Showing posts with label Khwarezmshah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Khwarezmshah. Show all posts

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Uzbekistan | Khwarezm | Mizdakhan | City of the Dead

From Janpiq Qala we proceeded forty-eight miles as the crow flies downstream to the no-account city of Nukus, which I had visited before and certainly did not want to visit again. Hurrying through Nukus we crossed the Amu Darya River and drove about twenty-five miles southwest to the immense burial grounds of Mizdakhan. Apparently there was a settlement on this site as far back as the fourth century b.c. when Khwarezm was freeing itself from the Persian Achaemenid Empire. This original settlement was destroyed by fire around the end of the second century b.c. Another settlement existed here between the first and fourth centuries a.d. but it too was eventually destroyed by agents unclear. Around the second century b.c. a cemetery was established here and after the settlements disappeared the area eventually became devoted to burials. Between the fifth and eight centuries it became an important Zoroastrian burial site with many ossuaries containing bones which had been had stripped of their flesh at places like the Tower of Silence which I had visited earlier. There are also some Christian burials here dating to the seventh century. These probably involve members of the Melkite sect who had settled in Khwarezm. Interestingly they had apparently adopted Zoroastrian burial customs and interred the bones of their dead in ossuaries. 

In 712 a.d. the Islamic Arabs conquered the area, destroying many of the local Zoroastrian fire  temples and killing Zoroastrian priests. Zoroastrian burials continued until about the ninth century, however, indicating that the Arabs had not been able to immediately stamp out Zoroastrianism.  The first Muslim burials date to around the ninth century. From then on the necropolis grew exponentially. I have not seen any figures on how many tombs are in the necropolis, but there are certainly thousands and perhaps tens of thousands. Many people with the means to do so built mausoleums the size of houses.

Among the notables is the tomb of Shamun Nabi. According to legend the tomb of this well-known local holy man, like the Tomb of Khizr in Samarkand, continues to get longer each year. It is already over 50 feet long and supposedly still growing!
The seven-domed mausoleum of Shamun Nabi (click on photos for enlargements)
The ever-growing tomb of Shamun Nabi
Not far from the tomb of Shamun Nabi is the Mazlum Sulu Khan Mausoleum. This is especially interesting since it dates back to the time of the last Khwarezmshahs, either Tekesh (r. 1172–1200) or his son Mohammed (r. 1200–1220), at the end of the twelfth century or the beginning of the thirteenth. Thus it was quite new when the Mongols arrived in the area in the winter of 1220–1221. It is usually kept locked, but an old caretaker appeared out of nowhere and offered to open it up for my inspection. He did not speak English but we were able to communicate in Russian.  

The mausoleum is fairly unusual in that it is underground. It was a blistering 85º F outside but walking down the steps into the main room of the mausoleum was like entering an air-conditioned hotel room. The caretaker said it stays cool throughout even the hottest days of summer. The cupola over the underground room may have been destroyed during the Mongol invasion but it was later rebuilt and the mausoleum eventually became an important pilgrimage site. Still later it became a hangout for shamans. According to a legend retold by Khwarezm Qala Cognoscente David Richardson, the mausoleum is named after the daughter of an important local official, apparently back when the mausoleum was built: 
Mazlum Sulu Khan was supposedly the beautiful daughter of the governor of Mizdahkan. Despite being desired by all of the local eligible bachelors, Mazlum Sulu Khan was in love with a poor builder. Frustrated by the lack of a suitable groom, the governor foolishly announced that he would give his daughter’s hand to the young man who could build a minaret as tall as the sky in the space of one night. Naturally the poor builder succeeded in constructing the minaret, but when he came to the palace for the hand of his bride the following morning, the governor refused. The dejected young man jumped from the top of the minaret only to be followed by the beautiful and distraught Mazlum Sulu Khan. The heartbroken governor ordered that the minaret be destroyed. The young lovers were buried together and a mausoleum was constructed above their grave using the bricks from the ruins of the minaret.   
This, however, is supposedly only a legend, and it remains unclear for whom the mausoleum was actually built. But if it is just a legend then who is buried in the small tombs on which someone has placed artificial flowers? I tried to get more information from the caretaker, but bizarrely enough as soon as he found out I was an American he launched into a long monologue about the ex-boxer Mike Tyson. Unfortunately, my Russian was not up to grasping his point. This is the fifth or sixth time I have heard about Mike Tyson in Uzbekistan. Next to Obama he appears to be the best known American in the country. The only other person who comes close is Beyoncé. 
Entrance to the underground chamber
Underground chamber with a tomb decorated with flowers
Underground chamber with a tomb decorated with flowers
View of the dome over the underground chamber
Another tomb with flowers. Who is actually buried here is unknown.
Madrassa destroyed by Amir Timur when he swept through Khwarezm in1388. The bricks stacked in what looks like tiny ovoos adds a peculiarly Mongolian touch to the scene. 
City of the Dead:These are all tombs
City of the Dead
City of the Dead
City of the Dead
City of the Dead
Just a mile or so from the necropolis are the ruins of Gyaur Qala, not to be confused with the Gyaur Qala farther upstream on the Amu Darya. It was destroyed by Chingis Khan’s sons Ögedei and Chagatai in the winter of 1220-1221 either before or after they sacked the Khwarezm capital of Urgench, fifteen miles or so to the southwest. I would of course love to visit Urgench (now Konye Urgench) but it is on the other side of the border in Turkmenistan and I do not have a visa for Turkmenistan. 
Ruins of Gyaur Qala

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mongolia | Chingis Khan Rides West | March from Mongolia to the Realm of the Khwarezmshah

I posted earlier about the Death Of The Naiman Adventurer Khüchüleg. With Khüchüleg no longer in the picture, Chingis Khan was free to invade Khwarezmia and avenge the Deaths of His Envoys to Otrar. According to the Secret History of the Mongols, he announced:

I shall set out against the Sartaul people [Khwarezmians],
To take revenge
To requite the wrong
for the slaying of my hundred envoys with Ukhuna at their head . . .”

His anger over the murder of his envoys to the Khwarezmshah may have cooled, but his resolution to exact retribution had stiffened. His intelligence networks would have informed him that while the Khwarezmshah was inflicted by infighting among his family and court and by rising discontent among the populace of his empire, he was still capable of putting half as million or so soldiers into the field. It would not do to ride off half-cocked against such an enemy. Chingis organized the invasion of Khwarezmia in the same step-by-step methodical way he had attacked and finally defeated the Chin in northern China.

As the final preparation were being made to depart from Mongolia one of his wives, Yesüi Khatan, decided it was time to speak up. Yesüi Khatan seemed to hold a special place in the heart of Chingis Khan. She was a member of the Tatar tribe whom the Mongols had earlier defeated. He had first married her younger sister, but the latter soon intimated that her older sister Yesüi might be a better wife for Chingis. In the confusion following the defeat of the Tatars the older sister Yesüi had somehow disappeared. Chingis sent men to track her down and they eventually found her in the company of a man to whom she had been betrothed . . . Continued.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | The Khwarezmshah Prepares for War

Even before the arrival of the last Mongolian embassy led by Ibn Kafaraj Bughra the Khwarezmshah had sought the advice of his military and political advisors about what to do in the case of war with Chingis. Thus he himself had probably concluded that the massacre of the merchants in Otrār had made war inevitable. One of his military advisers, Shihab ad-Din Khiwaqi, counseled that the Khwarezmshah should concentrate his entire army on the banks of Syr Darya and confront the Mongol army in one huge battle before the Mongols had time to recover from their long march. The downside of this idea was the all of the Khwarezmshah’s generals, many of whom belonged to the Turkmen aristocracy loyal to his mother, would be gathered together in one place along with all of their soldiers. Their loyalty to the Sultan himself was by no means certain, and there was a very real possibility of a coup d’état by generals who would overthrow their command-in-chief. This proposal was dismissed. 

Another proposal was to allow the Mongols to enter Transoxiania uncontested and then, taking advantage of the defenders’ knowledge of the local countryside, ambush the invaders on numerous fronts. Still others advised abandoning Transoxiania to its fate and retreating south to Khorasan. The Khwarezmshah’s armies would then have to defend only the fords on the Amu Darya to keep the Mongols bottled up in Transoxiania north of the river. Others, the most pusillanimous of his counselors, argued that both Transoxiana and Khorasan were indefensible and that the Sultan and his armies should cross the Hindu Kush Mountains and seek refuge in India . . . Continued.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | The Khwarezmshahs

Ala al-Din Mohammad, the sultan who had ordered or acquiesced to the Murder Of The 450 Muslim Traders in Otrār, was the fifth of the Khwarezmshahs to rule Khwarezmia. His line began when the Seljuk Turks conquered the province of Khwarezm, the area encompassing the lower reaches of the Amu Darya River and its delta where flows into the Aral Sea. Starting in the 11th century, the Seljuks Turks, originally nomadic tribesmen of Inner Asia, had created a vast empire encompassing much of current-day Turkey, Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Turkmenistan. In the early 1040s they invaded Khwarezmia and after taking control of the province appointed a succession of military governors. In 1073 a Turkish slave-soldier named Anustigin was named governor and given the title of Tastar, or “Keeper of the Royal Washing Bowls”. In 1097 his son Arslantigin inherited the position and assumed the title of Khwarezmshah, thus initiating a line of rulers who would oversee the province of Khwarezm and later the Khwarezm Empire for the next 130 years. 

Arslantigin’s son Atsiz rebelled against his Seljuk overlords in 1141–42 and was defeated in battle, but managed to retain control of Khwarezmia while remaining a vassal of the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar. Around this time the Khara Khitai impinged on Khwarezm from the east and they like the Seljuks demanded tribute from the Khwarezmshah. Atsiz’s son Arslan became Khwarezmshah in 1156. A year later the great Seljuk Sultan Sanjar died and Seljuk power in the province of Khwarezm waned. The Khwarezmshah Atsiz still paid tribute to the Khara Khitai, but he had a much freer hand with the decline of the Seljuks and in 1158 he invaded Transoxiania, thus giving rise to the nascent Khwarezm Empire. An invasion of Khorasan, the former territory of the Seljuks (modern-day eastern Iran) was initially aborted, but clearly the Khwarezmshahs were becoming dominant players in Inner Asia during the latter half of the twelfth century. 

Arslan’s successor, Tekesh, pursued his father’s expansionist policies in northern Khorasan while continuing to recognize the suzerainty of the Khara Khitai. To aid in his wars of expansion in Khorasan and elsewhere he sought the aid of Kipchak, Oghus, and other tribesman who nomadized around the Aral Sea to the north of the province of Khwarezm. Most of these Turkmen still followed the ancient chthonic religions of the steppe and while they proved to be fierce and effective warriors they soon earned hatred of the Islamic peoples of Khorasan for their unbridled violence and cruelty. In 1192 Tekesh invested Rayy, one of the leading cities of Khorasan, and claimed much of the province for himself. In 1194 he defeated and killed one of the the last great Seljuk sultans, Toghrul III (r. 1174–1194), cementing his hold on large portions of Khorasan. Tekesh was planning an attack on the Abbasid CaIiphate in Baghdad, the defeat of which would have made him essentially the ruler of the Islamic geosphere, when he died in 1200. 

Tekesh’s son Ala al-Din Mohammad, the Khwarezmshah who would confront Chingis Khan, eventually turned on his Khara Khitai suzerains and attempted to rule Transoxiania independently. He continued his father’s takeover of Khorasan and expanded his empire into northern Afghanistan. In 1217, as we have seen, he attempted to realize his father’s dream of seizing the Caliphate for himself by invading Mesopotamia and its capital of Baghdad. This venture failed, but nevertheless as the year 1218 drew to a close the Khwarezmshah appeared to be the most powerful potentate in Inner Asia. Yet all was not well in the domains of the Sultan. First and foremost, off to the the east loomed the ominous figure of Chingis Khan and his Mongols. 

The Sultan had been warring with the Khara Khitai under the Gür Khan for much of his reign and had only managed to win a decisive battle against them in 1210. Then just one small wing of Chingis’s army under the command of Jochi had swept into the territories of the Khara Khitai and not only quickly defeated and scattered the Khara Khitai forces but had also managed to capture and kill the pretender-Gür Khan Khüchüleg. Now the nascent empire of Chingis Khan were coterminous with his own empire. To make matters even worse, Jebe and His Mongols were seen as the liberators of the Muslims in the western Tarim Basin, while he himself was hated by the Islamic people of Khorasan for the deprecations of the Turkmen unbelievers who had been recruited into the Khwarezmian army by his father and himself. He had also tried to unseat the Caliph in Baghdad, a Sunni Muslim, and replace him with a Shiite sayyed, Ala al-Molk Termedi, thus stoking age-old sectarian rivalries and earning him the enmity of the Sunni majority in his realm. Indeed, there were rumors that the Caliph in Baghdad, Nasir, had initiated contact with Chingis Khan, asking him to attack Khwarezmia and overthrow the Khwarezmshah. Presumably the Caliph did not consider the nomads from Mongolia a threat to the Abassid Caliphate itself. If this is indeed the case, then Nasir, the Abassid Caliph, had made a miscalculation of inestimable proportions. 

And then of course the Khwarezmshah had just overseen the murder of 450 Muslim traders in Otrār, an act which would not endear him to the powerful Islamic mercantile class in his domains, a group whose ambitions were at odds with those of his own to begin with. Then there were the Sufis, orders of mystically-minded Muslims whose networks permeated Inner Asia. According to one modern historian,
 . . . Sufi histories came to claim that it was their spiritual masters who had invited Chinggis Khan to invade and decimate the Muslim world. In their view it was only by weeding out the old corrupt Muslim order that the true and righteous form of Sufi Islam could flourish.
There were also the problems in his own court. The first and foremost was his mother, Terken Khatun. She was originally from one of the Turkmen tribes who nomadized around the Aral Sea north of Khwarezm. Juzjani claims she was the daughter of the Khan of Kipchaq; Nasawi says she came from the Yemek, another Turkmen tribe. Juvaini adds that she was an “A’jami”—a barbarian or someone of non-Muslim birth. In any case, the Khwarezmshah’s father Tekesh had apparently married her in an attempt cement his alliance with the Turkmen tribesmen he needed to prosecute his wars in Khorasan and elsewhere. Juvaini had a low opinion of Terken Khatun’s people:
 . . . mercy and compassion were far removed from their hearts. Wherever they passed by, that country was laid in ruins and the people took refuge in their strongholds. And indeed it was their cruelty, violence, and wickedness that brought about the downfall of the Sultan’s dynasty. 
It was this behavior that had earned their commander-in-chief, the Sultan, the hatred of the people of Khorasan. 

After the death of her husband and the ascension of her son as Khwarezmshah Terken maintained a fiefdom of her own and insisted on keeping her own separate court. Juvaini maintains that from this position of independence she, the Khatun (Queen), thoroughly dominated her son, controlling his finances and giving orders to officials he had appointed. Also, many of her fellow tribesmen had achieved high rank in the Khwarezmian army and their ultimate loyalty was to her and not her son. And if we are to believe Juvaini she indulged in “secret revelries,” although the prim and proper historian does not go into detail about this. It did not take Chingis Khan’s intelligence network long to sniff out this potential riff in the royal family and he would soon attempt to exploit it for his own purposes. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Catastrophe at Otrār

The governor of Otrār was a man named Inalchuq, the nephew of the Khwarezmshah’s mother, Turkān-Khātün. Perhaps because of his close relations with the Shah’s family he had been granted the lofty title of Gāyer Khan. Although accounts maintain that all 450 of the traders sponsored by the Mongols were Muslims, a Hindu merchant from India had also managed to attach himself to the caravan. This man had met Inalchuq previously, before he had become the Gāyer Khan and the governor of Otrār, and apparently he had not been impressed. Now this Indian merchant, who was in Juvaini’s words, “rendered proud by reason of the power and might of his own Khan [Chingis]”, addressed his old acquaintance in a condescending manner, calling him by his common name of Inalchuq instead of by his title. The proud governor was infuriated by the Indian’s haughty, patronizing behaviour, and Juvaini insinuates that he used this incident as a pretext to put the entire trade mission under house arrest and confiscate their merchandize. Other sources say nothing about the Indian merchant and say simply that Gāyer Khan coveted their merchandize and soon concocted an excuse to seize it. He decided that the merchants were in fact spies and then fired off a letter to the Khwarezmshah in which he accused them of engaging in espionage . . . Continued.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Emissaries and Trade Caravans

Having already received an Embassy from the Khwarezmshah and met with Traders from the Khwarezm Empire, Chingis decided to respond in kind by sending his own emissaries to the Sultan’s realm. He took a two-pronged approach. A diplomatic mission would make contact with the Khwarezmshah himself in hopes of establishing the peaceful relations necessary for further trade, and an officially sanctioned trading mission would demonstrate to the Khwarezmshah and his subjects just how how lucrative trading with Mongols could be. The three merchants who had just visited Chingis would accompany the Mongol-sponsored caravan of traders back to Khwarezm and presumably act as intermediaries. According to one account, the embassy was dispatched before the trading mission left for Khwarezm. Another maintains that the embassy left at the same time as the trading mission but then at some point en route hurried on ahead for a meeting with the Khwarezmshah himself. 

The leaders of the diplomatic embassy were three Muslim traders who were themselves from the domains of the Khwarezmshah: Mahmud, from somewhere in Khwarezm; Ali Khwajah from the city of Bukhara, and Yusuf Kanka from the city of Otrār. It is significant that these three men were nominal subjects of the Khwarezmshah but had now engaged themselves as agents of Chingis Khan. That Muslim traders like themselves would work for Chingis demonstrates the ever-widening gap between the ambitions of the Khwarezmshah and the interests of mercantile class of his own empire. As Silk Road traders they might well have considered their services available to the highest bidder, and it would seem that they were not hesitant about throwing their lot in with Chingis Khan, the rising power of the East. For Chingis’s part, he was no doubt eager to use their knowledge of trade networks, their language skills, and their familiarity with the social conventions of Inner Asian Muslims for his own purposes. The fact that they were Muslims obviously did not bother him at all. Since at least the time of the Baljuna Covenant he had dealt with Muslim traders and apparently interacted well with them (except of course for those who tried to cheat him). 

The three emissaries reached the court of the Khwarezmshah sometime in the spring of 1218. Some sources suggest that his court was in Bukhara at the time. The embassy, which did not involve itself in actual trading, did bring numerous gifts from Chingis Khan to the Khwarezmshah. These included a gold nugget “as large as a camel’s hump” which was so heavy it had to be carried in its own cart; ingots of various precious metals, walrus ivory from the northern shores of Asia which had somehow fallen into the hands of the Mongols; musk; and fine fabrics, including a material known as targhu, made from the wool of white camels, each length of which was worth fifty or more dinars

The Khwarezmshah deigned to accept the gifts and granted the three ambassadors a public audience where they relayed the messages sent by Chingis Khan. The Khwarazm Shah, they pointed out, must already know about the great victories of Chingis Khan in the East, including the subjugation of Northern China. The Mongol chieftain now controlled the eastern end of the Silk Road and the riches of the northern Chinese provinces. Likewise, Chingis Khan was fully aware that the Khwarezmshah’s many victories had made him the master of as vast swath of territory from the edge of the Iranian Plateau to the Tian Shan, an area which straddled the great trade routes connecting the Occident and Orient. Chingis was therefore proposing a peace treaty between the two powers and a normalization of trade relations which would allow trade and commerce to flourish between the two powers. Such a relationship, they pointed out, would be equally advantageous to both sides. The merchants added that if Khwarezmshah agreed to this proposal Chingis Khan would consider him “‘on a level with the dearest of his sons’” These men were merchants, not professional diplomats, and thus may not have fully realized how the Khwarezmshah would interpret this remark and what import it would have. 

The next day the Khwarezmshah called in Malmud of Khwarezm for a private interview. The Shah pointed out first that Malmud was a native of Khwarezm and thus nominally one of the his subjects. He then demanded to know the unvarnished truth about the conquests of Chingis Khan. Was it really true that he had conquered all of northern China? Malmud allowed that Chingis had taken the Central Capital of the Jin and subjugated large portions of China bordering on Mongolia. The Khwarezmshah countered with what was really bothering him. Even if he had conquered North China, the Khwarezmshah thundered, this gave Chingis Khan—who was after all an infidel whose true religious convictions were hazy at best—absolutely no right to call him, the mighty Khwarezmshah, the ruler of a great Islamic empire, his son. In the Khwarezmshah’s eyes “son” was synonymous with  “vassal” and the use of the word implied that Chingis Khan considered himself the Shah’s superior. Such an assumption was an outrage and the Shah was infuriated 

Frightened by the Khwarezmshah’s anger over this issue, the merchant quickly backtracked. While it was true Chingis Khan had conquered much of northern China his armies were vastly outnumbered by those of the Shah and he in no way way posed a threat to Khwarazm Empire and its mighty Sultan. Mollified by this flattery the Khwarezmshah finally agreed in principle to a peace treaty between the two powers. But he was not done with the merchant. Malmud must now agree to work as the Khwarezmshah’s spy in the court of Chingis Khan. Fearful for his life, Malmud quickly agreed to act a double agent and was given a precious jewel as advance payment of services to be rendered, thus sealing the deal. 

Armed with a document signed by the Khwarezmshah which apparently proposed a peace treaty but made no mention of trade relations, the merchant-emissaries started back to the court of Chingis Khan. Meanwhile the trade mission which Chingis had authorized was still on its way to Khwarezm. As mentioned, the embassy and the trade mission may have left together and the three emissaries had hurried on ahead of the slower-moving trade caravan. In any case, the caravan continued on to Otrār, one of the first major entrepôts in the Khwarezmshah’s empire. The members of the mission may not have been aware of the outcome of the diplomatic mission. If they were, they might well have assumed that the peace treaty proposal also sanctioned trade, or at least their safe conduct. This would lead to a fatal misunderstanding. The Khwarezmshah had no interest in either peace or trade. 

Chingis himself believed that trade in itself promoted peace, and that the trade mission would contribute to a mutually beneficial relationship between the Mongols and the Khwarezmshah. In a personal message for the Sultan which he sent with the traders he affirmed these beliefs: 
Merchants from your country have come among us, and we have sent them back in a manner that you shall hear. And we have likewise dispatched to your country in their company a group of merchants in order that they may acquire the wondrous wares of those regions; and that henceforth the abscess of evil thoughts may be lanced by the improvement of relations and agreement between us, and the pus of sedition and rebellion removed. 
The trade mission was a sizable undertaking. As an indication of how much importance Chingis placed on it, he ordered his sons and his top army commanders to each provide two or three men from their retinues to make up the party and to provide each of them with a balish of gold or silver as capital for trading ventures. A total of about 450 men were thus selected, all of them Muslims, since Muslims were much more experienced in the Silk Road trade than the Mongols and it was thought they would be better able to deal with their co-religionists in Khwarezm. From this it would appear that Chingis’s sons and army commanders already had sizable contingents of Muslims in their ranks, some of them from Islamic areas which Chingis had already conquered and others from Khwarezm who had already thrown in their lot with the Mongols. Along with the 450 merchants, who were presumable riding camels, the caravan had 500 pack camels laden with trade goods, including gold, silver, Chinese silk, targhu, as mentioned a fabric made from the wool of white camels; and various furs, including sable and beaver. Throw in camel men, cooks, and the usual assortment of hangers-on (religious pilgrims had a way of attaching themselves leech-like to such caravans) and we are probably looking at a string of a thousand or more camels.

The trade caravan was led by four men: Omar Khwajah Utrari (his name implies that he was from Otrār); Hammāl Marāghi; Fakhr al-Din Dizaki Bukhari (apparently from Bukhara); and Amin al-Din Harawi. At least two of these men were apparently from Khwarezm itself, demonstrating yet again that the Khwarezm mercantile class favored trade with the Mongols and vice-versa. As the Russian Orientalist Barthold points out, “the interests of [Chingis Khan] fully coincided with those of the Muslim capitalists.” He adds, however, that “There was not the same harmony between Muhammad’s [the Khwarezmshah] and the interests of the merchants of his kingdom.” This became painfully apparent when the caravan finally reached Otrār.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Chingis Khan and the Khwarezmshah

One ruler who could not help but take note of Chingis Khan’s sudden rise to power in the East was Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, the Sultan of the Khwarezm Empire, also known as the Khwarezmshah. The empire over which he reigned was by 1215 the most powerful state in Central Asia. Centered around the ancient province on Khwarezm on the lower valley of Amu Darya River—the Oxus of Antiquity—and the delta of the river where it flowed into the Aral Sea, the Khwarezmshah’s domains extended westward to the edge of the Iranian Plateau and south to the Persian Gulf, encompassing much of current-day Iran. HIs territories abutted Mesopotamia, home of the long-ruling ((750-1258) Abassid Caliphate whose ruler an-Nasir was the Caliph—the Commander of the Faithful—of the Muslim world. The Khwarezmshah had even launched an attack on the Abbasid Dynasty in an attempt to overthrow the Caliph an-Nasir and name one of his own nobles as “Commander of the Faithful”, thus making himself Islam’s most powerful figure. This venture had failed, but in 1215 he still posed a threat to the Abbasids. In the east he had defeated the Kara-Khitai, the remnants of the old Khitan Dynasty in China who after being overthrown by the Jin had migrated westward and founded their own state in Inner Asia, thereby extending his empire up the Amu Darya River valley into current-day Kyrgyzstan Thus in the northeast his empire had reached the ramparts of the Tian Shan, on the other side of which lie Uighuristan, now part of Chingis Khan’s burgeoning empire . . . Continued.