Episode 28: Mongol Invasion of the Islamic
Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)
Dr Kenneth Harl
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
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