Tuesday, 3 September 2013

" I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."

The Battle of Ain Jalut (or Ayn Jalut, in Arabic, the "Spring of Goliath") took place on 3 September 1260 between Muslim Mamluks and the Mongols in the southeastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, not far from Zir'in. The battle marked the high-water point of Mongol conquests, and was the first time a Mongol advance had ever been permanently beaten back in direct combat on the battlefield.

After previous battlefield defeats, the Mongols had always returned and avenged their loss, ultimately defeating their enemies. The Battle of Ain Jalut marked the first time they were unable to do so. The Mongol Ilkhanate leader Hulagu Khan was not able to advance into Egypt, and the Khanate he established in Persia was only able to defeat the Mamluks once in subsequent expeditions, briefly reoccupying Syria and parts of Galilee for a few months in 1300.

The Battle of Ain Jalut is also notable for being the earliest known battle where explosive hand cannons (midfa in Arabic) were used.[citation needed] These explosives were employed by the Mamluk Egyptians in order to frighten the Mongol horses and cavalry and cause disorder in their ranks. The explosive gunpowder compositions of these cannon were later described in Arabic chemical and military manuals in the early 14th century.

 The Mongols were again beaten at the First Battle of Homs less than a year later, and completely expelled from Syria.

Internecine conflict prevented the Mongols from bringing full power against the Mamluks to avenge the pivotal defeat at Ain Jalut. Berke Khan, the Khan of the Kipchak Khanate in Russia, had converted to Islam, and watched with horror as his cousin destroyed the Abbasid Caliph, the spiritual head of Islam. Muslim historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani quoted Berke as sending the following message to Mongke Khan, protesting the attack on Baghdad (not knowing Mongke had died in China): "He (Hulagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims, and has brought about the death of the Caliph. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."The Mamluks, learning through spies that Berke was both a Muslim and not fond of his cousin, were careful to nourish their ties to him and his Khanate.

After the Mongol succession was finally settled, with Kublai as the last Great Khan, Hulagu returned to his lands by 1262, and massed his armies to attack the Mamluks and avenge Ain Jalut. However, Berke Khan initiated a series of raids in force which lured Hulagu north, away from the Levant to meet him. Hulagu suffered severe defeat in an attempted invasion north of the Caucasus in 1263. This was the first open war between Mongols, and signaled the end of the unified empire.

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