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So Tolui’s sons are in power now. They’re the grandsons of Genghis Khan—Mongke, Hulegu, Khubilai and Arik Boke. (Otherwise known as Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.)
Mongke, as eldest, is the new Khan. He’s known as Mongke Khan- (rhymes with Donkey Kong.)
He decides he wants to conquer the city of Baghdad situated on the Tigris River. He puts his brother, Hulegu, in charge of that campaign because he’s the smartest warrior in the family.
Baghdad was founded in 762. It was the city of Scheherazade who told the legendary tales of the “Thousand and One Nights”. For 500 years the wealth of the Muslim world poured into the city where the Caliphs (see Caliphs) lavished it on palaces, mosques, schools, private gardens and public fountains. It had luxurious baths and overflowing bazaars. It was a center not only for Muslims, but also for Christians and Jews.
This was the prized city Hulegu worked to conquer and he mounted an attack on the Caliph. (See Caliph)
To make a long story short (too late!) Hulegu succeeds in conquering the city and capturing the Caliph and his male heirs. He has them executed, but Hulegu “allowed them the honor of being executed in the Mongol way–without bloodshed.” Instead they were wrapped in carpets or else sewn into sacks and kicked to death by the Mongol warriors or trampled by their horses.
It is interesting that no other non-Muslim troops would conquer Baghdad or Iraq again until American and British forces came in 2003.
In the meantime, Mongke Khan (DK) is micromanaging an invasion into the Sung Dynasty in China. For this project, he has assigned another brother, Khubilai. But Khubilai’s heart isn’t in it. He’s more of a city boy, party boy—not a warrior of the steppes. He won a couple of minor campaigns, but Mongke could see that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. He decided he’d conquer in China or die trying.
Spoiler alert! He died trying.
He left little brother Arik Boke in charge and took his armies east toward China. He was doing OK with the armies, crossing the Yellow River and so forth, but the weather got extremely hot (Mongols, like women, can’t stand hot weather) and on top of that many of the Mongols contracted dysentery and then other plagues spread. Mongke Khan was among those afflicted—he improved, but then suddenly died. It was 1259.
Back to square one again—-needing a new khan. Hulegu was content to stay in Baghdad. That left Khubilai and little brother Arik Boke to duke it out.
After about 12 pages Khubilai wins and is from then on known as
Hold the phone! Do you think that’s the same Kublai Khan that even you and I have heard of? Kublai Khan! Sometimes I think I’ve seen a fancy little apostrophe in there somewhere, but lo and behold I do believe we’re getting into our own cobwebby high school history world.
To be continued!