Mongol Empire, sprawling empire founded in the early 1200s by Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. By the late 1200s, the Mongol Empire included almost all of East and Southwest Asia and extended into central Europe. It was the largest contiguous land empire in history.
The immense size of the Mongol Empire proved to be its undoing. Under Genghis Khan’s descendants, the empire was divided into separate, virtually independent states. Political rivalries and cultural differences led to disunity, and Mongol cohesiveness dissolved. The empire collapsed as the power of the states disintegrated during the 14th and 15th centuries.
|II||BEFORE THE MONGOL EMPIRE|
|A||The Mongol Tribes of East Asia|
The Mongols were a loose confederation of Mongolian-speaking tribes until Genghis Khan united them in 1206. Their homelands extended through present-day Mongolia, north into the southern fringes of the Siberia region of Russia, and east into what is now the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. Here, on the eastern edge of the Asian steppe (a vast plateau of grassy plains), the Mongols developed a nomadic way of life.
The Mongols continually moved across the steppe in search of new grazing lands for their livestock. Their flocks of sheep provided food and clothing. Their horses provided transportation as well as a favorite drink, fermented mare’s milk, or koumiss. The Mongols made their homes in portable, circular tents they called ger. These tents (also known as yurts) are still common in Mongolia, where nomadic traditions continue.
The Mongols began training in horsemanship and archery at a very early age. They learned to shoot their arrows with precision while standing in the stirrups of a galloping horse. This skill was used in hunting, raiding, and warfare. Their domesticated horses came from wild herds native to the steppe. This small, hardy species became known as Przewalski’s horse in the late 1800s.
The importance that the Mongols attached to their horses is evident on every page of the Secret History of the Mongols, written in the mid-1200s. The author of this anonymous native work on the rise of the Mongol Empire never mentions a horse without providing its exact description—for example, how a young Genghis Khan, mounted on a chestnut stallion with a hairless tail, tracked down thieves who had made off with the family herd of eight light-bay geldings.
The Mongols were organized into clans, which in turn were part of a larger, much looser organization, the tribe. The hierarchy of the tribe was bound together by personal bonds of mutual protection and loyalty extending downward from the tribal chieftains, to subordinate clan chiefs, to individual warriors. Tribal and clan affairs were discussed and decided upon at the kuriltai, an assembly of tribal leaders. One of its functions was to elect a khan (leader). Before Genghis Khan, however, the khan had little real power. In addition, the Mongol tribes were deeply divided by clan rivalries, and warfare between them was endemic.
For almost 2,000 years before Genghis Khan, various nomadic peoples of East Asia had raided the settled peoples of northern China. The Chinese built fortifications along their northern frontier to keep out the raiders. (These fortifications long preceded the impressive stone walls that became known as the Great Wall in modern times.) Nevertheless, several nomadic groups broke through the barriers and established local dynasties in China.
One of these groups, a Mongolian-speaking people known as the Khitans, took advantage of the waning control of the Chinese Tang dynasty to conquer an area that extended well into northern China. They founded the Liao dynasty in the early 900s to rule their empire, Khitai. The Liao prevented the Chinese Song dynasty, which rose to power in 960, from reclaiming lands north of the Huang He (Yellow River) that had been lost by the Tang.
Early in the 1100s the Jurchens, a confederation of Tungusic-speaking tribes, rose up against the Liao. The Song encouraged the uprising in hope of regaining territory held by the Liao. The Jurchens not only conquered the Liao in 1125 but also took over a large portion of the northern Song domains. For their new empire, the Jurchens adopted the dynastic name of Jin (“Golden”). The remnants of the Song court fled south to Hangzhou and established the Southern Song dynasty. The Khitans retreated westward and reestablished their kingdom as Kara-Khitai.
A contingent of the Mongol tribes had fought on the side of the Liao in their final battles against the Jin. The Jin thereafter allied with the Tatars, a Turkic people who lived to the east and south of the Mongols.
|C||Rise of Genghis Khan|
In 1161 the Mongol chieftain Kutula was defeated by the Jin in alliance with the Tatars. Several years later, Kutula’s nephew and successor, Yesugei, was killed by the Tatars. Yesugei’s son, Temujin, gradually rose to power. By 1196 he was the undisputed leader of the Borjigin tribe. He then led a series of military campaigns in which he managed to defeat all the Mongol and Tatar tribes between the Altay Mountains in the west and the Hinggan Mountains in the east (roughly the area of present-day Mongolia).
In 1206 Temujin convened a kuriltai of all the Mongol chieftains. They proclaimed him supreme ruler with the title of Genghis Khan (also spelled Chinggis Khan), meaning “Great Leader.” The kuriltai also divided Mongol territory among strong military leaders who pledged their allegiance to Genghis Khan.
|III||THE MONGOL EMPIRE UNDER GENGHIS KHAN|
|A||Conquests in China|
His power secured in the Mongol homelands, Genghis Khan soon launched a campaign to destroy the Jin dynasty of northern China. First, however, he subdued the Tanguts, whose Xixia (Hsi-Hsia) dynasty ruled the area between the Mongol and Jin domains. Mongol forces invaded Jin territory in 1211. Two years later they broke through the northern Chinese fortifications and surged into the Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain). By the spring of 1214 the entire area north of the Huang He (Yellow River) was in Mongol hands. The Jin emperor purchased peace at an enormous ransom, and the Mongols withdrew. Shortly after, the emperor judged it prudent to move his capital from its northern site of Beijing. The Mongols interpreted his move as a resumption of hostilities and returned to sack and pillage Beijing.
Genghis Khan then turned his attention westward. In 1218 a Mongol army led by the great general Jebe subdued the neighboring kingdom of Kara-Khitai, located between the Tibetan Plateau (now part of China) and Lake Balqash (now in southeastern Kazakhstan).
|B||Campaign in Central Asia|
The conquest of Kara-Khitai brought the Mongols into Central Asia. Their new western frontier abutted Khwarizm, a vast but poorly organized empire ruled by Sultan Muhammad. Khwarizm included the western part of Turkistan as well as most of Iran. The sultan gave the Mongols an immediate cause for war by having two of Genghis Khan’s ambassadors beheaded.
The Mongol army reached Khwarizm’s northern frontier city of Otrar in the autumn of 1219. Leaving one unit there, Genghis Khan continued south to capture and plunder the great cities of Bukhara (Bukhoro) and Samarqand. Panic-stricken, Sultan Muhammad fled westward, pursued by a Mongol army, and died on an island in the Caspian Sea. The Mongols then turned north, crossing the Caucasus Mountains into what is now Russia. They defeated a coalition of Kipchak Turks and Russians in Crimea (part of present-day Ukraine) and returned eastward.
Genghis Khan passed the summer of 1220 resting his troops and horses in mountain pastures south of Samarqand. In the autumn he moved his forces south into Khorâsân, the eastern province of Iran. At that time Khorâsân extended far beyond its present-day border with Afghanistan. Mongol troops under the command of Genghis Khan’s youngest son, Tolui, laid waste to some of the province’s most important cities, including Nishapur (now Neyshâbûr, Iran), Merv (now Mary, Turkmenistan), and Herât (now in northern Afghanistan).
The region never fully recovered from the devastation of the Mongol onslaught. At Nishapur alone, more than 1 million people were massacred. According to the Persian historian Ala-ad-Din Ata-Malik Juvaini, who became a civil servant of the Mongols and wrote of their conquests in his History of the World-Conqueror, “It was commanded that … in the exaction of vengeance not even cats and dogs should be left alive.”
In the autumn of 1221 Genghis Khan moved to attack Sultan Jalal al-Din, the son of Sultan Muhammad. Overtaken on the banks of the Indus River and surrounded by the Mongol forces, Jalal al-Din made a dramatic escape by swimming across the river. He contrived to harass the Mongols for several years until his death in 1231 in Anatolia (the Asian part of present-day Turkey; also known as Asia Minor).
|C||Return to the East|
The battle at the Indus River marked the end of Genghis Khan’s campaign in the west. He returned to northern China after receiving news of an uprising there by the Tanguts, the founders of the Xixia dynasty. Genghis Khan led a campaign of brutal suppression that completely destroyed the Tanguts. It proved to be his final conquest, for he died in August 1227.
Genghis Khan was one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen. He had conquered a vast area stretching from northern China to the Caspian Sea. In addition, he had laid the foundation for the continuance of his empire by building a strong army and establishing basic laws of governance.
|D||The Mongol Army|
Genghis Khan unleashed a seemingly invincible military force. Although usually outnumbered, the Mongol forces dominated the battlefield. Their absolute discipline, well-understood chain of command, superior mobility, and innovative military tactics distinguished them from other armies of the day.
Rather than leading their forces into battle, the Mongol generals directed operations from a distance. A standard tactic they employed was to sweep an entire wing of the army around an enemy flank to attack from behind. Prisoners, if not massacred, were forced to form the front line in subsequent operations.
Mongol soldiers were well-trained in marksmanship and horsemanship. A soldier was clad in armor of leather strips lacquered to keep out water. His bow, backed with horn or sinew, was one of the most powerful in the world. After showering the enemy with arrows he would change to his lance or to a curved sword and charge for close fighting.
The Mongols’ greatest advantage was their mobility. They brought with them on their campaigns so many horses that a soldier could ride a fresh mount daily for three or four days running. Once an enemy’s initial resistance was broken, the Mongols would overrun the territory with a rapidity not to be duplicated until the tank warfare of the 20th century. Rivers, however broad, formed no obstacle; the Mongol armies would cross them in a kind of collapsible boat that they carried as standard equipment. They were equally skilled in organizing sieges. On one occasion they even diverted a river that ran through a besieged city and attacked along the dry river bed.
|E||System of Rule|
Genghis Khan instituted a legal code, the Great Book of Yasas, that formed the basis of governance for most of the empire’s duration. From the fragments that survive, it appears that the yasas (laws) were an amalgam of Mongol customary law and the khan’s own innovations. The yasas included such provisions as a ban on thrusting a knife into fire, possibly based on a fear of offending the spirits of nature. Of particular importance was the yasa exempting the clergy of conquered peoples, as were the Mongols’ own religious leaders, from the payment of taxes and the performance of military service and forced labor.
In governing their empire, the Mongols readily admitted into their service officials belonging to all nations and creeds. Genghis Khan began the practice by taking into his court both Muslim and Chinese advisers. One of his most trusted advisers, the Khitan prince Yeh-lu Ch’u-ts’ai, had shrewdly warned: “The empire was won on horseback, but it will not be governed on horseback.” It is believed that his advice prompted the Mongols to turn from the wholesale massacre of settled populations to using the talents of the conquered peoples in governing the empire.
The Mongols developed an efficient communications system within their vast empire. The system was based on the yam, or post-horse station, which supplied food, horses, and service to the Mongol khan’s troops and couriers. The yam network made it possible for news to travel quickly to and from the khan’s headquarters; the couriers were able, if necessary, to cover a distance of 250 mi (400 km) in one day. In addition, the Mongols encouraged open trade throughout their empire. They revived, secured, and expanded the ancient trade routes known as the Silk Road. Under Mongol rule, these trade routes fostered the first significant cultural exchanges between East Asia and Europe.
|IV||THE MONGOL EMPIRE AFTER GENGHIS KHAN|
On his deathbed Genghis Khan chose his third-eldest son, Ögödei, to succeed him as the great khan. Before his death Genghis had already divided his empire among his heirs, in accordance with Mongol custom. His sons Jochi, Jagatai, Ögödei, and Tolui each inherited a section of the empire. To Ögödei he gave all Mongol territory in East Asia except the Mongol homelands, which went to Tolui. Jagatai took the central part of the empire, and Jochi the lands farthest to the west. They and their successors continued the Mongol wars of conquest, further expanding the empire.
|A||Reign of Ögödei Khan|
In the spring of 1229 a kuriltai duly elected Ögödei as the great khan. The empire prospered and expanded under Ögödei’s able and energetic rule. In the first few years of his reign, the Mongols completed the conquest of northern China and declared war on the Southern Song dynasty. Ögödei built a grand capital at Karakorum, in the heart of the Mongol homelands. Most significantly, he authorized a campaign into Europe in 1235.
A Mongol army of about 150,000 stormed into eastern Europe under the command of Jochi’s son Batu and one of the ablest Mongol generals, Subadai. The Mongol forces crossed the Volga River in the autumn of 1237 and attacked the principalities of Russia, capturing town after town. Early in 1238 they turned northward and approached to within 60 mi (100 km) of Novgorod but then withdrew southward, fearing that the spring thaw might render the roads impassable for their horses. In the summer of 1240 the Mongols resumed their attack. In December they captured and destroyed the important city of Kyiv (Kiev) on the Dnieper River, opening the way into central Europe.
The right flank of Batu’s army advanced through Poland, inflicting a crushing defeat on a Polish-German army in the region of Silesia in April 1241, and then turned south to join the main army in Hungary. Quickly victorious there, the Mongols became masters of the area east of the Danube River. In December they crossed the river in pursuit of the king of Hungary, Béla IV. Batu’s forces soon reached the coast of the Adriatic Sea and seemed poised for an invasion of western Europe.
However, news then arrived that Ögödei had died in November. Batu withdrew the bulk of his forces in the spring of 1242 and returned to Karakorum in order to participate in the selection of a successor. Eastern and central Europe had proved to be disunited and ill-prepared to resist the Mongol armies. Fortunately for the rest of Europe, the Mongols were never to return in force.
|B||Reign of Guyuk Khan|
Ögödei’s death was followed by an interregnum lasting nearly five years, during which time his widow, Töregene, acted as regent (substitute for a monarch). In 1243 Mongol forces defeated the Seljuk sultanate of Rûm, centered in Konya, thereby extending the Mongol Empire into Anatolia (present-day Turkey).
A kuriltai finally convened in 1246 to elect Ögödei’s successor, choosing his son Guyuk. Witnessing the kuriltai was the Italian Franciscan friar Giovanni de Piano Carpini, who had come to the Mongol court as the bearer of letters from Pope Innocent IV. Guyuk brusquely rejected the pope’s protests against the Mongol invasion of Poland and Hungary and called upon him, together with all the crowned heads of Europe, to tender their allegiance to him. Subsequent efforts to convert the Mongols to Christianity likewise failed. However, Carpini had made the first recorded European visit to China, preceding the Venetian merchant Marco Polo by 29 years.
Guyuk’s reign was cut short in 1248. He died while traveling west to meet up with his cousin Batu, apparently with the intention of attacking him. Batu had strongly contested Guyuk’s election as great khan and had remained opposed to him. Guyuk’s widow, Oghul-Ghaimish, was regent of the empire until a kuriltai was finally convened in 1251 to choose Guyuk’s successor.
|C||Reign of Mangu Khan|
Despite opposition from Guyuk’s sons and their supporters, the kuriltai elected Mangu (also spelled Mongke), the eldest son of Tolui (Genghis Khan’s youngest heir). A plot to overthrow the new great khan was uncovered while the inaugural celebrations were still in progress; those responsible were banished or executed. This succession struggle was the first show of the disunity that eventually broke up the Mongol Empire.
Under Mangu’s leadership the Mongols embarked on new wars of conquest. In 1253 the khan’s brother Kublai invaded the territory of the Southern Song dynasty in southern China, while another brother, Hulagu, set out on a campaign into Southwest Asia that culminated in the sack of Baghd?d in 1258. In autumn of that year, Mangu took the field in person against the Song. He died the following summer while directing a siege.
|V||DIVISION AND DECLINE OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE|
The death of Mangu in 1259 marks the virtual end of a unified Mongol Empire. The initial partitioning of the empire by Genghis Khan had opened the way for further division. His descendants and their heirs established separate khanates (states ruled by khans), which remained at least nominally united through Mangu’s reign. He was succeeded by his brother Kublai, who faced open opposition from two of the khanates and would never enjoy universal sovereignty. By then, kinship ties proved inadequate to overcome the internal dissent tearing apart the empire.
The Mongols were skilled conquerors but inexperienced administrators. The Mongol overlords therefore tended to adopt local systems of rule. They also tended to integrate culturally with the peoples they conquered. In a relatively short period of time, the khanates became politically and culturally distinct. Religious differences, for example, appeared early—the Mongol overlords in western Asia converted to Islam, while those in China became Buddhists or Lamaists.
By 1279, when the empire reached its largest size, it was made up of four virtually independent khanates: the Yuan dynasty of China in the east, the Jagatai khanate in the center, the Golden Horde in the west, and the Il-Khanid dynasty in the southwest. Each khanate followed its own path of decline. Their histories are discussed separately in the following sections.
|A||The Yuan Dynasty of China|
After becoming the great khan, Kublai continued the war against the Southern Song dynasty, which governed the regions south of the Yangtze River. The long campaign against the Song effectively ended with the capture of its emperor in 1276, but the area around Guangzhou (also known as Canton) held out until 1279. Kublai founded the Yuan dynasty and proclaimed himself emperor of China. He moved the Mongol capital from Karakorum to the site now occupied by Beijing, which he named Khanbalik (romanized as Cambaluc).
Kublai had accomplished the Mongols’ ultimate conquest, bringing one of the world’s most advanced civilizations under Mongol domination. All of China was united under a single ruler for the first time in more than 300 years. In addition, the kingdoms of Korea and the mainland of Southeast Asia were reduced to docile tributaries (payers of tribute).
Kublai’s overseas expeditions were less successful. An army sent to the island of Java (now part of Indonesia) was tricked by Prince Wijaya, a local ruler, into destroying his enemies. Wijaya then forced his unwitting allies to withdraw by a skillful guerrilla campaign. Even more disastrous were Kublai’s attempts to invade Japan. In 1274 a typhoon, celebrated in Japanese history as the kamikaze (“divine wind”), destroyed the entire Mongol armada sent to invade Japan. A similar disaster ended a second invasion attempt in 1281.
In China, Kublai’s reign was a period of peace, commercial prosperity, religious tolerance, and a cultural flowering. Kublai himself converted to Buddhism and made it the official religion of his empire. He lived in a style of dazzling opulence that belied his nomadic origins. He also encouraged contacts with the outside world, giving audience to ambassadors and merchants from many nations. His curiosity about Christianity led to a visit in 1275 by the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, who ended up staying in China for 17 years as Kublai’s civil servant. Polo’s accounts of his travels and experiences gave Europeans their first inside view of the great civilization in the East.
|A1||Decline of the Yuan Dynasty|
The decline of the Yuan dynasty began with Kublai’s death in 1294. His successors were prevented by dynastic conflict, lack of discipline, and short-lived reigns from achieving any renown. Only Kublai ruled longer than his final successor, Tokon-Temur, who took power in 1333. During his reign, constant intrigues and dissensions among the Mongol aristocracy encouraged the outbreak of revolts. By the late 1350s the greater part of southern China was in the hands of various guerrilla leaders.
One rebel, a former Buddhist monk named Zhu Yuanzhang, had gained control over the entire area south of the Yangtze River by 1368. The Mongols, who were involved in their own internal quarrels, seemed almost indifferent to the loss of this vast region, and they offered no effective resistance to Zhu’s invasion of the north that year. Tokon-Temur fled, and Zhu made a triumphal entry into Khanbalik. He founded the Ming dynasty, which ruled China until 1644.
|B||The Jagatai Khanate of Central Asia|
To his second son, Jagatai, Genghis Khan gave a territory stretching westward from what is now China’s westernmost region, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to the area southeast of the Aral Sea. His domain came to be known as the Jagatai khanate.
The central location of this khanate made it a strategic communications zone of the Mongol Empire. It was also the weakest of the Mongol khanates. Jagatai khans were made and unmade by the great khans, who through the reign of Kublai Khan maintained a tight grip over the khanate’s affairs.
Jagatai and his early successors continued the Mongols’ traditional nomadic way of life in the eastern part of the khanate. The major cities of the west were mostly inhabited by Turkic-speaking Muslims. They had a settled way of life based on agriculture and regarded their Mongol overlords as barbarians.
In the 14th century the authority of the Jagatai khans over their Muslim subjects diminished sharply. The Jagatai khanate lost Transoxiana (roughly corresponding to present-day Uzbekistan) to the Turkic aristocracy in 1347. The Jagatai khans’ rule was thereafter confined to the eastern region of the original khanate, lasting there until the 1500s.
|B1||Rise of Tamerlane|
By 1370 Transoxiana had become the first conquest of Tamerlane. He came from the Barlas tribe of Mongols, who had settled in Transoxiana in the 1200s and over time had adopted Turkic Muslim culture. Originally a minor aristocrat, Tamerlane concocted a mythical descent from Genghis Khan and rose to power by an adroit combination of treachery and military genius. By 1402 he loosely controlled an empire stretching from India to the Mediterranean Sea. Tamerlane’s rise to power signaled the end of the Mongol Empire. His exploits delivered the fatal blow to the empire’s two westernmost khanates, the Golden Horde of Russia and the Il-Khanid dynasty of Southwest Asia.
|C||The Golden Horde of Russia|
To his eldest son, Jochi, Genghis Khan gave a vast and indeterminate domain extending from east of present-day Kazakhstan to the banks of the Volga River in western Russia. Upon Jochi’s death in 1227, his territory was divided by his heirs. The western portion went to his second son, Batu, who subsequently led the Mongol campaign into Europe and thereby extended his domain westward to the Danube River.
Batu’s khanate became known as the Golden Horde. (The Turkic word ordu, from which the word horde is derived, means an encampment.) It was also known as the khanate of Kipchak, after the Kipchak Turks who originally dominated the region. Over time, they mingled with their Mongol conquerors, and their Turkic language gradually replaced Mongolian. The Mongols themselves became known to Europeans as Tatars (or Tartars), after the Turkic-speaking people who made up a large portion of their forces.
Batu established his capital, Sarai, on the eastern bank of the lower Volga, near modern Volgograd. He allowed the local Russian princes to keep their thrones as long as they paid tribute and homage to him. This system operated without significant resistance for more than 130 years.
Islam became the official religion of the Golden Horde under Özbeg (Uzbek). His long and prosperous reign, from 1313 to 1341, is generally regarded as the golden age of the Russian Mongols. A period of anarchy followed, during which the real ruler of the Golden Horde was a general named Mamay. With his defeat in 1380 by the Russian grand prince of Muscovy (a Russian principality), Dmitry Donskoy, the Russians seemed on the verge of overthrowing the Golden Horde.
However, the Mongol khan Tokhtamish intervened. He saw an opportunity to expand his domain in southern Siberia, the khanate of the White Horde, which abutted the eastern border of the Golden Horde. By the end of 1378 Tokhtamish occupied Sarai. The final clash between Mamay and Tokhtamish resulted in a complete victory for the White Horde. Now also master of the Golden Horde, Tokhtamish sacked the Russian capital of Moscow in 1382 and reduced the Russians once again to the status of vassals and tributaries.
|C1||Final Decline of the Golden Horde|
Emboldened by these victories, Tokhtamish began invading Tamerlane’s territories in Central Asia. In response, Tamerlane attacked Tokhtamish, finally defeating him in 1395. In doing so, Tamerlane so greatly weakened the Golden Horde that he unwittingly helped unify the Russians. The Golden Horde broke up in the 1400s, emerging as the independent khanates of Kazan’, Astrakhan’, Sibir (Siberia), and Crimea. In the 1500s three of these independent khanates were conquered by Russian tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible), and in 1783 the last one, Crimea, was annexed to Russia.
|D||The Il-Khanid Dynasty of Southwest Asia|
During the reign of Mangu Khan, his brother Hulagu invaded the powerful Muslim caliphate of the Abbasids. In 1257 Hulagu launched a three-pronged attack on the Abbasid capital of Baghd?d (now the capital of Iraq). The Abbasid caliph (supreme leader of the Muslim community), al-Mustasim, surrendered in February 1258, and Baghd?d was pillaged and destroyed. Hulagu ordered al-Mustasim put to death.
After capturing Baghd?d, Hulagu established the Il-Khanid dynasty. His khanate formed the southwestern section of the Mongol Empire. In 1259 he set out on a campaign to overtake Syria. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus soon fell, and the Mongols pressed on to the frontier of Egypt, then ruled by the Mamluks. However, news of Mangu’s death prompted Hulagu to return east, leaving his general Ked-Buka in command with much-reduced forces.
In 1260 the Mamluk general Baybars attacked Mongol forces at Ayn Jalut, near the Jordan River in Palestine. Ked-Buka was defeated, captured, and executed. Following the battle, the Mamluks annexed Syria and Baybars became the sultan of the powerful Mamluk state. For the Mongols, the battle ended a widespread reputation for invincibility. It also marked the end of Mongol expansion toward the Mediterranean.
|D1||Height and Decline of the Il-Khanid Dynasty|
In 1295 Hulagu’s great-grandson Ghazan began his short but brilliant reign, bringing the Il-Khanid dynasty to its height. He introduced new systems of taxation, reformed the armed forces, and improved communications. Along with Mongolian, the Turkish, Persian, and Arabic languages were employed in government. Iranian culture was promoted, although new Mongol elements were infused in both art and architecture.
Ghazan converted to Islam and made it the official religion of his realm. He also took great interest in the history and traditions of his people, on which he was an authority. At his suggestion one of his ministers, the Iranian historian Rashid ad-Din, compiled the Jami-at-Tawarikh (Collection of Histories), a vast historical encyclopedia. Ghazan himself was the primary source for much of its information about the Mongols.
The administration of the later Il-Khans, however, was poor, and when the khan Abu Said died without a male heir in 1395, the khanate broke up into small states ruled mainly by Iranians. By the end of the century, Tamerlane had swept the region into his empire.
|VI||LEGACY OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE|
The Mongol Empire ushered in an era of frequent and extended contacts between East and West. For the first time, Europeans journeyed as far east as China. Artisans, envoys, missionaries, and merchants—including Marco Polo—made the trip. This increased contact created a demand for Asian goods in Europe and inspired Europeans to search for a sea route to Asia.