chapter  15
14 Pages

Meet the Mongols: Dealing with Mamluk Victory and Mongol Defeat in the Middle East in 1260

On 13 February 1258, after less than a month of siege, Mongol troops led by the Ilkhanid sultan, Hulagu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, entered a virtually unprotected Baghdad. The city’s defeat had become certain after several desperate but ineffective manoeuvres left it with a garrison of only 10,000. Here is not the place to discuss the actual siege of the city; succinctly, great walls, weakened after decades of neglect due to underfunding and a lack of a military threat to the city, could not long withstand the constant bombardment of the numerous Mongol catapults or the attacks of other siege engines. After they failed there was little the tiny garrison could do to keep the Mongols from ravaging the place. An oft-quoted passage from the late thirteenth/early fourteenth-century Persian writer, Wassāf, describes the ruthlessness displayed by the invaders:

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 fear …. Beds and cushions made of gold and encrusted with jewels were cut to pieces with knives and torn to shreds. Those hidden behind the veils of the great harem were dragged …. through the streets and alleys, each of them becoming a plaything in the hands of a Mongol monster.2