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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Aug 17, 2020

“From the King of Kings of East and West, the supreme Khan:

 In your name, O God, who stretched out the earth and lifted up the heavens; Qutuz is of the race of those Mamluks, who fled to this region to escape our swords... Let Qutuz know, as well as all his emirs, and the peoples of his empire who inhabit Egypt and the neighboring countries, that we are the soldiers of God on earth; that he created us in his anger, and delivered into our hands all those who are the object of his wrath; what has happened in other lands should be a matter for you to think about, and distract you from making war on us. Learn from the example of others and commit your fate to us before the veil is torn, and, delivered to repentance, you see the penalty for your sins fall upon you: for we will not allow ourselves to be touched by crying and we will be insensitive to complaints. You have heard that we have conquered a vast expanse of land; that we have purified the earth of the disorders which defiled it; and that we have slaughtered most of the inhabitants. It’s up to you to flee, and it’s up to us to pursue you; and what land will offer you a refuge? Which road can save you?... You have no way of escaping our swords, of escaping the slaying of our weapons… Hurry to give us an answer, before the war ignites its fires and launches its sparks on you: then you will no longer find asylum, strength, protection, support. You would experience the most terrible catastrophes on our part, and you would soon leave your lands deserted. In sending you this message, we have acted nobly towards you; we have sought [...] to wake you from your slumber. Now you are the only enemies we must march against. May salvation be upon us, upon you, and upon all [...] who submit to the orders of the Supreme Khan. "


So reads the ultimatum delivered to Cairo in early summer 1260, as recorded by al-Maqrizi. Qutuz, the newly declared ruler of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, faced the awesome might of an army unsurpassed, invincibile and merciless. Qutuz, in a fragile alliance with his erstwhile enemy Baybars, made the frightful decision to kill Hulegu Khan’s envoys, and roll the dice to challenge the Mongol hosts, ultimately facing them at the Battle of Ayn Jalut. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquests.


Our previous episode detailed Hulegu’s sack of Baghdad in February 1258, and the death of the last ‘Abbasid Caliph, al-Musta'sim. Hulegu soon moved north to Maragha to rest and prepare for the next leg of his journey; reducing the remaining independent powers along the Levantine Coast. For Hulegu and his massive army, it seemed nothing would stand in the way of the subjugation of the remainder of the Muslim world. Spending the summer of 1258 moving between Maragha and Tabriz, many throughout the region reaffirmed their submission. Sons and representatives came from the atabeg of Fars, various lords of the Caucasus and the Ayyubid Sultan of Aleppo and Damascus al-Nasir Yusuf.  In person came the 90 year old Badr al-Din Lu’lu of Mosul and the two Seljuq Sultans of Rum, ‘Izz al-Din Kaykaus II and his half-brother, Rukn al-Din Kilich Arslan IV. The fall of the Caliph sent shockwaves, and most were eager to reaffirm their vassalage lest they share his fate. ‘Izz al-Din Kaykaus, knowing Hulegu was already displeased with him for his brief rebellion in 1256, made Hulegu a pair of fine boots with his portrait on the soles, and kneeling before Hulegu told him “your slave hopes the padishah will elevate this slave’s head with his royal foot.” 


Hulegu was pleased with himself; the conquests were coming easily and it seemed he would complete his older brother’s will in good time. It’s possible that at this time Hulegu adopted for himself a new title, il-khan, which he began to include on coinage he minted the following year. Generally il-khan is translated as ‘viceroy,’ or ‘subject khan,’ il in Mongolian having connotations of submission. However, there is argument that it’s a Mongolian form of an older Turkic title, ileg khan, meaning ‘sovereign.’ Some sources from the Ilkhanate use it in this sense; one writer refers to Chinggis Khan as Il-khan,when such connotations of submission were quite inappropriate.


Hulegu spent the remainder of 1258 in Azerbaijan, wintering in Arran and the Mughan plain, where the cool temperatures and fine pastures pleased the Mongols. Maragha emerged as Hulegu’s de facto capital, and that region became the administrative centre and summer retreat of the Ilkhanate for the next 70 years. From here, Hulegu plotted. Intelligence came in of the fractured politics of the statelets from Syria to Egypt. The ruler of Mayyafariqin in the Jazira had previously submitted to the Mongols, but had revolted as the Mongol army surrounded Baghdad. Hulegu sent his son Yoshmut to deal with them. The Ayyubid sultan of Syria, al-Nasir Yusuf, had been a Mongol tributary since the early 1240s, but had failed to provide troops against Baghdad or to appear before Hulegu in person. So, Hulegu would appear before him in person, along with 100,000 of his closest friends and at least 300,000  of their favourite horses. The only power of any note other than the small Ayyubid princes and Crusader holdouts on the coast, was the newly established Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. Sending Yoshmut and Kitbuqa as his vanguard in spring 1259, in September Hulegu led the main army to Syria, anticipating a swift and glorious conquest of the region.


Some 80 years prior, Egypt to eastern Turkey had been unified by an-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, who you may know better as Saladin. On his death in 1193 Saladin intended for three of his sons to rule in a sort of confederacy, one in Cairo, Egypt; one in Aleppo in Syria, and one in Damascus, also in Syria, to be the senior over the others. Within 3 years, his plan went awry. Saladin’s brother al-Adil bin Ayyub took control of Damascus and Egypt and forced Aleppo to recognize his authority. al-Adil placed his own sons as governors, and allowed the jihad to fall to the wayside, enjoying a fruitful 20 year truce with the Crusader states. The trade they brought was valuable and al-Adil found his Seljuq and Zengid neighbours of much greater concern. It was not until 1218 when his system cracked; that year the fifth Crusade landed in Egypt and soon took Damietta; the Anatolian Seljuqs backed Saladin’s ousted son al-Afdal in attempting to take Aleppo; and al-Adil died of illness is August 1218. On his death, the Ayyubids never regained their unity. al-Adil’s son al-Kamil took power in Egypt, but continually butted heads with the Ayyubid princes of Syria, especially his brother controlling Damascus, al-Muazzam. It was in the face of war with al-Muazzam that in 1229 al-Kamil agreed to a truce with the oncoming Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II Hohenstaufen, bloodlessly returning Jerusalem to Christian hands for the first time since Saladin took the city in 1187. 


Al-Kamil died in 1238, his family vying for control of Egypt. It took two years for his oldest son, al-Salih Ayyub, to seize power there.  By then, the Ayyubids of Syria and Egypt were totally independent of each other; al-Nasir Yusuf, the prince of Aleppo, became tributary to the Mongols in 1243. In Egypt, al-Salih Ayyub showed himself a powerful and militaristic ruler- the last effective Ayyubid Sultan, exerting his power against his cousins in Syria. The first means to do this was to invite the bands of Khwarezmian mercenaries in Syria to him. These were the remnants of Jalal al-Din Mingburnu’s army, who, since Mingburnu’s demise in 1231, had acted as mercenaries and pillagers, raiding for the highest bidder. In 1244, al-Salih Ayyub invited them to Egypt, intent on employing them, or at least, keeping them from being employed against him by the Syrian Ayyubids. The Khwarezmians under Husam al-Din Berke Khan took up the call, en route sacking Jerusalem in early summer 1244, the Crusaders losing Jerusalem for good. The panicking Franks organized an alliance against the Khwarezmians- a grand army of Frankish troops, knights of the Military Orders, and the Ayyubid princes of Damascus and Homs, eager to keep the Khwarezmians out of al-Salih Ayyub’s hands. Their largest field army since the Third Crusade, some 13,000 men, was resoundingly crushed by the Khwarezmians at La Forbie in October 1244. It was a massacre, the offensive ability of the Crusader States permanently broken. Representatives from Acre reached Europe and called for aid- only the penitent King Louis IX of France would answer.


Al-Salih Ayyub took the Khwarezmians north, and after assisting him in taking control of Damascus, gave them the boot, and they were overwhelmed and dispersed by Syrian forces in 1246. So ended the last remnant of the Khwarezmian Empire, some 20 years after Chinggis Khan’s invasion.


Giving up on unreliable Khwarezmians, al-Salih Ayyub turned to slave soldiers. Military slavery was hardly a new institution, used from the ‘Abbasids to the Fatimids to the Ayyubids under Saladin himself. Generally, the Islamic institutions of military slavery differed greatly from the chattel slavery we associate the term with. In the words of historian Bart Hacker, “although his owner might buy or sell him and otherwise dictate certain life choices, the relationship of owner to soldier more nearly resembled that of patron to client than master to slave in the western sense. These are complex issues, but Muslim military slavery clearly did not define the soldier’s occupation, wealth, social standing or power.” Depending on the dynasty, military slavery actually increased a man’s access to wealth and social standing.


Prior to the 12th century, these slave soldiers were generally called ghulams, but by 1200 mamluk had replaced it. While a ghulam or mamluk could come from anywhere, Turkic steppe nomads were preferred. Bought as children between 8 and 12, from their upbringing on the steppe they already had valuable experience in archery and horseback riding. The most physically skilled were sold as mamluks, upon which they were converted to Islam and received further training in weapons and tactics, provided armour, horses and the support of the state. Often they were  taught languages, administrative skills and how to read and write. They were expected to be absolutely loyal to their master, who heaped rewards on them. They combined all the military skill of the Turkic nomads, but with greater discipline and reliability.<pmre than one Muslim monarch is said to have remarked how his ghulams were more loyal than his own sons. Under al-Salih Ayyub, these men were the cream of the army, highly trained and well armed. He expanded their regiments, aided by the glut of Turkic slaves on the market from the Mongol invasion of the western steppe in the 1230s and 40s. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of Qipchaqs were sold abroad from Egypt to India. Al-Salih created several garrisons of mamluks around Cairo, and each garrison took its own identity and name for its location. The most famous were the Bahriyya, so named for the island in the Nile their garrison occupied.


The first test of al-Salih Ayyub’s mamluks came in 1250. As mentioned above, King Louis of France took up the cross on learning of the fall of Jerusalem and defeat at La Forbie in 1244. After intensive preparation, he set out on the Seventh Crusade. Deciding the power base of Egypt was the key to taking control of the holy land, in June 1249 the Crusaders landed on the Egyptian coast. His timing was good. Al-Salih Ayyub, the Sultan of Egypt, succumbed to a long illness four months later. The Ayyubid leadership was embroiled in the power dispute, an alliance forming between the top military man, Fakhr al-Din, the vizier and a widow of al-Salih, Shajar al-Durr. In a macabre facade, they pretended al-Salih was still alive, having meals sent to him and signing papers in his name. Louis’ forces marched up the Nile and in February 1250 a surprise early morning cavalry charge resulted in the death of Fakhr al-Din, but pursuing the survivors into the fortified site of Mansura led the Crusaders right into the Bahriyya Mamluks. It was a slaughter. 600 knights entered, only a handful straggled out. The Seventh Crusade fell apart in the following weeks, and in April the Mamluks captured King Louis, quite literally asking for a king’s ransom. 


It was not immediately apparent, but this was the beginning of the ascendency of the Mamluks. al-Salih’s son Turanshah came to take power in Egypt but was killed a few days after Louis’ capture, murdered by the Bahriyya Mamluk leader Aqtay. The widowed Shajar al-Durr in May 1250 was proclaimed sultana, regarded by some as the first Mamluk Sultan, though she was no Mamluk and was  forced to marry the emir Aybeg, who was in turn forced by the Bahriyya to take on a child Ayyubid puppet Sultan. It was a tenuous position: in Syria, al-Nasir Yusuf of Aleppo took control of Damascus, then in winter 1250 invaded Egypt, reaching the environs of Cairo before the Mamluks pushed him back.  By 1252 the restless Aybeg replaced the child sultan with another child, and in 1254 Aybeg and one of his own mamluks, Qutuz, assassinated the Bahriyya chief Aqtay, decapitating him and throwing his severed head out of the palace to his waiting Mamluks below. The rest of the Bahriyya fled Egypt under Aqtay’s second-in-command, Baybars al-Bunduqdari. A Qipchaq, Baybars was a proud and courageous warrior, highly skilled and a close friend to Aqtay. The murder of Aqtay filled him with vengeance, and Baybars spent the rest of the 1250s hopping between the Ayyubid princes of Damascus, al-Nasir Yusuf, and Karak, al-Mughith ‘Umar, encouraging both to invade Egypt and overthrow Aybeg and Qutuz.


Baybars was denied his revenge on Aybeg, for Shajar al-Durr had him assassinated in 1257; Aybeg’s supporters soon killed her. The emirs fought for control of the child sultan, with the Mamluk Qutuz emerging as the dominant power. Maintaining the puppet Sultan, Qutuz was the real power behind the throne for two years until 1259, when news came of the approach of Hulegu and his army into Syria. That November, Qutuz removed the boy sultan and took the title himself. Now ruling openly, Qutuz found himself the only power against whom Hulegu had left to march.


At the start of 1260, Hulegu crossed the Euphrates River, marching his great army onto Aleppo. The Ayyubid prince ruling Damascus and Aleppo was al-Nasir Yusuf, who, has previously mentioned, had sent tribute to the Mongols since 1243. Like Rukn al-Din of the Nizari Ismailis and Caliph Mustasim of Baghdad, al-Nasir Yusuf was indecisive in the face of the Mongols. Some members of his court encouraged him to maintain the relationship with the Mongols; others, most notably the bellicose Bahriyya Baybars, urged resistance. Baybars wanted to lead an army to block Hulegu at the Euphrates, and at least once, physically beat the chief proponent of peace, al-Zayn al-Hafizi. al-Nasir Yusuf failed to provide troops against Baghdad, failed to tear down his fortresses and failed to appear before Hulegu in person, capped off by the poor decision to send a belligerent message to Hulegu. Now al-Nasir Yusuf faced the consequences of his actions.


Well fortified and garrisoned, Aleppo was the great Ayyubid stronghold of northern Syria. Sitting comfortably in Damascus, al-Nasir Yusuf anticipated Aleppo would be the rock against which the Mongol wave would break. At Aleppo, Hulegu was joined by two Christian vassals, King Het’um I of Cilician Armenia and Duke Bohemond VI of Antioch and Tripoli, two eager supporters of Mongol expansion into the region. They knew the dynamic well; full support of the Mongols would earn them favours and expansion of their own realms. The Armenian Catholicos even blessed Hulegu’s army.  As the leader of a Crusader kingdom, Bohemond’s support for Hulegu did not earn him similar praise: the Papal Legate in Acre excommunicated Bohemond early in 1260. Aside from supplying intelligence and troops, they may have also provided Hulegu military technology, such as the new counterweight trebuchet which had spread across Europe in the preceding decades. Concentrating fire on one of Aleppo’s gates, it was breached and in less than a week, the city fell.  Arabic sources like ibn Shaddad assert that King Het’um of Cilicia personally set fire to the great mosque of Aleppo. The city’s citadel, commanded by an elderly son of Saladin, held out a bit longer before it too finally submitted- though on account of his age, al-Muazzam Turanshah bin Saladin was spared.


The fall of Aleppo sent shockwaves across Syria. al-Nasir Yusuf panicked, and in the last days of January 1260 he fled Damascus. Within two weeks, Hulegu’s general Kitbuqa was outside the walls of Damascus and on the 1st of March triumphantly rode into the city, in one source with King Het’um and Bohemond VI at his side. The city surrendered peacefully and was spared destruction- though Arabic sources accuse Duke Bohemond of desecrating the city’s mosques. 


    By March 1260, the Ayyubid government of Syria had utterly collapsed. The sultan, Al-Nasir Yusuf fled with an ever shrinking force into Palestine. The chief cities, Aleppo and Damascus, were now in Mongol hands, and the remaining princes, notables and bedouin of Syria made their submission to the representatives of the Khan of Khans. The Crusader state centered around Acre seemed sure to follow Bohemond’s example and submit, and the Sultan in Cairo, Qutuz, stood as the only independent power willing to resist. Hulegu merely had to extend his hand and everything up the Nile would be his.


    And suddenly, Hulegu departed from Syria. Exactly why is unclear. By the summer of 1260, he was in Azerbaijan with most of his army. Some historians, most notably John Masson Smith Jr., assert it was for reasons of logistics: Syria lacked the grasslands to support Hulegu’s huge army and herds of horses in the summer. Hulegu himself made a similar statement in a letter to Louis IX of France in 1262. Possible, but Hulegu had hardly touched the available pasture of Syria by that time, and nothing stopped the Mongols from feeding their horses on the grain stores of the locals. Another oft cited reason is that Hulegu moved east to deal with a startling issue: his brother, the Great Khan Mongke, was dead, having fallen while campaigning in China in August 1259. It’s often said that Hulegu moved east to deal with the succession dispute. But Hulegu could not yet have known of the troubles emerging between his brothers Kublai and Ariq Boke. More significantly, he didn’t return to the east, but to Azerbaijan. In terms of being able to observe events in Mongolia, the distance between Azerbaijan and Syria is negligible. The Jochids to the north and their Khan, Berke, had claims to the pastures of the Caucasus and territory beyond, and Hulegu may have wanted to secure his hold there- but that assumes Hulegu was anticipating such a conflict in the first place, something not necessarily apparent when his withdrawal began.


    Hulegu did want to attack Egypt, gauging by the highly threatening letter sent to Cairo about this time. Qutuz of Egypt was claiming he was a descendant of the Khwarezm-shahs, something sure to antagonize the Mongols. Many of the lead figures of the new government in Egypt were Mamluks originating from the Qipchap steppe, a people the Mongols considered their slaves. And yet, Hulegu had suddenly withdrawn, leaving Kitbuqa behind in Syria and Palestine with 10,000-20,000 troops, whose actions, as reconstructed by historian Reuven Amitai-Preis, suggest consolidation rather than expansion into Egypt was their immediate goal. Kitbuqa’s men were separated in two main groups: a southern force under Baydar in Gaza, perhaps half the army, to guard against actions by Qutuz. Kitbuqa himself set up in eastern Lebanon’s Biqa’ Valley. He concerned himself with reducing an uprising in Damascus and strongholds which held out, such as the Crusader fortress of Sidon. The Franks in Acre were apprehensive of the Mongols, and made no moves to submit, while those of Safad did so. Karak and its Ayyubid prince al-Mughith ‘Umar in modern Jordan confirmed its submission. Kitbuqa campaigned through the Golan and northern Transjordan, in the process capturing the wandering al-Nasir Yusuf, sending the Ayyubid prince to Hulegu. In Syria, the Mongols began an administration. The former prince of Homs, al-Ashraf Musa, was set up as titular Ayyubid Sultan of Syria, though without any power. That was held by the Mongol officials setting up in Damascus and Aleppo. 


    Kitbuqa’s force then was a temporary garrison to hold the line until Hulegu returned, not to invade Egypt despite Qutuz violently bisecting the envoys sent to demand his submission. Hulegu based this strategy on a key underpinning: the Mamluk forces in Egypt were small and weak, and would not dare move out to face the Mongols in battle, and certainly not try operating beyond Egypt itself.  Unfortunately for Hulegu, his calculation proved wrong.


    In March of 1260, Baybars and his Bahriyya Mamluks returned to Egypt with promises of protection from Qutuz. Baybars had a virulent hatred for Qutuz for his murder of Aqtay in 1254. Having tried to get al-Nasir Yusuf to confront Hulegu and failing, Baybars abandoned him, reaching out to Qutuz in Cairo. Hulegu was effectively on Qutuz’s doorstep, and Egypt’s army was small, most of their loyalty questionable and their courage even more so. Any direct confrontation with Hulegu’s main force would be a disaster. When Baybars reached out, Qutuz knew the 1,000  Bahriyya Mamluks he brought with him were an invaluable asset alongside Baybars’ own skill and courage. Uniting against the common foe, Qutuz warily welcomed Baybars back to Cairo. Qutuz was unsure of actually facing the Mongols in open battle, but upon learning of the departure of Hulegu, Baybars was key in building up Qutuz’s resolve. Once they were confident Hulegu’s withdrawal was not just a ploy, Baybars demanded they act. Another opportunity might not ever present itself. 


    On July 26th, 1260, Qutuz’s army left Cairo. Numbers are uncertain, but it was likely slightly larger than the force Kitbuqa had. Perhaps 10,000 Mamluks, including the Bahriyya and the other garrisons, and many refugee soldiers who had fled the disintegration of al-Nasir Yusuf’s realm: Ayyubid troops from Syria, Turkmen, Kurds, Bedouin. It was a ramshackle force, even the Mamluk amirs were hesitant to advance. The Mongolian reputation for invincibility was at its height. The impenetrable Assassin fortresses; the divinely protected Caliph in Baghdad; the mighty walls of Aleppo; all had fallen to the Mongols shockingly quick.  For 20,000 odd troops to make any sort of successful stand must have seemed foolish. Qutuz managed to convince them to press on, humiliating the emirs when he told them if they wouldn’t join him, then he’d fight the Mongols alone. 


    Baybars was several days' ride ahead of the main army in the vanguard; at Gaza, he met Baydar and his advance guard. It’s unclear if there was a battle or if Baydar willingly withdrew before the Mamluks, but Gaza was successfully taken either way. Baydar and his forces rode north to link up with Kitbuqa. Passing Frankish held Acre, the Franks maintained a steadfast neutrality rather than openly pick sides; but they sent supplies to Qutuz and did not hamper his advance. The Devil you know, and all that.


    Kitbuqa was surprised by the Mamluk advance: his forces were scattered and had to be recalled, lending credence that he was not in the midst of preparing to march on Egypt. His force gathered quickly; a core of Mongols with Georgian, Armenian and local forces, with a large Syrian contingent under al-Ashraf Musa. They marched south, setting up at Ayn Jalut in Galilee, modern Israel. It means the “spring of Goliath,” where legend holds the shepherd David killed the great Philistine. 


    From Acre, Qutuz’s army marched southeast to Ayn Jalut. The account of Rashid al-Din presents an ambush led by the Mamluks, but the Mamluk sources emphasize the prior arrival of the Mongols.  Upon entering the valley, Baybars’ vanguard skirmished with the Mongol advance troops before withdrawing to await Qutuz. Finally on the 3rd of September, Qutuz arrived with the main army and formed up. It was prime ground for cavalry, the core of both armies.  The Mongols led the first assault: a charge along the line, arrows filling the sky. The dread of facing them in battle filled the hearts of the Egyptians, who crumpled before them. Qutuz and Baybars rallied them, only for a second Mongol onslaught to again shatter their nerves. Qutuz once more rallied them with cries of “Oh Islam! Ya Allah, help your servant Qutuz against the Mongols!” With order and the line reformed, he led the Mamluks in a charge against the Mongols. It’s likely at this point that al-Ashraf Musa, the Ayyubid Prince of Homs on the Mongolian left flank, abandoned them. Perhaps planned in secret, or merely his personal bravery not extending to actually being in danger, his desertion allowed the Mongol flank to be encircled. In close combat, the long training, excellent armour and weapons of Mamluks made the difference. With their mobility reduced, the Mongols were cut down in the sort of close quarters combat they despised. 14th century Mamluk treatises assert early hand cannons were used against the Mongols- not so much to fire projectiles, but to make loud noise to scare horses. If true, they may have foiled Mongol efforts to counter the encirclement. 


    Likely during this fighting, Kitbuqa was cut down or captured- in some accounts he has a defiant final speech in the face of Qutuz. The Mongol army rapidly disintegrated after that. Baydar took his contingent on an organized retreat through Syria and over the Euphrates, but many were not so lucky. Exhausted and injured, the survivors were hunted down, some pursued as far as Aleppo by Baybars, where he defeated a small group of reinforcements Hulegu sent to reinforce Kitbuqa. As quick as the horses rode, rumour spread: the Mongols had been defeated. Within weeks, the troops and officials of the Mongols abandoned the conquests of 1260, fleeing back over the Euphrates. Damascus and Aleppo were retaken, collaborators executed- while those who had made timely defections like al-Ashraf Musa were handsomely rewarded. It was a narrow victory- but a victory was all they had needed.


    Only a month after the battle of Ayn Jalut, Qutuz was murdered and Baybars proclaimed Sultan. That December Baydar returned in an attempt to avenge Kitbuqa- only to be defeated by the garrisons of Syria led by al-Ashraf Musa. In the first battle of Homs of the Mongol-Mamluk war, 1,400 Muslims overcame 6,000 Mongols, taking advantage of local terrain, fog and timely flanking by local bedouins. Baybars in the following years developed an extraordinary well organized defensive system against Mongol attacks, putting his entire kingdom on footing to prepare against them. For the next 60 years, based on designs laid out by Sultan Baybars, the Mamluks would, with one exception, successfully resist repeated Mongol invasions. The chance to conquer Egypt was permanently lost.


    Hulegu was furious at the defeat, but it was not seen as a major loss. Mongol armies had been defeated before, and always avenged soon after. His immediate reaction was to violently put al-Nasir Yusuf to death, and when the city of Mosul rebelled upon hearing of the defeat, Hulegu punished its ruler in a particularly gruesome fashion: tying him down, covering him in sheep fat and leaving him in the hot Iraqi sun. Flies laid eggs in the sheepfat, and the maggots ate the man alive. Hulegu did not suffer further revolts from Ayn Jalut, but bigger issues were emerging, as Mongol imperial unity came to a sudden and violent end, and he never avenged the death of Kitbuqa Noyan. Ayn Jalut, though it was not immediately apparent, was the high water mark of the Mongol conquest of the region. Though only a minor Mongol force had been defeated, it would be forty years before the Mongols ever came close to conquering Syria again- and then, only briefly. For the Mamluks and Baybars, it was all the legitimacy they needed. Had the Mamluks lost at the Spring of Goliath, it’s doubtful any armed force remained in the region with strength enough to put up any resistance.  Rightfully, Ayn Jalut is therefore the most well known of all Mongol defeats.


Our next episode deals with the last of the campaigns of the united Mongol Empire under Mongke Khaan, so please subscribe to our podcast. If  you’d like to help us continue bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on patreon at I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you the next one.