Post-classical history

Hülegü (d. 1265)

Mongol prince and founder of the Ilkhanate, the Mongol state in Persia. Hülegü was born around 1217, the son of Chinggis Khan’s youngest son Tolui.

In 1253 Hülegü’s elder brother, the Great Khan (Mong. qaghan) Mongke, dispatched him westward with an army to assume overall command of the Mongol forces operating in Persia and the Caucasus. Having largely annihilated the Ismā‘īlī Assassins (1256) and destroyed the ‘Abbāsid caliphate in Baghdad (1258), Hülegü entered Syria and captured Aleppo in January 1260. But in the spring he withdrew into Azerbaijan with the bulk of his army, and a smaller force left in Palestine under his general Kitbuqa was overwhelmed by the Egyptian Mamlûks at ‘Ayn Jâlût on 3 September 1260; Syria and Palestine were lost.

Hülegü was unable to avenge this defeat, owing to the disintegration of the empire following Mongke’s death (1259) and the outbreak in 1261 of war with his cousin Berke, khan of the Mongols of the Golden Horde. It was probably at this juncture that he established himself as virtually an autonomous ruler in Persia and Iraq, recognized by his brother, the new qaghan Qubilai (Kublai) in the Far East.

In 1262 Hülegü inaugurated a series of Ilkhanid overtures to the Latin West by writing to King Louis IX of France, urging concerted action against the Mamlūks. His envoy to Pope Urban IV reported his desire for baptism (c. 1263). Hülegü’s mother, Sorqaqtani, had been a Nestorian Christian, as was his principalwife, Doquz Khātūn. Nevertheless, he also manifested a marked interest in Tibetan Buddhism and remained attached to the shamanistic practices of his forebears until his death (8 February 1265).

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