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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Jun 28, 2021

Now that we have gone through the Yuan Dynasty, Ogedeid Khanate and Chagatai Khanate, our attention comes to the other Mongol Khanate ruled by the descendants of Tolui; the Ilkhanate. Ruling Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus and the Anatolian peninsula to the borders of the Byzantine Empire, the Ilkhanate was among the most powerful, and also perhaps the best understood of the Khanates, due to a wonderful surviving library of historical works, best exemplified by the mammoth universal history the Ilkhanate’s vizier, Rashid al-Din. For our first episode on the Ilkhanate, we look at its establishment by Hulegu and his son Abaqa, the first twenty years of the Ilkhanate’s history which did much to define the final fifty years. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.


As a brief aside, you can revisit a two part discussion between our series historian, Jack Wilson, with professor Michael Hope, a specialist on the Ilkhanate, which we have uploaded on all sites that host our podcast. We last left off with the Ilkhanate in episode 33 of our main series, on the Berke-Hulegu war, where Hulegu fought with his cousin Berke of the Golden Horde over the Caucasus in the early 1260s.  Hulegu was the younger brother of Great Khan Mongke and of Khubilai. The third son of Tolui, they were grandsons of Chinggis Khan and thus of prestigious lineage. As we saw in episodes 28 and 29, Hulegu had been ordered by  his brother Mongke in the 1250s to complete the conquest of southwestern Asia. Despite the claims of some Ilkhanid writers, or of modern historians who write of Khubilai and Hulegu being made viceroys of China and western Asia, respectively, it is highly unlikely Mongke had commissioned Hulegu to found a new Khanate. Rather, his role was almost certainly just a limited military one, assigned by his brother  to complete the conquest so that the Middle East could be properly incorporated into the Central Governmental structure, or even territory that belonged directly to the Khan. Given Mongke’s crackdown on the independence of the Ogedeids, Chagatayids and to a lesser extent, the Jochids, it seems unlikely he was setting up a vast area to become personal fief to another member of the family, even if it was his younger brother. Certainly, we can also ignore statements that this was land Chinggis Khan had granted specifically to the Toluids, or that the Ilkhanate emerged from a division of the empire following Chinggis’ death in 1227. The conquest of Iran proper did not begin until after Chinggis’ death, and it took until Hulegu in the 1250s for the Middle East to become territory of the house  of Tolui. Infact, it seems much of this territory was considered, up until 1260 or so, as belonging to the house of Jochi. At least, the Jochids considered this to be the case.


Whatever Mongke’s intentions, as with so much, his plans were upset by his death on campaign in 1259. Hulegu was an important commander during Mongke’s lifetime, but not necessarily one about to be appointed a long term governor. Though he had greatly expanded the Mongol Empire westwards and taken Baghdad, the territory that later became the Ilkhanate was divided between Jochids in the north, especially in the Caucasus and northern Iran but also scattered throughout the region; some Chagatayid territory in the east, namely in parts of Khurasan; and territory that belonged directly to the Great Khan, for whom it seemed Hulegu’s  conquests would all go to. Following Mongke’s death, Hulegu essentially seized all these lands. Whether Hulegu had done this in order to declare his independence, or to take advantage of a primary lapse in imperial authority and then force Mongke’s successor  to recognize his gains, over  1260 Hulegu seized control of territory claimed by the Jochids and other branches  of the family. The Jochid Khan, Berke, was particularly angered at the loss of the pastures and trade cities of the Caucasus, which Mongke had only shortly before re-confirmed for him. Hulegu did not return east to take part in the election of Mongke’s successor or observe matters there, but thought of himself first, using the lull to enrich himself. It was this which precipitated war between the Jochids under Berke in 1262 over the Caucasus.


As we addressed briefly in episode 30, it seems that following the sack of Baghdad in 1258, Hulegu began using the title of il-khan. While popularly translated as viceroy or subject khan, more recent scholarship has demonstrated that the title bore no such connotations of submission or subservience. Rather, it simply designated a sovereign in his own right. Most of the uses of the term il-khan reflect this usage in the historical sources, with rulers from Chinggis Khan himself to the Khans of the Golden Horde referred to as il-khan. By the start of the 1260s we can speak in earnest of Hulegu and his successors  as the Ilkhans. We should expect  that to contemporaries, Hulegu was understood as his own monarch in truth, whatever nominal allegiance he and his successors paid to Khubilai Khan and his heirs.


From 1262 until his death of epilepsy in 1265, Hulegu was largely concerned with battling Berke Khan in Azerbaijan and Georgia in three years of on and off warfare. He made excuses to avoid traveling east to confirm Khubilai’s enthronement as Great Khan after Ariq Boke’s death. Between fighting the Jochids, Hulegu also had to clamp down on revolts and build a new administration. A number of local leaders in northern Iraq and western Iran who had already submitted to the Mongols revolted after the sack of Baghdad or the defeat at Ayn Jalut. All those who revolted were subjected to horrific punishments. The ruler of Mosul, Badruddin Lu’lu, died in 1261 aged 96, and his son Malik Shah revolted. Hulegu sent an army which brought the city to slaughter and rape the following year, and Maik Shah was tied to a post and covered in sheep’s fat, which soon attracted flies. The resulting maggots born from their eggs then ate the poor man alive while he died of exposure in the Iraqi sun. Malik Shah’s three year old son was cut in half and left hanging as a warning. Another revolting ruler in Mayyafariqan, upon being caught by the Mongols had pieces of his flesh cut off and stuffed into his mouth until he died. In Fars, the Salghurid Atabeg’s actions brought the response of a Mongol army: it took until 1264 for the Atabeg to be caught and killed, and a cousin of his married to one of Hulegu’s sons.


Hulegu also began the building of his own imperial government. He did not merely co opt the existing Mongol bureaucracy. Much of Hulegu’s territory had been previously overseen by the Mongol bureaucrat Arghun Aqa, the head of the Secretariat for Iran and Western Asia since the 1240s, first appointed to the post by Torogene Khatun. While most of Arghun Aqa’s territorial jurisdiction was brought into Hulegu’s new state, and Arghun Aqa continued to serve the Ilkhans until his death in 1275, Hulegu had to incorporate territory he himself had only recently conquered. He was strongly influenced by traditional Persian forms of government, due in part to the advice of prominent Persians in his retinue, Nasir al-Din Tusi and the Juvaini brothers. The older, Shams al-Din Juvaini, was made Hulegu’s vizier, a position he would hold for the next twenty or so years. The younger Juvaini brother we have met often over the course of this series. ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik Juvaini served in Hulegu’s  court during his campaigns against the Nizari Ismailis and Baghdad, and in turn ‘Ala al-Din was appointed to oversee Baghdad’s reconstruction. We of course know him best as the author of the History of the World Conqueror, one of the single most important surviving historical sources on the Mongol Empire, and used as a source by other medieval authors like Rashid al-Din. Both Juvaini brothers were tasked with much of the rebuilding of the Iranian, Iraqi, Caucasian and Anatolian cities and their economies, which they approached diligently. It was not without Mongol custom though, for Hulegu’s various sons, wives and lords were allotted territories to oversee in order to support themselves, the appanage system which so often stymied efforts by the central government to exert its powers.


In addition, Hulegu established Maragha in northwestern Iran as his capital, and under the supervision of the brilliant scholar Nasir al-Din Tusi, began to make it a centre of learning and science. On Hulegu’s order, Tusi built a great observatory there, and Hulegu provided pensions to artists and scholars in order to enhance his reputation; though Hulegu tended to show greater interest in alchemists who sought to turn things into gold for him. Additionally, Hulegu ordered the construction of palaces and temples and a number of other public works projects, for according to Rashid al-Din, Hulegu loved to build. In Rashid’s time some forty years later, a number of Hulegu’s projects still stood. Hulegu did not abandon nomadism, and instead, in a model followed by his successors, established a primary capital to house his treasury and governmental apparatus, a place on occasion visited by Hulegu, while Hulegu would spend most of his time with his herds and families in his pastures: generally in the rich, cooler pastures of Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran in the summer, and then to eastern Anatolia, northern Iraq or even Baghdad itself during the winters.


Of course, there is also the matter of the Mamluks. The Mamluk Sultanate famously defeated a Mongol army under Ketbuqa Noyan at Ayn Jalut in September 1260. Hulegu did not see the matter as finished; before even the end of 1260, another small Mongol army invaded Syria, though it too was quickly defeated. This proved to be the final Mongol incursion into Syria for the 1260s. The borders with the Golden Horde in the Caucasus, the Qara’una and the Chagatai Khanate in Khurasan proved of greater concern. Only once other matters were settled would the Ilkhans be able to bring their attention to Syria and the Mamluks, but that long war we will cover in a following episode.


Hulegu died in February 1265, a complication from the epilepsy he seemed to suffer from. He was buried on an island in the Caspian Sea with considerable treasure and apparently, human sacrifices. He was followed to the grave soon after by his chief wife, Dokuz Khatun. Aside from an aborted attempt by one son, Yoshmut, to throw his name in for the throne, apparently it was unanimously agreed by the notables of the Ilkhanate to elect Hulegu’s oldest son, Abaqa. Abaqa may not  have been born of Hulegu’s chief wives, but he was the most senior of Hulegu’s  children in the Ilkhanate, since most of Hulegu’s sons and wives were still in Mongolia at the time of his death. Abaqa had risen as his father’s right hand, and had overseen the Ilkhanate’s eastern Iranian and Khurasani territory. During the initial rounds of fighting against Berke Khan in the Caucasus, Abaqa had a key command role, though led his own forces into a humiliating defeat. For the nearly 17 years that Abaqa ruled over the Ilkhanate, he proved to be a steady and stabilizing, if unimaginative, monarch. Like his father, he was a capable enough manager though often had little care for the details of running the state. He shared his father’s personal affection for Buddhism, but also continued his policy of general religious tolerance. While Buddhists temples were constructed, Abaqa showed himself a friend to all religions. To Chrisitans, Abaqa courted alliances with Catholic Europe and Eastern Christian, that is Nestorian, churches and representatives such as Rabban bar Sauma and Mar Yahballaha were patronized. One of Abaqa’s wives was a daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII, named Maria but called Despina Khatun by the Mongols. The Christian kingdom of Cilician Armenia was a favoured ally, and the churches in Greater Armenia, Georgia and the few Crusader holdouts on the coast were treated respectfully enough. The Armenians and Georgian sources treated Hulegu’s wife, the Christian Dokuz Khatun, as a saintly figure who protected and patronized their churches, a second coming of Constantine I and his mother Helene. To Mongols, he ensured the respect of the yassa of Chinggis Khan and still favoured the Mongol elite and military. For Muslims, Abaqa relied on traditional Persian governmental institutions and his top members of the bureaucracy, especially the Juvaini brothers, were Muslims. Dokuz Khatun, despite her Christianity, had also showed patronage to Buddhist and Muslim public sites and places of worship. The prominence of the minority Christians and Buddhists in the Ilkhanate’s  administration and privileges were, however, a matter of contention for an empire with a Muslim-majority population, already unhappy to be ruled over by infidels.


Abaqa’s initial steps on his enthronement were to reconfirm the laws passed by his father and to keep most of his appointees in their offices. Shams al-Din Juvaini was maintained as vizier and sahib-diwan, while his brother ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik was retained in Baghdad. Perhaps the greatest change in Abaqa’s early days was moving the capital from Maragha to Tabriz, and appointing his brothers to the frontiers. Abaqa’s  early reign was caught up with the matter of dealing with his Mongolian kinsmen. Only weeks after his enthronement, Berke Khan and his commander Nogai unleashed another invasion on the Caucasus. You can revisit that war in more detail in episode 33, but after some inconclusive fighting Berke Khan died of illness en route to Tbilisi in 1266. The forces of the Jochids withdrew  to select Berke’s successor, and Abaqa in turn built a wall and deep ditch along the Kura River, the frontier between them in the Ilkhanate. Manned by Mongols and Muslims, we are told it allowed merchants to travel between the Ilkhanate and Golden Horde, but stood strong enough to dissuade any serious Jochid re-offensives for many years. 


At  the end of the 1260s Abaqa then had to deal with the Chagatais. As looked at in episode 47 on the Chagatai Khanate, a peace agreement was reached around 1268 between the Chagatai Khan Baraq, the Ogedeid prince Qaidu, and the new Khan of the Golden Horde, Mongke-Temur. They agreed to a joint invasion of the Ilkhanate. Baraq encouraged the revolt of a Chagatai prince in the Ilkhanate, then followed up with an invasion in 1270. As we covered in detail in episode 47, Abaqa successfully had the revolting Chagatai prince captured and defeated Baraq at the battle of Herat in July 1270. Baraq was broken and fled back to the Chagatai Khanate, where he died in 1271, which precipitated Qaidu’s rise to prominence over the Chagatais. Two years later, in 1273, Abaqa sent a large army to devastate one of the Chagatai Khanate’s chief cities, Bukhara, a rather clear message.  Qaidu recognized the display of Abaqa’s power, and despite occasional border raids, the Chagatais would not threaten serious invasion of the Ilkhanate until the early fourteenth century during the reign of Esen Buqa Khan, seen in our second episode on the Chagatai Khanate. So clear was Abaqa’s victory over Baraq that shortly afterwards, Mongke-Temur Khan of the Golden Horde sent gifts and peace offerings to Abaqa. Despite raids by the Neguderis, or Qara’unas, Mongol troops stationed in Afghanistan who had gone renegade, Abaqa for the rest of his reign had relatively calm relations with the Golden Horde and Chagatais. 


Following the battle of Herat, envoys came from Khubilai Khan bearing a yarligh, a decree which confirmed Abaqa as Khan. With this confirmation, Abaqa was enthroned a second time, and according to Rashid al-Din only then began to sit in thrones and wear his crown. So began a particular custom of the Ilkhans, in that they would have two enthronements. The  first upon their initial election as Khan of the Ilkhanate, and the second following the arrival of an official decree from the Great Khan in China which confirmed the decision. This in many respects was the extent of the Ilkhans’ submission to the Great Khans. While maintaining trade and diplomatic ties, the Great Khan could only confirm an election made in the Ilkhanate, and had no power to remove him from his office. Still, it remained a source of legitimacy and of adherence to the idea of a unified Mongol Empire, even if such a thing no longer existed. 


After a busy late 1260s, Abaqa slowed down in his operations in the 1270s. Much of his time was spent drinking or hunting, something he particularly loved, even if his timing and luck during hunting trips was not always great. Shortly after his first enthronement in 1265, his brother Yoshmut misfired an arrow that grazed Abaqa’s neck. After his second enthronement in November 1270, Abaqa received a grievous wound to his hand from a bison. Though the bleeding was halted with an impromptu tourniquet from a bow string, the wound developed an abscess and became infected. In immense pain, Abaqa’s physicians were reluctant to open up the abscess until convinced by Nasir al-Din Tusi that the procedure could be done. Under his supervision, Abaqa’s wound was opened and cleaned, and the Il-Khan’s pain immediately subsided. This was, by the way, Nasir al-Din’s final known action. He is mentioned as dying only a few years later in 1274.


Even if Abaqa spent more time hunting and drinking than with day to day governance, it did not mean the Ilkhanate was rudderless.  Abaqa had the luxury to spend time how he wanted, due to the governorship of his vizier, Shams al-Din Juvaini. Shams al-Din and his brother ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik were from a family of administrators, with both their father and grandfather officials of the Seljuq Sultans and the Khwarezm-shahs. ‘Ala al-Din had served in the administration of Arghun Aqa, the Mongol governor for most of western Asia from the 1240s until Hulegu’s western advance, and been held in quite some esteem by the great bureaucrat. ‘Ala al-Din’s own historical account, the History of the World Conqueror, features a lengthy and glowing biography of Arghun Aqa. Arghun Aqa continued in a post as the primary tax-collector of the Ilkhanate throughout Abaqa’s reign, as well as governor of Khurasan, thereby remaining an important ally to the Juvainis. Attached to Hulegu’s  camp with the start of the prince’s campaign, both Juvaini brothers rose in prominence under his eye. With the establishment of the Ilkhanate, Shams al-Din was made the chief minister of the state, the vizier, and the head of the diwan and chief financial officer, sahib-diwan, while ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik was made governor of Baghdad to oversee its reconstruction.


The sahib-diwan was the head of the Ilkhanate’s civilian administration which was, to paraphrase Michael Hope’s discussion on the matter in his Power, Politics and Tradition in the Mongol Empire and Ilkhanate Iran, responsible for provisioning the army, foreign relations, the post system, royal and public treasuries and collection of revenues. The sahib-diwan led a group of regional assistants who coordinated these activities through the provinces of the empire, based on the traditional Persian administration, the diwan. The Mongol addition was a sort of dual administration, wherein the regional operatives of the sahib-diwan were under the supervision of Mongol governors who held supreme authority. So, under Abaqa’s reign ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini, the governor of Baghdad, acted as a sort of assistant or deputy to the Mongol governor of Arab Iraq, Khuzistan and Fars, Suqunjaq Aqa, or in Anatolia Mu’in al-Din Sulaiman worked alongside and under the Mongol governor, Samaghar Noyan. The military elite, the noyad, that is the heads of the family and military leaders, generally served as intermediaries between the diwan and the Ilkhan. The success of a given sahib-diwan rested on his ability to maneuver and work with the noyad. As such, the power and influence of the head of the Ilkhanate’s civilian administration fluctuated widely, often relying on connections more often than ability.


Shams al-din Juvaini was capable enough at this handling of the noyad, though over the late 1270s found himself increasingly undermined by the noyad and other officials. As usual, money brought a great deal of the trouble. The Juvainis became very wealthy over their tenure. It was not simply a case of needlessly enriching themselves, as they were expected to cover many of the costs of their operations themselves, from patronizing other officials, gift giving to bribes needed to keep things running smoothly, or supporting public projects and donations for the sake of the popular image of the empire and government. Shams al-Din Juvaini, it must be said, did seem to pay artists and poets great sums to spread good words about himself and speak of his magnificence. As with any administrator we’ve met in our overview of the Mongol Empire, these men made enemies - often by men who felt excluded from power- and had to appoint their own trusted men and family members to high positions in order to keep these areas out of the hands of enemies, or ensure they worked in agreement with the sahib-diwan. It had the side-effect though, of being nepotism and an easy charge for anyone to rally against. 


Sahib Shams al-Din found that his diwan was quite subservient to the needs of the military, and in many respects simply served as a means to provide for the noyad and their troops. As long as the money kept coming in for military needs, such as for Abaqa to move and supply troops from frontier to frontier to face Jochids, Chagatayids, Qara’unas and Mamluks, then Abaqa was usually fine to allow Shams al-Din to act autonomously. Though both Juvaini brothers had developed a kitchen cabinet of rivals and faced accusations, their positions rested secure until 1277.


1277 proved a hallmark year for Abaqa, the Juvainis, and the Ilkhanate itself. That year, the Mamluk Sultan Baybars led a devastating invasion into Mongol ruled Anatolia, defeating a large Mongol army at Elbistan, advancing as far west as Kayseri before withdrawing back to Syria, where died that summer. The Mamluk and Ilkhanid frontier in Syria had not moved much since the immediate aftermath of Ayn Jalut in 1260, but Baybars had gradually been pushing up along the coastline, attacking, harassing and conquering the Il-Khan’s allies, the Crusader states and the Kingdom of Cilician Armenia. In 1265 following Hulegu’s death, Baybars conquered Caesarea, Haifa, Arsuf, and Galilee; in 1268, Baybars took Antioch; in 1271, he took Krak des Chaveliers and almost took Tripoli. When Abaqa’s attention was elsewhere, the Mamluk raided Cilician Armenia.


In Anatolia, the Mongols ruled over the shattered remnants of the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum, in an administration headed by Mu’in al-Din Sulaiman, better known as the Pervane. The Pervane was the dominant figure of the rump state of the Seljuqs of Rum: the Seljuq Sultan, Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw III, was a young boy, so the Pervane acted as co-governor with Samaghar  Noyan, his Mongolian counterpart. The two had a stable relationship, but when Abaqa appointed his younger brother Ejei to replace Samaghar, the Pervane chafed under the increased financial burden and supervision, and asked Abaqa to recall his brother, claiming Ejei was in cooperation with Baybars. Abaqa promised to recall him, but delayed. In his frustration, the Pervane reached out to Baybars. The Sultan’s curiosity was piqued, but didn’t commit; by the time his response reached the Pervane in 1274, Ejei and Samaghar had been replaced by Toqa Noyan, and the Pervane didn’t respond. Under Toqa Noyan, Mongol pressure was even greater in Anatolia, and the Pervane’s powers were limited.


What follows is a terrible mess of political machinations. The Pervane got Toqa Noyan removed, Ejei was reinstated, the Pervane’s efforts to remove Ejei again frustrated Abaqa, who removed Ejei, killed some of his followers and reinstated the Pervane and Toqa Noyan. In November 1275, the Mongols besieged al-Bira, a major Mamluk fort on the Euphrates River in Syria, but Baybars had learned of it in advance allegedly due to the Pervane. After this, the Pervane was careful to rebuild trust with Abaqa, bringing him the Seljuq Sultan’s sister to wed. At the same time, with or without the Pervane’s support a group of Rumi amirs met with Baybars in July 1276, urging him to attack. Judging there was enough support in Rum for him, Baybars agreed, mobilized his army over winter 1276 and set out in February 1277. The result was Baybars’ devastating raid into Anatolia. Though the Pervane refused to meet with Baybars, staying instead in his fortress at Tokat, this did nothing to ease Abaqa’s fury. Abaqa arrived in Anatolia swiftly with an army but missed Baybars, and in his wrath demanded every living thing between Kayseri and Erzurum be massacred. Only with difficulty did Shams al-Din Juvaini talk the Il-Khan out of such horror, and was convinced to sate himself with only sacking the nearby city of Siwas executing leaders of local Turkoman tribes. When Abaqa’s threatened invasion of Syria could not materialize due to the summer heat, he returned to his Azerbaijani pastures and summoned the Pervane to him. Only reluctantly did the Pervane arrive on his master’s bidding, where he was charged and put to death. Allegedly, his flesh was eaten by Abaqa and the senior Mongols.


Though Shams al-Din Juvaini was moved to Anatolia to oversee reconstruction there, Abaqa’s trust in his civilian officials was greatly broken. Now was the time for the enemies of the Juvainis to strike. Majd al-Mulk Yazdi, a former protege of Shams al-Din who felt wronged by him, reported that the Juvainis had been in cooperation with the Mamluks and had assisted Baybars in invading Anatolia, based on words from one of Shams al-Din’s deputies. Abaqa had the deputy interrogated and beaten, but the man refused to condemn Shams al-Din, saving the vizier from charges. Majd al-Mulk fell out of favour and into destitution, and in an attempt to win him over Shams al-Din donated a considerable sum of money to him. 


When Abaqa was in Khurasan in 1280 dealing with a Qara’una attack, Majd al-Mulk moved again. This time he met with Abaqa’s son, Arghun, and reporting that not only were the Juvainis still in correspondence with the Mamluks, but they were also embezzling huge amounts from the royal treasury. Claiming that Shams al-Din’s donation was actually hush money to keep him quiet, Majd al-Mulk convinced Prince Arghun of the treachery of the Juvainis. Arghun told Abaqa of it on his return from campaign, but it took until the spring of 1281 when Majd al-Mulk met with Abaqa in person and reported it, for Abaqa to react. An angered Abaqa finally moved, arresting the Juvainis and ordering their accounts investigated. Luckily for Shams al-Din, he was able to petition one of Abaqa’s wives, Oljei Khatun, to convince Abaqa of their innocence. Though Majd al-Mulk did not succeed in this attempt, he was not out of favour, and Abaqa appointed him as an official check with Shams al-Din in a sort of co-vizier role. 


From this position, Majd al-Mulk focused his plots against Shams al-Din’s brother, the governor of Baghdad ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ata-Malik Juvaini, the historian. The same charges were employed; accusations of embezzlement, treachery, etc. Majd al-Mulk’s timing was good, for it caught Abaqa in a particularly foul mood. Late in 1281, Abaqa’s younger brother Mongke-Temur had been sent with an army into Syria against the Mamluks. Abaqa had been supposed to join him, but had instead wasted time hunting. While he was hunting, the inexperienced Mongke-Temur suffered a humiliating defeat at Homs against the Mamluk Sultan Qalawun. Abaqa was, as you might expect, rather furious. He spent winter 1281 in Baghdad making plans to invade Syria himself. While there, Majd al-Mulk convinced upon Abaqa of ‘Ala al-Din Juvaini’s crimes. ‘Ala al-Din was arrested, then freed by Abaqa, then fined millions of gold pieces. Unable to pay the fines upon an audit, Majd al-Mulk had ‘Ala al-Din beaten and dragged through the streets of Baghdad. Only Abaqa’s death saved him.


Abaqa left Baghdad at the start of 1282 and travelled to Hamadan, where he partook in that favourite Mongol princely tradition, a night of binge drinking. The following morning he was dead, having been struck in his final moments, according to Rashid al-Din, with a vision of  black bird perched in a tree. Ordering an archer to shoot at it, no bird could be found, but upon the realization Abaqa was dead.


Abaqa’s nearly twenty year rule had a significant effect on the Ilkhanate, a period of consolidation and continuation from the years of his father, Hulegu. Abaqa managed to keep the military and civilian government largely balanced, oversaw reconstruction after the conquests and secured his border from powerful neighbours. Recognizing the nominal supremacy of the Great Khan, Abaqa proved a  formidable presence in western Asia, and with only brief exceptions, the longevity of his reign would ensure that his family would dominate the Ilkhanate until its dissolution. Yet Abaqa overlooked problems facing his kingdom, leaving his successors to deal with a proud military element that would only grow to seek more influence at the expense of the Ilkhan and the civilian administration. We will be exploring these topics and the period following Abaqa’s death in the next episodes, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us 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.