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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Oct 4, 2021

    November, 1335. The Khan of the Ilkhanate, Abu Sa’id Bahadur, is dead. Allegedly poisoned by a spurned wife, Baghdad Khatun, his death was the unravelling of the Ilkhanate. Facing an invasion by the mighty Ozbeg of the Golden Horde, and a succession crisis due to Abu Sa’id’s failure to produce an heir, the Ilkhanate rapidly, and violently, tore itself to pieces. Today, we look at the disintegration of the Mongol Ilkhanate, the stories of two men named Hasan, and the history of the region up until the arrival of Emir Temur, fearsome Tamerlane, at the end of the fourteenth century. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.


    Abu Sa’id had not been an incompetent monarch by any stretch of the means, and his rule was remembered as a golden age, at least in comparison to the mess that followed. A great-great-grandson of the Ilkhanid founder Hulegu, Abu Sa’id’s reign had seen the consolidation of the islamization of the Mongol state, as well as the end of the long war with the Mamluks of Egypt. Il-Khan since 1316, Abu Sa’id had been controlled by the emir Choban, until he nearly eradicated the house of Choban in the late 1320s in an effort to marry Baghdad Khatun, one of Choban’s daughters. For a few years Abu Sa’id had enjoyed a comparatively quiet majority, pursuing art, culture, poetry, building and architecture, as well as efforts to produce an heir. Baghdad Khatun, despite her beauty and the violence he had undertaken to acquire her- which included, among others things, killing her father, brothers and forcing her to divorce her husband- simply did not provide him his much desired son. When Abu Sa’id’s eyes fell upon her niece, Dilshad Khatun, the Il-Khan basically forgot about his current wife, wed her niece and soon enough got her pregnant. For Baghdad Khatun to be humiliated like this, after suffering through the destruction of her family, this was the last straw. The widespread belief was that she had him poisoned in some manner- in Ibn Battuta’s account, this was administered via a handkerchief that she used to clean themselves after sexual intercourse. So did Abu Sa’id die, aged 30 years old, in what is now Azerbaijan while marching north to repel an invasion by the Khan of the Golden Horde, Ozbeg.


    With Abu Sa’id’s death, the line of Hulegu became extinct- or at least, the line through Hulegu’s son Abaqa, which had provided most of the Il-Khans. Abu Sa’id uncle, Ghazan, had done much to prune the lineage during his reign, and it seems alcoholism took care of much of the rest. The fact that few Il-Khans lived past 35, with fewer and fewer heirs each generation, has led many to search for underlying causes beyond just alcohol. Scholars such as Charles Melville and Anne F. Broadbridge have pointed to possible consequences of consanguinity among the Il-Khans: that is, essentially inbreeding, given the Il-Khan’s preferences for marrying into the same families, like the Oirats, over generations. The combined effects of rampant alcohol abuse among both men and women and the consanguinity may be the answer behind the alarming drop off in fertility of the Ilkhanid elite over the last decades of the thirteenth century. While Hulegu had produced quite the brood of little Chinggisids- at least 25 sons and daughters-, by the end of the century Ghazan had only a daughter survive childhood, while his brother Oljeitu Il-Khan had an alarming amount of children stillborn or died young. From his twelve wives, Oljeitu only had three children ever reach marriageable age; Abu Sa’id and two daughters, Sati Beg and Dawlandi: the last of whom still died before her father. For Abu Sa’id himself, despite considerable efforts, by his death he had only succeeded in getting his widow Dilshad Khatun pregnant. With no surviving brothers, sons or clear male figure to step into the role, the Ilkhanate suddenly faced a new problem; no clear monarch of the line of Hulegu to head the state.


    The explanation of Abu Sa’id’s death without heir directly causing the fall of the Ilkhanate has been, in the opinion of scholars like Charles Melville, somewhat overstated. The image of the Ilkhanate falling without a decline -a counter to the model popularized by Edward Gibbon so long ago- encourages us to overlook problems which had developed. Essentially, Melville notes, a gap had widened between the military elite, the noyad, and the Il-Khan, which accompanied a lack of respect for the Chinggisids. The death of a monarch with no clear heir was hardly a new issue in the Mongol Empire- in fact, the quriltai system wherein a candidate put his name forward and was confirmed by the princes served to supply new khans at need. Additionally, neither were regents unheard of within the empire’s history. The 1240s had seen two regencies, with Ogedai’s widow Torogene and Guyuk’s widow Oghul Qaimish steering the empire in the absence of a Khan- Oghul Qaimish of course, doing this much less successfully than her predecessor. In the form of Baghdad Khatun the Ilkhanate certainly had a powerful woman who could have stepped into the role. Well connected and from a prestigious family, she could have called upon connections established by her late father, Choban. Baghdad Khatun was described as an intimidating, intelligent and proud woman, who openly walked around with a sword strapped to her waist and greatly influenced matters of state. In the opinion of some, Abu Sa’id was bossed around by her. In a more classic Mongolian system, Baghdad Khatun would have guided the state until an heir could have been selected.


    But as Melville argues, the actions of the Khans from Ghazan onwards had alienated the military elite. More or less, they must have felt disenfranchised from the government and that the old Mongolian way of life was being abandoned. Certainly Islamization was the most obvious demonstration of this. Ghazan and Oljeitu both abandoned the traditional secret burials of Mongol Khans in favour of massive, expensive and very public mausoleums. The quriltai as a means of choosing the next ruler and affecting major decisions was abandoned, and even the end of the war with the Mamluks- not by conquest, but by diplomacy- must have felt like a betrayal of Mongol imperial ideology. Recall how the contemporary Chagatai Khan Tarmashirin was accused of abandoning the yassa as well- specifically by no longer continuing the annual assembles with the noyad in the eastern half of the Chagatai realm, and thus making them feel they no longer had a role, or a stake, in the Khanate’s government. Tarmashirin was overthrown by a rebellion in 1334, a year before Abu Sa’id’s death, which precipitated the descent of the Chagatai ulus into open war.


    By removing their stake in government, and not replacing it with a new loyalty to adhere to in the replacement system, the Ilkhans had gradually removed the need of the various noyans to maintain their loyalty to the Chinggisid ideology. When Abu Sa’id came to the throne in 1317, he was but a 12 year old boy. The long period of Choban’s regency further reduced the khan’s authority and increased that of the military elite. Abu Sa’id largely accepted and seems to have went along with Choban’s oversight up until Choban denied him Baghdad Khatun, at that time married to Shaykh Hasan Jalayir. Only from the very end of the 1320s, after Choban’s death, did Abu Sa’id really rule in his own right. While he did face minor rebellion, there is indication of resentment as efforts undertaken by the central Ilkhanid government. Abu Sa’id’s vizier, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, the son of the former vizier Rashid al-Din Hamadani, sought to enforce tax reforms that in effect, would have restrengthened the hand of the central government towards the regional princes and their appanages. As Melville notes, the details are poorly known but it seems to have been an ineffective measure that angered these military princes. Per Melville’s theory, the only outcome of such failed measures would only have been widening the gap between the Il-khan and the military elite.


    On Abu Sa’id’s death at the end of November 1335, it fell to the vizier Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad to try and steer the ship in the face of Ozbeg’s invasion. Only five days later, on December 5th, Ghiyath al-Din orchestrated the enthronement of a successor, a man named Arpa Ke’un. Arpa was a Chinggisid, and a member of the house of Tolui… but of the line of Ariq Boke, Hulegu’s younger brother who had fought their brother Khubilai for the throne in the 1260s. Plucked from obscurity by Ghiyath al-Din, it seems he was chosen for his ability to lead the army, for all indication is that Arpa Khan was a man of military background, a “old school Mongol,” in the words of every secondary source that mentions him. Arpa was given command of the Il-Khanid army, and in the snows of the Caucasus he forced back Ozbeg in winter 1335, who once again retreated to the Golden Horde. 


    Arpa Khan returned triumphant, and Ghiyath al-Din must have had high hopes for his new protege. Arpa was a competent commander who was militarily proven in his defence of the Ilkhanate- a promising figure to rally the Mongols around. Apparently he had little taste for court procedure or niceties, and it is unclear if he was a Muslim. One anonymous Armenian chronicler asserts Arpa was a Christian, and at the very least he was very proud of the “old ways.” At best, he was a Muslim with little care for the specifics of the faith.  We might wonder if Ghiyath al-Din was deliberate here too, choosing a man who would be more palatable to the noyad due to his distaste of courtly life. In the opinion of Oleg Grabar and Sheila Blair, it was shortly after Arpa’s ascension that Ghiyath al-Din ordered the commission of the Great Mongol Shahnama, a wonderful illustrated version of the Persian national epic, the Shahnama of Firdausi. An undertaking of massive expense, given the large and lovingly detailed artwork, it certainly indicates that the top levels of the Ilkhanid elite did not imagine they were entering into a crisis anytime soon.


    Arpa Khan was not on solid footing though. The fact that he was not of the line of Hulegu certainly hurt his legitimacy. The fact that Abu Sa’id’s widow, Dilshad Khatun, was pregnant and had fled to Abu Sa’id’s uncle, ‘Ali-Padshah, the governor of Diyarbakir, was unnerving too. ‘Ali-Padshah’s sister, Abu Sa’id’s mother Hajji Khatun, also opposed Arpa’s enthronement. Thus, his position needed to be shored up. A marriage was arranged to Abu Said’s sister, Sati Beg; commanders who had been alienated or jailed by Abu Sa’id were given expensive gifts or freed from prison. And the blame for Abu Sa’id’s death was laid squarely on Baghdad Khatun, who had never had the chance to assume the regency. Accused not just of poisoning Abu Sa’id, but of being in correspondence with Ozbeg Khan and inviting him to attack the Ilkhanate, Baghdad Khatun was found guilty and executed, supposedly beaten to death by a Greek slave with a club while she was in the bathhouse. A number of other executions followed of potential rivals. 


    But Arpa Khan looked for enemies in the wrong direction. ‘Ali-Padshah, the Oirat governor of Diyarbakir, was becoming something of a rallying point for those unhappy with Arpa’s placement as Khan- or unhappy with an energetic man on the throne who might reduce their privileges. Dilshad Khatun had finally given birth to Abu Sa’id’s only child, a girl, but this did not stop ‘Ali-Padshah’s maneuvering. At the start of 1336 he raised his own candidate, Musa, as Il-Khan. Supposedly a grandson of Baidu, who had only held the throne for a few months before Ghazan’s rise, Musa was, unlike Arpa, entirely a puppet of ‘Ali-Padshah. In alliance with Hajji Khatun and Shaykh Hasan Jalayir, who had once been forced to give up his wife Baghdad Khatun to Abu Sa’id and now knew Arpa killed her, ‘Ali-Padshah in the name Musa Il-Khan armed a revolt against Arpa Il-Khan. In the April of 1336, Arpa’s army was defeated in the field. He and Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad fled to Sultaniyya, where they were captured and killed later that month. So ended the reign of Arpa Khan, the final Il-Khan to wield any individual authority.


    Arpa’s death in many ways can be considered the true end of the Ilkhanate, for it seems to have removed any attachment the regional commanders held to the Ilkhanid state. ‘Ali-Padshah’s enthronement of Musa Khan gave all of them the realization that each, too, could rule through his own puppet Chinggisid, if he happened to believe hard enough and have one on hand. From 1335 until 1343, no less than 8 Chinggisids were to be declared Il-Khan by these commanders. Little is known of most of them beyond their names and who controlled them. Shortly after Arpa’s death Shaykh Hasan Jalayir announced his own puppet khan, a young boy named Muhammad, and attacked ‘Ali-Padshah. By July 1336, ‘Ali-Padshah was dead and Musa Il-Khan sent running. Shaykh Hasan married Abu Sa’id’s widow, Dilshad Khatun.


At the same time in the far east of the Ilkhanate, the noyans of Khurasan elected their own Il-Khan, Togha-Temur. Togha-Temur was not even a descendant of Chinggis Khan, but his brother Jochi-Qasar! But he came with military backing, and at the end of 1336 Togha-Temur’s armies had overrun Iran and pushed into Iraq and Azerbaijan, forcing Shaykh Hasan Jalayir to flee before him. Even the wandering Musa found his way into Togha-Temur’s employment, and it seemed that the Ilkhanate’s period of disunity would soon be ended… only for Togha-Temur to suddenly withdraw back east in spring 1337. Musa was left with an army to attempt to crush Shaykh Hasan, but Hasan defeated and killed him in July 1337. Though he would threaten Iraq and the Caucasus again on occasion, Togha-Temur mostly contented himself with mastery over Khurasan and Mazandaran for the next 16 years, until his death in 1353 at the hands of the Sarbadars of Sabzavar.


With Togha-Temur’s withdrawal, Shaykh Hasan now faced a new challenger in the form of a different Shaykh Hasan. Our first Shaykh Hasan was of the Jalayirid lineage, a descendant of one of Hulegu’s top generals. Often you’ll see him called Hasan-i Buzurg, or “Big Hasan.” Hasan-i Kuchik, or “Little Hasan,” was meanwhile a grandson of Choban, via his son Temur-tash. Temur-tash had been governor of Anatolia and revolted twice against Abu Sa’id, before being killed by the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad when seeking support from him. Yet, Temur-tash’s name still carried weight in Anatolia. While the other Ilkhanid claimants fought for power in the Caucasus and northern Mesopotamia, Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf brought his father back to life, so to speak, in the form of a slave who looked a lot like him. Rather young, the boys lacked the experience or prestige to rally an army around themselves, and so required a puppet dead father.  The slave, named Qarajari, in Mamluk accounts was the true leader of the uprising, while in Jalayirid and Temurid sources it was Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf.  At the very least, it indicates the level of friction in the movement was apparent.With an army composed of urban militias, nomadic cavalry and military slaves, it was a bit of a motley force, but the return of the Chobanids undermined Big Hasan Jalayir.


Big Hasan’s problem was the fact he just had so many members of Choban’s family in his entourage. His new wife, Dilshad Khatun, was a granddaughter of Choban; one of his most important supporters, Oljeitu’s daughter Sati Beg, had been married to emir Choban, and had a son by him, Surghan. With their help, and the help of a grandson of Choban named Pir Husayn, Big Hasan had overcome Musa Khan and retaken Tabriz, which had long been the capital of the Ilkhanate. But the rise of new Chobanid claimants made Big Hasan unsure of his own Chobanid supporters. Antagonizing his Chobanid followers, Sati Beg and her son Surghan fled to join Little Hasan, who forced Big Hasan from Tabriz in 1338, forcing him to retreat to Baghdad. In the process, Little Hasan succeeded in killing Big Hasan’s puppet Chinggisid, the young Muhammad Khan. But seizing Tabriz weakened the bonds between Little Hasan and his fake father; the Fake Temurtash decided he wanted real power and stabbed Little Hasan, who survived and escaped, then publicized the news that Fake Temurtash was actually, well, a fake. “You’re not my real dad!” We may imagine Little Hasan screamed as he ran out of the palace of Tabriz, blood dripping from a wound.


Little Hasan fled to Georgia, meeting with Sati Beg and his cousin Surghan, while the isolated fake Temurtash was pushed from Tabriz by Big Hasan, who in turn was pushed out again by Little Hasan. Still, it was felt a non-Chinggisid could not rule yet in his own right, especially since Little Hasan had, in the eyes of most, simply been serving his “resurrected” father. So, Little Hasan made the nearest Chinggisid the new Il-Khan. And the nearest Chinggisid was none other than his grandfather Choban’s widow, Sati Beg, daughter of the late Il-Khan Oljeitu, sister of Abu Sa’id and also widow of Arpa Khan. For the first time, late in 1338, a Chinggisid woman became Khan- not regent, not khatun,  but Khan. Coins were minted in her name bearing the title, the khutba was read in her name and she was officially the ruler of the Ilkhanate, such as it was.  But Sati Beg Khan, the only Chinggisid female Khan, held no real power, and largely was a tool through which Little Hasan maintained his power. A scheming, cruel man, Little Hasan offered Sati Beg to be the bride of a rival, solely in an effort to lure the rival into a trap. He also sought to portray himself as a restorer of the Ilkhanate and its protector by commandeering symbols and persons associated with it, such as appointing descendants of Rashid al-Din and other Ilkhanid viziers to chief posts, while continuing to promote Tabriz as the capital in an effort at continuity with the Ilkhanate. Little Hasan himself, along with Sati Beg’s son and two other top figures, took the titles of the ulus emirs, the commanders of the realm, but there could be no question of who was actually in charge…


… or could there be? Restoring a Chinggisid monarchy in place of their fake father Temurtash meant, in effect, the demotion of Little Hasan and his brother Malik Ashraf. Making Little Hasan but one of the ulus emirs further divided his power. Coins in the name of Sati Beg Khan are found even outside of territory the Chobanids directly controlled in this period, suggesting Sati Beg’s enthronement had wider support. Rumours circulated that Sati Beg was in contact with Big Hasan Jalayir in Baghdad, and plotting to kill Little Hasan. Worse still, Togha-Temur, the “eastern Il-Khan,” returned to western Iran at the very start of 1339, having been invited to take the throne by Big Hasan. 


Togha-Temur’s great army seemed poised to wash away Little Hasan’s state. Sati Beg Khan and her soon fled west, leaving Little Hasan alone to face Togha-Temur. But the lil’ guy had one last card play. Knowing he faced no chance of overcoming Togha-Temur Khan in battle, instead Little Hasan sent messengers to Togha-Temur offering his submission, and that he would gladly come to submit to Togha-Temur in person, but could not dare leave Tabriz yet due to the danger posed by Big Hasan, at that time in Baghdad. Togha-Temur accepted this gladly, happy to take the former Ilkhanid capital without trouble. He promised to keep Little Hasan in power, and sent a letter describing how he would rid them of Big Hasan… which Little Hasan promptly forwarded to Big Hasan. The latter had already allied with Togha-Temur and was naturally unhappy to find his new overlord so willing to remove him from the scene, so Big Hasan abandoned Togha-Temur Khan. Losing face, his local allies and commanders unsatisfied with the process, Togha-Temur withdrew back east.


The entire incident served to strengthen Little Hasan’s little hands. A few months later in July 1339, he forced Sati Beg Khan to marry another of Little Hasan’s allies, a descendant of Hulegu’s son Yoshmut, who took the throne name of Sulayman, and became Sulayman Khan, though the Mamluks suspected his ancestry was fictive. So ended Sati Beg’s nine month tenure as Khan, losing whatever little authority she held and subsequently disappearing from the sources, though coinage in her name continued to be minted in Georgia well into the 1340s. Her final fate remains uncertain. 


In the meantime, Big Hasan down in Baghdad had another ploy to employ. His requests to the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad for miltiary aid in recognition of Mamluk overlordship did not materialize into any actual support, in addition to the failure of the affair with Togha-Temur. Taking matters into his own hands, he appointed a grandson of Geikhatu Il-Khan, Jahan-Temur, as Il-Khan, then marched north to face Little Hasan in battle. 


In June 1340, the two Hasans, each with their khans, met on the field. Little Hasan had the better of the engagement, forcing Big Hasan to flee back to Baghdad. Angered at the turn of events, Big Hasan deposed his puppet Khan Jahan-Temur, and ruled in his own name- the official start of the independent Jalayir Dynasty. Ruling from Baghdad, the Jalayirids oversaw most of modern Iraq to the border with Syria. The Chobanids kept their puppet Chinggisid only a little longer. Sulayman Khan actually outlasted Little Hasan: the little trickster finally met his end when murdered by his own wife in December 1343.  With no heir, he was succeeded by his brother, Malik Ashraf, who soon after deposed Sulayman and appointed another puppet monarch, a non-Chinggisid called Anushirvan, from an epithet for the ancient Sassanian shahanshah, Khosrow I. It was an interesting dabble in movement away from legitimacy associated with the house of Chinggis Khan, harkening even back to pre-Islamic Iran. What sort of lineage he was supposed to represent is unclear, as the Mamluks thought that he had essentially crowned a stable boy and then locked him in a gilded cage. Coins were minted in Anushirvan’s name until 1353, the year of Togha-Temur’s death.


Little Hasan had been unpopular in Tabriz and Azerbaijan, but Malik Ashraf was widely hated. Paranoid, violent men, their oppressive tendencies alienated many supporters: both found it easy to be cruel to their families and vassals on the slightest hints of disloyalty- such cruelty was the certain cause of Little Hasan’s wife preemptively murdering him. Mongol allies were angered with the movement away from Chinggisid legitimacy or by the enfranchisement of non-Mongols. The cities of the Caucasus felt exploited as tax sources due to wild expenditure by both Little Hasan and Malik Ashraf, who built large public works in efforts to boost their images and to fund their standing army.  The latter of which they struggled to fund, resulting in troops attempting to supply themselves by raiding Chobanid subjects from Azerbaijan, Georgia to eastern Anatolia. At one point at the very start of his reign, Malik Ashraf was locked out of Tabriz, the city barring its gates against him in reaction to his exploitative money grabbing. 


All of this was worsened by rounds of Plague- as in, Black Plague. The trade cities of the Caucasus which the Chobanids so relied upon were struck repeatedly and made the situation even more unstable, as the economy was disrupted, trade slackened and key demographic centres depopulated. To distract from troubles and bring in some glory- or share the suffering, Malik Ashraf decided to attack Baghdad in 1347, but the Jalayirids repulsed him. Either through order, or because he no longer had control over his troops, the Chobanid army then ravaged much of the Chobanid kingdom. Facing revolts and rebellions across his kingdom, somehow he managed to maintain his post into the 1350s, when faced with an overwhelming, ultimate threat: the new Khan of the Golden Horde, Jani Beg, son of Ozbeg Khan.  Just as this episode began with the threat of a Jochid attack by Ozbeg, so this episode ends with his son coming to finish the job. 


The Jochids never forgot Hulegu’s seizure of the Azerbaijani pastures, and repeated attempts to regain were met with failures. Even great and long-reigning Ozbeg Khan had failed to seize them. Jani Beg, in all things, was determined to outdo his father, and in 1357 his messages arrived in Tabriz, bearing a clear ultimatum to Malik Ashraf:


I am coming to take possession of the ulus of Hulegu. You are the son of Choban whose name was in the decree of the four uluses. Today three realms are under my command, and I also wish to appoint you commander of the ulus; get up and come to meet me.”


    Malik Ashraf put on a brave face, dismissing the messenger and replied that Jani Beg only had claim to rule within the lands of Jochi, while Malik Ashraf was the protector of the lands of Hulegu. Malik Ashraf’s sudden claim to support the Toluids, not surprisingly, did not convince Jani Beg, or anyone else. His decision to then imprison Jani Beg’s ambassador did not help matters either. But Malik Ashraf’s defiance was hollow, and he was well aware of the danger he was in. We are told by the Azerbaijani writer al-Ahri, writing about 1360, that Malik Ashraf in fear turned to his attendants and admitted, “This is the son of Khan Ozbeg. He is of the family of Chinggis Khan and has an overwhelming army of three hundred thousand men. I cannot hold out against him.” Ashraf planned to flee to a fortress and hold out there  until Jani Beg withdrew or, failing that, flee to Anatolia. News of his cowardice elicited a loud response from the elite and people of Tabriz, who cried out for resistance and claimed that Jani Beg’s only strength was his numbers, and in terms of equipment the Chobanid troops would have the better. Only once it seemed that government was breaking down in the face of the Golden Horde attack, reluctantly Malik Ashraf summoned the troops and rode out to face the approaching Jani Beg Khan. Promptly, his men fled when they caught sight of Jani Beg’s host. Years of mistreatment had generated no loyalty to the person of Malik Ashraf or his office, and none were willing to put their lives on the line in a doomed fight. His army disintegrated and looted his own coffers. Finally Malik Ashraf was betrayed, captured, and paraded through the streets of Tabriz and handed over to Jani Beg. Supposedly Jani Beg would have let him live, if the people of Tabriz had not demanded his death- though it should be said, mercy was not a quality Jani Beg ever had in abundance, so we might wonder about this detail.  


    Malik Ashraf, son of Temur-Tash and brother of Little Hasan, grandson of Choban Noyan, was thus put to death on Jani Beg Khan’s orders in 1357. The Chobanid state, after a tumultuous two decades, was dismantled, its few surviving representatives scattered to the winds. Jani Beg Khan succeeded where no Jochid Khan had before, in occupying Tabriz and the pastures of Azerbaijan, Arran and the Mughan Plain. Many of the other regional powers, including the Jalayirids recognized Jani Beg’s overlordship. Jani Beg left his son Berdi Beg to govern Azerbaijan, then returned to the Qipchaq steppe- only to soon die, of sickness or, as some accuse, of being poisoned by Berdi Beg. This caused a general withdrawal of the Jochid troops as Berdi Beg left to assume the position of Khan, leaving one of Malik Ashraf’s former deputies in charge on behalf of the Golden Horde.


    Finally, it was time for the Jalayirids to return to Tabriz. Big Hasan’s son with Dilshad Khatun was Shaykh Uvays, who succeeded his father to the throne in 1356. Having accepted Jani Beg’s overlordship, the Jalayirids had managed the storm of the Jochid assault well. With their long time Chobanid enemies annihilated, it was now time to seize the Azerbaijani pastures. In summer 1358 Shaykh Uvays successfully retook Tabriz twenty years after his father had last been pushed from the city. In the historical sources, Jalayirid rule is contrasted heavily with the Chobanids. Where the Chobanids appear as scheming, violent and oppressive men, the Jalayirids in contrast are presented as benevolent, respectful to Islamic and Chinggisid norms, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity after years of upheaval. Ruling from the Caucasus across Iraq, the Jalayirids were mighty, and deserved a new title for it. So did Shaykh Uvays begin to style himself Sultan. It was not an easy task, for many former supporters of the Chobanids had to be hunted down, and indeed, in 1359 Uvays was pushed out of Tabriz by another Ilkhanid successor state, the Muzaffarids, albeit briefly. But by the next year Uvays had retaken Tabriz, killed Malik Ashraf’s still resisting son and properly secured Jalayirid control. The Jalayirid Sultanate saw a brief renaissance in art and culture, a restoration of economy and trade following the post-Ilkhanid disruptions. While respect was paid to the house of Chinggis Khan and certain norms associated with the Ilkhanate, this was no Chinggisid state. No Chinggisid puppet was maintained, and neither Uvays nor his sons based their rule on their Chinggisid ancestry, even though they could trace their lineage to a daughter of  Arghun Il-Khan. Chinggisid legitimacy as the basis for governance did not long survive Abu Sa’id, and the Ilkhanid successors at most portrayed themselves as protectors of the Il-Khanid dynasty, rather than its continuators.


    Thus by the end of the fourteenth century, most of the western portion of the former Ilkhanate, that is the Caucasus, northwestern Iran and Iraq, was ruled by the Jalayirid Dynasty. Iran itself was largely divided between regional forces, the most prominent being the Muzaffarids and Injuids and Sarbadars of Sabzavar. None were of Mongol origin, but were rather local Persian dynasties which had emerged out of the Ilkhanid political structure. In rare cases, pre-existing dynasties like the Kartids of Herat simply reasserted themselves. A few Turkic nomadic confederations, of unclear political origins, emerged in the second half of the fourteenth century, most notably the Black Sheep Turkomans, the Qaraqoyunlu. In Anatolia, a number of Turkic beyliks rose out of the splintered ruins of the Ilkhanid government there, including one on the western end of the peninsula founded by a ghazi named Osman. You may know them better as the Ottomans. The Mamluks maintained their hold on Egypt, with al-Nasir Muhammad enjoying a very long third reign until his death in the 1340s, which then saw a rapid succession of his numerous sons and grandsons on the Mamluk throne, preventing any Mamluk expansion at the expense of the weak post-Ilkhanid states.


    Such was the more situation of the late fourteenth century post-Ilkhanid world, soon to be turned over by the rival of a powerful emir from the western Chagatai Khanate named Temur, or Tamerlane. But that’s a story for another day, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast for more. If you enjoyed this and would like to help up continue bringing you great content, then consider supporting us on Patreon at 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.