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Il-Khan: Why Hulegu Khan Destroyed the Assassins and the Caliphate

The Mongol Wars in the Near East would affect many sectors of human experience, leading to developments that would profoundly change the course of global history.

Nicholas Morton

The Mongol Storm: Making and Breaking Empires in the Medieval Near East


The Career of Hulegu, The First Ilkhan


It was the time of the Crusades, and Christians were fighting Muslims for control of the Holy Land. The campaign brought the Mongol world in direct connection with the Christian and Muslim worlds. The reader of history does not often think of the Mongol Empire in the land of the Crusades, and yet, they were there, while the armies of Christian Europe and the Muslim world battled for supremacy. The Christian venture was to end in failure, but for a time, the outcome was not certain. 


Christians and Muslims had been fighting over the Holy Land for 100 years and hated each other.


King Richard the Lion-hearted had been defeated by the great warrior Saladin. King Louis the IX has been captured and resides in an Egyptian jail where he has been held for ransom. The Holy Roman Emperor manages to gain control of Jerusalem, but he cannot hold it.


Why were the Mongols in the Near East?


As has been told in the previous book Batu, Khan of the Golden Horde: The Mongol Khans Conquer Russia, the Emperor Mongke owed his throne to Batu, Batu was the senior prince of Chinggis Khan's descendants, the most talented leader, and he had the respect of the nobility. Batu wanted a prince of the house of Tolui on his Southern border. He felt uneasy with the Muslims on his southern border and perceived that they would plunge the region into war. He was growing rich from the caravan trade on the Silk Road. War was not on his agenda, for it interfered with trade.


What was the cause of this momentous decision?


In a meeting with Batu in Batu's camp on the Volga, Mongke devised a battle plan for the Near East. Hulegu was to destroy the Order of the Assassins and the Caliph at Baghdad, the two centers of power of the Muslim world, Shia and Sunni. Then he was to fight in Syria and Egypt and reduce the Muslim power structure to Mongol rule.


Under imperial orders, Hulegu Khan, the younger brother of the Emperor Mongke, destroyed the twin powers of Islam in the Near East. The Assassins had come against Mongke at his enthronement, and attempted to assassinate him. The destruction of the caliphate at Baghdad was a political move, for the Caliph had poached Mongol lands and refused to return them.  These events are of supreme importance to the Muslim world down to the present day and yet have been totally lost to Western history. The caliphate was the center of the umma, the Muslim community, the center of Muslim commercial and intellectual life, and yet it had been on the decline for a century.

This book explores the reasons why Mongke Khan, the greatest emperor after Chinggis Khan, ordered his younger brother Hulegu to take 50,000 troops and cross the Roof of the World. The rest of the troops would be sent after the census, another 50,000. 


It was a secret that Hulegu was ti remain in Persia and create a khanate there. Empires fell, but empires arose. This is the story, a scoop after seven centuries. The author takes advantage of the new scholarship that is changing our understanding of the early modern period of global history and the events that led to the rise of the West.



The final book in the Silk Road Series: The Heirs of Chinggis Khan.


The victories of Hulegu Khan bring the Mongol Khans into the world of the Crusades. The Mongol Empire had expanded further West into Russia, Armenia and the Caucasus. They had a border with Europe to the west as well as with the lands of Islam to the South. The heirs of Chinggis Khan believed that they too had a mandate to govern all peoples. The rising power of East and Central Asia had come to the Near East.



Will the Mongols align with the Christian Crusader Kings or the Muslim rulers? Who will make the alliance? Why do the Egyptian rulers turn the alliance down? And what about the Mongol defeat at Ain Jalut? Was it a huge blow to Mongol confidence or did they care?


Hulegu Khan is a double spare because both of his elder brothers become emperors.


Hulegu does not take up residence in Baghdad, but lives on the steppes with his army, like a true nomad.


He may have put Baghdad to the torch, but after he takes possession of the city, Hulegu rebuilds Baghdad as a commercial and intellectual center.


The books in the great library bring about the rebirth of science in Europe, a backwater still struggling to recover from the fall of the Roman Empire.


The destruction of the caliphate is lamented by The Faithful to this day. He is the Christian Khan whose heirs convert to Islam. One of his descendants Ghazan becomes one of the greatest rulers in Muslim history.


Book Five of the Silk Road Series: The Heirs of Chinggis Khan COMING SOON! Stay tuned for a posting of a chapter.



For an illustrated presentation of the story of Hulegu Khan's life, click here.