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Abaqa (on the white horse),
depiction from the 14th century

Abaqa Chan ( Mongolian ᠠᠪᠠᠬᠠ ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ Abaga Chan , German 'paternal uncle' , * February 1234 in Mongolia ; † April 1, 1282 in Hamadan ) was the second Mongolian Ilkhan of Persia (1265-1282).

Origin and early years

Abaqa was the eldest and favorite son of the first Ilchan Hulegü and the Yesuncin Chatun. His stepmother was the Keraitic princess Doquz-Chatun , who was a devotee of the Nestorian Christians . Under their influence, Abaqa was benevolent towards Christians, but also adhered to Buddhism and the shamanism of his ancestors.

Abaqa also took part in the great Hulegü campaign in western Asia (1256). When clashes between the Ilkhan and the Mongols of the Golden Horde under their Khan Berke began around 1261 , according to the Armenian chronicler Kirakos, Abaqa was sent to the east to collaborate with the Chagatan prince Alğu.


Seizure of power

When Hülegü died in February 1265, Abaqa exercised the governorship in Khorasan and Māzandarān . At that time he returned to take over power and was elected the new Ilkhan through the influence of Doquz-Chatun after his younger brother Yošmut's unsuccessful attempt to ascend the throne. His enthronement did not take place in any form until June 19, 1265 on the banks of the Čağan Na'ur (today Tuzlu Göl ) near Arak and was repeated five years later in the same place, as the Mongolian Great Khan Kublai did not confirm his succession until 1270.


In the months following his assumption of government, Abaqa redistributed the fiefs and governorships of his empire. Doquz-Chatun died in the summer of 1265 and her fellow Christian citizens mourned her. Shortly before his death, Hülegü wanted to take a Byzantine princess as his second wife and Emperor Michael VIII. Palaiologos sent him his illegitimate daughter Maria Despina Palaiologina in 1265 , who was accompanied by the Orthodox Patriarch Euthymius. However, she did not arrive in Persia until after Hülegü's death and was therefore married to the new ruler Abaqa. She was called Despina Chatun by the Mongols . After the death of Doquz-Chatun, she took over the protective role for the Christians. Some coins minted by Abaqa show the Christian cross and bear the legend in Arabic script In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the only God .

Wars against the Golden Horde and Baraq

The wars waged by Hülegü against the Golden Horde - who were allied with the Egyptian Mamluks - continued under Abaqa. At the end of 1265, his brother Yošmut won a victory over invaded troops of the Golden Horde under the command of Nogai. Abaqa then crossed the Kor , but withdrew on the news of the arrival of Berke Khan. The two armies were hostile to each other along the river until Berke's sudden death (early 1267); thereafter the late Khan's troops withdrew northwards. With Berkes successor Möngke Timur (ruled 1267-1280) a peace was made that lasted about ten years.

Abaqa used this armistice to stabilize the eastern border of his empire. According to the Persian historian Raschid ad-Din , whose work is an important source for the history of the Ilkhan, strong Chagatan troops under the command of Baraq invaded Khorasan in 1269 and defeated an army led by Abaqa's brother Tuebšin. The Chagatai Prince Tekuder, who once came to Persia under Hülegü and who was enfeoffed with part of Georgia , instigated his relative Baraq to waste. Tekuder wanted to march with his army across the Caucasus to unite with Baraq, but was caught beforehand. Then Abaqa moved further east and defeated the troops of Baraq near Herat on July 22, 1270, who died soon after his subsequent retreat. To prevent future such incursions as much as possible, Abaqa, taking advantage of subsequent unrest in Transoxania, devastated the city of Bukhara in January 1273 because it had served as a deployment and retreat area for the invaders. Nevertheless, the east of Abaqa's empire was regularly devastated by raids by Qaraunas troops, especially the province of Fars in 1278 . A campaign by Abaqa to Khorasan (1279) could only calm the situation in the eastern provinces for a short time. According to Vassaf, the people of Fars feared such looting every winter until the end of the reign of Abaqa's son Arghun (ruled 1284–1291).

Wars against the Mamluks and relations with European states

While Abaqa favored Christians and Buddhists, he was hostile to the Muslims living under his rule and sought to convert them. He fought the Egyptian Mamluks in continuation of the Hulegu campaigns with little success. Because he was engaged in the fight against the Golden Horde, he could not avenge the Mamluks invasion of Cilicia in 1266 , during which the Crown Prince Leon , the son of the loyal vassal king of Ilchanes, Hethum I , was kidnapped. Abaqa also performed Bohemond VI in 1268 . , the ruler of the client state Antioch , received no military aid when he was attacked by the Mamluk Sultan Baibars . The latter conquered and destroyed Antioch and then concluded an armistice with Bohemond VI, who could at least keep Tripoli .

Like many Mongol rulers, Abaqa also sought the support of the European Christian powers in the fight against the Mamluks. In 1267 and 1268 he sent letters to Pope Clement IV - only the second of which has survived - and also an envoy in 1268 to bring about an alliance with the Crusaders and his father-in-law Michael VIII against the Mamluks. These were to be drawn into a two-front war by an attack by the Mongols from the east. However, the planned project did not materialize. After his victory at Herat over the troops of Baraq, Abaqa offered the French King Louis IX, who was on a crusade . Military aid when he appears with his army in Palestine. Louis IX but initially turned to Tunis , which was outside the Mongolian sphere of influence, and died there in August 1270.

The English Crown Prince Edward I landed on a new crusade in Acre in 1271, contacted Abaqa through an embassy of three Englishmen (Reginald Russell, Godfrey Welles and John Parker) and asked Abaqa for support in the fight against Baibars. Since the main force of the Ilkhan was in action in Turkestan because of conflicts , he was only able to send a relatively small Mongolian army of 10,000 horsemen under General Samagar to Syria to help Eduard. In October 1271, the Mongols devastated the areas around and south of Aleppo , causing a mass exodus of the local Muslim population. However, Prince Edward's troops could not effectively cooperate with those of the Ilchan because both armies were too weak. Baibars' troops summoned from Egypt to counter-offensive did not arrive in Syria until November 1271, when the Mongols had already retreated behind the Euphrates .

An army sent by Abaqa against the Mamluk fortress Bira on the Euphrates suffered a defeat in 1272.

The danger emanating from the Mamluks prompted Abaqa to continue forging an alliance with the Crusaders. In 1273 he sent a letter to Edward I asking for information about the date of the next crusade. The English king replied kindly but regretfully that neither he nor the Pope had a concrete plan for another expedition to the Orient. In 1274 Abaqa sent a Mongolian delegation to Pope Gregory X to the Second Council of Lyon , where Abaqa's secretary Rychaldus read a report to the assembly that reminded them of Hülegü's kind treatment of Christians and informed them of Ilchan's plan to drive the Mamluks out of Syria . But again the Mongols only received non-binding replicas from the Pope. Two more embassies sent to Rome in 1276 and in the following year did not produce any noticeable result. No joint action against Egypt resulted from the alliance of the Ilchanes with the European states, and the Mamluks asserted themselves against the Mongols as against the Crusaders.

Baibars meanwhile devastated Cilician Armenia again in the spring of 1275 and in 1277 invaded the Sultanate of the Rum Seljuks in Anatolia, which was under the sovereignty of the Ilkhan . He followed a call from the Seljuk Minister Moin-al-din Suleiman , who was responsible for the underage Sultan Kai Chosrau III. led the government. A Mongolian occupation army was defeated near Albistan (April 18, 1277) and Minister Suleiman and the Emir of the Karamanians congratulated the Mamluk ruler. Abaqa then hurried up personally at the head of an army, but he did not arrive in Anatolia until the Mamluks had withdrawn and quickly restored Mongolian rule over the Seljuq Sultanate, which he ravaged out of anger. He had the traitorous Suleiman executed and supposedly served his meat in a ragout at the next banquet.

It was not until 1280 that Abaqa started a major conquest into Syria, which was under Mamluk rule . In the meantime, after quarrels about succession to the throne after the death of Baibars (1277), Qalawun had established himself as the new sultan in 1279–1280 . The Mongols asked for military aid in Acre, but the crusaders had entered into a 10-year truce with the Mamluks and refused. Only the Hospitaller Order and Edward I were not averse to a new crusade, but the English king had neither time nor money for a war in the Orient. Count Bohemond IV of Tripoli would be under the influence of his uncle Leon III. of Armenia was ready to cooperate, but he was involved in disputes with the Knights Templar . Abaqa wanted to take action against the Mamluks before Qalawun had fully consolidated his position. The Mongols advanced across the Euphrates at the end of September 1280, conquered Baghras , Darbsak and, on October 20, 1280, Aleppo, whose mosques they set in flames, so that the Muslim population fled to Damascus in horror. At the same time, the hospitallers of Margat raided Buqaia and in October 1280 reached the Syrian castle Krak des Chevaliers , whereupon they turned back. However, since the Mongol army was too weak to permanently occupy Aleppo, they withdrew across the Euphrates before Qalawun's counterattack.

The Battle of Homs, 1281,
illustration from the 14th century

Abaqa announced through a messenger in Acre that he would send an army of 50,000 infantrymen and as many horsemen to Syria in 1281 and asked for military support, but apparently received no answer. Out of fear, Qalawun concluded ten-year peace treaties with the knights of Acre and Bohemond VII on May 3 and July 16, 1281 and thus again prevented the Crusaders from taking joint action with the Mongols. In September 1281 the Ilkhan launched the attack on Syria. While a Mongolian army under Abaqa's personal leadership conquered the Muslim fortresses along the Euphrates, his brother Mengu Timur invaded with a second army, who was Leon III. of Armenia and 200 knights of the Hospitallers from Margat had connected via Aleppo into the valley of the Orontes . Qalawun moved up with an army raised in Damascus and on October 30, 1281 met the army of Mengu Timur near Homs . About 50,000 Mongols and 30,000 allies (mostly Armenians, Georgians and Greeks) fought on its side. The center of the Mongols was commanded by Mengu Timur himself, while some Mongol princes stood on the left and the allied armies of Leon III, the Georgians and the Hospitallers on the right. The Christians quickly beat and persecuted the opposing sections of the Mamluk troops, but thereby lost contact with the Mongolian center. Because Mengu Timur was wounded in an attack by the enemy, he quickly withdrew, so that Leon III. and his companions had to fight their way north with heavy losses. But since Qalawun had also suffered considerable losses, he was unable to take advantage of his victory and had to forego pursuing the defeated enemies. So the Mongols withdrew behind the Euphrates unhindered. Abaqa was unable to make up for his brother's defeat due to his death a few months later.

Measures inside

Domestically, Abaqa had to consolidate his rule in Iran, as the Mongols under Hulegü practically only exercised real power in the north of this country, while the south and east recognized the supremacy of the Ilkhan, but were de facto semi-independent. But in the north, too, Abaqa had to fight against members of the Islamic Ismailis who appeared in gangs who had seized the former fortress of Gerdkuh of the Ismaili sect of the Assassins in 1271 . To strengthen the Mongolian influence in the south of Iran, Abaqa married his brother Mengü-Temür to ​​the Salghuridin Abish-Chatun, who ruled the Fars and after whose death (1286) the province finally came under the direct control of the Ilkhan. However Abaqa was the relative independence of the ruling in Herat Kurt Dynasty not break whose leaders Shams ad-Din I. by its attitude towards the idea of Baraq had compromised and was lured to the court in 1278 and poisoned. As under the rule of his father, the pastureland preferred by the Mongols in the northwest was the Ilkhan's power base during Abaqa's rule. Abaqa chose Tabriz as the summer capital there, while he spent most of the winters in Mazandaran.

Iran, which was badly affected by Hülegü's conquest, is unlikely to have recovered under Abaqa's rule, as the Mongolian nomadic steppe warriors generally had no particular skill in governing settled peoples and the wars in the east of the country caused further devastation. After all, the Ilkhan helped the poor in the country with generous tax rebates. Shams ad-Din Muhammad Juvaini held the office of Sahib-Diwan (finance minister) during Abaqa's entire government , although numerous attempts were made to overthrow him and that of 1280 almost succeeded. His brother, the historian Ata al-Mulk Juvaini , was imprisoned when Abaqa died on charges of embezzlement as governor of Baghdad .

Death and succession

Like many other Mongol rulers, Abaqa regularly enjoyed excessive alcohol and apparently died on April 1, 1282 of delirium tremens after a drinking bout. His favorite Shams al-din Juwaini was accused in 1285 of having poisoned him. Like his father, Abaqa was buried on the island of Šahi in Lake Urmia . His successor was his brother Tekuder , who converted to Islam as Ahmad . In 1284 he was overthrown by Abaqa's son Arghun , who resumed his father's pro-Christian politics.


  • W. Barthold: Abaka. In: Encyclopaedia of Islam . 1st edition (German), Vol. 1 (1913), p. 4.
  • Peter Jackson: Abaqa . In: Ehsan Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica . Volume 1 (English, including references)
  • Steven Runciman : History of the Crusades . London 1950-1954. German 1957-1960. Reprint 2nd ed. 1997, pp. 1099, 1101f., 1111f., 1116, 1126f., 1166, 1169ff., 1176f.


  1. P. Jackson (see Lit.), p. 61 puts the date a little earlier.
predecessor Office successor
Hülegü Ilkhan of Persia