Monday, August 1, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Bukhara | Fall of the Citadel

A few days after his Appearance In The Friday Mosque, Chingis visited another mosque outside the city walls. From the pulpit of this mosque he ordered that all the city’s wealthiest people be brought before him. Two hundred and eighty people were produced, 190 from the city itself and ninety merchants from other cities who happened to be in Bukhara at the time. He then harangued these assembled worthies: 
O People know that you have committed great sins, and the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you. 
This is probably the source of the “I am the Scourge of God” declaration attributed to Chingis Khan which pops up in so many later accounts of the Mongol invasion of Mawarannahr. But did Chingis actually make this speech? Other contemporary sources, al-Athir for example, make no mention of it, although such a dramatic reproof of the citizens of Bukhara could hardly have escaped their notice. This leads later commentators to conclude that Juvaini inserted this speech simply to spice up his narrative. Barthold, after examining all the available sources, concludes that Juvaini’s account of the speech “is quite beyond belief.” 

Juvaini and al-Athir do agree, however, that Chingis ordered the assembled notables to cough up much of their wealth. “There is no need to declare your property that is on the face of the earth; tell me of that which is in the belly of the earth,” he told them, apparently meaning he wanted them to reveal whatever possessions they hidden—perhaps buried—from him. To the most important of the merchants he assigned a Mongol or Turk overseer whose job it was to pry their wealth out of them. Juvaini claims, however, that as long as the merchants willingly handed over their possessions these heavies did not “did not torment them by excessive punishment or demanding what was beyond their power to pay.” 

Then each morning more merchants were herded into an audience hall where Chingis harangued them, demanding that they turn over their riches to him. Of special interest to Chingis were the merchants who had dealt in the silver and goods plundered from the Mongol trade caravan at Otrār. As we have been the Khwarezmshah had deposed of his share of the loot to Bukharan merchants, and they were now brought to account and made to produce their ill-gotten gains. The arm of Chingis Khan was long indeed. 

Not everyone in Bukhara acquiesced to the Mongols’ roughshod treatment of their city. The afore-mentioned Jalal-al-Din Ali b. al-Hasan Zaidi, one of the leading imams of the city, and his son objected to the treatment meted out to prisoners and the rape of women by Mongol soldiers. A brawl ensued and both the imam and his son were killed. Others who protested, included the judge Sadr al-Din Khan and Majd al-Din Masud, brother of the Khwarezmshah’s vizier Nizam al-Mulk, were also slain. But these were exceptions. Most inhabitants of the occupied city had no choice but to submit to the Mongols. Except, of course, for Khökh Khan and his 400 men who remained holed up in the Citadel. 

Twelve days after the Mongols had arrived in the city Chingis decided to deal with the diehards in the Citadel. Juvaini would have us believe that in order to flush these remaining men Chingis ordered the surrounding quarters be put to the torch. Within days much of the city, with the exception of places and mosques constructed of baked bricks, had burned to the ground. It is not clear why the entire assembled Mongol army could not deal with 400 men, making such a drastic expedient necessary. Later commentators would suggest that the fire which consumed the city started accidentally while the city was being plundered and quickly spread through the districts made up mostly of wooden buildings. In any case, the fire did not phase the defenders of the Citadel. The Mongols set up mangonels and began heaving huge stones into the Citadel; the defenders responding by flinging out pots of burning naphtha. The Citadel was soon “like a red-hot furnace fed from without by hard sticks thrust into the recesses, while from the belly of the furnace sparks shoot into the air,” claimed Juvaini. Using the local citizenry as human shields the Mongols stormed the walls. The fight went on for days. The Khökh Khan “who in bravery would have born the palm from lions, engaged in many battles: in each attack he overthrew several persons and alone expelled a great army.” All to no avail. Finally the last defenders of the Citadel were “drowned in the sea of annihilation.” 

For reasons which commentators, including Juvaini, do not make entirely clear, Chingis now decided upon a wholesale purge of the already defeated and burned city. Of the Qangli Turks within the city “no male was spared who stood higher than the butt of a whip” and their womenfolk (“slender as the cypress”) and children were sent into slavery. The remaining men and women (of the latter, both “ugly and beautiful,” Juvaini dutifully notes) were driven out onto the surrounding plains and what remained of the city and its walls were leveled. The healthy males, both adults and youths, were dragooned as levies for the upcoming siege of Samarkand. The remaining citizenry retired to surrounding villages, as nothing remained of their city. 

One man who escaped from the carnage in Bukhara eventually ended up in Khorasan. Here he was questioned about the Mongols and the fate of Bukhara. His words, as recorded by Juvaini, have often been repeated: “They came, they sapped, they burnt, they slew, they plundered and they departed.” Juvaini, who knew his way around words, agreed that “in the Persian language there could be nothing more concise than this speech.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | The Fall of Bukhara

Chingis and his army arrived at Bukhara in February or March of 1220 and camped before the gates of the citadel. The number of defenders inside the city is disputed: Juzjani says there were 12,000 calvary; Juvaini says 20,000 “auxiliary“ troops from the Khwarezmshah’ army; and Nasawi claims 30,000. Among those leading the forces holed up in the city were Ikhtiyar al-Din Kushlu, the Grand Equerry of the Sultan; Hamid Pur, a Khara Khitai taken prisoner by the Sultan in 1210 who later joined his army; a commander by the name of Inānch Khan, and a certain Khökh Khan (Blue Khan), also known as Gürkhan (not, of course the Gürkhan of the Khara-Khitai, who had died in 1214). This Khökh Khan was a Mongol who had earlier deserted to the cause of the Khwarezmshah and achieved a position of some prominence in Bukharan society. Later historians would float the wild rumor that this Khôkh Khan, or Gür Khan, was none other than Jamukha, Chingis’s bosom buddy as a young man (they had slept together under the same blanket for two years, according to the Secret History) and later his arch-nemesis, who had somehow escaped from Mongolia only to pop up again here in Bukhara as the perennial thorn in Chingis’s side. Jamukha did hold the title of Gürkhan (“Universal Ruler) and this may have led some to confuse him with this Mongol deserter who had assumed the same moniker. As the Secret History make perfectly clear, however, Jamukha had been executed by Chingis’s order back in 1205. Whoever Khökh Khan was, he was not Jamukha. 

Surrounded by an army “more numerous than ants or locusts,” it did not take long for these commanders to conclude that they did not want to stay and defend what now appeared to be a doomed city. Three days after the arrival of the Mongols they led their troops (20,000, according to Juvaini) out of the city gates. Juvaini adds that numerous inhabitants of the city decided to take their chances with the bolting soldiers. They finally managed to battle their way through the Mongol cordon and flee south. These escapees from the city hoped to reach the Amu Darya River and cross over to the supposed safety of Khorasan, where the Khwarezmshah was thought to be gathering an army to finally confront the invaders. Mongol detachments sent in pursuit harried them all the way to the Amu Darya. Almost all of the absconders were hounded down and massacred. Hamid Pür was caught and killed before he reached the river. Only a handful of men led by the Inānch Khan managed to cross the river and escape. Thus was the ignominious end of the men the Khwarezmshah had tasked with the defense of Bukhara. 

Khökh Khan and 400 die-hard troops who had refused to abandon the city remained holed up in the Citadel, but the remaining inhabitants of the Bukhara had no choice but to forfeit the rest of their their city. A judge by the name of Badr a-Din led a delegation sent to negotiate the surrender. On the 10th, or the 16th, of February, depending on whose account we believe, Chingis Khan made a triumphal entry into the hitherto noble city of Bukhara. He and his son Tolui rode their horses into the big Friday Mosque, where Tolui dismounted and ascended the minbar, or pulpit. According to Juvaini Chingis then asked if this was the palace of the Khwarezmshah; he was informed the imams in attendance that it was the House of God. He too then dismounted and climbed up onto the pulpit. Although it may have been the House of God, he had more earthly concerns. The Mongols’ horses were hungry and must be fed, he ordered. The city’s granaries were opened and the grain dispensed for horse feed. Chingis’s men dragged the cases which were used to store Qurans out of the mosque, dumped out the sacred books, and used them as feeding troughs for their horses. Their horses having been seen to, they ordered up wine and dancing girls for their own entertainment. Soon the mosque rang with the sound of Mongol songs bellowed by the celebrating inebriates. 

Juvaini, although a scribe in pay of one of Chingis’s descendants, was a Sunni Muslim himself, and he could not keep a note of disapproval out his account of these carryings-on. Hitherto dignified imams, sheiks, and sayyids, he tells us, were made to look after the Mongol horses while their owners partied. When the bacchanalia was over the Mongols rode away, trampling under the feet of their horses the leaves of the Qurans which had been scattered around the courtyard of the mosque. At this point, an imam named Jalal-al-Din Ali b. al-Hasan Zaidi, “chief and leader of the sayyids of Transoxiania . . . famous for his piety and asceticism,” turned to an imam named Rukn-ad-Din Imamzada, “one of the most excellent savants in the the world,” and lamented, “ . . . what state is this? That which I see do I see it in wakefulness or in sleep, O Lord?” Apparently all of which he had just seen seemed like a nightmare to him. His companion replied, “Be silent: it is the wind of God’s omnipotence that bloweth, and we have no power to speak.” The wind was not about to abate, and for many in Khwarezmia the nightmare was just beginning.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | March to Bukhara

While the Siege of Otrār was in progress Chingis Khan and his youngest son Tolui led the main Mongol army southwest to Bukhara. No mention is made in any of the sources about crossing the Syr Darya, usually an intimidating operation, which leads Barthold to opine that the river was frozen over by the time the Mongol army reached it and that they crossed over on the ice. This could have occurred no earlier than late November or early December. The first major town the Mongols encountered south of the Syr Darya was Zarnuq. “When the king of planets raised his banner on the eastern horizon [at sunrise, to the more prosaic-minded],” Chingis and his army appeared before the city walls, according to Juvaini. The inhabitants retired into the Citadel, closed the gates, and at first were determined to resist the Mongol attack. A man named Danishmand (danishman means “consultant”), either a commander of one of the Turkish auxiliary units or a Khwarezmian trader who had attached himself Chingis’s army, was sent into the city to talk some sense into the local panjandrums. After they threatened him with bodily harm, he shouted at them: 
I am . . . a Moslem and a son of a Moslem. Seeking God’s pleasure I am come on an embassy to you, at the inflexible command of Chingiz-Khan, to draw you out of the whirlpool of of destruction and the trough of blood . . . If you are incited to resist in any way, in an hour’s time your citadel will be level ground and the plain a sea of blood. But if you listen to advice and exhortation with the ear of intelligence and consideration and become submissive and obedient to his command, your lives and property will remain in the stronghold of security. 
After this verbal blast the local dignitaries thought it wise to surrender. But they insisted that Danishmand be held hostage while they went out to negotiate terms with Chingis. If any of them were harmed it would mean Danishmand’s head. First they sent forth a delegation with gifts for the Mongol potentate. Chingis did not appreciate this gesture. He dispatched a message to the city fathers telling them to quit wasting time and to appear in person before him immediately. Receiving this summons “a tremor of horror appeared on the limbs of these people” and they presented themselves to Chingis forthwith. Without further ado he accepted their surrender and then ordered all the inhabitants to vacate the city. During a headcount young men were singled out and drafted as levies for siege work in the anticipated attack against Bukhara. Then while the people of Zarnuq were encamped on the the plains outside the city the citadel was leveled. Juvaini does not specifically say the abandoned city was looted, but presumably it was. Still, the inhabitants had escaped with their lives and whatever personal possessions they had managed to keep out the hand of the Mongols. After the invaders left they were free to return to what remained of their city. The relatively benign fate of Zarnuq led Chingis’s soldiers, perhaps Turkish auxiliaries, since the words are Turkish, to nickname the town Qutlugh-Baligh (“Fortunate” or “Blessed” Town). 

To reach Nur, the next big town before Bukhara, the Mongol army had to cross a fearsome stretch of the waterless Kyzyl Kum Desert. Normally this would have been a daunting if not impossible march for a large army, but a Turkmen caravan man in Zarnuq, apparently with a grudge of his own against the Khwarezmshah or in return for coin of the realm, showed Chingis a secret road from Zarnuq to Nūr, greatly facilitating the Mongol advance. Henceforth this route became known as the Khan’s Road (Juvaini tells us that he himself traveled this road years later, in 1251.) Again the belief of the Khwarezmshah’s advisors that his army would have an advantage over the Mongols because of their knowledge of local roads and terrain proved false. At least some elements of the local populace were proving to be more than willing to assist the invading Mongols. 

A Mongol commander by the name of Dayir led the Mongol vanguard to Nur. On the outskirts of town they stopped in some groves of fruit trees—now barren, as it was January—and camped. That night they cut down trees and used the wood to fashion scaling ladders. The next morning they rode up the city walls holding the scaling ladders in front of them The sudden appearance of this Mongol vanguard via a route thought to be known only to merchants caused the watchmen on the walls to mistake it at first for a trading caravan. As the horsemen got closer the watchmen saw the ladders and realized that that the mounted men were invaders. The city gates were thrown shut and the city fathers commenced debating among themselves what course of action to take. After much argument it was decided that they had no choice but to throw in the towel. An envoy was sent to Chingis Khan, who was still advancing across the desert with the bulk of his army. Accepting the city’s surrender, he ordering the city fathers to submit to his general Sübetei, who had already arrived at Nur in the wake of the vanguard. Sübetei herded the inhabitants out of town, allowing them to take along only “what was necessary for their livelihood and the pursuit of husbandry and agriculture, such as sheep and cows . . .” He further ordered that “they should go out on to the plain leaving their houses exactly as they were so that they might be looted by the army.” In return for this acquiescence the Mongols agreed not to inflict bodily harm on anyone. 

When Chingis Khan finally arrived in town he ordered the city’s inhabitants to cough up 1500 dinars, the same amount they paid in taxes to the Khwarezmshah each year. Half of this sum, we are told, was paid in women’s earrings. The fact that the locals still had dinars to pay, and women earrings to hand over, would seem to indicate that individuals had not been robbed of the possessions on their persons, even though the town itself had been sacked and looted. As usual, young men were dragooned as levies, although according to Juvaini only sixty were taken. 

Compared with the devastation the Mongols would later inflict on cities which resisted them, Nur, like Zarnuq, got off rather lightly, even if the women did lament the loss of their earrings. Both cities were essentially sideshows. By February of 1220 Chingis and his army were on the outskirts of Bukhara, and the main event was about to begin.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mesopotamia | Loveland

Read the Mesopotamian’s Love Letter To An Old Flame.
 The Mesopotamian

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Otrār Besieged

From their rallying point in the Seven River Region the armies of Chingis Khan descended upon the city of Otrār. As noted, Nasawi wrote that the Khwarezmshah sent 20,000 horsemen to defend the city. Juvaini on the other hand claimed that the Khwarezmshah sent a commander named Qaracha Khass-Hajib to Otrār with 10,000 men and had also sent 50,000 troops from his auxiliary armies. In any case. it appeared at first glance that the city was well-defended. The Gāyer Khan had strengthened and reenforced the walls of the the Rabad (outer city, the Shahristan (walled inner city), and the Ark, or citadel, and had laid in a vast store of weapons. Despite all this when he climbed the city wall to view the arrival of the Mongol army, he “bit the back of his hand in amazement” at the “tossing sea of countless hosts and splendid troops” arrayed before him, according to Juvaini. The entire multitude may have numbered 150,000 men. 

The siege of Otrār probably begin in September of 1219. Chingis realized early on that his entire army was not needed to take Otrār, and he may have not wanted to give the other cities of Transoxiania more time to prepare their defenses. After the city was surrounded and no escape possible for its defenders he decided to split up his army. Several tümen, including a tümen of Uighur auxiliaries (a division numbering 10,000 each) of troops), under the command of his two middle sons Chagatai and Ögedei were ordered to stay and continue the siege of Otrār. His oldest son Jochi and several tümen were dispatched down the Syr Darya toward Jand and other cities. Half a tümen proceeded up the valley of the Syr Darya to Khojend and Fanakat. Chingis himself and his youngest and perhaps favorite son Tolui would lead the main body of the army to Bukhara, the city which rivaled Samarkand as the most important in Transoxiana. 

There were soon signs of rifts among the city’s leadership. After the Khwarezmshah had seized control of Otrār in 1210 city or early 2011 he had executed the father, uncle, and various other relatives of a prominent local official named named Badr al-Din al-Amid. Despite the transgressions of his family members Badr al-Din al-Amid had remained on as the civil governor of the city. He nursed a grudge against the Khwarezmshah, however, and he was only too eager to avenge the murder of his relatives by siding with the Mongols who now appeared at the city’s walls. He may have also realized he was buying his way out of a doomed city. Intimately familiar with the political situation in Transoxiania, he was able to give Chingis detailed intelligence about the fault lines in the Sultan’s court, including dirt about the feud between the Sultan and his mother and the military party she headed. Chingis would later put this information to good use. Also, it will be remembered that one of the proposals given by the Khwarezmshah’s military council had been to allow Chingis into Transoxiana and then use the defenders’ supposedly superior knowledge of the the local countryside to corner and ambush his troops. This advantage quickly evaporated as Chingis received intimate knowledge about the roads and conditions in the countryside from Badr al-Din al-Amid and other Muslim collaborators. As Barthold points out, “The strategic plans of Chingiz-Khan and their brilliant execution prove that the geographical conditions were well known to him.” 

For four months the battle raged before the walls of Otrār. As it become increasingly obvious the city would never escape from the noose the Mongols had thrown around it the military commander Qaracha Khass-Hajib advised surrender. Gāyer Khan refused, knowing full well that given his role in The Plundering Of The Mongol Trading Caravan and the execution of Chingis’s emissary he could expect no quarter from the Mongols. To surrender was to die. Instead he argued: “‘If we are unfaithful to our master [the Sultan], how shall we excuse our treachery, and under what pretext shall we escape from the reproaches of Moslems?” 

Juvaini’s account of what happened next is muddled. Apparently one night Qaracha Khass-Hajib opened the Sufi-Khana Gate to the city and sent some of his forces outside the walls to do battle with the Mongols. That night the Mongols somehow entered by the same gate and managed to take Qaracha Khass-Hajib prisoner. Apparently now that he was in the hands of the Mongols he and some of his officers attempted to switch allegiance and throw in their lot with the besiegers. Unfortunately for Qaracha Khass-Hajib, the Mongols took a dim view of such expedient, self-serving behavior on the battlefield. “Thou has been unfaithful to your own master in spite of his claims on thee on account of past favors. Therefore neither can we expect fidelity of thee.” Qaracha Khass-Hajib and his companions were then introduced to the Destroyer of Delights. There is no mention by Juvaini if they were tortured before their executions or how they died. He says only that he and his companions managed to “attain to a degree of martyrdom.” 

Both the outer and inner sections of the city were overrun by the Mongols. The entire populace was herded outside the walls ”like a flock of sheep” and the now-empty city looted by the victorious Mongols and their auxiliaries. If Gāyer Khan had harbored any remaining doubts about fighting on against the Mongols the fate of Qaracha Khass-Hajib must have squelched them. He and 20,000 of his men retreated behind the walls of the Ark (citadel) and prepared to fight “as long as one of them had breath in his body.” They did not go down easily. “They set their hearts upon death and having bid themselves farewell sallied forth fifty at a time and spitted their bodies upon spears and swords.” They got their wish for martyrdom but not before inflicting serious damage. Even Juvaini admits that “many from the Mongol army were slain.” 

After a month of vicious fighting only Gāyer Khan, two of his bodyguards, and members of his harem remained alive. They took final refuge on the roof of the Citadel. The Mongols had strict order to take Gāyer Khan alive. They killed his bodyguards and Gāyer Khan finally shot the last of his arrows. His women then handed him bricks which he hurled down on his tormenters. Finally even these were exhausted. In light of his eventual fate he would have been well advised to commit suicide by jumping off the top of the Citadel. Instead, he allowed himself to be captured and bound in heavy chains. Eventually he was taken to Samarkand for his inevitable meeting with the Destroyer of Delights, the details of which will be related later. The Citadel was demolished and the walls of the city completely razed. Many of the common people of the city were rounded up and made to serve as levies in upcoming battles. Artisans among the populace were ordered to practice their crafts for the benefit of their new Mongol overlords. Thus the deaths of the 450 merchants in the Mongol trade caravan and the execution of Chingis Khan’s emissary to Gāyer Khan were avenged. 

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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Ride to Khwarezmia

Back in Mongolia Chingis had convened a Khuriltai to plan the invasion of Khwarezm. He was not one to ride off half-cocked. His anger over the murder of his envoy to Otrār had 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 he was still capable of putting half as million or so soldiers into the field. Chingis organized the invasion of Khwarezm in the same step-by-step methodical way he had attacked and finally defeated the Jin in northern China. Leaving the Mongolian Plateau in the spring of 1219, he and his assembled army crossed the passes through the Mongol Altai and dropped down into the upper basin of the Irtysh River, on the northern side of the Zungarian Depression. On the rich grassland straddled the Irtysh he and his men spent the summer fattening their horses. They no doubt also took time to engage in huge hunts for wild game which not only provided food but also served as training exercises for his troops. By the early autumn, when the grass began to yellow, commanders and men were familiarized with each other and their horses were fattened and well-rested. The march west began. 

Most accounts imply, even if they do not state outright, that his entire army proceeded en masse to the western end of the Zungarian Basin. (According to one alternative account, Chingis divided his army into two wings, one led by his son Chagatai which would take a northerly route via the Zungarian Basin and another under the command of his son Jochi which would take a southerly route through the Tarim Basin. ) Leaving the bottom of the basin, they rode through the Bor Steppe and by Lake Sayram, areas which as we have seen were in the domains of Ozar Khan and now his son Siqnaq Tegin, and then crossed over the Borohogo Range via the Ak-Tasi Pass. 
Lake Sayram
Then via switch-backed trails they dropped down the great ramparts on the western side of the Borohogo Range into the Ili Valley. . . Continued.