In the thirteenth century, the Mongols were conquering the world. Under Genghis Khan, they had spread over most of Asia, including all of modern day China, and were poised to conquer the Middle East.
The Mongols were impressive warriors. At a time when the typical European army was made up mostly of untrained masses of peasants, the Mongols were a disciplined and well-trained fighting force. In pursuit of achieving the goals of Genghis Khan, his armies razed most of the major cities of Asia to the ground, leaving pyramids of human skulls in their wake. Even domestic animals were usually slaughtered, so as to leave nothing of value for what few people escaped. The Mongols were pragmatic: they realized that the only means by which they could control populations by which they were outnumbered a hundred or more to one was by terrorizing them. Only those who surrendered peacefully were left unmolested.
In 1258, one of the grandsons of Genghis Khan, Hulegu Khan captured Baghdad and slaughtered 250,000 of its inhabitants—essentially every man, woman and child, and burned the city to the ground. He also destroyed the region’s irrigation system and turned the center of Muslim civilization, what had been known as the fertile crescent, into a bleak, barren desert.
The only people left alive were the few Christians who lived in
Following the destruction of
Qutuz then ordered his guards to arrest Hulegu’s ambassadors. Qutuz knew that the Mongols considered ambassadors to be untouchable. They always had treated those sent to them with respect and they expected theirs to be treated the same in return. To harm an ambassador was something the Mongols considered an unforgivable treachery. So, Qutuz commanded his guards to kill the Mongol ambassadors by cutting them in half at the waist. Afterwards, Qutuz decapitated them and put their heads on poles atop one of
Enraged, Hulegu Khan gathered his army and headed for
Qutuz realized this was just the opportunity he needed. He gathered his forces and advanced into
Their armies met at a place called Ain Jalut, Arabic for “the Spring of Goliath,” where legend said that David had slain Goliath thousands of years before. And so, on September 3, 1260 one of the most crucial battles in the history of the world was fought. Surprisingly, it is rarely mentioned in western civilization history classes, despite the fact that its significance for the survival and spread of western civilization ranks with the battles at
Instead, the Mongols were routed, the general Kitbuqa was captured and executed, and both Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East survived, while the Mongols went into decline and ultimately faded from history.