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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Aug 16, 2021

Of all the rulers of the Ilkhanate, perhaps none matched the might or the glory of Ghazan. Of a prestigious lineage: son of Arghun Ilkhan, grandson of Abaqa Ilkhan, great-grandson of Hulegu Ilkhan, great-great-grandson of Tolui and great-great-great-grandson of Chinggis Khan, Ghazan ruled with the self-assured confidence of a proud Chinggisid, who at the same time was veiled in an Islamic legitimacy. For Ghazan, while not the first Muslim monarch of the Ilkhanate, was the one who permanently islamicized the khanate. The Ilkhanate after Ghazan was a very different entity from the time before him, and the course of this we will examine in today’s episode. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest. 


Ghazan did not come to the throne peacefully. As we covered in our last episode on the Ilkhanate, since the reign of his father Arghun Ghazan had been the top commander on the Ilkhanate’s eastern border, defending against Chagatais, Neguderis and the rebelling general Nawruz. Though Ghazan was not happy with his uncle Geikhatu’s election as Il-Khan in 1291, he accepted it. Geikhatu was murdered in early 1295 and an invitation soon came to Ghazan for the throne, he happily accepted. But when a cousin, Baidu, was hurriedly elected by a group of rambunctious princes led by Taghachar Noyan, Ghazan was furious. The result was skirmishing and near full out civil war only narrowly averted. In the end, on the urging of his former foe Nawruz, Ghazan converted to Islam, rallied his forces and stole away Baidu’s supporters. On Ghazan’s order, Baidu was executed, and Ghazan was finally elected as Il-Khan in autumn 1295; taking the title of Sultan Mahmad, as well as padishah-i islam, Emperor of Islam.


Twenty-four years old when he stepped onto the throne, Ghazan was already an individual who had made himself known for his military ability and defence of the Ilkhanate’s eastern border. Having brought about the submission of the former rebel Nawruz Noyan, Ghazan had made Nawruz his number two man. A staunch and loyal supporter of Ghazan, especially once he had convinced the young prince to convert to Islam, Nawruz became Ghazan’s na’ib, viceroy,  and acted a sword and shield for Ghazan… as long as Ghazan did as he wished. It seems that at the start of his reign, Ghazan struggled to control Nawruz, and on Nawruz’s urging, Ghazan’s first decree had been to order the destruction of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist places of worship in Islamic cities in the Ilkhanate, especially in Tabriz and Baghdad, the empire’s chief cities. While Ghazan, as a new convert to Islam, may have sought to establish his credentials as a good Muslim monarch, Nawruz seems to have been the more zealous of the two and behind this pogrom. 


Once Ghazan reached Tabriz in October 1295 and was officially enthroned the following November, his first orders of business were to set out allotments, who would govern where, who was rewarded for their loyalty, and other enthronement celebrations. One of his bodyguard commanders, Mulai, was made the governor of Diyarbakir, and in a decidedly un-islamic ceremony, Ghazan married one of his father’s widows, Bulughan Khatun. Already it was clear that Ghazan’s conversion to Islam and lofty islamic titles had not replaced his Mongolian identity; while such a marriage, called levirate, was not just encouraged but expected among Mongols, particularly their monarchs, this sort of marriage was expressly forbidden in islam. Ghazan’s servants sought to justify it based on the fact that Ghazan’s father Arghun had not been a Muslim, and hence the marriage never truly legal. Whether this convinced anyone is debatable, but none could tell Ghazan “no.”


But in what was to be a common trend in Ghazan’s reign, punishment was also to be violently meted out once celebrations were done. Ghazan had seen the noyans who had proven themselves duplicitous over the previous reigns, jumping from candidate to candidate as fortunes change. Ghazan would have none of it. The noyan Qunchuqbal was put on trial and executed. Qunchuqbal’s comrade, Taghachar Noyan, who had betrayed every Il-Khan since Teguder Ahmad, was too powerful with too many friends to be so summarily executed, so he was instead “rewarded” with a cushy appointment in Anatolia, where he was quietly murdered. The murder of Taghachar angered one of his friends, the governor of Anatolia named Baltu Noyan. Baltu rebelled at the start of 1296, and Ghazan responded with a large army led by his loyal commander and brother-in-law, Qutlughshah Noyan. It took until the winter of 1296 for Qutlughshah’s forces to defeat and kill Baltu.


This was not the only plot Ghazan faced. In the winter of 1295 forces from the Chagatai Khanate attacked Khurasan and Mazandaran. Ghazan sent Nawruz Noyan and two princes, Sögä and Barula, to repulse them, but the princes soon began to plot against Ghazan. Once learning of their plots, Ghazan ordered Nawruz to turn back and kill them. Another Chinggisid prince, a descendant of Chinggis Khan’s brother Qasar named Arslan, also revolted and was quickly put down. By the end of 1296, Ghazan had faced rebellion from five imperial princes, who were all killed on his order. By the end of his reign,  at least seven Chinggisid princes, 31 noyans and 10 high ranking Persian officials perished by the will of Ghazan.  One of the most significant was the former vizier, Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani, who was executed in October 1296 on Ghazan’s order, after a trial which would ultimately bring down Nawruz as well.


Dastjirdani’s great rival was Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani, who has popped up repeatedly over our previous episodes, usually seeking the vizierate and generally causing trouble.  Having been vizier under Geikhatu Il-Khan, he had lost the position under Geikhatu’s successor Baidu, who gave it to Zanjani’s rival Jamal al-Din Dastjirdani. During Ghazan’s final march on Baidu, Zanjani was one of the first to abandon Baidu for Ghazan, and was rewarded with the position of vizier. However, Ghazan found himself displeased with his viziers; Zanjani was removed after a few months, replaced with Sharaf al-Din Simnani, who was in turn replaced in September 1296 by Zanjani’s old foe, Dastjirdani. Dastjirdani was a close ally to Nawruz, and to reclaim the position of vizier Zanjani would need to take down both men. First, he whispered in Ghazan’s ear of Dastjirdani’s corruption, that he had been embezzling a huge quantity of funds from the treasury. Ghazan quickly had Dastjirdani put on trial and executed, after only a month as vizier. 


Zanjani was given the position for the third time, and quickly looked to undermine Nawruz. His timing was good, as Nawruz’s standing with Ghazan had already fallen. Once Ghazan had sent Nawruz east to push the Chagatais out of Khurasan, Ghazan rescinded the most extreme prosecutions against Christians and Jews, who could reconstruct their churches and synagogues. In fact, Ghazan would punish Muslims who led assaults on Christian and Jewish buildings later in his reign. The same privilege was not extended to Buddhists, who permanently lost their standing in the Ilkhanate and Iran. They were given the choice of conversion, or of leaving the Ilkhanate. Once victory was achieved over the Chagatais, Nawruz returned to Tabriz to visit his very sick wife. As he journeyed west, some of the troops Nawruz left in Khurasan revolted, pillaged territory and joined the Chagatais.


Ghazan was furious, insulted Nawruz and ordered him back to his post. Nawruz cooly replied that he would, once he had visited his ill wife. Ghazan’s now poor disposition to Nawruz was taken advantage of by his new vizier, Zanjani. When a clerk in service of a Baghdadi merchant who travelled often to Mamluk Egypt was arrested in March 1297, Zanjani struck. Zanjani and his brother fabricated letters from Nawruz to the Mamluk Sultans, which depicted Nawruz as a man conspiring with them. Planting the letter into the clerk’s belongings, they watched and waited. When Ghazan personally interrogated the clerk, he swore his innocence and made no mention of the letters. But when Ghazan searched the man’s possessions and found the letter ascribed to Nawruz, he was apoplectic with rage. On the spot, Ghazan ordered the clerk beaten to death, then called for the deaths of Nawruz’s family and servants, then ordered Nawruz’s arrest. Nawruz fled upon learning of this, but was captured at Herat and turned over to Noyan Qutlughshah in August 1297, who had Nawruz cut in half. The late noyan’s severed head spent some years adorning one of Baghdad’s gates.


Nawruz’s downfall saw the stars of both Zanjani and Qutlughshah rise. In the meantime, Ghazan continued to advance his image as an almighty Muslim monarch, educating himself on Islamic laws and in 1297,  donning a turban. He even experimented with bearing black banners as the ‘Abbasids once did, portraying himself as a sort of replacement ‘Abbasid Caliph, in part to challenge the puppet ‘Abbasid Caliphs the Mamluks kept in Cairo. Zanjani was finally confident in his position as vizier and wielded extreme power. But in the fashion of all Ikhanid viziers, his arrogance bred enemies. In March 1298, news came to Ghazan’s ears that Zanjani was stealing funds from the imperial treasury. Fearing for his life, Zanjani decided to shift the blame away from himself. He went before Ghazan and bravely made accusations against one of his deputies and friends, a physician in Ghazan’s keshig named Rashid al-Din. Ghazan saw through Zanjani’s effort to condemn Rashid, and put a stop to it, though Zanjani maintained his position. The vizier needed a new plot, and to deal with Rashid al-Din. When Qutlughshah Noyan returned from crushing a rebellion in Georgia, the Noyan argued with Zanjani over tribute from the kingdom. Fearing the powerful Qutlughshah’s wrath, Zanjani thought of himself a devilish plan to rid himself of both Qutlughshah and Rashid al-Din. He notified Ghazan that Qutlughshah had  ruined the economy of Georgia. Ghazan was then mad at Qutlughshah, who openly wondered who had made the accusation to Ghazan. Zanjani told Qutlughshah that it had been Rashid al-Din, and Qutlughshah stormed off to question Rashid over the matter.


But Zanjani had not counted on one thing: the friendly relations between Qutlughshah and Rashid al-Din from their time in the keshig together. When Qutlughshah questioned Rashid as to why the physician had denounced him, Rashid convinced Qutlughshah of his innocence in the matter. Returning to Ghazan, they quickly deduced that it was the plotting of Zanjani turning them against each other. In April 1298, Zanjani was put on trial and given over to Qutlughshah for execution, who had Zanjani killed in the same manner as Nawruz; cut in half. So ended the third vizierate of Sadr’ al-Din Zanjani.


Following Zanjani’s bisection, Ghazan lifted two men into the position of vizier in 1298: Sa’d al-Siwaji and Rashid al-Din Hamadani. If the latter name is familiar, it is because Rashid al-Din has been a voice we have commonly consulted in our podcast. Indeed, we could say that Rashid al-Din is one of, if not the, most important single medieval author on the Mongols, for he is the author of the massive Compendium of Chronicles, which he began soon after Zanjani’s fall. First we should finally give mr. Rashid al-Din an introduction. He was born in the northwestern Iranian city of Hamadan around 1247 into a Jewish family. Like his father, Rashid was trained as a physician. As Hamadan was an important centre for Iranian Jews, featuring a Rabbinical college, and as evidenced from his knowledge of Jewish customs and Hebrew in the Compendium of Chronicles, we can say that Rashid was educated and raised in Jewish law. Yet for unclear reasons, he converted to Sunni Islam around the age of 30, perhaps in order to benefit his entrance into the majority Muslim bureacracy of the Ilkhanate. Most of his life between these broad strokes before the end of the thirteenth century is unknown. Perhaps as early as the reign of Abaqa Il-Khan did Rashid enter service of the Il-Khans in the role of a physician, and likely served Il-Khan Geikhatu as a steward and prepared his food. According to his own testament, during the failed effort to implement paper money in the midst of economic woes under Geikhatu, Rashid spent his own money to support the vizier’s office of Zanjani with food and cooks.


By the time of Zanjani’s final vizierate during Ghazan’s reign, Rashid al-Din appears as a trusted associated respected by Ghazan and Qutlughshah Noyan, though we know nothing of how this relationship came about beyond Rashid’s presence in the keshig, the imperial bodyguard, in which he had served as steward. Surprisingly little is known of Rashid al-Din’s activities before he became Sa’d al-Siwaji’s associate in the vizierate. Rashid al-Din was a highly educated man, well read in the Qur’an, poetry and the great Iranian national epic, the Shahnama of Firdausi, and was a man proud of Persian culture. A trained physician, he also showed interest in science, history and agriculture, all interests he pursued during his long reign at the top of the Mongol bureaucracy. Soon after reaching this lofty position, he was commissioned by Ghazan to begin a history of the Mongol Empire, from Chinggis Khan to Ghazan himself. This work was to be the beginning of the vast Jami’ al-Tawarikh, the Compendium of Chronicles, which under Ghazan’s successor Oljeitu was expanded to become a universal history covering Chinese, Turkish, Islamic, Indian and, to a lesser extent, Frankish history. Much of the central part of the Compendium of Chronicles is the Ghazanid Chronicle, his history of the Mongol Empire. Named for his patron, this is a history of the Mongol Empire relying on now lost sources, including a Mongolian source on Chinggis Khan’s life, the Authentic Chronicle of Chinggis Khan, also called the Veritable Record of Chinggis Khan. Though this source is no longer extant, it was used by Rashid al-Din and two of the most important surviving Chinese sources on Chinggis Khan, the Shengwu Qinzheng lu and the first chapter of the Yuan Shi. The compilers of the Secret History of the Mongols used the same sources the Authentic Chronicle did, and the authors of the Authentic Chronicle made use of the Secret History of the Mongols, which Rashid himself did not have access to. It was, you know, secret, after all. 


Additionally, Rashid made use of earlier Arabic and Persian sources on the Mongols, such as ibn al-Athir, al-Nasawi and ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini’s History of the World Conqueror, who of course had been the older brother of Shams al-Din Juvaini, one of Rashid al-Din’s predecessors as Ilkhanid vizier. Further information in Rashid al-Din’s Compendium of Chronicles was collected from envoys from other Mongol khanates, a high ranking judge from the Yuan Dynasty named Bolod Chingsang, and apparently from Ghazan himself. Fittingly, Rashid al-Din’s history is the main source for Ghazan’s reign, to whom he devotes a very lengthy chapter, which concludes with forty stories illustrating Ghazan’s character and supreme ability. If we take Rashid’s account of Ghazan’s life at face value, then Ghazan was fluent in Mongolian, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Kashmiri, Tibetan, Chinese and a “Frankish” language. As well, he was a master goldsmith, blacksmith, carpenter and painter who also loved history, medicine, astronomy and alchemy. A perfect Muslim monarch who loved and cared for his people, and refused to harm even a fly if it landed in his food. In Rashid al-Din’s account, the period before Ghazan is one of almost total anarchy, where inept khans more interested in hunting and feasting allowed their viziers and noyans to run the empire; in contrast, Ghazan took true interest in running the government, and under his guidance numerous reforms were launched to rejuvenate the struggling Ilkhanate. How much of this is true is hard to say; we know, for instance, that Ghazan had to rely on interpreters for dealing with Arabic speaking embassies from Damascus, and it seems doubtful the 30 year old Ghazan had found time to master so many industries during his military career.  The fact that most of our Persian sources were written during or after Ghazan’s reign makes it hard to check many of Rashid’s statements on the earlier period.  The glowing nature of Rashid’s descriptions of Ghazan is often humorous when compared to other contemporaries, such as the Armenian Het’um of Corycus, who describes Ghazan as exceptionally short and ugly.


Regardless, Rashid al-Din’s work is incredibly valuable, and few histories on the Mongol Empire will fail to make reference to it. While Rashid played up Ghazan’s glory, there can be no doubt that under Ghazan serious reforms were undertaken, though whether Ghazan was the inspiration for them, or they came from Rashid himself is unknown. A major effort was directed to reducing abuses of the empire’s agricultural base and farming population. From limiting the numbers of officials and clerks who took advantage of their gereg privileges to collect supplies from the yam routes, to stamping out bandity with more highway patrolmen and new laws. They  also tried to prevent the Mongols from harassing the sedentary population. As the Mongols were not provided a salary, many had to support themselves by collecting what they needed through force from the Ilkhan’s subjects. Ghazan sought to solve this by granting lands to Mongol minghaans. The income from these allotted farms and villages would be used to support these Mongols, and stop their pillaging.  These were accompanied by monetary reforms and new silver currency, bearing not Mongolian inscriptions but the shahada and Ghazan’s title of padishah-i islam. Measurements and weights throughout the Ilkhanate were ordered to be standardized largely based on what was used in Tabriz, in order to facilitate trade between regions. Canals and underground waterways were built to provide water for cities and irrigation. He also forbid the practice of enticing young women into prostitution.


Under Ghazan, the Ilkhanid treasury was reformed and refilled. The poorly managed treasury had before been subjected to theft from its own guards, and no accounts were made regarding what was contained within or spent. Ghazan and his vizers al-Siwaji and Rashid al-Din remedied this, with a more effective system under better protection. Evidently this was not mere rhetoric on Rashid al-Din’s part, as evidenced by Ghazan’s massive building projects and army mobilizations which indicate a substantial financial backing. At Tabriz, the Ilkhanid capital, Ghazan spent great sums improving the city. A new wall was built around it, along with entire new districts; one of these Ghazan made “New Tabriz,” and encouraged merchants and travellers to frequent it. Rashid al-Din was allotted funds to build himself an entire suburb in Tabriz, the famed Rab-e Rashidi. Here, Rashid al-Din oversaw a community of scholars, scientists and artists from across Iran to as far away as China and Italy. It became a veritable factory that was, in time, tasked by Rashid in copying and reproducing the Compendium of Chronicles, both its text and artwork. Rashid al-Din hoped for his magnum opus to become a medieval bestseller, and dreamed of a copy in every city of the Ilkhanate.


Ghazan was not above a little indulgence in Tabriz, in the form of a massive tomb complex for himself. It was a massive construction that was supposed to be larger than even the mighty mausoleum of the Seljuq Sultan Sanjar. Unfortunately, little of these projects remain. Even Rashid al-Din’s suburb is now little more than a dusty mound outside of Tabriz today. The cause of this we will see in our next episode.


While these efforts were ongoing, Ghazan turned his eyes to military matters. Initially, these were defensive, as with the Chagatais, or crushing rebellions. After the end of Baltu’s revolt in Anatolia, one of the men left in charge of the peninsula, Sulemish, a grandson of Baiju Noyan, began to have his own designs on the region. In contact with the Mamluks, when thick snowfall in winter 1298 cut Anatolia off from the rest of the Ilkhanate, Sulemish revolted. Ghazan of course, would have none of this. When spring came in 1299, an army under Qutlughshah Noyan was sent to bring Sulemish to heel. When his army was defeated, Sulemish fled to the Mamluks, left his brother as a hostage with them and returned to Anatolia with an army. This too was quickly defeated, and Sulemish brought captive to Tabriz, where late in 1299 he was publicly, and very violently, executed. 


The revolt, brief as it was, brought the Mamluks to Ghazan’s full attention. Their now shared religion was no cause for peace between them. Like Teguder Ahmad, Ghazan believed it should have made it easier for the Mamluks to submit to him, but their failure to respond to his declaration of his conversion in 1295 infuriated him. Ghazan had no love for them: intensely proud of his Chinggisid ancestry, to Ghazan the Mamluks - lowly slave soldiers who had become kings and were, even worse, Qipchaqs - were nothing but natural servants of the Mongols. Their submission, either through diplomacy or conquest was necessary and inevitable, and the fact they now shared a God did not change that. In March of 1299, defectors came to the Ilkhanate from the Mamluk Sultanate, and brought Ghazan up to speed on what had been happening in Cairo. The news pleased him. From the highs of the might of Baybars, Qalawun and al-Ashraf Khalil, the position of Sultan had become decidedly vulnerable. A young son of Qalawun, al-Nasir Muhammad, had been enthroned following al-Ashraf Khalil’s murder, but his regent, a man of Mongolian origin named, somewhat ironically, Kitbuqa, seized power. al-Nasir Muhammad was deposed and Kitbuqa became Sultan, only to be in turn pushed out by another Mamluk named Lajin. Lajin ruled for three years until his murder at the start of 1299, and the 14 year old al-Nasir Muhammad was recalled to resume the Sultanic title, though real power was in the hands of the emirs. 


Thus, as Ghazan had stomped down on threats to his throne and strengthened his power by 1299, the Mamluk Sultanate was ruled over by a young boy with no power fought over between squabbling emirs. It was as perfect a time as any to complete the conquest started by Hulegu some 40 years prior. Ghazan, always with an eye to the message, found a perfect pretext for war when during Ramadan in summer 1299, a Mamluk raiding party raped women in a mosque in an Ilkhanid town. With this, Ghazan was able to get a fatwa declared, coming into Syria in the final weeks of 1299 not as a Mongol conqueror, but a jihadi warrior come to preserve the dignity of Muslims. The fact that he brought a significant body of Christian soldiers from Armenia and Georgia was not lost on his Mamluk critics, especially the famous Hanbali jurist ibn Taymiyyah. 


In terms of execution, Ghazan’s 1299 campaign was brilliantly orchestrated. His timing was perfect, and he kept tight discipline over his troops to limit raiding on the population of Syria. On December 22nd, 1299, Ghazan met the army of al-Nasir Muhammad outside of Homs, where his great-uncle Mongke-Temur had been defeated in 1281. Unlike Mongke-Temur, Ghazan was a very experienced captain. He positioned his army at the nearby water source and forced the Mamluks to cross the desert to attack him.  The young al-Nasir Muhammad could not overawe the infighting between the emirs, and Ghazan soundly outmaneuvered them. Known as the battle of Wadi al-Khaznadar, Ghazan inflicted a devastating defeat on the Mamluk army- the only major victory enjoyed by the Mongols in all their conflict with the Mamluks. The sultan fled all the way back to Egypt, his army routed, his baggage abandoned and looted by the Mongols. The news of the Mamluk defeat spread rapidly across the region, and Mamluk garrisons from Syria and Palestine melted away or ran to join the sultan in Cairo. In the last days of the thirteenth century, Ghazan took the submission of Damascus. Here, if we believe Rashid al-Din, he took the time to further humiliate the Mamluks. He is supposed to have asked the assembled Damascene delegation who his ancestors were. They explained that he was Ghazan, son of Arghun, son of Abaqa, son of Hulegu, son of Tolui, son of Chinggis Khan. And who, Ghazan asked, was al-Nasir Muhammad’s father? They answered that it was Sultan Qalawun. And who, Ghazan asked again, was Qalawun’s father? Those assembled could not answer, for Qalawun’s father was an unknown Qipchaq slave from the great steppe, from where Qalawun had been taken as a boy. Ghazan’s point had been to demonstrate his own exalted lineage, from the grandest of all conquerors, the family given command by heaven to conquer the world. In contrast, the Mamluks were slaves, nobodies, and without right to rule. 


Whether or not Ghazan really had this interaction, it does play into the skillful propaganda he employed during the campaign. As Damascus he had letters read out in Arabic signalling that he would spare the population and denounced Mamluk rule. These letters are rich with Qor’anic references, and it would have felt they were now the subjects of a Muslim, rather than a Mongol. Not all were drawn in by Ghazan’s efforts. A Mamluk scholar in Damascus, ibn Taymiyyah, virulently decried Ghazan as a false Muslim served by a Jew, Rashid al-Din, and accused Ghazan of venerating Chinggis Khan as a prophet. Seeking to encourage resistance against Ghazan, Taymiyyah claimed to have rarely seen the Mongols pray, that they were ignorant of Islam or had Shi’a leanings. The latter is not entirely false; Ghazan had a deep affection for the Caliph ‘Ali and his family, the first legitimate caliph in the eyes of Shi’a Muslims, and like many Mongols was annoyed at infighting between Sunni schools.


Damascus was not put to the torch, and Mongol forces advanced down through Palestine. In some reports, they even entered Jerusalem itself. The path seemed open to Egypt. Yet, in February 1300 Ghazan suddenly turned back to the Ilkhanate, leaving a smaller force under Qutlughshah and the King of Cilicia Armenia, Het’um II, to briefly hold the region until they too retreated. By the start of the summer, the Mamluks had retaken their lost territory. Why Ghazan withdrew is unclear; the most common explanation is that he chose to avoid the summer heat, judging that he lacked the resources to supply an army all the way into Egypt once the summer sun beat down. Certainly, it was not because he lacked desire: in the autumn of 1300 he resumed the campaign, entering Syria again only for sudden extreme rainfall to turn the roads into deep mud that trapped men and horses. Unable to advance, he withdrew the army. Letters were sent to Europe following the first invasion seeking to organize an alliance, but brought, as usual, no actual results. He launched another invasion in spring 1303 under Qutlughshah Noyan, while Ghazan hung back. Qutlughshah suffered a great defeat against the Mamluks at Marj al-Suffar, for which Ghazan had him beaten with a rod upon his return. Yet another invasion was ordered in fall 1303, but was halted when Ghazan’s health took a downward turn.


Ghazan seems to have suffered from routine inflammation of the eyes, mentioned by Rashid al-Din for the first time in 1299. In September 1303, the inflammation returned and quickly became serious. Rashid mentions that Ghazan was cauterized in two places, though unclear where or why. The Il-Khan made a show of moving about on a platform built on the backs of two elephants, an effort to hide the fact he could barely walk and could no longer ride his horse due to the pain. In January 1304, his youngest wife  Kärämün Khatun died, which became an emotional blow on top of his physical ailments. The vigorous monarch became depressed, the death of a wife making his own impending mortality seem all the greater. As the weather warmed he recovered some strength, and was able to ride and hunt again. Almost immediately, perhaps as a show of vitality or change of scenery, he set out for Rayy. The decision was foolhardly. On the road his symptoms returned and he lost his appetite. It became clear to all, especially himself, that he was dying. Retaining his mental faculties even as his body failed him, he summoned the noyans to him, and made them swear over and over again to confirm his brother Oljeitu as his successor. Perhaps only once he felt confident their oaths were genuine, did Ghazan allow himself to pass. On the 17th of May, 1304, Ghazan Il-Khan succumbed to his illness. He was 32 years old. His body was returned to Tabriz and entombed in his massive mausoleum, the first Il-Khan to abandon the secret burials of the Mongols. As per his wishes, his brother Oljeitu was enthroned as Khan of the Ilkhanate, setting off the final stage of the Khanate’s history. The reign of Oljeitu begins our next episode, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue producing great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at, or sharing this with your friends. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.