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Mongol Empire
I.
INTRODUCTION
Mongol Empire, sprawling empire founded in the early 1200s by Mongol conqueror
Genghis Khan. By the late 1200s, the Mongol Empire included almost all of East and
Southwest Asia and extended into central Europe. It was the largest contiguous land
empire in history.
The immense size of the Mongol Empire proved to be its undoing. Under Genghis
Khan’s descendants, the empire was divided into separate, virtually independent states.
Political rivalries and cultural differences led to disunity, and Mongol cohesiveness
dissolved. The empire collapsed as the power of the states disintegrated during the 14th
and 15th centuries.
II. BEFORE THE MONGOL EMPIRE
A. The Mongol Tribes of East Asia
The Mongols were a loose confederation of Mongolian-speaking tribes until Genghis
Khan united them in 1206. Their homelands extended through present-day Mongolia,
north into the southern fringes of the Siberia region of Russia, and east into what is now
the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. Here, on the eastern edge of the Asian
steppe (a vast plateau of grassy plains), the Mongols developed a nomadic way of life.
The Mongols continually moved across the steppe in search of new grazing lands for
their livestock. Their flocks of sheep provided food and clothing. Their horses provided
transportation as well as a favorite drink, fermented mare’s milk, or koumiss. The
Mongols made their homes in portable, circular tents they called ger. These tents (also
known as yurts) are still common in Mongolia, where nomadic traditions continue.
The Mongols began training in horsemanship and archery at a very early age. They
learned to shoot their arrows with precision while standing in the stirrups of a galloping
horse. This skill was used in hunting, raiding, and warfare. Their domesticated horses
came from wild herds native to the steppe. This small, hardy species became known as
Przewalski’s horse in the late 1800s.
The importance that the Mongols attached to their horses is evident on every page of the
Secret History of the Mongols, written in the mid-1200s. The author of this anonymous
native work on the rise of the Mongol Empire never mentions a horse without providing
its exact description—for example, how a young Genghis Khan, mounted on a chestnut
stallion with a hairless tail, tracked down thieves who had made off with the family herd
of eight light-bay geldings.
The Mongols were organized into clans, which in turn were part of a larger, much looser
organization, the tribe. The hierarchy of the tribe was bound together by personal bonds
of mutual protection and loyalty extending downward from the tribal chieftains, to
subordinate clan chiefs, to individual warriors. Tribal and clan affairs were discussed and
decided upon at the kuriltai, an assembly of tribal leaders. One of its functions was to
elect a khan (leader). Before Genghis Khan, however, the khan had little real power. In
addition, the Mongol tribes were deeply divided by clan rivalries, and warfare between
them was endemic.
B. Political Background
For almost 2,000 years before Genghis Khan, various nomadic peoples of East Asia had
raided the settled peoples of northern China. The Chinese built fortifications along their
northern frontier to keep out the raiders. (These fortifications long preceded the
impressive stone walls that became known as the Great Wall in modern times.)
Nevertheless, several nomadic groups broke through the barriers and established local
dynasties in China.
One of these groups, a Mongolian-speaking people known as the Khitans, took advantage
of the waning control of the Chinese Tang dynasty to conquer an area that extended well
into northern China. They founded the Liao dynasty in the early 900s to rule their empire,
Khitai. The Liao prevented the Chinese Song dynasty, which rose to power in 960, from
reclaiming lands north of the Huang He (Yellow River) that had been lost by the Tang.
Early in the 1100s the Jurchens, a confederation of Tungusic-speaking tribes, rose up
against the Liao. The Song encouraged the uprising in hope of regaining territory held by
the Liao. The Jurchens not only conquered the Liao in 1125 but also took over a large
portion of the northern Song domains. For their new empire, the Jurchens adopted the
dynastic name of Jin (“Golden”). The remnants of the Song court fled south to Hangzhou
and established the Southern Song dynasty. The Khitans retreated westward and
reestablished their kingdom as Kara-Khitai.
A contingent of the Mongol tribes had fought on the side of the Liao in their final battles
against the Jin. The Jin thereafter allied with the Tatars, a Turkic people who lived to the
east and south of the Mongols.
C. Rise of Genghis Khan
In 1161 the Mongol chieftain Kutula was defeated by the Jin in alliance with the Tatars.
Several years later, Kutula’s nephew and successor, Yesugei, was killed by the Tatars.
Yesugei’s son, Temujin, gradually rose to power. By 1196 he was the undisputed leader
of the Borjigin tribe. He then led a series of military campaigns in which he managed to
defeat all the Mongol and Tatar tribes between the Altay Mountains in the west and the
Hinggan Mountains in the east (roughly the area of present-day Mongolia).
In 1206 Temujin convened a kuriltai of all the Mongol chieftains. They proclaimed him
supreme ruler with the title of Genghis Khan (also spelled Chinggis Khan), meaning
“Great Leader.” The kuriltai also divided Mongol territory among strong military leaders
who pledged their allegiance to Genghis Khan.
III. THE MONGOL EMPIRE UNDER GENGHIS KHAN
A. Conquests in China
His power secured in the Mongol homelands, Genghis Khan soon launched a campaign
to destroy the Jin dynasty of northern China. First, however, he subdued the Tanguts,
whose Xixia (Hsi-Hsia) dynasty ruled the area between the Mongol and Jin domains.
Mongol forces invaded Jin territory in 1211. Two years later they broke through the
northern Chinese fortifications and surged into the Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain).
By the spring of 1214 the entire area north of the Huang He (Yellow River) was in
Mongol hands. The Jin emperor purchased peace at an enormous ransom, and the
Mongols withdrew. Shortly after, the emperor judged it prudent to move his capital from
its northern site of Beijing. The Mongols interpreted his move as a resumption of
hostilities and returned to sack and pillage Beijing.
Genghis Khan then turned his attention westward. In 1218 a Mongol army led by the
great general Jebe subdued the neighboring kingdom of Kara-Khitai, located between the
Tibetan Plateau (now part of China) and Lake Balqash (now in southeastern Kazakhstan).
B. Campaign in Central Asia
The conquest of Kara-Khitai brought the Mongols into Central Asia. Their new western
frontier abutted Khwarizm, a vast but poorly organized empire ruled by Sultan
Muhammad. Khwarizm included the western part of Turkistan as well as most of Iran.
The sultan gave the Mongols an immediate cause for war by having two of Genghis
Khan’s ambassadors beheaded.
The Mongol army reached Khwarizm’s northern frontier city of Otrar in the autumn of
1219. Leaving one unit there, Genghis Khan continued south to capture and plunder the
great cities of Bukhara (Bukhoro) and Samarqand. Panic-stricken, Sultan Muhammad
fled westward, pursued by a Mongol army, and died on an island in the Caspian Sea. The
Mongols then turned north, crossing the Caucasus Mountains into what is now Russia.
They defeated a coalition of Kipchak Turks and Russians in Crimea (part of present-day
Ukraine) and returned eastward.
Genghis Khan passed the summer of 1220 resting his troops and horses in mountain
pastures south of Samarqand. In the autumn he moved his forces south into Khorâsân, the
eastern province of Iran. At that time Khorâsân extended far beyond its present-day
border with Afghanistan. Mongol troops under the command of Genghis Khan’s
youngest son, Tolui, laid waste to some of the province’s most important cities, including
Nishapur (now Neyshâbûr, Iran), Merv (now Mary, Turkmenistan), and Herât (now in
northern Afghanistan).
The region never fully recovered from the devastation of the Mongol onslaught. At
Nishapur alone, more than 1 million people were massacred. According to the Persian
historian Ala-ad-Din Ata-Malik Juvaini, who became a civil servant of the Mongols and
wrote of their conquests in his History of the World-Conqueror, “It was commanded that
… in the exaction of vengeance not even cats and dogs should be left alive.”
In the autumn of 1221 Genghis Khan moved to attack Sultan Jalal al-Din, the son of
Sultan Muhammad. Overtaken on the banks of the Indus River and surrounded by the
Mongol forces, Jalal al-Din made a dramatic escape by swimming across the river. He
contrived to harass the Mongols for several years until his death in 1231 in Anatolia (the
Asian part of present-day Turkey; also known as Asia Minor).
C. Return to the East
The battle at the Indus River marked the end of Genghis Khan’s campaign in the west.
He returned to northern China after receiving news of an uprising there by the Tanguts,
the founders of the Xixia dynasty. Genghis Khan led a campaign of brutal suppression
that completely destroyed the Tanguts. It proved to be his final conquest, for he died in
August 1227.
Genghis Khan was one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen. He had
conquered a vast area stretching from northern China to the Caspian Sea. In addition, he
had laid the foundation for the continuance of his empire by building a strong army and
establishing basic laws of governance.
D. The Mongol Army
Genghis Khan unleashed a seemingly invincible military force. Although usually
outnumbered, the Mongol forces dominated the battlefield. Their absolute discipline,
well-understood chain of command, superior mobility, and innovative military tactics
distinguished them from other armies of the day.
Rather than leading their forces into battle, the Mongol generals directed operations from
a distance. A standard tactic they employed was to sweep an entire wing of the army
around an enemy flank to attack from behind. Prisoners, if not massacred, were forced to
form the front line in subsequent operations.
Mongol soldiers were well-trained in marksmanship and horsemanship. A soldier was
clad in armor of leather strips lacquered to keep out water. His bow, backed with horn or
sinew, was one of the most powerful in the world. After showering the enemy with
arrows he would change to his lance or to a curved sword and charge for close fighting.
The Mongols’ greatest advantage was their mobility. They brought with them on their
campaigns so many horses that a soldier could ride a fresh mount daily for three or four
days running. Once an enemy’s initial resistance was broken, the Mongols would overrun
the territory with a rapidity not to be duplicated until the tank warfare of the 20th century.
Rivers, however broad, formed no obstacle; the Mongol armies would cross them in a
kind of collapsible boat that they carried as standard equipment. They were equally
skilled in organizing sieges. On one occasion they even diverted a river that ran through a
besieged city and attacked along the dry river bed.
E. System of Rule
Genghis Khan instituted a legal code, the Great Book of Yasas, that formed the basis of
governance for most of the empire’s duration. From the fragments that survive, it appears
that the yasas (laws) were an amalgam of Mongol customary law and the khan’s own
innovations. The yasas included such provisions as a ban on thrusting a knife into fire,
possibly based on a fear of offending the spirits of nature. Of particular importance was
the yasa exempting the clergy of conquered peoples, as were the Mongols’ own religious
leaders, from the payment of taxes and the performance of military service and forced
labor.
In governing their empire, the Mongols readily admitted into their service officials
belonging to all nations and creeds. Genghis Khan began the practice by taking into his
court both Muslim and Chinese advisers. One of his most trusted advisers, the Khitan
prince Yeh-lu Ch’u-ts’ai, had shrewdly warned: “The empire was won on horseback, but
it will not be governed on horseback.” It is believed that his advice prompted the
Mongols to turn from the wholesale massacre of settled populations to using the talents of
the conquered peoples in governing the empire.
The Mongols developed an efficient communications system within their vast empire.
The system was based on the yam, or post-horse station, which supplied food, horses, and
service to the Mongol khan’s troops and couriers. The yam network made it possible for
news to travel quickly to and from the khan’s headquarters; the couriers were able, if
necessary, to cover a distance of 250 mi (400 km) in one day. In addition, the Mongols
encouraged open trade throughout their empire. They revived, secured, and expanded the
ancient trade routes known as the Silk Road. Under Mongol rule, these trade routes
fostered the first significant cultural exchanges between East Asia and Europe.
IV. THE MONGOL EMPIRE AFTER GENGHIS KHAN
On his deathbed Genghis Khan chose his third-eldest son, Ögödei, to succeed him as the
great khan. Before his death Genghis had already divided his empire among his heirs, in
accordance with Mongol custom. His sons Jochi, Jagatai, Ögödei, and Tolui each
inherited a section of the empire. To Ögödei he gave all Mongol territory in East Asia
except the Mongol homelands, which went to Tolui. Jagatai took the central part of the
empire, and Jochi the lands farthest to the west. They and their successors continued the
Mongol wars of conquest, further expanding the empire.
A. Reign of Ögödei Khan
In the spring of 1229 a kuriltai duly elected Ögödei as the great khan. The empire
prospered and expanded under Ögödei’s able and energetic rule. In the first few years of
his reign, the Mongols completed the conquest of northern China and declared war on the
Southern Song dynasty. Ögödei built a grand capital at Karakorum, in the heart of the
Mongol homelands. Most significantly, he authorized a campaign into Europe in 1235.
A Mongol army of about 150,000 stormed into eastern Europe under the command of
Jochi’s son Batu and one of the ablest Mongol generals, Subadai. The Mongol forces
crossed the Volga River in the autumn of 1237 and attacked the principalities of Russia,
capturing town after town. Early in 1238 they turned northward and approached to within
60 mi (100 km) of Novgorod but then withdrew southward, fearing that the spring thaw
might render the roads impassable for their horses. In the summer of 1240 the Mongols
resumed their attack. In December they captured and destroyed the important city of Kyiv
(Kiev) on the Dnieper River, opening the way into central Europe.
The right flank of Batu’s army advanced through Poland, inflicting a crushing defeat on a
Polish-German army in the region of Silesia in April 1241, and then turned south to join
the main army in Hungary. Quickly victorious there, the Mongols became masters of the
area east of the Danube River. In December they crossed the river in pursuit of the king
of Hungary, Béla IV. Batu’s forces soon reached the coast of the Adriatic Sea and
seemed poised for an invasion of western Europe.
However, news then arrived that Ögödei had died in November. Batu withdrew the bulk
of his forces in the spring of 1242 and returned to Karakorum in order to participate in
the selection of a successor. Eastern and central Europe had proved to be disunited and
ill-prepared to resist the Mongol armies. Fortunately for the rest of Europe, the Mongols
were never to return in force.
B. Reign of Guyuk Khan
Ögödei’s death was followed by an interregnum lasting nearly five years, during which
time his widow, Töregene, acted as regent (substitute for a monarch). In 1243 Mongol
forces defeated the Seljuk sultanate of Rûm, centered in Konya, thereby extending the
Mongol Empire into Anatolia (present-day Turkey).
A kuriltai finally convened in 1246 to elect Ögödei’s successor, choosing his son Guyuk.
Witnessing the kuriltai was the Italian Franciscan friar Giovanni de Piano Carpini, who
had come to the Mongol court as the bearer of letters from Pope Innocent IV. Guyuk
brusquely rejected the pope’s protests against the Mongol invasion of Poland and
Hungary and called upon him, together with all the crowned heads of Europe, to tender
their allegiance to him. Subsequent efforts to convert the Mongols to Christianity
likewise failed. However, Carpini had made the first recorded European visit to China,
preceding the Venetian merchant Marco Polo by 29 years.
Guyuk’s reign was cut short in 1248. He died while traveling west to meet up with his
cousin Batu, apparently with the intention of attacking him. Batu had strongly contested
Guyuk’s election as great khan and had remained opposed to him. Guyuk’s widow,
Oghul-Ghaimish, was regent of the empire until a kuriltai was finally convened in 1251
to choose Guyuk’s successor.
C. Reign of Mangu Khan
Despite opposition from Guyuk’s sons and their supporters, the kuriltai elected Mangu
(also spelled Mongke), the eldest son of Tolui (Genghis Khan’s youngest heir). A plot to
overthrow the new great khan was uncovered while the inaugural celebrations were still
in progress; those responsible were banished or executed. This succession struggle was
the first show of the disunity that eventually broke up the Mongol Empire.
Under Mangu’s leadership the Mongols embarked on new wars of conquest. In 1253 the
khan’s brother Kublai invaded the territory of the Southern Song dynasty in southern
China, while another brother, Hulagu, set out on a campaign into Southwest Asia that
culminated in the sack of Baghdād in 1258. In autumn of that year, Mangu took the field
in person against the Song. He died the following summer while directing a siege.
V. DIVISION AND DECLINE OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE
The death of Mangu in 1259 marks the virtual end of a unified Mongol Empire. The
initial partitioning of the empire by Genghis Khan had opened the way for further
division. His descendants and their heirs established separate khanates (states ruled by
khans), which remained at least nominally united through Mangu’s reign. He was
succeeded by his brother Kublai, who faced open opposition from two of the khanates
and would never enjoy universal sovereignty. By then, kinship ties proved inadequate to
overcome the internal dissent tearing apart the empire.
The Mongols were skilled conquerors but inexperienced administrators. The Mongol
overlords therefore tended to adopt local systems of rule. They also tended to integrate
culturally with the peoples they conquered. In a relatively short period of time, the
khanates became politically and culturally distinct. Religious differences, for example,
appeared early—the Mongol overlords in western Asia converted to Islam, while those in
China became Buddhists or Lamaists.
By 1279, when the empire reached its largest size, it was made up of four virtually
independent khanates: the Yuan dynasty of China in the east, the Jagatai khanate in the
center, the Golden Horde in the west, and the Il-Khanid dynasty in the southwest. Each
khanate followed its own path of decline. Their histories are discussed separately in the
following sections.
A. The Yuan Dynasty of China
After becoming the great khan, Kublai continued the war against the Southern Song
dynasty, which governed the regions south of the Yangtze River. The long campaign
against the Song effectively ended with the capture of its emperor in 1276, but the area
around Guangzhou (also known as Canton) held out until 1279. Kublai founded the Yuan
dynasty and proclaimed himself emperor of China. He moved the Mongol capital from
Karakorum to the site now occupied by Beijing, which he named Khanbalik (romanized
as Cambaluc).
Kublai had accomplished the Mongols’ ultimate conquest, bringing one of the world’s
most advanced civilizations under Mongol domination. All of China was united under a
single ruler for the first time in more than 300 years. In addition, the kingdoms of Korea
and the mainland of Southeast Asia were reduced to docile tributaries (payers of tribute).
Kublai’s overseas expeditions were less successful. An army sent to the island of Java
(now part of Indonesia) was tricked by Prince Wijaya, a local ruler, into destroying his
enemies. Wijaya then forced his unwitting allies to withdraw by a skillful guerrilla
campaign. Even more disastrous were Kublai’s attempts to invade Japan. In 1274 a
typhoon, celebrated in Japanese history as the kamikaze (“divine wind”), destroyed the
entire Mongol armada sent to invade Japan. A similar disaster ended a second invasion
attempt in 1281.
In China, Kublai’s reign was a period of peace, commercial prosperity, religious
tolerance, and a cultural flowering. Kublai himself converted to Buddhism and made it
the official religion of his empire. He lived in a style of dazzling opulence that belied his
nomadic origins. He also encouraged contacts with the outside world, giving audience to
ambassadors and merchants from many nations. His curiosity about Christianity led to a
visit in 1275 by the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, who ended up staying in China for
17 years as Kublai’s civil servant. Polo’s accounts of his travels and experiences gave
Europeans their first inside view of the great civilization in the East.
A.1. Decline of the Yuan Dynasty
The decline of the Yuan dynasty began with Kublai’s death in 1294. His successors were
prevented by dynastic conflict, lack of discipline, and short-lived reigns from achieving
any renown. Only Kublai ruled longer than his final successor, Tokon-Temur, who took
power in 1333. During his reign, constant intrigues and dissensions among the Mongol
aristocracy encouraged the outbreak of revolts. By the late 1350s the greater part of
southern China was in the hands of various guerrilla leaders.
One rebel, a former Buddhist monk named Zhu Yuanzhang, had gained control over the
entire area south of the Yangtze River by 1368. The Mongols, who were involved in their
own internal quarrels, seemed almost indifferent to the loss of this vast region, and they
offered no effective resistance to Zhu’s invasion of the north that year. Tokon-Temur
fled, and Zhu made a triumphal entry into Khanbalik. He founded the Ming dynasty,
which ruled China until 1644.
B. The Jagatai Khanate of Central Asia
To his second son, Jagatai, Genghis Khan gave a territory stretching westward from what
is now China’s westernmost region, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to the area
southeast of the Aral Sea. His domain came to be known as the Jagatai khanate.
The central location of this khanate made it a strategic communications zone of the
Mongol Empire. It was also the weakest of the Mongol khanates. Jagatai khans were
made and unmade by the great khans, who through the reign of Kublai Khan maintained
a tight grip over the khanate’s affairs.
Jagatai and his early successors continued the Mongols’ traditional nomadic way of life
in the eastern part of the khanate. The major cities of the west were mostly inhabited by
Turkic-speaking Muslims. They had a settled way of life based on agriculture and
regarded their Mongol overlords as barbarians.
In the 14th century the authority of the Jagatai khans over their Muslim subjects
diminished sharply. The Jagatai khanate lost Transoxiana (roughly corresponding to
present-day Uzbekistan) to the Turkic aristocracy in 1347. The Jagatai khans’ rule was
thereafter confined to the eastern region of the original khanate, lasting there until the
1500s.
B.1. Rise of Tamerlane
By 1370 Transoxiana had become the first conquest of Tamerlane. He came from the
Barlas tribe of Mongols, who had settled in Transoxiana in the 1200s and over time had
adopted Turkic Muslim culture. Originally a minor aristocrat, Tamerlane concocted a
mythical descent from Genghis Khan and rose to power by an adroit combination of
treachery and military genius. By 1402 he loosely controlled an empire stretching from
India to the Mediterranean Sea. Tamerlane’s rise to power signaled the end of the
Mongol Empire. His exploits delivered the fatal blow to the empire’s two westernmost
khanates, the Golden Horde of Russia and the Il-Khanid dynasty of Southwest Asia.
C. The Golden Horde of Russia
To his eldest son, Jochi, Genghis Khan gave a vast and indeterminate domain extending
from east of present-day Kazakhstan to the banks of the Volga River in western Russia.
Upon Jochi’s death in 1227, his territory was divided by his heirs. The western portion
went to his second son, Batu, who subsequently led the Mongol campaign into Europe
and thereby extended his domain westward to the Danube River.
Batu’s khanate became known as the Golden Horde. (The Turkic word ordu, from which
the word horde is derived, means an encampment.) It was also known as the khanate of
Kipchak, after the Kipchak Turks who originally dominated the region. Over time, they
mingled with their Mongol conquerors, and their Turkic language gradually replaced
Mongolian. The Mongols themselves became known to Europeans as Tatars (or Tartars),
after the Turkic-speaking people who made up a large portion of their forces.
Batu established his capital, Sarai, on the eastern bank of the lower Volga, near modern
Volgograd. He allowed the local Russian princes to keep their thrones as long as they
paid tribute and homage to him. This system operated without significant resistance for
more than 130 years.
Islam became the official religion of the Golden Horde under Özbeg (Uzbek). His long
and prosperous reign, from 1313 to 1341, is generally regarded as the golden age of the
Russian Mongols. A period of anarchy followed, during which the real ruler of the
Golden Horde was a general named Mamay. With his defeat in 1380 by the Russian
grand prince of Muscovy (a Russian principality), Dmitry Donskoy, the Russians seemed
on the verge of overthrowing the Golden Horde.
However, the Mongol khan Tokhtamish intervened. He saw an opportunity to expand his
domain in southern Siberia, the khanate of the White Horde, which abutted the eastern
border of the Golden Horde. By the end of 1378 Tokhtamish occupied Sarai. The final
clash between Mamay and Tokhtamish resulted in a complete victory for the White
Horde. Now also master of the Golden Horde, Tokhtamish sacked the Russian capital of
Moscow in 1382 and reduced the Russians once again to the status of vassals and
tributaries.
C.1. Final Decline of the Golden Horde
Emboldened by these victories, Tokhtamish began invading Tamerlane’s territories in
Central Asia. In response, Tamerlane attacked Tokhtamish, finally defeating him in 1395.
In doing so, Tamerlane so greatly weakened the Golden Horde that he unwittingly helped
unify the Russians. The Golden Horde broke up in the 1400s, emerging as the
independent khanates of Kazan’, Astrakhan’, Sibir (Siberia), and Crimea. In the 1500s
three of these independent khanates were conquered by Russian tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich
(Ivan the Terrible), and in 1783 the last one, Crimea, was annexed to Russia.
D. The Il-Khanid Dynasty of Southwest Asia
During the reign of Mangu Khan, his brother Hulagu invaded the powerful Muslim
caliphate of the Abbasids. In 1257 Hulagu launched a three-pronged attack on the
Abbasid capital of Baghdād (now the capital of Iraq). The Abbasid caliph (supreme
leader of the Muslim community), al-Mustasim, surrendered in February 1258, and
Baghdād was pillaged and destroyed. Hulagu ordered al-Mustasim put to death.
After capturing Baghdād, Hulagu established the Il-Khanid dynasty. His khanate formed
the southwestern section of the Mongol Empire. In 1259 he set out on a campaign to
overtake Syria. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus soon fell, and the Mongols pressed on
to the frontier of Egypt, then ruled by the Mamluks. However, news of Mangu’s death
prompted Hulagu to return east, leaving his general Ked-Buka in command with muchreduced forces.
In 1260 the Mamluk general Baybars attacked Mongol forces at Ayn Jalut, near the
Jordan River in Palestine. Ked-Buka was defeated, captured, and executed. Following the
battle, the Mamluks annexed Syria and Baybars became the sultan of the powerful
Mamluk state. For the Mongols, the battle ended a widespread reputation for
invincibility. It also marked the end of Mongol expansion toward the Mediterranean.
D.1. Height and Decline of the Il-Khanid Dynasty
In 1295 Hulagu’s great-grandson Ghazan began his short but brilliant reign, bringing the
Il-Khanid dynasty to its height. He introduced new systems of taxation, reformed the
armed forces, and improved communications. Along with Mongolian, the Turkish,
Persian, and Arabic languages were employed in government. Iranian culture was
promoted, although new Mongol elements were infused in both art and architecture.
Ghazan converted to Islam and made it the official religion of his realm. He also took
great interest in the history and traditions of his people, on which he was an authority. At
his suggestion one of his ministers, the Iranian historian Rashid ad-Din, compiled the
Jami-at-Tawarikh (Collection of Histories), a vast historical encyclopedia. Ghazan
himself was the primary source for much of its information about the Mongols.
The administration of the later Il-Khans, however, was poor, and when the khan Abu
Said died without a male heir in 1395, the khanate broke up into small states ruled mainly
by Iranians. By the end of the century, Tamerlane had swept the region into his empire.
VI. LEGACY OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE
The Mongol Empire ushered in an era of frequent and extended contacts between East
and West. For the first time, Europeans journeyed as far east as China. Artisans, envoys,
missionaries, and merchants—including Marco Polo—made the trip. This increased
contact created a demand for Asian goods in Europe and inspired Europeans to search for
a sea route to Asia.
"Mongol Empire," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
© 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.