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Islam's Forgotten Empire

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Salah ad-Din View Drop Down

Joined: 15-Apr-2011
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  Quote Salah ad-Din Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Islam's Forgotten Empire
    Posted: 06-Nov-2012 at 15:28
The region of Khwarezm had been known by that name at least as early as the 10th Century AD, and likely long before. It is possible that the name dates back to Sassanid Persian times. Khwarezm roughly corresponded with the modern country of Uzbekistan, just to the east of the Aral and Caspian seas. In early Islamic times its capital city - and possibly only city - was Urgench.

It's first inhabitants were steppe nomads of various tribes; Huns, Sarmatians, and Sogdians all lived near or in Khwarezm in the first few centuries AD. By the late 10th Century Khwarezm had fallen under the control of the Islamic Ghaznavid Dynasty. In 1041, however, it became a province of the rising Seljuk Sultanate.

In 1077 the Seljuks gave Khwarezm to Anush Tigin Gharchai, a mamluk of Turkish and probably Kipchak origin. Mamluks (known as ghulams in Persia) were "slave-soldiers", typically of nomadic Turkish origin. Enslaved by Islamic sultans or emirs in their early childhood, they were given an education in the Art of War - Furussiya. When they came of age they were enlisted in the ruler's army, and formed the heavy cavalry element of it's battle order. Elder mamluks generally became emirs or governors themselves, and so it was for Anush Tigin Gharchai.

Between the years 1077 and 1141, Khwarezm was ruled by descendants of Anush Tigin Gharchai. It was nominally an indepedent state, but could perhaps be viewed as a client-kingdom of the Seljukid Sultanate. In 1141, however, a joint Seljuk and Khwarezmian army was destroyed by the Kara Khitai, under Yelu Dashi. Allah ad-Din Aziz, grandson of Anush Tigin Gharchai, was forced to submit to the Kara Khitai Khaganate.

In 1156, the Seljuk Sultan Ahmad Sanjar was killed in a battle, and his sultanate was engulfed in anarchy. That same year, Il-Arslan succeeded Allah ad-Din Aziz, his father, as the ruler of Khwarezm under the Kara Khitai. Under Il-Arslan, Khwarezmian power increased and by the reign of his son Allah ad-Din Takash (1172 - 1200) they felt confident enough to challenge both the Kara Khitai and the Seljuks openly.

Allah ad-Din Takash was a charismatic leader and a talented general, and inflicted defeats on the Kara Khitai. Having declared an indepedent Khwarezmian state, he moved against the fragmented Seljuk Sultanate. In 1194, at an unnamed battle, he won a great victory over the Seljuks. The Seljuk sultan himself, Togrul the Third, fell under a storm of Khwarezmian saber-strokes as his army melted away in a panicked route. By the end of the 12th Century, the Khwarezmians had developed a reputation for fielding the most deadly heavy cavalry in all of Central Asia - if not all of the Dar al-Islam.

In 1200 Allah ad-Din Takash was succeeded by his son, Allah ad-Din Muhammad. It was Shah Muhammad who guided Khwarezm to her brief moment of glory. Taking advantage of the relative anarchy following the Seljuk collapse, he extended Khwarezm's territories far to the south. By 1205, he was ruling very nearly all of Iran, and had taken the title of Khwarezmshah - King of Khwarezm.

At its peak under Shah Muhammad, Khwarezm ruled effectively all of Central Asia from the eastern borders of Iraq to the western borders of India. Both settled Persian cities and wild Turkish tribes owed allegiance to the Shah, and sent contingents of soldiers and warriors to serve in his impressive army. Khwarezm was a very highly militarized state; much of the Persian artwork of the early 13th Century celebrates the Khwarezmian Army - particularly their famous heavy cavalry.

The Khwarezmian Empire reached its highest point in 1212, when Shah Muhammad conquered its former rulers, the Kara Khitai Khaganate. But the fires of Khwarezm's triumphs, however brightly they burned - were about to be snuffed out in a quick and decisive fashion, by the most brutal conquerors of them all.
It is a matter of opinion as to whether Khwarezm's greatest Shah, Allah ad-Din Muhammad was incredibly brave or incredibly stupid (the two have rarely been mutually exclusive). Had he known the fates that befell countries who showed insolence to Genghis Khan, it is very likely he would have behaved differently when a band of Mongolian merchants arrived in the Khwarezmian city of Otrar in 1218.

Suspecting they were spies sent by the Khan, the governor of Otrar executed the Mongols. When Genghis Khan expressed his outrage, Shah Muhammad condoned his governor's actions. It was to prove a fatal mistake.

In 1220, Genghis Khan began his invasion of Khwarezm, riding at the head of an army of 200,000 Mongols. Their ranks were swelled by local Turkish tribesmen who had resented the Kharezm-Shahs for past defeats.

The Khan's army moved so quickly, Shah Muhammad did not have time to form a force that could effectively oppose it. He fled to the west, leaving his Kingdom to its fate. Across Khwarezm soldiers and local militias attempted to resist the Mongols, but did not manage to stop or even slow down their murderous advance on the finest cities of the Empire, Samarkand, Bukhara, and even the Khwarezmian capital of Urgench. Each was sacked by the Mongols, and its inhabitants put to the sword. Some historians go as far as to say that the invasion of Khwarezm was the most brutal war the Mongols ever undertook; they effectively commited a genocide.

Shah Muhammad fled in shame and grief to an obscure island in the Caspian Sea, where he died in exile later that year. In the meantime, his son Jalal ad-Din Mangubirdi attempted to organize Khwarezmian resistance against the Mongols. Too late to save any of the Empire's cities, he attempted to flee into India with an army of 5000 heavy cavalrymen.

Jalal ad-Din's army was attacked, enveloped, and destroyed by that of the Mongols along the banks of the Indus, in 1221. Less than 700 Khwarezmians escaped, including Jalal ad-Din himself. He escaped a detachment of Mongol pursuers only by jumping off a high cliff over the Indus, and swimming to the other side of the River. Genghis Khan, impressed by this display of courage, is said to have remarked "fortunate is the father of such a son!"

Jalal ad-Din, accompanied by only a small retinue of Khwarezmian survivors, fled into exile in Dehli. Ashamed at his defeat, he revoked the title of Shah but still allowed himself to be called a Sultan. He received word not long afterwards that his family had been captured by Genghis Khan, and executed by being drowned in the Indus. His eldest child had only been 8 years old.

Jalal ad-Din spent three years in India, gathering support and plotting to retake his father's kingdom.
Jalal ad-Din returned to Khwarezm in 1224. He found his people - those who survived - filled with hatred of the Mongols, and it did not take him long to gather a large army bent on conquest and revenge. He declared a revived Khwarezm state, but it only lasted a year before he was again defeated by a Mongol army, this time in the Alborz Mountains.

Jalal ad-Din and his small army proved frustratingly hard to destroy. He and his men became nomadic horse-warriors; those who still had wives and children living brought them with them. The Khwarezmian kingdom became, if only for a short time, a state on the move.

Late in 1225 Jalal ad-Din again recreated a Khwarezmian state, settling his people in Tabriz in Azerbaijan, along the western shores of the Caspian Sea. Here, he had a set of hostile neighbors including the Christian Kingdom of Georgia, and the final remant of the Seljuk Sultanate - the Sultanate of Rum. Jalal ad-Din had proven to be a charismatic leader, who believed in the survival of his father's kingdom; his men had proven to be tough and dedicated survivors.

Skirmishing took place between the Khwarezmians and the Georgians, which finally erupted into a short war. It turned out to be one of the few successful campaigns the courageous yet hapless Sultan of Khwarezm ever fought. At some point in 1226, he and his men took the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and destroyed it in an orgy of looting and destruction.

After ravaging Georgia, Jalal ad-Din should have quit while he was ahead. But instead, he led his Khwarezmians in a raid through Armenia, skirmishing with both Seljuk and Ayyubid soldiers. By 1229, he was attacking al-Jazirah (Mesopotamia). But the next year, he was crushingly defeated by Sultan Kayqubad the First of the Sultanate of Rum, at the Battle of Yassi Chemen.

After Yassi Chemen, Jalal ad-Din fled to Diyarbakir, but here, in 1231, he was murdered. Some accounts say that his killer was a Seljuk or Hashashin, others claim he died in a skirmish with Kurdish bandits. His legacy was a mixed one. Proud, impetuous, and famously courageous, it is hard to judge whether he was an incompetent general, or if he just had extraordinarily bad luck. Either way, his personal valor and belief in his people could never be denied.

The story of the Khwarezmians did not end with the death of Jalal ad-Din, however. If anything, their most painful defeats and unexpected adventures still laid ahead.
Around the same time that Jalal ad-Din was killed, the remnants of the Khwarezmians were driven out of Tabriz by the Mongols. These Khwarezmians joined up with those who had survived the defeat at Yassi Chemen, and formed a mercenary company.

After the death of Jalal ad-Din, no single leader of the Khwarezmians is mentioned in history. Apparently they were led by family and tribal heads, and were united out of a common sense of loyalty to Jalal ad-Din and his memory.

For the better part of a decade, the Khwarezmians spent their time pillaging settlements in Armenia, Syria, and Iraq, attacking Seljuk holdings with a special vengeance and loathing. During this time period, they came to call themselves by their Arabic name: the Khwarezmiyyas.

In the early 1240's, the Ayyubid Sultan Salih Ayyub called upon the Khwarezmiyyas to support him in a war against a pretender to his throne, his own uncle Salih Ismail. The wild Iranian mercenaries proved impossible to control, however, and apparently on a whim attacked Jerusalem in July of 1244. As agreed by the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil, Jerusalem was currently in the hands of Frankish Crusaders.

On August 23rd of 1244, Jerusalem surrendered to the Khwarezmiyyas, who proceeded to occupy the Holy City and sack its Christians shrines and cemetaries. They transferred the city to Ayyubid hands. Jerusalem was ruled by a Muslim country ever afterwards until the 20th Century.

Later, in October of 1244 the Khwarezmiyyas were intrusmental to the Ayyubid victory over a mixed Muslim and Christian force at La Forbie, to the north of Gaza. It was the largest massacre of Christian knights to take place since Hattin in 1187, and it deepened the bitterness between the Khwarezmiyyas and the Crusaders. The sack of Jerusalem and the Ayyubid victory at La Forbie triggered the unsuccessful Seventh Crusade.

As unrealible as friends as they were dangerous as enemies, the Khwarezmiyyas quickly fell afoul of their Egyptian employers. By 1246, they were in revolt against the declining Ayyubid state, but were crushingly defeated by Ibrahim al-Mansur. Those who survived were absorbed into the ranks of Egypt's mamluks, who were to soon enjoy a period of turbulent glory themselves.
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Ollios View Drop Down

Joined: 22-Feb-2011
Location: Diyar-ı Rum
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  Quote Ollios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Nov-2012 at 22:49
I agree, Khwarazmian Empire is not well known as much as Seljuk.

One of the stars in the presidential seal of the Republic of Turkey symbolizes them

Edited by Ollios - 07-Nov-2012 at 22:53
Ellerin Kabe'si var,
Benim Kabem İnsandır
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