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(Note: This chapter was part of the four missing chapters that were lost when a hacker damaged this site. I am putting a summary of the contents and will rewrite these information as I try to complete this project)
Although not directly related to the study of Iranian history, the history of Mongols prior to their invasion of Iran is of utmost importance in understanding their impact on the Iranian political and social life. Here, we include a summary of Mongol history in order to provide the necessary background for their entry into the history of Iran.
Mongols were a loose confederation of nomadic tribes that lived to the north of Gobi Desert in the eastern parts of Central Asia. Ethnically, they were part of the great Mongoloid people which included so many of earlier nomadic invaders of western and central Asia, such as the Huns, Yueh-Chi, and various Turkish tribes. They spoke a Uralic language and held various religious beliefs ranging from Shamanism to Manichaeism and even Christianity, brought to them by Nestorian monks of early Christian centuries. Some of these nomadic tribes that had been in contact with the settled civilisations such as Iran and China earlier than the others, had even developed a semi-settled life styles and kingdoms, the most important of them being Uighurs.
Around the end of the 12th century AD, a group of these nomads that lived close to the Lake Baikal (present day Russian Mongolia), were united under the leadership of a man called Timujin, or Chenghis Khan (the Great Khan). This unity was brought not only by Chenghis Khan's great political leadership. but by the need of these tribes to form a confederation in order to protect themselves against growing influence of China to the south, and to a lesser extent, Khwarazmshahi kingdom to the west.
Chenghis' organisation skills created a formal army for the Mongolian people that allowed for a better management of their military power. Chenghis chose commanders from different tribes, and often strengthened his bond with them through marriage. He then started an ambitious campaign to bring all of the Mongoloid tribes under his rule, an act that brought him in contact with the aforementioned Uighurs, now far from their glory days as kings of Turkistan. The Uighur contact provided Chenghis with a much needed organisational skill, namely an alphabet fit to write the Mongolian language. Other than that, the learned Uighur officials who had the heritage of running a kingdom came in handy and helped Chenghis Khan to write the first set of laws for his people, called the Yasa.
Naturally, an expansion of this sort would not have gone unnoticed by the neighbours of the Mongols. The Chinese noticed Chenghis' attempt in forming an empire, and tried to stop it before it becomes strong enough to attack China. At the time, the dynasty that ruled northern China, was itself a dynasty of nomadic tribes from southern Gobi desert, and their own rule in the country was not very popular, and consequently they were not able to send a great force against Chenghis. The great khan managed to continue his expansion, and soon enough had become the supreme ruler of an empire that already stretched from Pamir Mountains to the Yellow River.
At this point, Chenghis Khan decided to attack China and start his first campaign against a settled empire. The attack was a success, the great wall was passed, and the Chinese forces of the northern empire were defeated one by one, bringing Chenghis Khan ever closer to conquering whole of China.
Khwarzmshahian and Chenghis
To the west, Chenghis' young empire bordered the territories of Khwarazmshahian, the current rulers of most of the Iranian lands who dominated the trade routes that passed through Samarqand, Bukhara, and their capital of Gorganj (present day Urganch). At the time of Mongol expansion, the Khwarazmshahi King, Alaoddin Mohammad, was ruling in the "golden" era of his kingdom. The efforts of his forefathers, Takesh and Atsiz, following the death and demise of the last Seljuk kings, had resulted in a vast kingdom spreading from Jaxartes River to the Persian Gulf, with a growing trade based economy, and flourishing arts. On the other hand, Alaoddin Mohammad's mother, Tarkan Khatoun, was a Qebchagh woman with ties to nomadic life, and had surrounded his son with many officials from her own tribe, creating an internal chaos that made the future of the kingdom look glum. Among the most important of the issues was the matter of succession. Alaoddin Mohammad's eldest son, Jalalodin Monkaberni, was a strong and charismatic commander with a sensitive sole, while the younger son, Ghiyasoldin Ghoursanji, was a weak and indecisive personality, whose mother was also a niece of Tarkan Khatoun. The royal faction that supported the succession of Ghoursanji was led by Tarkan Khatoun herself, and it was also the dominant faction in the government.
It is around this time that according to common stories, a group of Mongolian merchants entered the Khwarazmian border city of Otrar (on the banks of Jaxartes) in 1218 AD. The governor of the city, also a nephew of Tarkan Khatoun, was apparently offended by the tone of the new merchants who didn't ask for, but demanded a permission for the Mongols to trade with Khwarazm. The merchants were murdered by the order of the governor, and the matter was forgotten by the Khwarazmshah who was busy about the internal politics of his kingdom.
However, the incident did not go unnoticed in the court of Chenghis Khan who immediately organised a small group of envoys and sent them directly to Gorganj, the capital of Khwarazmshah, to demand the arrest of the governor of Otrar. As the legend goes, Khwarazmshah, undiplomatically enough, decided to test Chenghis' patience and ordered the murder of the envoys. When the news of this atrocity reached Chenghis Khan, he ordered a great force to prepare for an invasion of Khwarazm and to revange the great insult bestowed upon him.
The above story, although widely quoted and accepted by many standard histories, seems to be a later justification of the Mongol attack on Iran. While there certainly is a possibility that the final trigger of the war was this or a similar incident, the overall motivation of Chenghis, like all the great nomadic leaders before him, was to expand his influence in the west and to control the ever profitable trade routes and to find more space for his people. In a sense, the great migrations of the Indo-Iranians, Scythians, Massagets, Huns, and Turks from the east to Central Asia and further west, were simply influenced by the same desire to reach better pastures and to expand their influence.
There has also been a suggestion that the envoys of the Christian rulers of Europe, seeing the growing influence and power of the Islamic dynasties of West Asia, had reached Chenghis Khan and had encouraged him to attack and invade great powers of that region. This is a plausible theory, since we see an early tendency of Mongolian rulers towards Christianity and against Islam. However, the influence of Nestorian Uighurs should not be forgotten here. However possible, this theory, like the story of the murdered envoys of Chenghis Khan, can only be a catalyst for the real reason for the Mongol attack, the desire to reach the richer lands of the west and to dominate the trade of the Silk Road.
The Mongol Invasion of Iran
In 1220, two years after the murder of the Mongol envoys by Alaoddin Mohammad, Chenghis Khan attacked the border city of Otrar and killed its governor. He was soon passed the river Jaxartes and was moving towards Samarqand. Samarqand and Bukhara were invaded and sacked, all of their inhabitants, except the artisans, were massacred and the cities were put to torch. Artisans were sent to Mongolia to help build the cultural life of the young empire. The savage manner in which the cities and their citizens were treated, provided for a very successful case of psychological warfare. Afraid of similar treatments, many other cities including Gorganj and Neishapur, opened their doors on the invaders. Although many people were killed in these cities, the damage was much less on them. Meanwhile, Alaoddin Mohammad had fled Gorganj and had taken refuge in a city after city, fleeing the Mongolian army.
At this point, around late 1221, Chenghis Khan divided his forces into two sections, one led by Subutai Bahador and Jebe, two of his trusted commanders, and the other commanded by Chenghis himself, with the help of his sons Cheghedei and Juchi. The first part of the army went directly to the west, along the Caspian Coast and into Azerbaijan. The second part, was led by Chenghis towards the Pamir Mountains in the east. Chenghis was planning to capture Jalalodin Monkaberni, the eldest son of Alaoddin Mohammad, and now the only real commander of Iranian army. Monkaberni had fled to the east towards the Indus River, and was planning to take refuge in the Indian court and prepare for a counter attack. On his way to fight Monkaberni, Chenghis savagely destroyed the cities of Harat and Bamiyan, and took the people as slaves and put them in the front row of his army as human shields. Monkaberni was defeated near Ghandahar, and escaped almost by himself to the Indus Region. In a much celebrated passage, and a rather romanticised one, Monkaberni braved the waters of Indus in front of Chenghis' eyes, and passed through the river to safety. Chenghis was reportedly unable to follow him and to invade India due to the extreme heat which was unfriendly to the Mongolians. It could have been that he realised that he had to return to Mongolia and take control of the force there under the leadership of his other son, Tuluy, that was assigned to conquer China.
The forces of Subutai and Jebe followed the old emperor Alaoddin Mohammad to the west. He apparently took refuge in a small Caspian Island where he ended his days in poverty and despair. After realising that the reason for their conquest, to find and kill Alaoddin Mohammad in revenge of the Mongolian envoys, was dead, Subutai took the responsibility of leading his army towards Azerbaijan, through the Caucasus, to southern Russia, and to attack the kingdom of the Russians. On his way, he destroyed many cities and sent the first shockwaves of Mongol forces to Europe. When fighting the Russians, Subutai got the news of Chenghis' death (1227), during a campaign to China. He and Jebe led their forces in a hurried march back to Mongolia and to the capital founded by Chenghis, Qaraqurm. In the tribal conference, Quriltai, that took place to appoint the successor of Chenghis, Juchi, his eldest son, was disqualified, and the throne was passed to Ogodei, Chenghis second eldest son by his wife and queen, Burta.
Successors of Chenghis and Formation of Il-Khan Kingdom
Ogodei's succession to the throne brought about another issue, and that was the sharing of the empire among Chenghis' sons. During his life time, Chenghis had informally wished to divide the empire between his four eldest sons and their offspring. Another Quriltai that took place early in Ogodei's reign, gave the lands north of Oxus and west of lake Balkhash to Cheghedei, all the lands to the north of Cheghedei's territory and west of the Urals to Juchi, lands south of Oxus to Tului, and China and the Mongolia to Ogodei, who was also the great khan.
However, the next twenty years was spent in disputes between the different factions, especially on the issue of the position of the great khan. The throne was passed from Guyuk, son of Ogodei, to Mongke, son of Tului., who sent his brother Hologu to continue the job of Chenghis and Subutai in Iran. Around 1255, Hologu and a fresh Mongol army, resumed the invasion of Iran and advanced towards Baghdad, still the seat of the caliphate and the greatest city of West Asia. On his way, Hologu managed to subdue the Ismailis and destroy their strongholds in Alamut and Meymoun Dez, putting an end to 150 years of Ismaili independence and a unique case of "an empire within an empire".
In 1257, Hologu's army entered Baghdad and took the caliph, Al Mosta'sam, prisoner. He was killed by being "massaged" to death while wrapped in a carpet. That move put a real end to 500 years of Abbasid Caliphate and was the last blow to the unity of Islamic empire. At this time Qubilai, brother of Mongke and Hologu, and the commander of Mongol armies in China, became the new great khan. Hologu left his armies in Baghdad to go back to Mongolia to guarantee the succession of his brother. Qubilai moved the seat of the empire from Qaraqurm to Beijing (Khan-Baliq at the time), and turned Hologu back to Iran, bestowing upon him the title of Il-Khan of Iran.
Meanwhile, in 1257, the Mongol armies were defeated in Syria by the armies of Baybars, the Mamluk of Egypt. This was a defeat to define Mongol invasions in West Asia. In fact, they never went further west than Baghdad. Hologu however, did not return to Baghdad from his trip to Mongolia and died in Azerbaijan, leaving the newly founded Il-Khan throne to his son, Abaqa, who established his capital in Tabriz.
The reigns of early Il-Khans was spent in conquering the parts of Iran that had not been conquered. They expanded their reach from Oxus to Iraq, and while trying to establish their rule in Iran and gain popular support, changed their religion from Shamanism to Christianity and finally Islam. The struggle between two factions, the Christian Arghun Khan and Muslim Uljaitu, the founder of the new Il-Khan capital of Soltaniye, defined part of this struggle. A financial difficulty during the reign of Geykhatou, brought the first paper money to Iran, suggested by some of Il-Khan's advisers familiar with the Chinese experiments with that mode of payment.
Although formally a part of the greater Mongol empire, the Il-Khan's were virtually independent and free to rule their territory. Their ties to the empire guaranteed a free trade system between China and Iran and provided great wealth for both lands. The Mongol rulers of China preferred Iranian merchants to the Chinese ones, and by inviting Iranian artisans to China, increased Iranian cultural influences in China, resulting in presence of Persian speaking poets like An-Lushan (orig. Rakhshan) and admirals like Zheng-He. In turn, the Chinese art of painting formed the basis of Iranian miniature painting that has persisted up to the present. In short, the close links of Il-Khans with the greater empire and the presence of "Pax Mongolica" in most of the Eurasian landmass, resulted in a high amount of cultural and economic exchange that benefited all the parties involved.
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