Post-classical history

Mongke (1209-1259)

Fourth great khan (Mong. qaghan) of the Mongols (1251-1259).

The eldest son of Chinggis Khan’s fourth son Tolui, Mongke participated in the Mongol campaigns in eastern Europe in 1236-1242 under the command of his cousin Batu. After the death of his rival, Great Khan Güyüg (1246-1248), Batu secured Mongke’s election as his successor, despite opposition from Güyüg’s family and other relatives. While Mongke concentrated on the Chinese front, he dispatched his brother Hülegü in 1253 to complete the conquest of Persia, which resulted in the overthrow of the ‘Abbāsid caliphate (1258) and the temporary conquest of Syria (1260). Mongke, who died on 11 August 1259 while besieging a Chinese fortress, was the last sovereign to be acknowledged throughout the empire until 1304, since his brother Qubilai, though victorious in the ensuing civil war, was never universally recognized.

The Franciscan friar William of Rubruck, who visited Mongke’s court, was sceptical about Nestorian Christians’ hopes of his conversion, observing that the great khan merely desired every confessional group to pray on his behalf. The Buddhists believed that Mongke favored them, while the Chinese annals of the Mongol era describe him as adhering to the shamanistic practices of his ancestors.

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