Fall of Baghdad to the Mongols Term Paper

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  • Subject: Drama - World
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Fall of Baghdad to the Mongols

Fall of Baghdad

Background of Baghdad

Details of the Siege

The Siege



War is the change driver and this has been proven historically. This fact can be seen in the world wars more recently and in the siege of Baghdad nearly 800 years ago.

The fall of Baghdad, an event with is also called the fall of the strength of the Muslim world happened in 1258 in the city of Baghdad which was the centre of the Islamic stronghold and the Muslim Caliphate. Baghdad the modern day capital city of Iraq was besieged by the Mongol forces in a bid to expand their empire. (Amitai-Preiss 1998)

The Abbasid Caliphate stronghold was broken as a result of this siege, which was mainly aimed at a consolidation of the power of the Mongols in the region. They did not want to overthrow the Muslim leadership and the caliph system as Abbasids had already submitted to them previously, however, Hulagu Khan was ordered by Khagan - his brother who was the leader of the Mongols, to ask for the caliph to submit first. Hulagu was ordered by his brother that in case the Caliph did not agree to submit he should destroy him.

The invasion of Baghdad was one of the bloodiest battles in history resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. The invasion of the city upon the resistance of the Caliph resulted in the Mongols bring down cities and libraries and marking an end to a significant leadership and resulting in the beginning of a new era, an dark one for the capital of the Muslim empire. (Dutch 1998)

Background of Baghdad

The history of this siege can be traced back to the Caliph system that was the hall mark of the early Muslim leaderships. The Umayyad were the first of the rulers of the Islamic state which then were toppled nearly a hundred years later after the death of Ali in 661 AD. The Abbasids toppled the reign of the Umayyad in 751 AD. The Abbasids ruled for many centuries, however by the mid-13th century, the power of this dynasty had waned and they were the symbolic figureheads of the state, respected because of their lineage as representatives of God on earth.

This caliph was just an image, but in the background was controlled by the Mamluk and Turkic Warlords. But Baghdad remained a rich cultural centre that was the core of Islamic learning where scholars travelled to learn more and engage in intellectual discussions. (MacMillan 2009)

The backdrop of the Mongol and Caliph relationship can be traced to Caliph an-Nassir li-dini'llah who sought help from Genghis Khan at a time when he had some discrepancies with the Turkic warlords, the Shah - Muhammad II of Khwarizmi, who was threatening to attack the state. In order to deal with this threat the Caliph attempted to ally with the Mongols whom he felt could protect him. Some records also state that he had sent some crusaders, which were captured to the Mongol head in order to gain his favor and ask him for protection of the already weak caliphate. (Morgan 1990)

In retrospect, this can be termed a futile move by the Caliph to save his dynasty because to protect himself from the wrath of an old enemy, he befriended a new enemy who would prove to the cause of the empire's complete annihilation. (Nicolle and Hook 1998)

At that time in history, war and force was the means to consolidate power and invasions were a means to expand the territory and reach. The reason was logical. The annihilation of one regime meant that the conquerors would now lead these lands, and in the absence of any international laws or rules, the conquerors could treat the captive population in any manner they desired, therefore an invasion meant more resources and a stronger empire. The caliph was not able to foresee these things for the future when he entered into this alignment with one of the most ferocious leaders and armies of that time. (Amitai-Preiss 1998)

As it happened, Genghis Khan ordered one of their members, Chormaqan to invade Baghdad and one of the divisions of their army was stationed in the area in 1236. They did not invade Baghdad until later, but the sphere of the Caliphate or the area under his immediate control, called Irbil was repeatedly attacked after this. These attacked increased in intensity. However the Caliph's army was strong and was able to defeat the armies in 1238 and in 1245.

But even though the Caliph was successful he knew that he truly couldn't be secure nil and unless he had the Mongols as allies and tried to come to a truce with the Mongol arm in 1241. By then they were trying their diplomatic best to woo the Mongol leaders and sent rich tributes to them. (Prawdin 1967)

Initially relations did improve and the caliph and his delegation were present at the coronation of Guyuk Khan in 1246 and that of Mongke Khan in 1251.

But when Guyuk Khan came into power he insisted that the Caliph should completely bow to their will and submit himself by coming to their courts in present day China at a region called Karakoram. (Saunders 2001)

However the Abbasid caliph resisted and Guyuk as well as Hulagu, both successors of Genghis khan were incensed at this. More over they blamed their own member, Baiju, who was Chormaqan successor, for the irritated resistance of the Abbasid Caliphate. This was because Baiju was responsible for the attack on Baghdad and having failed to do so; he was accepted rich tributes and not putting in enough strength to invade Baghdad, instead remaining on its outskirts and maintaining cordial relations with the Caliph there. They were of the opinion that if Baiju had exerted enough military strength then the Caliph would be awed of their power and would give in to them. (Sicker 2000)

On a logical note, they were also knew that they were much stronger than the Caliph and that when applied with the right kind of pressure he would submit to them and the vast Muslim empire would come under their rule. (The Fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258-2009)

As the chain of events progressed, 1257 arrived with Mongke Khan resolving to control the middle each including Iraq, Syria and Persia. The Mongol leader was clairvoyant enough to understand that these were strong empires that they were undertaking in order to expand their reach. There was also an Ismailia population that had its strongholds in the region who were very strong there. The Mongol ruler sent his brother to the region, demanding that the caliph come to meet Hulegu personally and submit his territories before him. But the caliph rejected these demands. Hulegu who w as busy in fighting the Ismailia then had to redirect his strong army to Baghdad in order to have the caliph submit to him. The army was a hundred and fifty thousand strong the largest that the Mongols ever rallied in any war and attacked Baghdad.

There were aware that the Caliphate army was strong and for that they would need as much power as they could muster. However the army fought and the Muslim side fell heavily and fast. (Tolan 2000)

It can't be said that the war was on a religious basis. It was mainly a war to increase people under their control and as a move to consolidate their empire. Unlike other rulers of the world who conquered lands and then went on to reconstruct them and to develop them, the Mongols were a destructive army and were mainly focused on consolidating power and wealth in their hands through the use of warfare. Their religion was mainly Shamism, but some had also converted to Christianity in light of the fact that they married people in their conquered lands and one of Hulegu Khan's favorite wives was Christian. (Venegoni 2004)

Details of the Siege

As the caliphate rejected the demands of the Mongols, the Mongols aligned their strong generals to the region. These generals included Arghun Agha, Baiju of the Besud, Buqa-Temur of the Oirats, the Chinese commander Guo Kan, the Jalayir general Koke Ilge, Kitbuqa of the Naiman, Tutar, Quli, Sunitai. The army was therefore prepared from a variety of backgrounds and belonged to a number of regions under Mongol control. There were also Christian commandments who were taking this as an opportunity to avenge their defeat at the hands of the Muslims earlier on by Jalal Al din.

The Mongol army was very well prepared for this. They had archers and catapults that were made by the Chinese engineers in their ranks who used flammable substances in order to attack Baghdad, which became the reason why the city was burnt to ashes, all its books, monuments and records lost in the incendiary…

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