Mongol Invasion of the Islamic World

Episode 28: Mongol Invasion of the Islamic

Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)

Dr Kenneth Harl

Film Review

Unlike Genghis Khan, who made no effort to rehabilitate the steppes cities he leveled, his son Ogedei redeveloped the cities he conquered in the eastern Abbasid Caliphate by appointing trusted administrators to run them. Yet Muslims remained in firm control in the region surrounding Baghdad, and the Mamaluks (aka Slave Sultans)* remained in sole control of Egypt.

The Mongol Empire experienced an internal civil war following Ogedei’s death in 1241. Eventually (1251) the position of great khan passed to Genghis Khan’s grandson Mongke.

He appointed Batu ruler of the Mongols and Turks on the western steppes, a post inherited by Berke following Batu’s death. The heirs of Genghis Khan’s second son  Jugatai assumed responsibility for the central steppes. Kublai Khan assumed responsibility for the eastern steppes, and his grandson Hulagu for the eastern Islamic empire.

In addition to the Mamaluks, who continued to receive slave solders from the steppes (via the Byzantine Empire), the other major threat to Mongol rule stemmed from an extremist Shiite group operating out of Alamut (Persia) that carried out orchestrated assassinations of Middle East and Central Asia political leaders.

In his largest military campaign, Hulagu and his troops left the Mongol capitol of Kharakan in 1253. Arriving in Samarkind by 1255, by 1257 they had leveled most of the Shiite assassins’ palaces and confiscated huge libraries of intelligence the Shiites had collected on Mongol opponents.

After securing Persia, in 1258 Hulagu next moved against the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, with support from Christians in Armenia and Antioch. He slaughtered a total of 800,000 civilians in Baghdad, sparing the Nestorian Christians living there because his wife was a Nestorian Christian.

In 1259 he sacked Al Jazeera, the grasslands and cities comprising modern-day Syria, marching as far southwest as Gaza on the Mediterranean. In response, the Mamaluk army (with the help of Crusaders) marched north to Galilee to confront the Mongol army (consisting mainly of Turkish mercenaries). This resulted in the Mongol Army’s very first defeat.

In 1259, Hulagu suspended operations after being notified of the great khan Monke’s death. This would spell the end of Mongol westward military expansion.

*Historically Turkish military leaders relied heavily on civilians and troops they conquered in battle and trained as slave soldiers. See 9th Century AD: Mass Migration of Uighur Turks to the Steppes fo China Leads to Rise of Seljuk Turks on the Steppes

Film can viewed free with a library card at Kanopy.

13th Century AD: Mongol Conquest of Russia and Jin Dynasty

Episode 27: Western Mongol Expansion

Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)

Dr Kenneth Harl

Film Review

According to Harl, Genghis Khan’s sons and grandsons split responsibility for the Mongol Empire following his death.

After being installed as the great khan (by the assembly of Mongol nobles), the third son Ogedei ruled the Mongolian homeland on the eastern steppes and led the military expedition that conquered China’s Jin* empire.

The second son Jugatai assumed control over the central steppes and the fourth Tolui the Mongolian heartlands in eastern Mongolia.

The first son Jochi inherited the western steppes, and his son Batu ran the military campaign to conquer new lands “as far as the western ocean.” After first conquering Persia, Armenia and Georgia, he attacked the south Russian steppes.

In 1223, a coalition of Russian princes confronted an army of 75,000 Mongolian and Turkish troops on the banks of the Kolka River. Following an initial stalemate, the Mongol army withdrew and decimated their Turkish allies, the Cumans (aka the Volga Khans).

After regrouping, Batu strategically employed Chinese and Persian engineers to sack every major Russian city except for the northernmost Novgorod and Pskov. After capturing and deporting a few artisans and women, the Mongols massacred nearly all the civilians in the conquered cities.

In 1241, Batu’s troops next invaded southern Poland, Silesia,** and Hungary, where they encountered they had no hope of breaching. After being notified of Ogedei’s death in 1242, Batu withdrew his forces to return to the Mongolian heartland to elect a new Khan.

*See 10th Century AD: The Steppes Nomads Conquer Northern China

**Historical region in central Europe roughly equivalent to northern Poland.

Film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.