), along with the Treaty of Nerchinsk, regulated the relations between Imperial Russia and the Qing Empire until the mid-nineteenth century. It established the northern border of Mongolia. Oka Buryats revolted in 1767 and Russia completely conquered the Buryat region in the late 18th century. Russia and Qing were rival empires until the early 20th century, however, both empires carried out united policy against Central Asians.

The Qing Empire conquered Upper Mongolia or the Oirat's Khoshut Khanate in the 1720s and 80,000 people were killed. [31] By that period, Upper Mongolian population reached 200,000. The Dzungar Khanate conquered by the Qing dynasty in 1755–1758 because of their leaders and military commanders conflicts. Some scholars estimate that about 80% of the Dzungar population were destroyed by a combination of warfare and disease during the Qing conquest of the Dzungar Khanate in 1755–1758. [32] Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide, [33] has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence." [34] The Dzungar population reached 600,000 in 1755.

About 200,000–250,000 Oirats migrated from Western Mongolia to Volga River in 1607 and established the Kalmyk Khanate.The Torghuts were led by their Tayishi, Höö Örlög. Russia was concerned about their attack but the Kalmyks became Russian ally and a treaty to protect Southern Russian border was signed between the Kalmyk Khanate and Russia.In 1724 the Kalmyks came under control of Russia. By the early 18th century, there were approximately 300–350,000 Kalmyks and 15,000,000 Russians. [ citation needed ] The Tsardom of Russia gradually chipped away at the autonomy of the Kalmyk Khanate. These policies, for instance, encouraged the establishment of Russian and German settlements on pastures the Kalmyks used to roam and feed their livestock. In addition, the Tsarist government imposed a council on the Kalmyk Khan, thereby diluting his authority, while continuing to expect the Kalmyk Khan to provide cavalry units to fight on behalf of Russia. The Russian Orthodox church, by contrast, pressured Buddhist Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy.In January 1771, approximately 200,000 (170,000) [35] Kalmyks began the migration from their pastures on the left bank of the Volga River to Dzungaria (Western Mongolia), through the territories of their Bashkir and Kazakh enemies. The last Kalmyk khan Ubashi led the migration to restore Mongolian independence. Ubashi Khan sent his 30,000 cavalries to the Russo-Turkish War in 1768–1769 to gain weapon before the migration. The Empress Catherine the Great ordered the Russian army, Bashkirs and Kazakhs to exterminate all migrants and the Empress abolished the Kalmyk Khanate. [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] The Kyrgyzs attacked them near Balkhash Lake. About 100,000–150,000 Kalmyks who settled on the west bank of the Volga River could not cross the river because the river did not freeze in the winter of 1771 and Catherine the Great executed influential nobles of them. After seven months of travel, only one-third (66,073) [35] of the original group reached Dzungaria (Balkhash Lake, western border of the Qing Empire). [40] The Qing Empire transmigrated the Kalmyks to five different areas to prevent their revolt and influential leaders of the Kalmyks died soon (killed by the Manchus). Russia states that Buryatia voluntarily merged with Russia in 1659 due to Mongolian oppression and the Kalmyks voluntarily accepted Russian rule in 1609 but only Georgia voluntarily accepted Russian rule. [41] [42]

In the early 20th century, the late Qing government encouraged Han Chinese colonization of Mongolian lands under the name of "New Policies" or "New Administration" (xinzheng). As a result, some Mongol leaders (especially those of Outer Mongolia) decided to seek Mongolian independence. After the Xinhai Revolution, the Mongolian Revolution on 30 November 1911 in Outer Mongolia ended over 200-year rule of the Qing dynasty.

Post-Qing era

With the independence of Outer Mongolia, the Mongolian army controlled Khalkha and Khovd regions (modern day Uvs, Khovd, and Bayan-Ölgii provinces), but Northern Xinjiang (the Altai and Ili regions of the Qing Empire), Upper Mongolia, Barga and Inner Mongolia came under control of the newly formed Republic of China. On February 2, 1913 the Bogd Khanate of Mongolia sent Mongolian cavalries to "liberate" Inner Mongolia from China. Russia refused to sell weapons to the Bogd Khanate, and the Russian czar, Nicholas II, referred to it as "Mongolian imperialism". Additionally, the United Kingdom urged Russia to abolish Mongolian independence as it was concerned that "if Mongolians gain independence, then Central Asians will revolt". 10,000 Khalkha and Inner Mongolian cavalries (about 3,500 Inner Mongols) defeated 70,000 Chinese soldiers and controlled almost all of Inner Mongolia however, the Mongolian army retreated due to lack of weapons in 1914. 400 Mongol soldiers and 3,795 Chinese soldiers died in this war. The Khalkhas, Khovd Oirats, Buryats, Dzungarian Oirats, Upper Mongols, Barga Mongols, most Inner Mongolian and some Tuvan leaders sent statements to support Bogd Khan's call of Mongolian reunification. In reality however, most of them were too prudent or irresolute to attempt joining the Bogd Khan regime. [43] Russia encouraged Mongolia to become an autonomous region of China in 1914. Mongolia lost Barga, Dzungaria, Tuva, Upper Mongolia and Inner Mongolia in the 1915 Treaty of Kyakhta.

In October 1919, the Republic of China occupied Mongolia after the suspicious deaths of Mongolian patriotic nobles. On 3 February 1921 the White Russian army—led by Baron Ungern and mainly consisting of Mongolian volunteer cavalries, and Buryat and Tatar cossacks—liberated the Mongolian capital. Baron Ungern's purpose was to find allies to defeat the Soviet Union. The Statement of Reunification of Mongolia was adopted by Mongolian revolutionist leaders in 1921. The Soviet, however, considered Mongolia to be Chinese territory in 1924 during secret meeting with the Republic of China. However, the Soviets officially recognized Mongolian independence in 1945 but carried out various policies (political, economic and cultural) against Mongolia until its fall in 1991 to prevent Pan-Mongolism and other irredentist movements.

On 10 April 1932 Mongolians revolted against the government's new policy and Soviets. The government and Soviet soldiers defeated the rebels in October.

The Buryats started to migrate to Mongolia in the 1900s due to Russian oppression. Joseph Stalin's regime stopped the migration in 1930 and started a campaign of ethnic cleansing against newcomers and Mongolians. During the Stalinist repressions in Mongolia almost all adult Buryat men and 22–33,000 Mongols (3–5% of the total population common citizens, monks, Pan-Mongolists, nationalists, patriots, hundreds military officers, nobles, intellectuals and elite people) were shot dead under Soviet orders. [44] [45] Some authors also offer much higher estimates, up to 100,000 victims. [45] Around the late 1930s the Mongolian People's Republic had an overall population of about 700,000 to 900,000 people. By 1939, Soviet said "We repressed too many people, the population of Mongolia is only hundred thousands". Proportion of victims in relation to the population of the country is much higher than the corresponding figures of the Great Purge in the Soviet Union.

The Manchukuo (1932–1945), puppet state of the Empire of Japan (1868–1947) invaded Barga and some part of Inner Mongolia with Japanese help. The Mongolian army advanced to the Great Wall of China during the Soviet–Japanese War of 1945 (Mongolian name: Liberation War of 1945). Japan forced Inner Mongolian and Barga people to fight against Mongolians but they surrendered to Mongolians and started to fight against their Japanese and Manchu allies. Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan called Inner Mongolians and Xinjiang Oirats to migrate to Mongolia during the war but the Soviet Army blocked Inner Mongolian migrants way. It was a part of Pan-Mongolian plan and few Oirats and Inner Mongols (Huuchids, Bargas, Tümeds, about 800 Uzemchins) arrived. Inner Mongolian leaders carried out active policy to merge Inner Mongolia with Mongolia since 1911. They founded the Inner Mongolian Army in 1929 but the Inner Mongolian Army disbanded after ending World War II. The Japanese Empire supported Pan-Mongolism since the 1910s but there have never been active relations between Mongolia and Imperial Japan due to Russian resistance. Inner Mongolian nominally independent Mengjiang state (1936–1945) was established with support of Japan in 1936 also some Buryat and Inner Mongol nobles founded Pan-Mongolist government with support of Japan in 1919.

The Inner Mongols established the short-lived Republic of Inner Mongolia in 1945.

Another part of Choibalsan's plan was to merge Inner Mongolia and Dzungaria with Mongolia. By 1945, Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong requested the Soviets to stop Pan-Mongolism because China lost its control over Inner Mongolia and without Inner Mongolian support the Communists were unable to defeat Japan and Kuomintang.

Mongolia and Soviet-supported Xinjiang Uyghurs and Kazakhs' separatist movement in the 1930–1940s. By 1945, Soviet refused to support them after its alliance with the Communist Party of China and Mongolia interrupted its relations with the separatists under pressure. Xinjiang Oirat's militant groups operated together the Turkic peoples but the Oirats did not have the leading role due to their small population. Basmachis or Turkic and Tajik militants fought to liberate Central Asia (Soviet Central Asia) until 1942.

On February 2, 1913 the Treaty of friendship and alliance between the Government of Mongolia and Tibet was signed. Mongolian agents and Bogd Khan disrupted Soviet secret operations in Tibet to change its regime in the 1920s.

On October 27, 1961, the United Nations recognized Mongolian independence and granted the nation full membership in the organization.

The Tsardom of Russia, Russian Empire, Soviet Union, capitalist and communist China performed many genocide actions against the Mongols (assimilate, reduce the population, extinguish the language, culture, tradition, history, religion and ethnic identity). Peter the Great said: "The headwaters of the Yenisei River must be Russian land". [46] Russian Empire sent the Kalmyks and Buryats to war to reduce the populations (World War I and other wars). Soviet scientists attempted to convince the Kalmyks and Buryats that they're not the Mongols during the 20th century (demongolization policy). 35,000 Buryats were killed during the rebellion of 1927 and around one-third of Buryat population in Russia died in the 1900s–1950s. [47] [48] 10,000 Buryats of the Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic were massacred by Stalin's order in the 1930s. [49] In 1919 the Buryats established a small theocratic Balagad state in Kizhinginsky District of Russia and the Buryat's state fell in 1926. In 1958, the name "Mongol" was removed from the name of the Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

On 22 January 1922 Mongolia proposed to migrate the Kalmyks during the Kalmykian Famine but bolshevik Russia refused.71–72,000 (93,000? around half of the population) Kalmyks died during the Russian famine of 1921–22. [50] The Kalmyks revolted against Soviet Union in 1926, 1930 and 1942–1943 (see Kalmykian Cavalry Corps). In 1913, Nicholas II, tsar of Russia, said: "We need to prevent from Volga Tatars. But the Kalmyks are more dangerous than them because they are the Mongols so send them to war to reduce the population". [51] On 23 April 1923 Joseph Stalin, communist leader of Russia, said: "We are carrying out wrong policy on the Kalmyks who related to the Mongols.Our policy is too peaceful". [51] In March 1927, Soviet deported 20,000 Kalmyks to Siberia, tundra and Karelia.The Kalmyks founded sovereign Republic of Oirat-Kalmyk on 22 March 1930. [51] The Oirat's state had a small army and 200 Kalmyk soldiers defeated 1,700 Soviet soldiers in Durvud province of Kalmykia but the Oirat's state destroyed by the Soviet Army in 1930. Kalmykian nationalists and Pan-Mongolists attempted to migrate Kalmyks to Mongolia in the 1920s. Mongolia suggested to migrate the Soviet Union's Mongols to Mongolia in the 1920s but Russia refused the suggest.

Stalin deported all Kalmyks to Siberia in 1943 and around half of (97–98,000) Kalmyk people deported to Siberia died before being allowed to return home in 1957. [52] The government of the Soviet Union forbade teaching Kalmyk language during the deportation. The Kalmyks' main purpose was to migrate to Mongolia and many Kalmyks joined the German Army.Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan attempted to migrate the deportees to Mongolia and he met with them in Siberia during his visit to Russia. Under the Law of the Russian Federation of April 26, 1991 "On Rehabilitation of Exiled Peoples" repressions against Kalmyks and other peoples were qualified as an act of genocide.

After the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War resumed between the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong. In December 1949, Chiang evacuated his government to Taiwan. Hundred thousands Inner Mongols were massacred during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and China forbade Mongol traditions, celebrations and the teaching of Mongolic languages during the revolution. In Inner Mongolia, some 790,000 people were persecuted. Approximately 1,000,000 Inner Mongols were killed during the 20th century. [53] [ citation needed ] In 1960 Chinese newspaper wrote that "Han Chinese ethnic identity must be Chinese minorities ethnic identity". [ citation needed ] China-Mongolia relations were tense from the 1960s to the 1980s as a result of Sino-Soviet split, and there were several border conflicts during the period. [54] Cross-border movement of Mongols was therefore hindered.

On 3 October 2002 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Taiwan recognizes Mongolia as an independent country, [55] although no legislative actions were taken to address concerns over its constitutional claims to Mongolia. [56] Offices established to support Taipei's claims over Outer Mongolia, such as the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, [57] lie dormant.

Agin-Buryat Okrug and Ust-Orda Buryat Okrugs merged with Irkutsk Oblast and Chita Oblast in 2008 despite Buryats' resistance. Small scale protests occurred in Inner Mongolia in 2011. The Inner Mongolian People's Party is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization [58] and its leaders are attempting to establish sovereign state or merge Inner Mongolia with Mongolia.


One of the most popular claims made to show the level of wanton destruction of Baghdad after the Mongol siege in 1258 is that when the Mongols besieged the city, they sacked its libraries and destroyed books on science, philosophy, religion, and other subjects by throwing them into the Tigris river, such that it began to flow black with ink. Most often, the claim is quoted in attempts to frame the Mongol invasions as the cause of intellectual decline and the end of the “golden age” of Islamic civilization. This story, however, is an extreme exaggeration, not being attested to in any of the primary sources.

The story seems to have originated sometime in the early 15 th century, becoming popular as later historians began to repeat it, possibly as Mamluk anti-Mongol propaganda. However, the early sources that we do have, from the 14 th century, paint a rather different picture – one of many of the books in the libraries of Baghdad being saved and protected at the hands of the Shī’ī philosopher Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274). Unfortunately, this is not well known in popular contemporary histories, and stories of Mongol excesses, their barbarity, and their lack of enthusiasm for knowledge and science pervade.

Though I have not been able to pinpoint when the claim that the Mongols threw the books of the libraries of Baghdad into the Tigris became popular in western narratives on the Siege of Baghdad (1258), the earliest mention of the books being destroyed that I have found is in E.G. Browne’s A Literary History of Persia (1906). He describes the sacking of Baghdad, and when commenting on the level of destruction, says, “thousands of priceless books [were] utterly annihilated”. He does not, however, go into further detail. [1]

In more recent works, such as History of the Libraries of the Western World (1976) have an explicit reference to the incident, “So many books were thrown into the Tigris River, according to one writer, that they formed a bridge that would support a man on horseback.” [2] This is repeated in Lost Libraries (2004), where the unknown “one writer” from History of the Libraries of the Western World turned into a “contemporary eyewitness” that “reported that so many books were thrown into the Tigris that ‘they formed a bridge that would support men on horseback’.” [3] In popular contemporary books on Islamic history, such as Lost Islamic History (2014), the claim is repeated again. In a particularly disappointing chapter due to a sweeping overview and gross mischaracterisation, it is claimed that Baghdad’s House of Wisdom was razed and “Its books were dumped into the Tigris River, the ink from hundreds of years of scholarship turning the river black.” [4]

The Origin of the Claim

As for the source of this claim, the earliest explicit reference to books being thrown into the Tigris that I have found is Ibn Khaldūn (d. 1406) in his Tarīkh, over 130 years after the siege of Baghdad. He writes:

“The books of knowledge in their libraries were thrown into the Tigris, in return for – according to them – what the Muslims did with the books of the Persians when they conquered their cities.” [5]

Whether the Muslim armies actually did destroy Persian libraries is of little importance. The problem with this is that as well as it being a very late source, there is no evidence the Mongols had interest in “taking revenge” on behalf of the Persians. As for other references, it seems that after Ibn Khaldun, sometime in the late 14 th and early 15 th century, the claim that the books were thrown into the river became widespread, and was repeated by a number of authors such as Ibn Taghrī Birdī (d. 1470), [6] and al-‘Iṣāmī (d. 1699). [7] al-Qalqashandī (d. 1418), mentions the destruction of the library, but says nothing about the books being thrown into the river. [8]

We can add to these later 14 th and 15 th century accounts the work attributed to famous Baghadadi historian Ibn al-Sā’ī (d. 1276), Mukhtaṣar Akhbār al-Khulafā’. The attribution of this work to Ibn al-Sā’ī is clearly a mistake. [9] The book ends after a short reference to dynasties that arose in the mid-14 th century with the disintegration of the Ilkhanate after the death of Abū Sa’īd in 1335, well after the death of Ibn al-Sā’ī. It also contains an account of Hülegü’s conversion to Islam, which Ibn al-Sā’ī, who was appointed as the librarian of al-Mustanṣirriyah college under the Ilkhanids until 1273, would have known was false. As such, we can conclude that text was written at the earliest in the mid-14 th century, if not later. Unlike the aforementioned historians, the anonymous author of this book does not mention books being thrown into the Tigris, but rather that, “It is said that the Mongols built horse-stables and troughs with the books of scholars, in place of bricks.” [10] The expression of doubt by saying, “it is said” makes the authorship of this passage by al-Sā’ī even more suspect. He was the librarian of the Niẓāmiyyah during al-Mu’taṣim’s reign and al-Mustanṣirriyah under the Ilkhanids, so he would have surely known of the fate of Baghdad’s books. As a result, this book cannot be taken as a contemporaneous account of what happened to the books.

What Actually Happened to The Books?

In trying to ascertain what happened to the books, it is important to note that some of the most important primary sources on Ilkhanate that describe the siege of Baghdad do not mention the books as all, such as Rashīd al-Dīn al-Hamadhānī (d. 1318), Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286) and the anonymous author of al-Ḥawādith al-Jāmi’a. These writers were scholars and men of knowledge in their own right, so they would have been concerned about the fate of the books, especially if they had actually been destroyed entirely. The fact that they do not mention them, however, is an indication that they were not destroyed, or at least that the claim is exaggerated.

There are, though, some early sources that do let us know what happened to the books – they were most likely preserved or moved to other libraries by Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274). The main libraries of Baghdad were still in use in the first half of the 14 th century, Ḥamd Allāh Mustawfī (d. 1349) describes the Niẓāmiyyah college as “the greatest of them all”, and al-Mustanṣiriyyah as “the most beautiful building in Baghdad.”, indicating too that the books and buildings were not entirely destroyed. [11]

There are also some primary sources that do give a clear indication of what happened. Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), with all his animosity for the Mongols and the Shī’ā writes:

“When the Mongols captured Baghdad, al-Ṭūsī was an astrologer for Hülegü. He (al-Ṭūsī) took possession of the people’s books, the endowments, and land. And so, he destroyed the books of Islam, such as tafsīr (Qur’an exegesis), ḥadīth (Prophetic narrations), fiqh (jurisprudence), and raqā’iq (heart softeners) but took the books of medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and Arabic, for they were the great books in his estimation.” [12]

Ibn Taymiyyah is the first among the sources to mention that al-Ṭūsī took possession of the books, but here both sides are represented – some books were destroyed and some preserved. Whether al-Ṭūsī actually did destroy “the books of Islam” is open to question, this could be an exaggeration on Ibn Taymiyyah’s part to suit his polemic attack on philosophy and philosophers, and the Shi’a. Other historians do not mention al-Ṭūsī destroying any books. Among some 14th century historians, it appears that al-Ṭūsī moving the books to Marāgheh was well known. al-Ṣafadī (d. 1363) writes:

“Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī built a magnificent dome and observatory in Marāgheh, and he made in it a large, expansive library and filled it with books that were taken from Baghdad, Syria, and Upper Mesopotamia until there were over 400,000 volumes gathered there.” [13]

The same wording from al-Ṣafadī is repeated by al-Kutbī (d. 1363), who used al-Ṣafadī’s biographical dictionary as a source. [14] Ibn Kathīr (d. 1373), a student of Ibn Taymiyyah, also mentions al-Ṭūsī moving the books and endowments to Marāgheh, as well as describing the pay for the scholars and philosophers working in his observatory. [15] In the first half of the 15 th century, at the same time the claim the books were thrown into the Tigris was circulating, al-Maqrīzī (d. 1442) also describes Hülegü building the observatory for al-Ṭūsī and the transfer of the books to it. [16]

al-Ṭūsī being given permission to transfer the books to Marāgheh also has a precedent in the Mongol conquests. Another example of a library being saved and its books transferred after a conquest is recorded by Atā’ Malik Juwaynī (d. 1283). After Hülegü besieged the Ismā’īlī castle in Alamut, Juwaynī writes that he suggested that “the valuable books ought not to be destroyed”, to which Hülegü agreed. Juwaynī says:

I went to examine the library, from which I extracted whatever I found in the way of copies of the Koran and [other] choice books after the manner of ‘He brought forth the living from the dead’. I likewise picked out the astronomical instruments such as kursīs armillary spheres, complete and partial astrolabes and other … that were there. As for the remaining books, which related to their heresy and error and were neither founded on tradition nor supported by reason, I burnt them all. [17]

There is no reason to doubt that the siege of Baghdad was similar – Juwaynī, appointed the governor of Baghdad after the siege, may have also been involved in preserving the books. If Juwaynī did have a hand in it, Ibn Taymiyyah’s claim that the “books of Islam” were destroyed is further cast into doubt. Juwaynī was a devout Sunni Muslim who would have objected to books of the same type that he had saved in Alamut being destroyed in Baghdad. The only books that Juwaynī says be burnt in Alamut were those that related specifically to Ismā’īlī theology and history. [18]

It should be clear now, that the claims of the books being thrown into the Tigris river were from later authors sometime in the 15 th century. This claim is not reflected in earlier and more reliable sources, that either say nothing about the books or mention most of them being taken by al-Ṭūsī to the Marāgheh observatory, with a fraction of them being destroyed, and perhaps some even thrown into the river. It is also hoped that this short article also corrects some perceptions of the Mongols and their conquests. There is much to research and learn about the history of Mongol rule in Iran and its effects in the region. Rather than being a period of decline, and beyond the destruction wrought in the initial conquests, the establishment of the Ilkhanate led to a period of rich cross-cultural transmission, a flourishing of the arts, and further opened up trade routes between the Far East and the Muslim world.

[1] Edward G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia: From Firdawsī to Sa’dī (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1906), p. 463.

[2] Elmer D. Johnson and Michael H. Harris, History of the Libraries of the Western World, 3rd ed. (New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976), p. 91.

[3] James Raven, ‘Introduction: The Resonances of Loss’, in Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Great Book Collections since Antiquity, ed. James Raven (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 11.

[4] Firas Alkhateeb, Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim Civilisation from the Past (UK: C. Hurst & Co., 2014), p. 108.

[5] Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn, ed. Khalīl Shaḥḥadāh (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 2000), p. 5:613.

[6] Ibn Taghrī Birdī, al-Nujūm al-Zāhirah fī Mulūk Miṣr wa ’l-Qāhirah (Egypt: Wizarāh al-Thaqāfah, 1963), p. 7:51.

[7] al-’Iṣāmī, Simṭ al-Nūjūm al-Awālī, (Beirut: Dār a-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, 1998), p. 3:519.

[8] al-Qalqashandī, al-Ṣubḥ al-A’shā’ (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al-Miṣriyyah, 1922), p. 1:466.

[9] F. Rosenthal, ‘Ibn Al-Sāʿī’, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition Michal Biran, ‘The Islamisation of Hülegü: Imaginary Conversion in the Ilkhanate’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 26, no. 1–2 (January 2016), p. 82.

[10] Anonymous, Mukhtaṣar Akhbār al-Khulafā’ (Cairo, 1891), p. 127.

[11] Ḥamd Allāh Mustawfī, The Geographical Part of the Nuzhat Al-Qulūb Composed by Hamd Allah Mustawfi of Qazwin in 740 (1340), trans. Guy Le Strange (Leiden: Brill, 1915), p. 42.

[12] Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmū’ al-Fatāwa (Dār al-Wafā’, 2005), p. 13:111.

[13] Khạlīl b. Aybak al-̣Safadī, Kitāb al-Wāfī bi’l-Wafayāt (Beirut: Dār Ihyā’ al-Turāth al-Islāmī, 2000), p. 1:147, #114.

[14] al-Kutbī, Fawāt al-Wafāyāt (Beirut: Dār al-Ṣādir, 1973), p. 3:247, #414.

[15] Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wa ‘l-Hidāyah (Damascus: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 2010), pp. 15:341-2.

[16] al-Maqrīzī, al-Sulūk li Ma’rifah Duwal al-Mulūk (Beirut: Dār a-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, 1997), p. 1:510.

[17] ‘Atā Malik al-Juwaynī, Tārīkh-i Jahān-Gushā [Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conqueror], trans. J. A. Boyle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 719.


During the governorship of Bachu in Persia, the Mongolian army under Yisaur attacked Syria in 1244. The reasons for the attack are unclear, but it may have been in retaliation for the Syrian participation on the Seljuk side in the Battle of Köse Dağ. [1] In the autumn 1244, Yisaur concentrated the Mongol forces in the upper Tigris valley where they subjugated the Kurdish province of Akhlat. Moving across, the Mongolian army encountered no resistance and ravaged the area en route. The fortified cities were untaken in his advance because Yisaur was not prepared for siege assault. Passing through the territory of the city of Urfa, he crossed the Euphrates.

He marched directly to Aleppo but went as far as Hailan before the climate impaired his army's movements. Yisaur sent envoys to Aleppo to demand submission of tribute, which Malik agreed to pay. The same demand were sent to Bohemond of Antioch who chose not to fight them instead of defiance. [2]

Yisaur withdrew his force back up the Euphrates valley and received the submission of Malatia. In Egypt, Sultan as-Salih Ayyub decided to acquiesce to the results and made no attempt to raise an army to encounter the Mongols who had invaded his dominions in Syria.

In 1251, as an expediency to buy peace, Sultan an-Nasir Yusuf sent his representatives to Mongolia for the election of Möngke and agreed to make Syria a vassal state of the Mongol Empire.

In 1255, Hulagu sought to further expand the Empire into the Middle East under orders from his older brother, the Great Khan Möngke. Hulagu's forces subjugated multiple peoples along the way, most notably the center of the Islamic Empire, Baghdad, which was completely sacked in 1258, destroying the Abbasid Caliphate. From there, the Mongol forces proceeded into Syria.

In 1260, Egypt was under the control of the Bahri Mamluks, while most of the Levant (aside from the Crusader states) was still under the control of Ayyubid princes. The Mongols, for their part, had combined their forces with that of their Christian vassals in the region, the Georgians the army of Cilician Armenia under Hethum I, King of Armenia and the Franks of Bohemond VI of Antioch. In what is described by the 20th-century historians René Grousset and Lev Gumilev as the "yellow crusade" (Croisade Jaune), [3] [4] the combined forces captured the city of Aleppo in January, and then on March 1, 1260, under the Mongol Christian general Kitbuqa, took Damascus. The last Ayyubid king, An-Nasir Yusuf, was captured by the Mongols near Gaza in 1260. However, Hulagu promised him that he would appoint An-Nasir Yusuf as his viceroy in Syria. [5] With the Islamic power center of Baghdad and Syria gone, the center of Islamic power transferred to the Mamluks in Cairo.

Hulagu's intention at that point was to continue south through Palestine to Egypt, to engage the Mamluks. However, Möngke died in late 1259, requiring Hulagu to return to Karakorum to engage in the councils on who the next Great Khan would be. Hulagu departed with the bulk of his forces, leaving only about 10,000 Mongol horsemen in Syria under Kitbuqa. Some of Kitbuqa's forces engaged in raids southwards towards Egypt, reaching as far as Gaza, where a Mongol garrison was established with 1,000 troops.

The Mamluks took advantage of the weakened state of the Mongol forces, and, negotiating a passive alliance with the remnants of the Crusader forces in Acre, advanced northwards to engage the Mongols at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut in September 1260. The Mamluks achieved a decisive victory, Kitbuqa was executed, and the battle established a high-water mark for the Mongol conquests. In previous defeats, the Mongols had always returned later to re-take the territory, but they were never able to avenge the loss at Ayn Jalut. The border of the Mongol Ilkhanate remained at the Tigris River for the duration of Hulagu's dynasty. Sultan An-Nasir and his brother were executed after Hulagu heard the news of the defeat of Kitbuqa at Ain Jalut.

In December 1260, Hulagu sent 6,000 troops back into Syria, but they were defeated at the First Battle of Homs.

After the fall of Baghdad in 1258, a few of Abbasid princes fled to Syria and Egypt. There, the Abbasids still maintained a feeble show of authority, confined to religious matters, under the Mamluks. But their authority was limited to being figureheads. First of the Caliphs in Cairo, Al-Mustansir II was dispatched to Mesopotamia by Baibars. The Caliph was reinforced with Syrian auxiliaries and the Bedouins. However, he was totally crushed by the Mongol vanguard in South Iraq in 1262. The Mongol protectorate and ruler of Mosul, Badr al-Din's sons sided with the Mamluks and rebelled against the rule of Hulagu. This led to the destruction of the city state and the Mongols finally suppressed the rebellion in 1265.

The second Mongol invasion of Syria took place in October 1271, when 10,000 Mongols and Seljuk auxiliaries moved southwards from Rûm and captured Aleppo however they retreated back beyond the Euphrates when the Mamluk leader Baibars marched on them from Egypt.

In the second half of the 13th century, civil war had erupted in the Mongol Empire. In the Middle East, this manifested as conflict between the Mongols of the Golden Horde, and the Mongols of the Ilkhanate, who battled over claims on Georgia and Azerbaijan. Both the Golden Horde and the Ilkhanate sought to strengthen their position via trade agreements or other types of alliances with other powers in the area. In 1261, Berke of the Golden Horde allied with the Mamluk Sultan Baibars, [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] against their common enemy the Ilkhanate. This alliance was both strategic, and also in terms of trade exchanges, as the Egyptians had been the Golden Horde's long-standing trade partner and ally in the Mediterranean. [11]

For their part, the Mongols of the Ilkhanate sought (unsuccessfully) an alliance with the Franks of Europe, [12] but did form a Byzantine-Mongol alliance with the Christian Byzantine Empire.

Conflict between the Golden Horde and the Il-Khans Edit

The two Western Mongol realms, the Golden Horde and the Il-Khanate, were already in open war. The roots of the conflict were related to battles between the descendants of Genghis Khan over the control of the Empire. The immediate successor to Genghis Khan was his son Ögedei, but the leadership was then taken by force by the descendants of Genghis' son Tolui. During the reign of Kublai Khan (son of Genghis' son Tolui), descendants of Genghis's other sons Ögedei, Chagatai, and Jochi sought to oppose the rule of Kublai. The Ilkhanate had been founded by Hulagu, another of Tolui's sons, who was therefore loyal to Kublai. The Golden Horde had been founded by Genghis' son Jochi, following the Mongol invasion of Central Asia. Genghis had designated several of the territories south of the Caucasus to Jochi, specifically Georgia, and the Seljukid Sultanate. [13] Hulagu, with the backing of his brother the Great Khan Kublai, invaded and captured these territories in 1256, even installing his capital in the center of the disputed territories, at Maragha. Berke, the leader of the Golden Horde, could not tolerate this infringement of his inheritance, [13] and a drawn-out conflict between the two Mongol realms continued well into the 14th century. [14]

Ethnic and religious affinities Edit

Various affinities led to a more or less natural alliance between the Mongols of the Golden Horde and the Mamluks of Egypt. The Mamluks' Empire had been founded by former slaves bought from the Kipchack territory of southern Russia, which was now an important segment of the Mongol Golden Horde. There were therefore already cultural affinities between large segments of the Mongol Horde and the ruling elite of Egypt. [15] Berke's Turkic subjects also spoke the same Turkic language as the Mamluks. [16] Further, the Golden Horde, under Berke's leadership, was the first of the Mongol states to convert to Islam, [14] which lent to solidarity with the Islamic realms to the south. [17] On the other hand, the Il-Khan rulers were highly favourable to Christianity, and did not commit to Islam until 1295, when the Ilkhan Ghazan, a descendant of Tolui, formerly converted when he took the throne. [18] Even after his conversion though, he continued to battle the Mamluks for control of Syria, while simultaneously seeking an alliance with Christian Europe.

Mamluk-Golden Horde rapprochement Edit

The Golden Horde entered into a defensive alliance with the Mamluks in Egypt, with the agreement being that each realm would intervene if the other was attacked by the Ilkhanate. [19] [20] This required the Il-khan to devote forces to both his northern and southern borders, and never use all forces in a single battle. On multiple occasions, the forces of the Ilkhanate would start a campaign towards Syria in the south, only to be forced to recall troops within a few months because of attacks from the Golden Horde in the north. [21]

The third major invasion took place in 1281 under Abaqa Khan. Having crossed the Euphrates and captured Aleppo, the Mongols of the Ilkhanate moved as far south as Homs with 80,000 men before they were beaten back to the Euphrates river at the Second Battle of Homs.

In late 1299, the Mongol Ilkhan Mahmud Ghazan, son of Arghun, took his army and crossed the Euphrates river to again invade Syria. They continued south until they were slightly north of Homs, [22] and successfully took Aleppo. There, Ghazan was joined by forces from his vassal state of Cilician Armenia. [23]

The Mamluk relief force sent from Damascus met the Mongol army northeast of Homs, at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar (sometimes called the Battle of Homs) in December 1299. The Mongols had some 60,000 troops, with about 40,000 Georgian and Armenian auxiliaries, and routed the Egyptian Mamluks with their much smaller force of 20,000–30,000 troops. The Mamluks retreated, and were harassed by Maronite and Druze bowmen who wanted independence from the Mamluks. One group of Mongols also split off from Ghazan's army, and pursued the retreating Mamluk troops as far as Gaza, [24] pushing them back to Egypt.

The bulk of Ghazan's forces then proceeded onward towards Damascus. Some of the populace of Damascus upon hearing of the Mongol approach had fled to Egypt, and the governor of the city, Arjawash, had entrenched himself deep inside the Citadel of Damascus. The Mongols besieged the city for ten days, which surrendered between December 30, 1299, and January 6, 1300, though its Citadel resisted. [25] [26] Ghazan then withdrew most of his forces in February, promising to return in the winter of 1300–1301 to attack Egypt. [27] The reason for the withdrawal is believed to be either the Chagatai Mongols invading their eastern borders, or the need to retreat to areas where there was better grazing room for the horses. The Mamluks had learned that the availability of pastures was important to the Mongols, and so had taken to burning pastureland so as to prevent the rapid advance of the Mongol cavalry. After Ghazan's main force withdrew, only about 10,000 horsemen remained in Syria, under the Mongol general Mulay.

With the retreat of the majority of forces from both sides, for about three months, until the Mamluks returned in May 1300, Mulay's forces were in technical control over Syria, [28] and some Mongols engaged in raids as far south as Jerusalem and Gaza. [29] [30] [31] [32] However, when the Mamluks returned from Egypt, the remaining Mongols retreated with little resistance.

Also in early 1300, two Frankish rulers, Guy d'Ibelin and Jean II de Giblet, had moved in with their troops from Cyprus in response to Ghazan's earlier call. They had established a base in the castle of Nephin in the lordship of Gibelet (Byblos) on the Syrian coast with the intention of joining him, but Ghazan was already gone. [33] [34] They also started to besiege the new city of Tripoli, but in vain, [35] and then returned to Cyprus.

In late 1300, Ghazan's forces had dealt with the distraction of the Chagatai invasion on their northern border, and once again turned their attention to Syria. They crossed the Euphrates river between December 14, 1300 and November 1, 1301. Again, the Mamluk army in Syria withdrew without engaging in combat, which resulted in a panic in Damascus when they heard of the new threat from the Mongols. The Syrians of Hamat were able to achieve a small victory against the Mongols at a battle near Aleppo by the post of Hamat. This created order in Damascus, enough for the governor to send for a larger relief force from Egypt. However, the Mongols had already left Syria due to a death in Ghazan Khan's family. [ citation needed ]

The Ilkhanate returned to Syria in 1303, travelling unopposed down the Levant until they reached Damascus. However, near Damascus they were once again soundly defeated by the Mamluks at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar in April 1303.

In 1312 , 33, the new khan of the Ilkhanate, Öljaitü, pursued an aggressive policy to consolidate his rule, subduing the Caspian Province of Gilan and destroying the autonomous principality of Herat. Encouraged by the defection of some Syrian emirs, Öljaitü decided to cross the Euphrates in 1312 to attack the Mamluk Sultanate. He laid siege to the heavily fortified town of Rahbat. After about a month of fighting in which they suffered heavy casualties, the Mongols ultimately failed to take the fortified place and withdrew. This was to be the last major Mongol incursion into the Levant. [36] [37]

Following the defeat of the Mongol ruler Ghazan and the progressive conversion of the Il-Khanate to Islam, the Mongols finally were amenable to ceasing hostilities. The first contacts to establish a treaty of peace were communicated via the slave trader al-Majd al-Sallami. After the initial communications, more formal letters and embassies were exchanged. [38] Under the Ilkhanate ruler Abu Sa'id, who was following the advice of his custodian Chupan, the treaty with the Mamluks was ratified in 1322/1323. Indeed, the Mongols never made peace with the Muslims until they themselves became Muslims. A situation analogous to the pagan Viking conquest of Normandy and England, where Viking Scandinavians never truly made peace with the Christian Kingdoms until they themselves became Christian.

Following the treaty and a period of peace, the Il-Khanate further disintegrated, and effectively disappeared during the 14th century. [38]

Revival and collapse of the kingdom of Georgia [ edit | edit source ]

There was a brief period of reunion and revival under George V the Brilliant (1299–1302, 1314–1346). With the support of Chupan, ulus-beg of the Ilkhanate, George eliminated his domestic opponents who remained independent of the Georgian crown. George V conquered Imereti uniting all of Georgian Kingdom before the death of the last effective Ilkhan Abu Sai'd. In 1319 George and the Mongols suppressed the rebellion of the Ilkhanid governor of Georgia, Qurumshi. ⎗] ⎘] Presumably due to the internal strife between the Mongol khanates and ilkhanid generals, almost all Mongol troops in Georgia withdrew in 1320s. ⎙] ⎚] The Ilkhan Abu Sai'd (d.1335) exempted Ani and the neighbouring districts of Georgi from any kind of taxes. ⎛] In a 1321 letter of Avignon mentions schismatic people (Georgians) who are a part of Tatar Empire (Ilkhanate). ⎜]

In the year 1327 there occurred in Persia the most dramatic event of the reign of the Il-Khan Abu Sa'id, namely the disgrace and execution of the once all-powerful minister Chupan. Thus it was a heavy blow and George lost his patron at the Mongol court. Chupan's son Mahmud, who commanded the Mongol garrison in Georgia, was arrested by his own troops and executed. Subsequently, Iqbalshah, son of Qutlughshah, was appointed to be Mongol governor of Georgia (Gurjistan). In 1330-31 George V the Brilliant annexed Imereti uniting all of Georgia in the process. Therefore, four years prior the last effective Ilkhan Abu Sai'd's demise, two kingdoms of Georgia united again. In 1334, the post of the Ilkhanid governor in Georgia was given to Shaykh Hasan of the Jalayir by Abu Sai'd. ⎝]

Before the Timurids, much of Georgia was still under the Mongol Jalayirids and Chobanids. ⎞] The eight onslaughts of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur between 1386 and 1403 dealt a great blow to the Georgian kingdom. Its unity was finally shattered and, by 1491, Georgia was shattered into a number of petty kingdoms and principalities, which throughout the Early Modern period struggled to maintain their autonomy against Safavid and Ottoman domination until Georgia was finally annexed by the Russian Empire in 1801.


After the defeat of the Kara-Khitans, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire gained a border with the Khwarezmid Empire, governed by Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad. The Shah had only recently taken some of the territory under his control, and he was also busy with a dispute with the Caliph An-Nasir. The Shah had refused to make the obligatory homage to the caliph as titular leader of Islam, and demanded recognition as Shah of his empire, without any of the usual bribes or pretenses. This alone had created problems for him along his southern border. It was at this junction the rapidly expanding Mongol Empire made contact. [3] Mongol historians are adamant that the great khan at that time had no intention of invading the Khwarezmid Empire, and was only interested in trade and even a potential alliance. [4]

According to the Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, Genghis Khan sent the ruler of the Khwarazmian Empire, Muhammad II, a message seeking trade and greeted him as his neighbor: "I am master of the lands of the rising sun while you rule those of the setting sun. Let us conclude a firm treaty of friendship and peace", or he said "I am Khan of the lands of the rising sun while you are sultan of those of the setting sun: Let us conclude a firm agreement of friendship and peace." [5] The Shah was very suspicious of Genghis' desire for a trade agreement, and messages from the Shah's ambassador at Zhongdu (Beijing) in China described the savagery of the Mongols when they assaulted the city during their war with the Jin dynasty. [6] Of further interest is that the caliph of Baghdad had attempted to instigate a war between the Mongols and the Shah some years before the Mongol invasion actually occurred. This attempt at an alliance with Genghis Khan was made because of a dispute between Nasir and the Shah, but the Khan had no interest in alliance with any ruler who claimed ultimate authority, titular or not, and which marked the Caliphate for an extinction which would come from Genghis' grandson, Hulegu. At the time, this attempt by the Caliph involved the Shah's ongoing claim to be named sultan of Khwarezm, something that Nasir had no wish to grant, as the Shah refused to acknowledge his authority, however illusory such authority was. However, it is known that Genghis rejected the notion of war as he was engaged in war with the Jin dynasty and was gaining much wealth from trading with the Khwarezmid Empire. [ citation needed ]

Genghis then sent a 500-man caravan of Muslims to establish official trade ties with Khwarezmia. However Inalchuq, the governor of the Khwarezmian city of Otrar, had the members of the caravan that came from Mongolia arrested, claiming that the caravan was a conspiracy against Khwarezmia. With the assent of Sultan Muhammad, he executed the entire caravan, and its goods were sold in Bukhara. [7] It seems unlikely, however, that any members of the trade delegation were spies. Nor does it seem likely that Genghis was trying to initiate a conflict with the Khwarezmid Empire with the caravan, considering he was making steady progress against a faltering Jin empire in northern China at that very moment. [4]

Genghis Khan then sent a second group of three ambassadors (one Muslim and two Mongols) to meet the shah himself and demand the caravan at Otrar be set free and the governor be handed over for punishment. The shah had both of the Mongols shaved and had the Muslim beheaded before sending them back to Genghis Khan. Muhammad also ordered the personnel of the caravan to be executed. This was seen as a grave affront to the Khan himself, who considered ambassadors "as sacred and inviolable". [8] This led Genghis Khan to attack the Khwarezmian dynasty. The Mongols crossed the Tian Shan mountains, coming into the Shah's empire in 1219. [9]

After compiling information from many intelligence sources, primarily from spies along the Silk Road, Genghis Khan carefully prepared his army, which was organized differently from his earlier campaigns. [10] The changes had come in adding supporting units to his dreaded cavalry, both heavy and light. While still relying on the traditional advantages of his mobile nomadic cavalry, Genghis incorporated many aspects of warfare from China, particularly in siege warfare. His baggage train included such siege equipment as battering rams, gunpowder, and enormous siege bows capable of throwing 20-foot (6 m) arrows into siege works. Also, the Mongol intelligence network was formidable. The Mongols never invaded an opponent whose military and economic will and ability to resist had not been thoroughly and completely scouted. For instance, Subutai and Batu Khan spent a year scouting central Europe, before destroying the armies of Hungary and Poland in two separate battles, two days apart. [11]

In this invasion, the Khan first demonstrated the use of indirect attack that would become a hallmark of his later campaigns, and those of his sons and grandsons. The Khan divided his armies, and sent one force solely to find and execute the Shah – so that he was forced to run for his life in his own country. [3] The divided Mongol forces destroyed the Shah's forces piecemeal, and began the utter devastation of the country which would mark many of their later conquests.

The Shah's army, having about 200,000 immediate men (mostly city garrisons), he also had a lot more people in nearby cities should they prove necessary. The empire had just recently conquered much of its territory, and the Shah was fearful that his army, if placed in one large unit under a single command structure, might possibly be turned against him. Furthermore, the Shah's reports from China indicated that the Mongols were not experts in siege warfare, and experienced problems when attempting to take fortified positions. The Shah's decisions on troop deployment would prove disastrous as the campaign unfolded, as the Mongol speed, surprise, and enduring initiative prevented the Shah from effectively maneuvering his forces.

Forces Edit

The estimates for the sizes of the opposing armies are often in dispute. It is certain that all contemporary and near-contemporary sources (or at least those that have survived), consider the Mongols to have been the numerically superior force. [12] Several chroniclers, a notable one being Rashid Al-Din (a historian of the Mongol Ilkhanate) provide the figures of 400,000 for the Shah (spread across the whole empire) and 600,000 or 700,000 for the Khan. [13] The contemporary Muslim chronicler Minhaj-i-Siraj Juzjani, in his Tarikh-i Jahangushay, also gives a Mongol army size of 700,000 to 800,000 for Genghis. Modern historians still debate to what degree these numbers reflected reality. David Morgan and Denis Sinor, among others, doubt the numbers are true in either absolute or relative terms, while John Mason Smith sees the numbers as accurate as for both armies (while supporting high-end numbers for the Mongols and their enemies in general, for instance contending that Rashid Al-Din was correct when stating that the Ilkhanate of the 1260s had 300,000 soldiers and the Golden Horde 300,000–600,000). [14] Sinor uses the figure of 400,000 for the Khwarezmians, but puts the Mongol force at 150,000. The Secret History of the Mongols, a Mongol source, states that the Mongols had 105,000 soldiers total (in the whole empire, not just on a campaign) in 1206, 134,500 in 1211, and 129,000 (excluding some far-flung units) in 1227. No similarly reliable source exists for corresponding Khwarezm figures. [15]

Carl Sverdrup, using a variety of sources and estimation methods, gives the number of 75,000 for the Mongol army. Sverdrup also estimates the Khwarezmian army at 40,000 (excluding certain city-restricted militias), and emphasizes that all contemporary sources are in agreement that, if nothing else, the Mongol army was the larger of the two. He states that he came to 40,000 by first calculating the size of the Mongol army based on their historical records, and then assuming the Kwharezmian army was exaggerated by the pro-Mongol historians such as Rashid Al-Din to about the same magnitude as the Mongol army was by both Rashid Al-Din and anti-Mongol chroniclers such as Juzjani. [16] McLynn also says that 400,000 is a massive exaggeration, but considers 200,000 to be closer to the truth (including garrisons). [17] As for the Mongols, he estimates them at 120,000 effectives, out of a total Mongol strength of 200,000 (including troops nominally on the campaign but never engaged, and those in China). [18] Genghis brought along his most able generals, besides Muqali to aid him. Genghis also brought a large body of foreigners with him, primarily of Chinese origin. These foreigners were siege experts, bridge-building experts, doctors and a variety of specialty soldiers.

The only hard evidence of the empire's potential military strength comes from a census ordered by Hulegu Khan of the same regions a few decades later. At that point Hulegu ruled almost all the lands of the former Khwarezmian empire including Persia, modern-day Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, only missing most of modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and the region had had over 40 years to recover population-wise from the initial conquest. These lands were judged to be able to muster five tümens in all. [19] Nominally each tumen was supposed to consist of 10,000 men, but they usually averaged 5,000 men. [20] If Hulegu's census was accurate, then the bulk of the former Khwarezmian lands together could field 25,000 soldiers, lending credence to Sverdrup's estimate of 40,000 troops in total.

During the invasion of Transoxania in 1219, along with the main Mongol force, Genghis Khan used a Chinese specialist catapult unit in battle they were used again in 1220 in Transoxania. The Chinese may have used the catapults to hurl gunpowder bombs, since they already had them by this time. [21] While Genghis Khan was conquering Transoxania and Persia, several Chinese who were familiar with gunpowder were serving with Genghis's army. [22] Historians have suggested that the Mongol invasion had brought Chinese gunpowder weapons to Central Asia. One of these was the huochong, a Chinese mortar. [23]

Khwarezmian weakness and disunity Edit

In addition to quite possibly outnumbering the force of the Shah, and definitely possessing more horsemen in total and more men at almost every battle, the Mongols were benefited enormously by the fragility of the Khwarezmian empire. While often portrayed as a strong and unified state, most of the Shah's holdings were recent conquests only nominally sworn to him, to the point that the Shah didn't feel like he could trust most of his troops. In the words of historian C. E. Bosworth: "[The dynasty was] highly unpopular and a focus for popular hatred in none of the provinces they ruled did the Khwarazm Shahs ever succeed in creating a bond of interest between themselves and their subjects." [24] This resulted in him parsing them in garrisons to be commanded by local governors that acted more or less autonomously. There was no attempt to coordinate a grand strategy among the various provinces or unite a significant number of forces in one unified front against the invaders. [25] Additionally, many of the areas that Muhammad charged his troops to defend had been devastated recently by the forces of the Shah himself. For example, in 1220 he passed through Nishapur and urged the citizens to repair the fortifications he had destroyed when conquering the city years earlier. [26]

The lack of unity in the empire often resulted in large sections of the Shah's army folding with little or no fighting when the Mongols arrived. According to Ibn al-Athir, when Bukhara was attacked most of the Khwarazmian army simply deserted and left the city, leaving the now poorly-defended settlement to seek terms. [27] When Samarkand was subsequently attacked, the Turkic soldiers in the city, who felt no loyalty towards the Shah, allegedly said of the Mongols: "We are their race. They will not kill us." They surrendered after only four days of fighting before turning the city over to the Mongols on the fifth. However they were executed along with much of the city's population regardless, much to their surprise. [28] Balkh's garrison surrendered without a fight. Merv's garrison surrendered after seven days and a few minor sorties (of only around a couple hundred men each, according to the pro-Mongol Juvayni) they were also all executed, again to their shock. [29] The only major cities known to put up a stout defense were Otrar, which managed to hold out for six months before being captured by the Mongols amidst heavy casualties and a large delay for the Mongol army, and Urgench, where Ibn al-Athir claimed that Mongol losses exceeded those of the defending soldiers for one of the only times in the war. [30] [31] The unreliability of the Shah's army was probably most decisive when his son Jalal al-Din's cavalry host simply disintegrated due to desertion as his Afghan and Turkic allies disagreed with him over the distribution of war booty. His forces were reduced heavily which allowed the Mongols to easily overcome them at the Battle of the Indus. [32] The Mongols took full advantage of these circumstances with their network of spies, often aided by merchants who had much to gain from Mongol domination and spread rumors imploring the inhabitants of cities to surrender. [33]

Khwarezmian structure Edit

Another advantage for the Mongols was the fact that, compared to most of China, Korea, Central/Western Europe, and many other areas, Khwarezmia was deficient in terms of fortifications. In most of the empire there was no system of forts outside of the walls of major cities, and even the most important cities such as Samarkand and Otrar had their walls constructed out of mud bricks which could be easily reduced by Mongol siege engines. [34] This meant that the Mongols, rather than getting bogged down in dozens of small sieges or single multi-year ones as sometimes happened in China, could simply sweep through large areas of the empire and conquer cities at will in a short time. They had more difficulty in subduing Afghanistan, which had a fortress network, though the relative scarcity of fortresses in the whole of the empire and the ease with which the Mongols subdued large sections of it meant that this did not matter on a strategic scale. The fortress of Ashiyar held for 15 months of besiegement before falling (requiring the attention of a significant chunk of the Mongol army) while Saif-Rud and Tulak took heavy casualties for the Mongols to subdue. The siege of Bamyan also claimed the life of Chagatai's favorite son, Mötüken. [35]

The urban population of the empire was concentrated in a relatively small number of (by medieval standards) very large cities as opposed to a huge number of smaller towns, which also aided in the Mongols' conquest. The population of the empire is estimated at 5 million people on the eve of the invasion, making it sparse for the large area it covered. [36] [37] Historical demographers Tertius Chandler and Gerald Fox give the following estimations for the populations of the empire's major cities at the beginning of the 13th century, which adds up to at least 520,000 and at most 850,000 people: [38]

  • Samarkand: 80,000–100,000
  • Nishapur: 70,000
  • Rayy/Rey: 100,000
  • Isfahan: 80,000
  • Merv: 70,000
  • Balkh: c. 30,000
  • Bost: c. 40,000
  • Herat: c. 40,000
  • Otrar, Urgench, and Bukhara: unknown, but less than 70,000 [39]

The Khwarezmian army consisted of about 40,000 cavalry, mostly of Turkic origin. Militias existed in Khwarezmia's major cities but were of poor quality, and the Shah had trouble mustering them in time. [40] With collective populations of around 700,000, the major cities probably had 105,000 to 140,000 healthy males of fighting age in total (15–20% of the population), but only a fraction of these would be part of a formal militia with any notable measure of training and equipment.

Though they technically bordered each other, the Mongol and Khwarezm Empires touched far away from the homeland of each nation. In between them was a series of treacherous mountain ranges that the invader would have to cross. This aspect is often overlooked in this campaign, yet it was a critical reason why the Mongols were able to create a dominating position. The Khwarezm Shah and his advisers assumed that the Mongols would invade through the Dzungarian Gate, the natural mountain pass in between their (now conquered) Khara-Khitai and Khwarezm Empires. One option for the Khwarezm defense was to advance beyond the towns of the Syr Darya and block the Dzungarian Gate with an army, since it would take Genghis many months to gather his army in Mongolia and advance through the pass after winter had passed. The Khwarezm decision makers believed they would have time to further refine their strategy, but the Khan had struck first. [41]

Immediately when war was declared, Genghis sent orders for a force already out to the west to immediately cross the Tien Shan mountains to the south and ravage the fertile Ferghana Valley in the eastern part of the Khwarezm Empire. This smaller detachment, no more than 20,000–30,000 men, was led by Genghis's son Jochi and his elite general Jebe. The Tien Shan mountain passes were much more treacherous than the Dzungarian Gate, and to make it worse, they attempted the crossing in the middle of winter with over 5 feet of snow. Though the Mongols suffered losses and were exhausted from the crossing, their presence in the Ferghana Valley stunned the Khwarezm leadership and permanently stole the initiative away. This march can be described as the Central Asian equivalent of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, with the same devastating effects. Because the Shah did not know if this Mongol army was a diversion or their main army, he had to protect one of his most fertile regions with force. Therefore, the Shah dispatched his elite cavalry reserve, which prevented him from effectively marching anywhere else with his main army. Jebe and Jochi seem to have kept their army in good shape while plundering the valley, and they avoided defeat by a much superior force. At this point the Mongols split up and again maneuvered over the mountains: Jebe marched further south deeper into Khwarezm territory, while Jochi took most of the force northwest to attack the exposed cities on the Syr Darya from the east. [42]

Otrar Edit

Meanwhile, another Mongol force under Chagatai and Ogedei descended from either the Altai Mountains to the north or the Dzungarian Gate and immediately started laying siege to the border city of Otrar. Rashid Al-Din stated that Otrar had a garrison of 20,000 while Juvayni claimed 60,000 (horsemen and militia), though like the army figures given in most medieval chronicles, these numbers should be treated with caution and are probably exaggerated by an order of magnitude considering the size of the city. [43] Genghis, who had marched through the Altai mountains, kept his main force further back near the mountain ranges, and stayed out of contact. Frank McLynn argues that this disposition can only be explained as Genghis laying a trap for the Shah. Because Shah decided to march his army up from Samarkand to attack the besiegers of Otrar, Genghis could then rapidly encircle the Shah's army from the rear. However, the Shah dodged the trap, and Genghis had to change plans. [44]

Unlike most of the other cities, Otrar did not surrender after little fighting, nor did its governor march its army out into the field to be destroyed by the numerically superior Mongols. Instead the garrison remained on the walls and resisted stubbornly, holding out against many attacks. The siege proceeded for five months without results, until a traitor within the walls (Qaracha) who felt no loyalty to the Shah or Inalchuq opened the gates to the Mongols the prince's forces managed to storm the now unsecured gate and slaughter the majority of the garrison. [45] The citadel, holding the remaining one-tenth of the garrison, held out for another month, and was only taken after heavy Mongol casualties. Inalchuq held out until the end, even climbing to the top of the citadel in the last moments of the siege to throw down tiles at the oncoming Mongols and slay many of them in close quarters combat. Genghis killed many of the inhabitants, enslaved the rest, and executed Inalchuq. [46] [47]

At this point, the Mongol army was divided into five widely separated groups on opposite ends of the enemy Empire. After the Shah did not mount an active defense of the cities on the Syr Darya, Genghis and Tolui, at the head of an army of roughly 50,000 men, skirted the natural defense barrier of the Syr Darya and its fortified cities, and went westwards to lay siege to the city of Bukhara first. To do this, they traversed 300 miles of the seemingly impassable Kyzyl Kum desert by hopping through the various oases, guided most of the way by captured nomads. The Mongols arrived at the gates of Bukhara virtually unnoticed. Many military tacticians regard this surprise entrance to Bukhara as one of the most successful maneuvers in warfare. [48] Whatever Mohammed II was intending to do, Genghis's maneuver across his rear completely stole away his initiative and prevented him from carrying out any possible plans. The Khwarezm army could only slowly react to the lightning fast Mongol maneuvers.

Bukhara Edit

Bukhara was not heavily fortified, with a moat and a single wall, and the citadel typical of Khwarezmi cities. The Bukharan garrison was made up of Turkic soldiers and led by Turkic generals, who attempted to break out on the third day of the siege. Rashid Al-Din and Ibn Al-Athir state that the city had 20,000 defenders, though Carl Sverdrup contends that it only had a tenth of this number. [49] A break-out force was annihilated in open battle. The city's leaders opened the gates to the Mongols, though a unit of Turkic defenders held the city's citadel for another twelve days. The Mongols valued artisans' skills highly and artisans were exempted from massacre during the conquests and instead entered into lifelong service as slaves. [50] Thus, when the citadel was taken survivors were executed with the exception of artisans and craftsmen, who were sent back to Mongolia. Young men who had not fought were drafted into the Mongolian army and the rest of the population was sent into slavery. As the Mongol soldiers looted the city, a fire broke out, razing most of the city to the ground. [51] [ full citation needed ]

Samarkand Edit

After the fall of Bukhara, Genghis headed to the Khwarezmian capital of Samarkand and arrived in March 1220. During this period, the Mongols also waged effective psychological warfare and caused divisions within their foe. The Khan's spies told them of the bitter fighting between the Shah and his mother Terken Khatun, who commanded the allegiance of some of his most senior commanders and his elite Turkish cavalry divisions. Since Mongols and Turks were both steppe peoples, Genghis argued that Tertun Khatun and her army should join the Mongols against her treacherous son. Meanwhile, he arranged for deserters to bring letters that said Tertun Khatun and some of her generals had allied with the Mongols. This further inflamed the existing divisions in the Khwarezm Empire, and probably prevented the senior commanders from unifying their forces. Genghis then compounded the damage by repeatedly issuing bogus decrees in the name of either Tertun Khatun or Shah Mohammed, further tangling up the already divided Khwarezm command structure. [52] As a result of the Mongol strategic initiative, speedy maneuvers, and psychological strategies, all the Khwarezm generals, including the Queen Mother, kept their forces as a garrison and were defeated in turn.

Samarkand possessed significantly better fortifications and a larger garrison compared to Bukhara. Juvayni and Rashid Al-Din (both writing under Mongol auspices) credit the defenders of the city with 100,000–110,000 men, while Ibn Al-Athir states 50,000. [53] A more likely number is perhaps 10,000, considering the city itself had less than 100,000 people total at the time. [54] [55] As Genghis began his siege, his sons Chaghatai and Ögedei joined him after finishing the reduction of Otrar, and the joint Mongol forces launched an assault on the city. The Mongols attacked using prisoners as body shields. On the third day of fighting, the Samarkand garrison launched a counterattack. Feigning retreat, Genghis drew approximately half of the garrison outside the fortifications of Samarkand and slaughtered them in open combat. Shah Muhammad attempted to relieve the city twice, but was driven back. On the fifth day, all but a handful of soldiers surrendered. The remaining soldiers, die-hard supporters of the Shah, held out in the citadel. After the fortress fell, Genghis reneged on his surrender terms and executed every soldier who had taken arms against him at Samarkand. The people of Samarkand were ordered to evacuate and assemble in a plain outside the city, where many were killed. [ citation needed ]

About the time of the fall of Samarkand, Genghis Khan charged Subutai and Jebe, two of the Khan's top generals, with hunting down the Shah. The Shah had fled west with some of his most loyal soldiers and his son, Jalal al-Din, to a small island in the Caspian Sea. It was there, in December 1220, that the Shah died. Most scholars attribute his death to pneumonia, but others cite the sudden shock of the loss of his empire. [ citation needed ]

Urgench Edit

Meanwhile, the wealthy trading city of Urgench was still in the hands of Khwarezmian forces. Previously, the Shah's mother had ruled Urgench, but she fled when she learned her son had absconded to the Caspian Sea. She was captured and sent to Mongolia. Khumar Tegin, one of Muhammad's generals, declared himself Sultan of Urgench. Jochi, who had been on campaign in the north since the invasion, approached the city from that direction, while Genghis, Ögedei, and Chaghatai attacked from the south.

The assault on Urgench proved to be the most difficult battle of the Mongol invasion. The city was built along the river Amu Darya in a marshy delta area. The soft ground did not lend itself to siege warfare, and there was a lack of large stones for the catapults. The Mongols attacked regardless, and the city fell only after the defenders put up a stout defense, fighting block for block. Mongolian casualties were higher than normal, due to the unaccustomed difficulty of adapting Mongolian tactics to city fighting.

The taking of Urgench was further complicated by continuing tensions between the Khan and his eldest son, Jochi, who had been promised the city as his prize. Jochi's mother was the same as his three brothers': Genghis Khan's teen bride, and apparent lifelong love, Börte. Only her sons were counted as Genghis's "official" sons and successors, rather than those conceived by the Khan's 500 or so other "wives and consorts". But Jochi had been conceived in controversy in the early days of the Khan's rise to power, Börte was captured and raped while she was held prisoner. Jochi was born nine months later. While Genghis Khan chose to acknowledge him as his oldest son (primarily due to his love for Börte, whom he would have had to reject had he rejected her child), questions had always existed over Jochi's true parentage. [56] [ full citation needed ]

Such tensions were present as Jochi engaged in negotiations with the defenders, trying to get them to surrender so that as much of the city as possible was undamaged. This angered Chaghatai, and Genghis headed off this fight between siblings by appointing Ögedei the commander of the besieging forces as Urgench fell. But the removal of Jochi from command, and the sack of a city he considered promised to him, enraged him and estranged him from his father and brothers, and is credited with being a decisive impetus for the later actions of a man who saw his younger brothers promoted over him, despite his own considerable military skills. [3]

As usual, the artisans were sent back to Mongolia, young women and children were given to the Mongol soldiers as slaves, and the rest of the population was massacred. The Persian scholar Juvayni states that 50,000 Mongol soldiers were given the task of executing twenty-four Urgench citizens each, which would mean that 1.2 million people were killed. While this is almost certainly an exaggeration, the sacking of Urgench is considered one of the bloodiest massacres in human history. [ citation needed ]

Then came the complete destruction of the city of Gurjang, south of the Aral Sea. Upon its surrender the Mongols broke the dams and flooded the city, then proceeded to execute the survivors. [ citation needed ]

As the Mongols battered their way into Urgench, Genghis dispatched his youngest son Tolui, at the head of an army, into the western Khwarezmid province of Khorasan. Khorasan had already felt the strength of Mongol arms. Earlier in the war, the generals Jebe and Subutai had travelled through the province while hunting down the fleeing Shah. However, the region was far from subjugated, many major cities remained free of Mongol rule, and the region was rife with rebellion against the few Mongol forces present in the region, following rumors that the Shah's son Jalal al-Din was gathering an army to fight the Mongols.

Balkh Edit

Tolui's army consisted of somewhere around 50,000 men, which was composed of a core of Mongol soldiers (some estimates place it at 7,000 [57] [ full citation needed ] ), supplemented by a large body of foreign soldiers, such as Turks and previously conquered peoples in China and Mongolia. The army also included "3,000 machines flinging heavy incendiary arrows, 300 catapults, 700 mangonels to discharge pots filled with naphtha, 4,000 storming-ladders, and 2,500 sacks of earth for filling up moats". [8] Among the first cities to fall was Termez then Balkh.

Merv Edit

The major city to fall to Tolui's army was the city of Merv. Juvayni wrote of Merv: "In extent of territory it excelled among the lands of Khorasan, and the bird of peace and security flew over its confines. The number of its chief men rivaled the drops of April rain, and its earth contended with the heavens." [57] The garrison at Merv was only about 12,000 men, and the city was inundated with refugees from eastern Khwarezmia. For six days, Tolui besieged the city, and on the seventh day, he assaulted the city. However, the garrison beat back the assault and launched their own counter-attack against the Mongols. The garrison force was similarly forced back into the city. The next day, the city's governor surrendered the city on Tolui's promise that the lives of the citizens would be spared. As soon as the city was handed over, however, Tolui slaughtered almost every person who surrendered, in a massacre possibly on a greater scale than that at Urgench.

Nishapur Edit

After finishing off Merv, Tolui headed westwards, attacking the cities of Nishapur and Herat. [58] Nishapur fell after only three days here, Tokuchar, a son-in-law of Genghis was killed in battle, and Tolui put to the sword every living thing in the city, including the cats and dogs, with Tokuchar's widow presiding over the slaughter. [57] After Nishapur's fall, Herat surrendered without a fight and was spared.

Bamian in the Hindu Kush was another scene of carnage during the Siege of Bamyan (1221), here stiff resistance resulted in the death of a grandson of Genghis. Next was the city of Toos. By spring 1221, the province of Khurasan was under complete Mongol rule. Leaving garrison forces behind him, Tolui headed back east to rejoin his father. [ citation needed ]

After the Mongol campaign in Khorasan, the Shah's army was broken. Jalal al-Din, who took power after his father's death, began assembling the remnants of the Khwarezmid army in the south, in the area of Afghanistan. Genghis had dispatched forces to hunt down the gathering army under Jalal al-Din, and the two sides met in the spring of 1221 at the town of Parwan. The engagement was a humiliating defeat for the Mongol forces. Enraged, Genghis headed south himself, and defeated Jalal al-Din on the Indus River. Jalal al-Din, defeated, fled to India. Genghis spent some time on the southern shore of the Indus searching for the new Shah, but failed to find him. The Khan returned northwards, content to leave the Shah in India.

After the remaining centers of resistance were destroyed, Genghis returned to Mongolia, leaving Mongolian garrison troops behind. The destruction and absorption of the Khwarezmid Empire would prove to be a sign of things to come for the Islamic world, as well as Eastern Europe. [51] The new territory proved to be an important stepping stone for Mongol armies under the reign of Genghis' son Ögedei to invade Kievan Rus' and Poland, and future campaigns brought Mongol arms to Hungary and the Baltic Sea. For the Islamic world, the destruction of Khwarezmia left Iraq, Turkey and Syria wide open. All three were eventually subjugated by future Khans.

The war with Khwarezmia also brought up the important question of succession. Genghis was not young when the war began, and he had four sons, all of whom were fierce warriors and each with their own loyal followers. Such sibling rivalry almost came to a head during the siege of Urgench, and Genghis was forced to rely on his third son, Ögedei, to finish the battle. Following the destruction of Urgench, Genghis officially selected Ögedei to be successor, as well as establishing that future Khans would come from direct descendants of previous rulers. Despite this establishment, the four sons would eventually come to blows, and those blows showed the instability of the Khanate that Genghis had created.

Jochi never forgave his father, and essentially withdrew from further Mongol wars, into the north, where he refused to come to his father when he was ordered to. [56] Indeed, at the time of his death, the Khan was contemplating a march on his rebellious son. The bitterness that came from this transmitted to Jochi's sons, and especially Batu and Berke Khan (of the Golden Horde), who would conquer Kievan Rus. [11] When the Mamluks of Egypt managed to inflict one of history's more significant defeats on the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, Hulagu Khan, one of Genghis Khan's grandsons by his son Tolui, who had sacked Baghdad in 1258, was unable to avenge that defeat when Berke Khan, his cousin, (who had converted to Islam) attacked him in the Transcaucasus to aid the cause of Islam, and Mongol battled Mongol for the first time. The seeds of that battle began in the conflict with Khwarezmia when their fathers struggled for supremacy. [51]

Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia is featured in the single-player campaign of the Age of Empires II video game, created by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. In this video game, however, Mongols start their invasion by assassinating the Shah. The assassins disguise themselves as traders.

In the grand strategy video game Crusader Kings II the "Age of Mongols" book mark starts during the invasion.

Expansions and Conquests

The Mongolian Empire was also one of the biggest Eastern regions. The Empire stretched from Central Asia, covering some parts of Eastern Europe and bordered Japan along the sea. The rapid growth of the empire was due to regular invasion of neighboring empires. For instance, the defeat of the ancient Siberian Empire, gave Genghis Khan the legitimate authority to control most of the resources in Siberia. Genghis Khan was also one of the leaders in the tribe who had good political organization and control. He was a very innovative military leader who organized his army for success.

The leader divided the army into several subsections with different roles to play in defending the Empire. The leader rewarded hardworking and loyal soldiers by giving promoting to higher positions (De Hartog 476). The Mamluks were also used to expand different empires. For instance the Ottoman Empire used Mamluks to capture certain parts of Northern Egypt. Another ancient Islamic empire that was famous for the use of Mamluks during wars was the Abbasid Empire. The Mamluks were to remain loyal to the emperors while other soldiers were loyal to the sheikhs or clan leaders. The rise of most of the Islamic empires such as Ghilman and Armenia can be attributed to the activities of the Mamluks who were used to capture different empires (Fischel 343)

How many people did the Mongols actually kill?

Depends on the period.
In the time of Genghis Khan, peasants were strategically killed and hurded like animals. Once again we are getting into the realm of troubling documentation (so we have no idea of how many were killed for the effect I am about to describe), but the intent was to leave most of the peasantry alive but fleeing towards cities as organised by hunter cadres.

The plan was, try to scare as many peasants as possible into running towards cities. That way, the cities would have a harder time with resources (less supply from the country side with more mouths to feed) as well as the great mongol weapon of spreading fear to the population through the stories peasants would then tell.

Considering it is noted as being unusual for the time, we can make a fair assumption that the kill count was better than traditional feudal conquests, especially considering the millions of peasants adopted into the mongol fold after the conquest of northern china.

Alcsentre Calanice

But what means "to kill"? They certainly killed many soldiers in battles, but speaking of famine and dieseases, they didn't really want these people to die.

Mongols weren't genocidal - they were quite tolerant rulers and certainly not as bad as depicted in the west. I would prefer to be a Christian under Mongol rule than to be Cathar under Catholic rule.


We'll never be able to talk absolute figures, population density is very controversial for the historians.

But for me the Mongols are the champions in the history of the humankind when speaking about percentage.
I mean the Mongols killed much more people than any nation on this Earth if you divide the number of the Mongols on the number of the slaughtered by them.

I hope I made myself clear here. The Mongols were not too numerous. But they killed more than any biggest nation of the world.

I mean if the Chinese made a war and killed a million of their opponents - that's quite impressive, but as the Chinese population was (say) 40 million that means that there was only one butchered enemy for forty Chinese.

But if the Mongols killed one million that means that there was one dead enemy for every Mongol.


We'll never be able to talk absolute figures, population density is very controversial for the historians.

But for me the Mongols are the champions in the history of the humankind when speaking about percentage.
I mean the Mongols killed much more people than any nation on this Earth if you divide the number of the Mongols on the number of the slaughtered by them.

I hope I made myself clear here. The Mongols were not too numerous. But they killed more than any biggest nation of the world.

I mean if the Chinese made a war and killed a million of their opponents - that's quite impressive, but as the Chinese population was (say) 40 million that means that there was only one butchered enemy for forty Chinese.

But if the Mongols killed one million that means that there was one dead enemy for every Mongol.


Well, everybody exaggerated. Julius Caesar prided himself of killing one million Gauls.
With all due respect to his achievements in mass killings and having no doubt about him being a renowned butcher. but a million is a gross exaggeration.

I mean that the Mongols set the world record:
- take all the Mongols (kids, old women, etc)
- and take all the people killed by the Mongols
- No other 'nation' can beat that ratio.

What makes me so sure that the Mongols were the absolute champions of all the times and peoples?
Call it a hunch, an educated guess, whatever.

Mass killings are essential for any empire-building. Julius Caesar complained that he killed, killed, killed, killed but it didn't have the desired effect on the Gauls. "You have to be inventive these days" he sighed and cut the right hand of all the men in the captured town.
Julius Caesar and Chengizz Khan were not homicidal maniacs, actually they both were nice people in their private life.
- But why did they kill?
- Because they had to.
Empire-building is about extortion and losing independence.
Have any other means to convince people to lose property and freedom? I mean, seriously?

But Julius Caesar had huge human resources of Italy, other romanized territories, collaboration of the Romanized local elites, centuries of experience and a bunch of experienced administrators.
And even with all that Julius Caesar had to kill a lot.

Chengizz Khan had a tiny poor nation with no experience in empire-building.
Where Julius Caesar was able to leave a legion and a lot of Romans and Romanized allies as the settlers and the merchants, there Chengizz Khan was sometimes able to leave one single Mongol.
I mean literally - one Mongol to rule over hundreds of thousands of the local population. And the Mongol army was sometimes months away.
The only thing which helped - the inevitability of the mass killings in case if the population misbehave.
Meaning - to kill every living soul, preferably with all the cats and dogs.
That was the only condition under which this cheapest (ever!) administrative system could function.

That explains why the Mongols had to kill much more than any other empire-builders.
They just did not have any other choice.

And ye, since the very beginning the Mongols were sure that they would conquer the world. Literally. Conquer. The world.
So you would have had problems to explain to them that it is wise to spare the already conquered population.
What for? There's so much of the world left unconquered!

John7755 يوحنا

I personally doubt this. If anything Timur did a far greater toll on Iran than the Mongols as did the Zanj and Qarmatians on Iraq. The countryside of Iraq was already in steep decline since the Zanj mass burning and executions that occurred such as the rape of Basra which in all honesty was the lifeblood of Baghdad, without the Sawad, Baghdad is on weak legs as Saddam Hussein even noticed (which is why he drained the Batihah). All it took was a push and Iraq collapsed as a whole, Ninewah was and had been ravaged by intermittent wars between Musawir and the Abbasid and the various Buyyid wars into the region. Kurdistan was always fairly low in population and frankly an unreliable tax base. Najaf-Karbala-Kufa was on good terms by Mongol period but it was not destroyed wholesale like Baghdad and it also was an unreliable tax base due to its huge Shi'i populace. The only area on good terms was Baghdad, who was on weak wobbly legs as it had no rural base to lean on.

In terms of Iran, the population was already low, before the Mongol invasion, for instance it had not been ruled by a native Persian dynasty since the Saffarid, not even the Kwarezmshahs who were former Mamluks in Kwarezm in Urgench.

Also, we see a renaissance during the Safavid period essentially creating an Iranian identity reinventing itself in the Sassanid model, this is going against the notion that Iran never recovered. Again, this is the theory of continual golden age that I advocate. There is no evidence that Iran declined after the Mongols or Timurids except due to epidemics and the decadence of Safavid rulers and eventually the weakness of Afsharid offspring in terms of its decisive losses to the Durrani.


he also boasted about killing hundred of thousands in what is now the netherlands, until recently it was thought to be boasting.
however recently they did find remnants of this genocide, men,women, children,civilians and warriors, nobody was spared.
and what was found came remarkably close to the numbers that julius ceasar claimed.
so we have to rethink julius ceasar, to being a genocidal butcher in the same league as genghis khan
http://www.ancient-origins.net/news. htered-julius-caesar-army-bones-reveal-020659

if ceasar in a single encounter managed to kill150-200k people, then the 1 million figure becomes rather plausible

John7755 يوحنا

he also boasted about killing hundred of thousands in what is now the netherlands, until recently it was thought to be boasting.
however recently they did find remnants of this genocide, men,women, children,civilians and warriors, nobody was spared.
and what was found came remarkably close to what julius ceasar claimed.
so we have to rethink julius ceasar, to being a genocidal butcher in the same league as genghis khan
http://www.ancient-origins.net/news. htered-julius-caesar-army-bones-reveal-020659

if ceasar in a single encounter managed to kill150-200k people, then the 1 million figure becomes rather plausible

There is no dispute Temujin killed many as did his descendant Hulegu, but the importance of such murder, I have found to be vastly overrated in terms of the Islamic world which I would argue was more affected fundamentally by Timur and his influence than Hulegu. This is even supported by the fact that Islamic states became far more powerful than their earlier iterations following Timur and Hulegu, see for example Ottomans, Safavid, Mughal, Durrani, Egyptian Mamluk states, etc.

EDIT: the reason for decline is that by the 1700s there was a new weight class. It is the same way that Germany went, it was still strong, yet it France, Germany and Japan were made essentially inferior as there was an entire new class of empire, aka the US.



Well, everybody exaggerated. Julius Caesar prided himself of killing one million Gauls.
With all due respect to his achievements in mass killings and having no doubt about him being a renowned butcher. but a million is a gross exaggeration.

I mean that the Mongols set the world record:
- take all the Mongols (kids, old women, etc)
- and take all the people killed by the Mongols
- No other 'nation' can beat that ratio.

The problem is that we don't know and can't know what the mongol ratio kill wise was. I have talked quite a bit about the hilarious nature of Hulagu and his claim to have killed 2 million people in the siege of Baghdad with 40,000 men. But even in an area where Mongols used slightly less propoganda like China what constitutes a Mongol "Kill"? If the Mongols exasperated already present famine conditions, what percentage of the famine do we attribute to the Mongols? Likewise with Harvests etc.
How can we take into account the numbers recorded by the Chinese census when it then ignores the peasants enserfed by the Mongols.

I mean that would be absurd to say that. If we go with now largely outdated views that put Mongol killings to the extreme numbers, we still have to account for the fact that the larger numbers are on a similar toll to WW1 but spread over 100-200 years.

Agreed, but that doesn't mean that the Mongols killed in a blood crazed way that is often attributed to them. If anything what strikes the Mongols as so interesting is the sheer amounts of people they kept alive as tools for psychological warfare.

That isn't quite the picture of the Mongol Empire. Genghis Khan was notable for moving capable beauracrats, administrators etc wherever they were needed in the empire. Whilst the costs of administration on behalf of Mongol rulers sitting in a place would have been comparitively cheap (and once again not quite reflective, generally they would be maintaing a nomadic entourage between cities untill the reign of Kublai and the latter period of Mongke's reign), he invested where neccesary into improving and reinforcing the entrenched beauracracies of agricultural civilisation.

While some parts of Russia escaped devastation (Smolenschina, Polotsk, Novgorod), most of it did not. Kiev was in steep decline, yes, and the Severian lands were often raided by the Vladimir princes, but the two heavyweight centres of power (Galicia and all of Vladimir-in-Zalesye's regional centres) were very very thoroughly ruined.

Ryazan was never rebuilt in its old spot. Vladimir never recovered its importance. Kiev, Kursk, Novgorod-in-Severia, Chernigov etc. remained unimportant until the 18th c., 17th if we're being generous. Tver and Moscow were small and took the opportunity to overtake their rivals, but at the expense of other cities that were on the up before the Mongols.

Russian colonization beyond the Dniepr and on the Don and Donets was completely halted. Archeology confirms dozens and dozens of small towns (a couple of thousand settlers each) that were ruined and never rebuilt. In fact the Russians did not recolonize the area until they built the Great Abatis line, and then successively extended it with the Line Forts in the late 16th/early 17th c.

Besides the Russian cities in Donets basin/Severia/Kiev/Galicia/Zalesye, the Mongols also destroyed Bulgar on the Volga and all its sister cities (also heavily populated places as evidenced by the square footage of the built-up areas), halted the incipient medieval urbanism of the Volga Finns and dispersed them into the forests, and drove away all the Black Sea Cumans (who probably numbered in the hundreds of thousands but maybe short of a million) until they became merely historic minorities in Bulgaria and Hungary reduced the historically significant Alan kingdom to just one mountain valley population among dozens in the Caucasus and of course, also wiped out any trace of Russia's Black Hat population (centered on Torchesk and probably quite numerous around Kiev's southern borders).

In fact, Russia-at-large and especially in the south is plunged into a bit of an information vaccuum following the invasions. There are no chronicles, no coins, no written artifacts, nothing, for a whole generation, and only modest examples for over a century later. Almost everything that we know about the period comes from the north, where the cities were either not touched, or else rebuilt quickly by refugees from the South fleeing up beyond the swamps and the protective tree line.

So while it's hard to estimate the precise death toll (simply because it's hard to estimate the actual populations too), the extent of the devastation is hard to overestimate. The Mongols changed everything.

Beyond that, there's a further complication. The Golden Horde itself soon built several major cities, centered on big waterway crossings: one in Moldavia, a few on the Dniepr, a couple on the Don and Donets, lots along the Volga. They were very very large cities and probably housed mostly non-Mongol populations ruled by Mongol and Muslim administrators. If the refugees were herded to build and settle those, maybe the death toll in Russia was a little lighter than estimated.

. of course, it didn't really matter in the end. The Great Discord in the Great Horde disrupted trade and growth only a century into the Mongol rule, and then opened the way for Timur to invade the Great Horde itself.

Every single one of those great Mongol cities on the Volga and Don were burned to the ground. You can imagine what the loss of life is like. The loss of artifacts and historical record doesn't even need any exaggeration. We have a mere handful of any text examples from the Golden Horde period. One of them is a poem fragment. That's all the legacy of a population of several million after Timur dropped by for a visit.

So: tldr on the lands of modern Russia and Ukraine, the effects of Mongol Invasions Round 1 and Round 2, for both the Rus and their neighbours, were spectacular, devastating, and long-lasting.

The Portrayal of Emperor Commodus and the State of the Roman Empire in ‘Gladiator’

Movie critics and historians alike have heaped a mixed bag of opinions onto the award-winning film Gladiator, a feature that explores the themes of loss, revenge, and the public demand for violent entertainment. Some sociologists such as Joanne Jones have analyzed the film’s portrayal of the protagonist Maximus as endorsing specific political points. Historians including Gary Knight consider the movie to get many facts wrong while providing a familiar storyline. The film’s portrayal of Emperor Commodus is perhaps its most notable element, as it takes many artistic liberties with the 2 nd century dictator to ensure the success of the film as an historical drama. In this essay, the cinematic figure of Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and to a lesser extent the political climate of the Roman Empire during Commodus’ reign will be compared to their historical prototypes.

In an article analyzing the nature of Hollywood features through Gladiator, Joanne Jones comments on the importance of critically analyzing such films. Jones writes that, “Hollywood texts are a complex nexus of competing ideas and beliefs… [and] are likely to be an ideologically compromised art form,” due to their production being caused by a demand for profit.[1] Jones explains two main ideological pushes inherent in the film, both of which are expressions of a conservative socio-political agenda. Firstly, Jones examines the theme of imperialism in the film intended to naturalize the expansionist policies of the American government.[2] Secondly, the gender categories in the film heavily draw upon themes of masculinity, feminity, and family values that are often articulated by the religious right. Both of these ideologies, Jones argues, are related to one another, as each relies on domination, exclusion, and social structures to restrict and deny access to power.[3]

While Jones’ critique of the film relies on analyzing present modern social structures rather than offering an historical analysis, it is necessary to note the purpose of featured films in order to understand how they should be interpreted. Jones is correct in her assessment that the primary goal for the film’s creation is likely profit therefore, its historicity naturally places (at most) second in relevance to the content’s creators. The comparisons and contrasts made in this essay are undertaken within the context that the film is likely not intended to be a cut-and-paste reenactment of historical events and is instead likely intended by its creators to be a dramatized theorization of imperial Roman aesthetics and a statement in socio-politics.[4]

Approaching his review from a standpoint of an historian, the Christian Reconstructionist Gary North ends his review of the film by stating, “[Gladiator] is a movie that gets most of the facts wrong, yet gets the story right.”[5] Throughout his review, North comments on some of the factual errors in the film, including the murder of Marcus Aurelius at the hands of his son and antagonist of the film, Commodus. The character of Aurelius is fundamentally different in the film’s portrayal than his historical prototype. In the film, Aurelius is portrayed as hostile to Commodus, when in reality he insisted that his biological son Commodus inherit the throne after his death—a unique action during an era when emperors elected adoptive heirs to succeed themselves.[6] Rather than being the man of peace seeking to end bloodshed found in the film, Aurelius was complacent in the popular harassment of Christians in the second century, a topic visited by a prominent Christian apologist documented later in this essay.[7]

Near the end of the first act of the film, Commodus sneaks into his father’s tent and murders him out of an apparent lust for power. The film then follows the life of the Roman general Maximus, who is reduced to gladiatorial slavery upon the Commodus-induced murder of his emperor. In contrast to the film, Aurelius ruled jointly with Commodus for three years before the former’s death, caused by some form of plague akin to measles or smallpox. As the film deviates so tremendously from the facts, one must wonder whether North’s applause for the movie getting the story right is an accurate representation of the film’s historical accuracy.

In addition to the characters of Commodus and Marcus Aurelius, the film also attempts to portray the state of the Roman Empire during the second century. During the opening of the film, Aurelius informs Commodus of his desire to return Rome to a republican form of government shortly before informing his son that the general Maximus is the best suited man to assist in this endeavor, and thus naming his adoptive heir to the throne. It is at this point when Commodus murders his father before the latter can announce his adoption of Maximus as imperial heir and the antagonist of the film takes power. The plot of the movie then revolves around the demonization of Commodus as a fascist dictator ruling unjustly while his sister plots with various senators and the disgraced Maximus to place the dictatorial power into Maximus’ possession to reinstate the Roman Republic. While the film focuses on the drama between Commodus and Maximus, the actual plot revolves around the struggle between an empowered Principate and revolutionary Republic.

The issue with this vital plot point is that during the 2 nd century, there is little historical evidence that any dictator, senator, or otherwise desired to revitalize the republican system of government found prior to the empowerment of Julius Caesar in 49 B.C. The film constantly asserts that the senatorial branch of the empire is rooted in democratic ideals and full of official elected by the people working for the common man. This is false, as the senatorial system of the Roman Empire, and even of the Roman Republic, resembled an assembly of oligarchical families rather than any sort of American democratic system. Only the aristocratic patrician class had access to a seat in the Senate, and once a patrician was elected, he would be a senator until his death, leading this senatorial oligarchy to become increasingly self-serving and divorced from the plebeian community. Furthermore, the Senate rarely convened with the common man, with the only such occasion occurring during conciliar sessions with the Plebian Council, an assembly comprised of male plebeians. It is difficult to consider even the Plebian Council as being a voice for the people as half of the plebeian class—women—was denied access to incumbency. Therefore, the Roman political climate present in the film provides a false dichotomy of dictatorial fascism and democratic republicanism, the latter of which is promoted as the ideal form of government that will be realized once Maximus usurps the throne from Commodus. Such a climate is entirely non-existent in the Roman Empire during the 2 nd century, as 21 st century concepts of democracy shape the film’s plot and do injustice to the historical senatorial rivalries and familial goals pursued by the patrician class.

There is one aspect of Commodus’ personage that the film accurately portrays, and that is the emperor’s apparent lust for power and public adoration. In the film, this lust is exemplified in his usurping of the Roman throne alternatively, according to the coinage commissioned near the end of his reign, Commodus desperately sought to be associated with divinity, inscribing upon official currency the name Hercules Commodus.[8] This clear desire to be respected as a divine hero is also apparent in Commodus’ common representations among busts and statues depicting the emperor with a club and lion skin, linking the emperor to the properties of the divine hero Hercules. Additionally, the film shows Commodus pleasing the Roman masses with gladiatorial games, reminiscent of the historical reality wherein the emperor entertained the populace regularly with many events in the Coliseum, including chariot races, beast hunts, and, indeed, gladiatorial games.[9] Contrary to the film, which portrays Commodus as a dishonorable fighter, the emperor participated in 620 victories in gladiatorial combat, “more than any other left-handed fighter,” according to Ward.[10]

Commodus’ participation and enjoyment of the gladiatorial games is also evident in St. Athenagoras of Athens’ apologetical letter to Commodus and his aged father dating to 177 A.D. In the letter, Athenagoras theologizes a Trinitarian monotheism, dismisses charges of incest and atheism, and articulates a thoroughly Christian morality which he believes should abdicate Christian individuals accused of such charges. Regarding the ante-Nicene doctrine of non-violence and its conflict with Commodus’ violent pastime, Athenagoras writes, “Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles.”[11] According to Cassius Dio’s Roman History, Commodus’ disposition was the product of his “great simplicity… together with his cowardice… [making] him the slave of his companions, and it was through them that he at first, out of ignorance… was led on into lustful and cruel habits, which soon became second nature.”[12] The film’s portrayal of Commodus ignores this nuanced character of Commodus, instead showing the emperor as being inherently cruel rather than the product of his upbringing.

The death of Marcus Aurelius and the subsequent reign of Commodus mark a significant shift in imperial Roman history, as it signifies when the empire had expired its period of glory and began to decline. For Cassius, the full ascension of Commodus in 180 A.D. initiates the descent “from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.”[13] The succession crisis following the assassination of Commodus began the deterioration of the Roman Empire’s political arm over its expansive territory. While the historical character of Commodus is significant as both an emblem of a cruel ruler and marker of the state of the Roman Empire in the late 2 nd century, the film understandably simplifies Commodus’ ambitions and fictionalizes a great deal of his environment. While the film does justice to Commodus’ desire for power and public adoration, it fails to accurately describe the political climate of the Roman Empire during his reign, resulting in an action-packed historical drama that is entertaining to watch but ultimately lacking in historical relevance.

[1] Joanne Jones, “Maximum Pleasure: Teaching the Hollywood Feature Film through Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’,” English in Australia 41, no. 3 (2006): 28-9.

[4] Adelheid R. Eubanks, “Same spectacle, other observers: The Fall of the Roman Empire and Gladiator,” West Virginia University Philological Papers 55-56 (2012): 131-132.

[6] Donald L. Wasson, Ancient History Encyclopedia, s.v. “Commodus,” April 29, 2013, accessed March 1, 2019, http://www.ancient.eu/commodus/.

[7] The severity of Christian persecution under Marcus Aurelius and whether such actions were directed by the emperor is unclear and discussed by professional historians. It is incontestable, however, that persecutions during Aurelius’ reign were a “fairly sustained affair.” See Frank McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: A Life (New York: Da Capo Press, 2010), 295-97

[8] Allen M. Ward, A History of the Roman People, 6th ed. (Pearson, 2013), 314.

[11] Athenagoras of Athens, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. B. P. Pratten, ed. Alexander Roberts, A. Cleveland Coxe, and James Donaldson, comp. Kevin Knight, vol. 2 (Buffalo: Christian Literature Publishing, 1885).

[12] Cassius Dio, in Roman History, vol. IX (Loeb Classical Library, 1927), 121.