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The Great War in the Pontic Steppes (1297-1300)

The great conflict between Tokhta (1291-1312/3), khan of the Ulus of Juchi (the Golden Horde) and his influential cousin Nogai, lord of the Pontic steppes, took place in 1297-99, while the clashes on the smaller scale were prolonged until 1302. Surprising as it may be, the conflict and these turbulent years in the history of the Golden Horde were researched mainly from the political point of view; the military aspect has been customarily left aside. Therefore, the questions such as the strength of the conflicting armies, war aims and goals, strategy of the belligerents, and even the theater of operations, remain relatively obscure.

This conflict, its main battles, its outcome and the destiny of its main participants have been described by various western, byzantine, slavic and oriental sources. Their accounts provide possibility to outline answers to the above mentioned questions, which will be in the focus of my presentation. Special focus will be put on the composition of the conflicting armies and the participation of the non-Tatar contingents, in the war between Tokhta and Nogai; these units and their role in the conflict has been frequently neglected.

Learning from the Enemy: Mongol Warfare in Southeast Asia

The paper investigates the military engagement of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in Southeast Asia. The difficulties encountered in decades of confrontations, led the Mongols to explore new strategies of warfare, often learning from their own enemy. The role of defectors, refugees, foreign advisors was crucial in enabling this process of technological exchange and cross-cultural communication. Furthermore, the paper reviews various sources around this moment of Mongol history to show how the encounter with Southeast Asia shaped local identities as well as competing narratives on the two sides of the fence.

Avenging Karbala in Mamluk Damascus? ‘Alid loyalism in the Mongol conquest of Syria (1299-1300)

During Ghazan Khan’s five-week long occupation of Damascus in 1299-1300, the famous Damascene scholar Ibn Taymiya appointed himself as an intermediary between the Mongol forces and the Damascene population. Negotiating with the Mongol commander Mulay for the release of Syrian captives, Ibn Taymiya reports to have been questioned by the Mongol Mulay about his opinion of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid ibn Mu’awiya (647-83) and whether the latter should be scorned for the murder of Husayn ibn ‘Ali (680). Mulay, furthermore, accused the people of Damascus at large for the killing of Husayn implying that the Mongols were avenging the historical massacre of Karbala through their Syrian campaign.

This paper attempts to further investigate and contextualize Ibn Taymiya’s report on his exchange with the Mongol commander in order to probe the question if and to what extent the pro-‘Alid sentiments of the Mongol converts to Islam were deployed to support and legitimize the Ilkhanid Syrian campaign. I shed light on this question by exploring the Damascene scholar’s reported exchanges during the Mongol occupation of the city alongside his own polemical writings, as well as Ilkhanid accounts, mainly the works of the Shi’i Ilkhanid court historian ‘Abdallah Qashani. Through the question of ‘Alid loyalism during the Mongol occupation of Damascus, this paper will, moreover, ask how Shi’i principles and notions of authority were appropriated and employed at the turn of the fourteenth century Ilkhanate to explain and mediate the Mongols’ distinct political theology of divine right and Chinggisid universalism.

The Down of a World Empire: Culture Shock of a New Military Culture

The bloody process of unification of the Inner Asian tribal world at the turn of the 13th century let to the physical destruction of large parts of the elites in the polities that predeceased the Mongol Empire in the region. At the same this wars brought to existence a new military culture which was shaped initially among the nomads that inhabited the steppes in Mongolia and lay at the base of the unprecedentedly successful Chinggisid expansion. Different elements of this culture could be seen among the tribal adversaries of the Mongol imperial house, but there could hardly be any doubt that the main characteristics of this phenomenon were forged into a single complex under the iron fist of Chinggis Khan. Once settled, this new military culture, which included purely practical stratagems, as well as tactical, strategical and logistical innovations and rationalizations changed the Mongol tribal world at every socio-political layer.
But its far better documented effect was the culture shock, brought on the different battlefields of Eurasia by the advancing imperial armies which enjoyed impressive success over varies enemies of completely different background. The aim of the present paper is to trace the main features of the new military cultures, to examine its most significant implications and to analyze the development of the cultural shock or the chain of separated cultural shocks along the front of the Mongol expansion in Eurasia.

The Golden Horde Economic Warfare

During its formative period, the Golden Horde had to find new sources of wealth to win its independency from the great khan’s empire. By the end of the thirteenth century, the nomads took control of the most lucrative trades of the region: the fur trade, the slave trade, and the salt trade. This was achieved through military force, taxation and colonization. The Jochids settled in lower river basins of the Volga, the Don, the Dnieper and the Dniester, inciting merchants to trade closer to their headquarters, which became redistribution centers. In sedentary areas, they forced people to open their commercial networks and to pay taxes or tributes collectively.

In the Horde, a form of collective rule took shape: begs and emirs, led by Nogay, balanced the power of the khan. The war with the Ilkhanids led to trade blockade and economic competition with the Jochids, while alliance with the Genoese, Mamluks and Byzantines prevailed. The ulus seemed to be divided between Nogay and his followers, who controlled the Ukrainian steppes and pushed for a westward expansion, and the khans who controlled the Volga region and were oriented towards the Caucasus. Nogay was killed in 1299 and khan Toqta’s faction won. The core area of the Horde remained in the lower Volga. After this period of internal struggles, khan Toqta (r.1291-1312) forged new contracts offering tax exemptions and territorial concessions to the nomads and local sedentary elites.

In this paper, I will turn to key economic aspects. Previous scholarship has described the Horde as a mere military entity, whose success was due to victories on the battlefield. I intend to show that the decisive victories were won on the market field. Taxes and tributes, usually pointed as nomadic empires’ main mean of subsistence, were only one of the many strategies the begs implemented to increase their economic resources and dominate the cities.

The secret path. Documentary sources and the postal routes of the Mongol Empire in Central Asia.

During the last decades the postal system emerged as one of the most important topics in the study of the Mongol Empire. Various aspects (military, commercial, diplomatic etc.) of this institution were scrutinized by scholars. Lately Hosung Shim published a study on the postal roads of the Mongol-Yuan Empire in Central Asia. (“The Postal Roads of the Great Khans in Central Asia under the Mongol-Yuan Empire” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 44 (2014): pp. 405–469.) In this excellent study – mainly on the basis of narrative sources – he introduces the postal roads in Central Asia in different periods of Mongol rule. However, if we put on a map the toponyms of the Old Uyghur and Middle Mongolian documents unearthed in the Turfan (present day Xinjiang) and Dunhuang (present day Gansu) regions, a so far undetected path will be uncovered. The first part of the paper will explain the different methods for identifying toponyms of the Old Uyghur and Middle Mongolian sources, also presenting the so far undetected postal road. The second part of the paper will try to answer the emerging questions concerning the establishment, function and temporal dimensions of this path.

The Chaghadaid Army in Comparative Framework

Compared to its unprecedented success, the Mongol army in general has not been extensively studied. Among the various Mongol armies, however, the Chaghadaid army received only minimal scholarly attention, due to both the dearth of sources on the Chaghadaid Khanate and its less impressive achievements in comparison to those of the other Mongol polities. This lecture, however, puts the Chaghadaid army at its center. It follows its various phases from the united empire and up to the failure of Ilyas Khwaja to unite the khanate (1365) and the rise of Tamerlane (1370); discusses its main tactics, logistics (including payments) and weaponry and highlights three main issues: The relations between nomads and sedentaries - or between the main army and its auxiliaries- in the army; the retribalization process of the army towards the mid-late fourteenth century; and the complex relationship between the army and Islamization. These three issues will be studied in comparative perspective, both synchronically- comparing the Chaghadaid army to its better-studied Mongol armies, especially the Ilkhanid one; and diachronically - in relation to former and later Central Asian armies, mainly that of the Qara Khitai (1124-1218) and of Tamerlane (1370-1405).

Emotional warfare in the 1241/42 Mongol campaign: accounts of Roger of Apulia and Thomas the Archdeacon

In their campaigns the Mongols relied heavily on military intelligence, and psychological warfare, applying various forms of deceptions. Roger and Thomas were clerics who witnessed the Mongol invasion of the Kingdom of Hungary-Croatia and who wrote dramatic accounts of the events. Roger’s work ‘Carmen miserabile’ is fully dedicated to the sorrowful fate of the Kingdom, while Thomas’ chronicle ‘Historia Salonitana’ dedicated four powerful chapters to the invasion.

The paper analyses their descriptions of Mongol emotional warfare and its effects on the defenders, but it also explores emotional responses of the attacked Christians, in an ever-present intense emotional flux in war-affected regions. Both Roger and Thomas were competent in transforming emotion into written word, as well as eliciting emotion in their readership. Therefore both sources offer quite interesting materials to be analysed by military, cultural, and literary historians, and historians of emotions.

The Cuman-Kipchak Warriors in the Thirteenth Century Hungary and Yuan China

In thirteenth century, the military conquest of the Mongols into South Russian steppes brought about the end of Cuman-Kipchak tribal confederacy. Lots of the Cuman-Kipchaks migrated westwards and southwards into Hungary, Bulgaria and Byzantium. In the case of Hungary, these Cumans were reorganized and used by the royal power both in foreign (e.g. the war between Béla IV and the duke of Austria and Styria in 1250s) and domestic wars (e.g. the civil war between Béla IV and his son the future István V in 1260s). The influence of Cumans reached the peak during the reign of Ladislaus IV whose mother was a daughter of a Cuman chieftain. Meanwhile, some Cuman-Kipchaks moved east and entered into the army of the Mongol Empire. The Kipchak Warriors helped Kublai put the rebellion of Ariq Böke, Qaidu and Nayan.The Tutuha family was the most eminent Kipchak warriors of Yuan Dynasty.

The present paper will use both Latin (Chronicles, Charters and Laws etc.) and Chinese sources (Yuan Shi《元史·土土哈传》etc.) to investigate the mechanism of Cuman-Kipchak warriors in the Thirteenth Century Hungary and Yuan China. By using comparative approach, the author tries to answer the following questions: how were the Cuman-Kipchak warriors organized and used? What was their image in contemporary sources? and what kind of religious-cultural factors made them successfully or unsuccessfully in the above two countries?

Mongol Rule in Anatolia in the Light of the Ilkhanid-Mamluk Conflict, 1260-1277

Although the Mamluk-Mongol conflict has been treated in great detail by scholars such as Reuven Amitai and Angus Donal Stewart from a variety of perspectives, the role of Mongol-controlled Seljuk Anatolia in this conflict has not been taken into proper account. I argue that Anatolia under Ilkhanid rule served not only as an important source of revenue for the Mongol imperial coffers, but also played a pivotal role in the Mongol-Mamluk conflict which was waged, for the most part, in Cilicia and the Jazira along the Mamluk-Ilkhanid Syrian border. The course of events in this conflict likewise had major repercussions on the political stability of Seljuk Anatolia under Mongol rule.

Abaqa Khan was seldom directly involved in this conflict, but rather gave the responsibility of defending the border region to Mongol princes and commanders based in Anatolia. The steppe region of the inner Anatolian plateau, and in particular, the Cappadocia provinces of Aksaray, Niğde, Kırşehir and Kayseri, served as the major base from which Mongol raids and campaigns on the borderlands of Mamluk-controlled Syria were launched. This paper examines the intertwined Mongol-Seljuk networks of power involved in the ongoing low-grade warfare along the Syrian border, as well as traces their internal dynamics leading up to the Ilkhanid political crises in Anatolia during the years 1275-1277. Without a firm understanding of Anatolia’s pivotal role in Ilkhanid strategy towards the ongoing border conflict with the Mamluks, which was punctuated with several major military campaigns, it is difficult to evaluate the challenges facing Mongol rule in Seljuk Anatolia and resulting political crises, as well as the complicated dynamics of the Mamluk-Ilkhanid conflict itself.

Rubruck’s Account on the Mongol Warfare

The Franciscan Willemus de Rubruck travelled in the Mongol Empire with missionary purpose between 1253 and 1255. He wrote a letter about his journey to Saint Louis IX. Rubruck’s honest and vividly report is one of the most important sources on the Mongols in the 13th century. The report is considered more interesting in many aspects than Plano Carpini’s accurate account. There is one exception: Rubruck hardly mentioned the Mongol warfare and he underestimated the Mongol army and the Mongol weapons.

The present paper is an attempt to give an answer to this problem. Firstly, I will discuss Rubruck’s minimal knowledge on the Mongol warfare. Secondly, I will explain his shortages of information in this topic. That question can have two explanations. 1. Rubruck’ did not have any good interpreter in significant part of his travel. 2. Furthermore, the Mongol counter-intelligence seemed to be effective. After all, Rubruck complained “…never having been able to see their weapons in spite of my great keenness to do so”.

Stars and the World Conquerors: The Role of Astrologers in Mongol Warfare

The Mongol took the words of their astrologers very seriously. Astrological prognostications instructed their daily activities as well as their military and political decisions. We may attribute the Mongol’s victory in wars and battles to their military superiority. But they believed that they won their battles by the will of Tengre, the heaven god. From the days of Chinggis Khan, astrologers accompanied Mongol khans and princes to battles and interpreted heavenly omens to help make various military decisions, such as time and places of encamping, best time to wage war, and which general should be assigned with an important military task.

This paper explores the function filled by astrologers in Mongol warfare. It starts by surveying who were the astrologers that accompanied the Mongol khans and princes and what practices did they apply for prognostication. Then it examines their interaction with the Mongol rulers and their role in military decision-making. It argues that in both Ilkhanate and Yuan China, the attitude of the Mongol khans toward astrology and other knowledge of prognostication changed in the course of time. The paper will shed some light on the cultural and social aspects of Mongol warfare.

From Conquest to Collapse: Reexamining Biographies of Yuan Commanders

The Mongol army played a leading role in the conquests that resulted in the unification of China and the establishment of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Less than a century later, however, the army was unable to cope with rebellions and the dynasty collapsed.  Despite its obvious importance for Yuan history, the military facet has not been studied extensively until now, partly due to its composite structure, accumulated throughout the long conquest.

Examining the Yuan army through a prosopographic lens, my presentation demonstrates the value of analyzing Yuan commanders’ biographies to understanding changes in the army over this period. I will examine biographies of four commanders, two who served during the dynastic establishment and two of their descendants who served towards its collapse.

The commanders are: Ambai (fl.1280-1290s), a Tangut general who campaigned against rebel princes and commanders challenging Qubilai’s (r. 1260-1294) legitimacy as Qa’an. Irinjibal (d.1354), Ambai's son, participated in the quelling of several late Yuan rebellions. The Qipchaq general Tuq Tuqa (ca. 1237-1297) played a leading role in the successful campaigns in central Asia, and his grandson El-Temür (d. 1333) who held various high ranking military and civil posts and played an important role in the political intrigues at the court.

Exemplifying the role of Semu generals in the Yuan guards and the military system more widely, their families' histories demonstrate changes in the army from the establishment to the collapse of the Yuan dynasty.

Conflict between Qaidu and Yuan Dynasty from the Perspective of Mamluk Sultanate

Comparing with Persian historical sources written during the Mongol period, the value of the contemporary Arabic historical works (e.g. Chronicles, Biographies of Mamluk Sultans and biographical dictionaries) in research of the history of Yuan Dynasty is still underestimated. Therefore, this article examines a political event and attempts to indicate the importance of Arabic sources for further research on the eastern part of Mongol Empire through this case.
According to Baibars al-Manṣūrī, al-Nuwayrī and al-ʿAynī’s work, there was a drastic conflict between Qubilai Khan’s garrisons and the military of Qaidu around 687 H. (1288.4.6-1289.1.25). But on the contrary, except a few fragmental records dispersing in Official History of Yuan Dynasty, most of the contemporary Chinese and Persian sources keep silence unusually. Fortunately, Mamluk historians supplied very detail information on the geographical situation and the name of the pivots which involved into this event, and all of them can be identified with Chinese and Persian sources. Moreover, it is possible for us to reconstruct the chronology of this event by comparing and combining the historical sources written in different languages. Base on it, we can locate the report of Baibars al-Manṣūrī between 1289~1290 (26th~27th year of Zhi-yuan). During this period, Qaidu’s army invaded the Qaraqorum and defeated the resistance of frontier forces of Yuan Dynasty.
Through the traditional slave-trade route, some captives were transferred to Egypt and sold in there. In addition, this case indicates the Mamluk sultan always paid close attention on the changes in political situation in Central Asia. They usually supported the Arabic Persian merchants and shared the benefits in the oriental trade, especially in slave trade. Meanwhile, the friendly relationship between Mamluk and Golden Horde was also advantageous to promote the trade scale. The earlier direct contact between the Mamluk Sultanate and Yuan Dynasty even established during the reign of Baybars. As a conclusion, author tries to emphasize the importance of the Arabic sources written in Mamluk Sultanate. They will not only enrich the detail information of specific historical events but also provide a unique perspective to examine the interaction between Yuan Dynasty and other Khanates.