Term Paper: Fall of Baghdad

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[. . .] The Siege

According to L. Venegoni (Venegoni 2004):

"The conquest and devastation of Baghdad had been planned long before by the Mongols. The occupation of the most part of Iraq was facilitated by agreements that many Shiite governors had met with the Mongol authorities. The Christians of Mesopotamia also supported the Mongol power. The attack on Baghdad was displayed from three different directions: Hulagu central wing came from Kermanshah down to the Tigris plain; the left wing of the Mongol army had rushed down through Luristan via Khuzistan towards Baghdad; while the right wing had proceeded from Azerbaijan via Erbil. Tscharmaghan and Baiju noyans had led a separate corp into Mesopotamia from Rum, marching south from Mosul. Moving into Syria, Hulagu army captured Aleppo and Damascus (1st March 1260). Bohemond VI (approx. 1237-1274), prince of Antioch and count of Tripolis and son-in-law of the best allied of the Mongols Hethum of Lesser Armenia, seeing his territory occupied by the Mongols, offered them almost immediately his submission without rising against the invaders." (Venegoni 2004)

Before laying siege to the city, the Mongol general Hulagu Khan had destroyed the Turkic and Mamluk strongholds as well as flanks that would be able to help the Caliph fight this war resulting in the Caliph losing control over the supplies and not being able to garner support from areas near Baghdad. This effectively meant that the Caliph's army would resist the siege for as long as possible, but in the event of having their supplies and their allies ct off from them the question would be of when the Caliph would have to submit rather than if he would submit. The grand master of the Assassins, Alamut Imam 'Ala al-Din Muhammad also sent his forces to help the Muslim army in need but the Mongols took care of them as well.

But the loss of power and the consequence of this defeat for the Caliph can be assigned to the Muslim leader only as he had failed to prepare for the war himself. He underestimated the power of the Mongol army and did not realize what a fierce opponent he was facing. Having ruled for centuries the Caliph was content in thinking that he would never be defeated, and when the Mongols laid siege and demanded submission the Caliph did not understand the grave danger he was putting himself in, making the fall of Baghdad inevitable.

The Caliph Al-Mutasim faced a quick downfall and by the time he realized his mistake and begged for truce and negotiations, the Mongol army refused him and it was too late for the Caliph to save his city.

There were various factions of the city that were destroyed and brunt. Thrones of gold and gen were also torn into shreds and people were dragged from their hiding places to be shredded into pieces and killed. Artifacts were burnt and nothing was in a position to be salvaged.

On being defeated the city faced a week of massacre and destruction where all civilians were attacked and thousands of people were killed.


There was massive destruction in the wake of these wars, and the Mongols being no stalwarts of culture or knowledge destroyed everything that came in their way regardless of its historic value or of its importance to mankind in general. The Grand library of Baghdad was one such painful move which led to the destruction of countless and precious historical literature as well as books and papers on medicine, astronomy and other subjects where research had been done and religious as well as worldly information was held.

There were also the incidents where Mongols destroyed buildings, which included hospitals and mosques, regardless of religion caste or creed. Architectural inheritances that were building painstakingly by people of yore were burnt down and there was no regard for the cultural value of anything. Everything was there to destroy and like a fleet of crazed barbarians the Mongols destroyed historic places, people and documents leaving no stone unturned to leave the city dead in a week's time. The fact that such an event took place makes one wonder what the mental state of the captives and the victims at the time was, when they knew that death was inevitable and were yet hiding, scared for their lives in holes and places where they hoped the tide of destruction would not find them.

The Mongols were merciless to the civilians. The civilians tried to flee from their attackers but were killed randomly by the Mongols who were on a merciless spree to spill blood. Several different people have estimated the numbers who were killed, but the common factor among all these accounts is that numerous innocent people were killed as a result of this war.

According to Morgan (Morgan 1990):

"They swept through the city like hungry falcons attacking a flight of doves, or like raging wolves attacking sheep, with loose reins and shameless faces, murdering and spreading terror...beds and cushions made of gold and encrusted with jewels were cut to pieces with knives and torn to shreds. Those hiding behind the veils of the great Harem were dragged...through the streets and alleys, each of them becoming a plaything...as the population died at the hands of the invaders." (Morgan 1990)

These were atrocities that were carried out on the population in general. However there are accounts of the Caliph being forced to watch people's murders and the plunder of his treasure. Moreover historians also have had included accounts of the Caliph being rolled in a carpet and trampled to death from the army of the Mongols running over him. All of the survivors of the royal family were killed save one, who was exiled to Mongolia, and was moved away from his role as a leader in Islam.

The city was enveloped by the stench of the dead so that even the victors had to move away from the city to station their troops in order to avoid the stench of blood and the gory scenes of death and destruction


In the aftermath of the war, Baghdad was fully and completely ruined. One once gloried capital was debris of lost hope, death and destruction. It was a mass grave of people as well as buildings and culture. All that was gleaned in terms of information over the years and all that was build with loving hands over centuries of experience was destroyed and slain to rot.

The situation was bad for agriculture as well, and this is the reason why Baghdad was not able to revamp itself and build up again after so many years of the bloody conquest, the canal systems all dried up as the survivors also fled. The canal system was completely destroyed so there was silt and to restart it there was no labor.

Moreover, crops were not grown in the region as the Mongols also filled in the canal system making it difficult for agriculture to flourish and for the region to get populated again. Hulagu left a contingent of 3000 soldiers behind to reconstruct the place. Furthermore, there was the Christian population who were spared due to Hulagu wife supporting them and requesting her husband to save her community from bloodshed. For those people some reconstruction work had to be done so that they could be rehabilitated. After the war was over, a Mongol general, called llkhans who were stationed in the city. Trading and economics flourished in this region under him, as it was at the cross roads of many regions and travelers came in, establishing Baghdad as a small city, which was never able to go back to its position as a grandiose capital.

This also was the point where Islam suffered a crucial blow in terms of its political spread and while there were already many Muslim sects, this defeat further weakened their position. The rise of Islam in that region then came in the form of the Mughals who were descendants of the Mongols, more specifically of the Mongol ruler, Timor lane one of the fiercest Mongols of his time. The Mughals then took over the subcontinent and surrounding areas so as to again establish the stronghold of Islam. However their version of Islam was different as it involved various other influences from other religions as well in terms of cultures and traditions.

Therefore as far as Baghdad is concerned, the severe attack on the city rendered it weak and susceptible to foreign control. But this also meant that the Mongols came into further contact with Muslims and in turn changed themselves in terms of the learning and the experience they gained from them in terms of Islamic education.


According to Steven Dutch (Dutch 1998):

"Iraq in 1258 was very different from present day Iraq. Its agriculture was supported by canal networks thousands of years old. Baghdad was one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which… [END OF PREVIEW]

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