Mongol invasions of Georgia

Mongol invasions of Georgia
Part of the Mongol conquests, Toluid Civil War, Berke–Hulagu war, Kaidu–Kublai war
DateThroughout the 13th century
LocationCaucasus, eastern Anatolia, western Iran
Result Mongols conquer most of the Caucasus and subjugate the controlling kingdoms. Assassin strongholds destroyed.
Mongol Empire gains control of western Iran, most of the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia.

Mongol conquests of Kingdom of Georgia, which at that time consisted of Georgia proper, Armenia, and much of the Caucasus, involved multiple invasions and large-scale raids throughout the 13th century. The Mongol Empire first appeared in the Caucasus in 1220 as generals Subutai and Jebe pursued Muhammad II of Khwarezm during the destruction of the Khwarezmian Empire. After a series of raids in which they defeated the Georgian and Armenian armies, Subutai and Jebe continued north to invade Kievan Rus'. After his empire was destroyed, Khwarazm ruler Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, son of Muhammed II, battled both the Mongols and the Georgians before moving on to challenge the Seljuks in Anatolia. A full-scale Mongol conquest of the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia began in 1236, in which the Kingdom of Georgia, the Sultanate of Rum, and the Empire of Trebizond were subjugated, the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and other Crusader states voluntarily accepted Mongol vassalage, and the Assassins were eliminated. The Mongols also invaded Dzurdzuketia, modern-day Chechnya, but faced continual resistance in that area. After the death of Möngke Khan in 1259, the Mongol Empire descended into civil war and Berke of the Golden Horde and Hulagu of the Ilkhanate repeatedly invaded each other in the Caucasus until the ascension of Kublai Khan in 1264.

The second Mongol invasion of the Caucasus started with the expedition of Chormaqan against Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, ordered by khan Ögedei in 1231. The Southern Persian dynasties in Fars and Kerman voluntarily submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tributes.[1] To the west, Hamadan and the rest of Persia was secured by Chormaqan. The Mongols turned their attention to Armenia and Georgia in 1236. They completed the conquest of the Kingdom of Georgia in 1238 and the Mongol Empire began to attack the kingdom's southern possessions in Armenia, which was under the Seljuks the next year. In 1236 Ogedei despoiled Khorassan and populated Herat. The Mongol military governors mostly made their camp in Mughan plain. Realizing the danger of the Mongols, rulers of Mosul and Cilician Armenia submitted to the Great Khan. Chormaqan divided the Transcaucasia region into three districts based on military hierarchy.[2] In Georgia, the population were temporarily divided into eight tumens.[3] By 1237 the Mongol Empire had subjugated most of Persia, excluding Abbasid Iraq and Ismaili strongholds, and all of Afghanistan and Kashmir.[4] The Mongols began conquering the North Caucasus in 1237, but encountered bloody resistance from the local populations there.

After the battle of Köse Dağ in 1243, the Mongols under Baiju occupied Anatolia, and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm and the Empire of Trebizond became vassals of the Mongols.[5] Assassin strongholds lay scattered throughout Persia and the Caucasus, and Mongol commander Kitbuqa, under orders from Möngke Khan, began laying siege to them in 1253. Hulagu launched a full-scale assault in 1256 and eradicated Assassin presence from the region.

Following the destruction of Baghdad in 1258, civil war broke out between Berke Khan of the Golden Horde and Hulagu Khan of the Ilkhanate. Part of the larger Toluid Civil War succession conflict between Kubilai and Ariq Böke, the war consisted mainly of raids and invasions carried out by both sides throughout the Caucasus region, with Berke enlisting the aid of the Mamluk Sultanate and Hulagu the aid of the Byzantine Empire. Neither side gained a real advantage, and the conflict ceased after the victory of Kublai and his enthronement as Great Khan.

Mongol rule in the Caucasus lasted until the late 1330s.[6] Greater Armenia stayed under Mongol lordship from 1220 to 1344.[7] During that period, the King George V the Brilliant restored the kingdom of Georgia for a brief period before it finally disintegrated due to Timur's invasions of Georgia.

Initial attacks

The Mongols made their first appearance in the Georgian possessions when this latter kingdom was still in its zenith, dominating most of the Caucasus. First contact occurred early in the fall of 1220, when approximately 20,000 Mongols led by Subutai and Jebe pursued the ousted Shah Muhammad II of the Khwarazmian dynasty to the Caspian Sea. With the consent of Genghis Khan, the two Mongol generals proceeded west on a reconnaissance mission. They thrust into Armenia, then under the Georgian authority, and defeated some 60,000 Georgians and Armenians commanded by King George IV "Lasha" of Georgia and his atabek (tutor) and spasalar (commander-in-chief) Iwane Mkhargrdzeli at the Battle of Khunan on the Kotman River. George was severely wounded in the chest. The Mongol commanders, however, were not inclined to conquer the Caucasus at that time and turned back south to Hamadan, only to return in force in January 1221. The battle at Bardav (Pardav; modern-day Barda, Azerbaijan) was indecisive and the invaders withdrew to the Caspian Sea. Then the Mongols marched to the north plundering northeastern Armenia and Shirvan en route. This took them through the Caucasus into Alania and the South Russian steppes where the Mongols routed the Rus’-Kipchak armies at the Battle of the Kalka River (1223).

These surprise attacks left the Georgians in confusion as to the identity of their attackers: the record of one contemporary chronicler indicates that he is unaware of the nature of the attackers and does not mention them by name. In 1223, when the Mongols had seemingly deferred their plans regarding Georgia, King George IV's sister and successor Queen Rusudan wrote in a letter to Pope Honorius III, that the Georgians had presumed the Mongols were Christians because they fought Muslims, but they had turned out to be pagans.

During the invasion of Transoxania in 1219 Genghis Khan used a Chinese catapult unit in battle, they were used again in 1220 in Transoxania. The Chinese may have used the catapults to hurl gunpowder bombs, since they already had them by this time. In the 1239-1240 Mongol invasion of the North Caucasus, Chinese weapons were once again used.[8]

Mongol conquest of Georgia proper

The third and final invasion of the Caucasus by the Mongols took place in 1236. This offensive, which would prove the ruin of Georgia, was preceded by the devastating conflict with Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, a refugee shah of Khwarezmia, who had demanded in 1225, that the Georgian government support his war against the Mongols. The ensuing Khwarezmian attack, Tblisi was captured in 1226, and much of the former strength and prosperity of the Kingdom of Georgia was destroyed, leaving the country largely defenseless in the face of the forthcoming Mongol conquests.

After the death of Mingburnu in 1231, the Mongols' hands were finally free and the prominent Mongol commander Chormaqan led, in 1236, a large army against Georgia and its vassal Armenian princedoms. Most of the Georgian and Armenian nobles, who held military posts along the frontier regions submitted without any serious opposition or confined their resistance to their castles while others preferred to flee to safer areas. Queen Rusudan had to evacuate Tbilisi for Kutaisi and some people went into the mountainous part of Georgia, leaving eastern Georgia (Non-mountain part) in the hands of atabek Avag Mkhargrdzeli and Egarslan Bakurtsikheli, who made peace with the Mongols and agreed to pay them tribute. The only Georgian great noble to have resisted was Iwane Jakeli-Tsikhisjvreli, prince of Samtskhe. His extensive possessions were fearfully devastated, and Iwane had to finally, with the consent of Queen Rusudan, submit to the invaders in 1238. The Mongol armies chose not to cross the Likhi Range in pursuit of the Georgian queen, leaving western Georgia relatively spared of the rampages. Rusudan attempted to gain support from Pope Gregory IX, but without any success. Atabek Avag arranged her submission in 1243, and Georgia officially acknowledged the Great Khan as its overlord. The country was forced to pay an annual tribute of 50,000 gold pieces and support the Mongols with an army.

Mongol rule

The Mongols created the Vilayet of Gurjistan, which included Georgia and the whole South Caucasus, where they ruled indirectly, through the Georgian monarch, the latter to be confirmed by the Great Khan upon his/her ascension. With the death of Rusudan in 1245, an interregnum began during which the Mongols divided the Caucasus into eight tumens. Exploiting the complicated issue of succession, the Mongols had the Georgian nobles divided into two rival parties, each of which advocated their own candidate to the crown. These were David VII "Ulu", an illegitimate son of George IV, and his cousin David VI "Narin", son of Rusudan. After a failed plot against the Mongol rule in Georgia (1245), Güyük Khan made, in 1247, both pretenders co-kings, in eastern and western parts of the kingdom respectively. The system of dumans was abolished, but the Mongols closely watched the Georgian administration in order to secure a steady flow of taxes and tributes from the subject peoples, who were also pressed into the Mongol armies.

Large Georgian contingents fought under the Mongol banners at Alamut (1256), Baghdad (1258), Ain Jalut (1260) and elsewhere, losing tens of thousands of soldiers while Georgia, and the Caucasus in general, was left without native defenders against the Mongol forces dispatched to suppress spontaneous revolts erupting in protest to heavy taxation and the onerous burden of military service.[9] Ironically, in the Battle of Köse Dag (1243), where the Mongols crushed the Seljuks of Rüm, at least three thousand Georgian auxiliaries fought in the Mongol ranks, while the Georgian prince Shamadavle of Akhaltsikhe was a commander in the Seljuk army.[10]

In 1256, Georgia was placed under the Mongol empire of Ilkhanate, centered on Persia (Iran). In 1259–1260, Georgian nobles, led by David Narin, rose against the Mongols, and succeeding in separation of Imereti (western Georgia) from the Mongol-controlled eastern Georgia. David Ulu decided to join his cousin in rebellion, but was defeated near Gori and once again submitted to Mongol rule. Beginning with 1261, the Caucasus became a theater of the series of conflicts fought between Il-Khanids and another Mongol empire of Golden Horde centered in the lower Volga with its capital at Sarai.

Georgia's unity was shattered; the nobles were encouraged to rise against the crown that naturally facilitated the Mongol control of the country. In 1266, Prince Sargis Jakeli of Samtskhe (with Akhaltsikhe as the capital) was granted special protection and patronage by the khan Abaqa, thus winning virtual independence from the Georgian crown. The next (eastern) Georgian king Demetre II, "the Devoted" (1259–1289), through maneuvering in the intrigues that divided the Il-khans, attempted to revive his country, but suspected in an abortive coup against Arghun Khan, he had, to save Georgia from invasion, to agree to surrender and be executed. Then the kingdom fell into near anarchy. While western Georgia maintained a perilous independence from the Ilkhans, eastern Georgia suffered from both heavy tribute and unstable political situation. In religious matters the Mongols were generally tolerant even though many churches and monasteries were taxed. An uprising by David VIII (1292–1310), though long-lasting, did not lead to the liberation of Georgia, but prompted a series of devastating punitive expeditions. The Mongols attempted to retain the control over the country by raising and bringing down the rival monarchs and by inciting the civil strife, but their influence over Georgia gradually weakened with the disintegration of the Il-khan power in Persia.

Revival and collapse of the kingdom of Georgia

There was a brief period of reunion and revival under George V the Brilliant (1299–1302, 1314–1346). With the support of Chupan, ulus-beg of the Ilkhanate, George eliminated his domestic opponents who remained independent of the Georgian crown. George V conquered Imereti uniting all of Georgian Kingdom before the death of the last effective Ilkhan Abu Sai'd. In 1319 George and the Mongols suppressed the rebellion of the Ilkhanid governor of Georgia, Qurumshi.[11][12] Presumably due to the internal strife between the Mongol khanates and ilkhanid generals, almost all Mongol troops in Georgia withdrew in 1320s.[13][14] The Ilkhan Abu Sai'd (d.1335) exempted Ani and the neighbouring districts of Georgi from any kind of taxes.[15] In a 1321 letter of Avignon mentions schismatic people (Georgians) who are a part of Tatar Empire (Ilkhanate).[16]

In the year 1327 there occurred in Persia the most dramatic event of the reign of the Il-Khan Abu Sa'id, namely the disgrace and execution of the once all-powerful minister Chupan. Thus it was a heavy blow and George lost his patron at the Mongol court. Chupan's son Mahmud, who commanded the Mongol garrison in Georgia, was arrested by his own troops and executed. Subsequently, Iqbalshah, son of Qutlughshah, was appointed to be Mongol governor of Georgia (Gurjistan). In 1330-31 George V the Brilliant annexed Imereti uniting all of Georgia in the process. Therefore, four years prior the last effective Ilkhan Abu Sai'd's demise, two kingdoms of Georgia united again. In 1334, the post of the Ilkhanid governor in Georgia was given to Shaykh Hasan of the Jalayir by Abu Sai'd.[17]

Before the Timurids, much of Georgia was still under the Mongol Jalayirids and Chobanids.[18] The eight onslaughts of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur between 1386 and 1403 dealt a great blow to the Georgian kingdom. Its unity was finally shattered and, by 1491, Georgia was shattered into a number of petty kingdoms and principalities, which throughout the Early Modern period struggled to maintain their independence against Safavid and Ottoman domination until Georgia was finally annexed by the Russian Empire in 1801.


  1. Timothy May-Chormaqan, p.47
  2. Grigor of Akanc-The history of the nation of archers, (tr. R.P.Blake) 303
  3. Kalistriat Salia-History of the Georguan Nation, p.210
  4. Thomas T. Allsen-Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p.84
  5. George Finlay- The history of Greece from its conquest by the Crusaders to its conquest by the Ottomans, p.384
  6. Wakhusht, Sak'art'velos istoria, p. 276
  7. Bayarsaikhan Dashdondong - The Mongols and the Armenians (1220-1335), p.43
  8. Kenneth Warren Chase (2003). Firearms: a global history to 1700 (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-521-82274-2. Retrieved 2011-11-28. Chinggis Khan organized a unit of Chinese catapult specialists in 1214, and these men formed part of the first Mongol army to invade Transoania in 1219. This was not too early for true firearms, and it was nearly two centuries after catapult-thrown gunpowder bombs had been added to the Chinese arsenal. Chinese siege equipment saw action in Transoxania in 1220 and in the north Caucasus in 1239-40.
  9. The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13-14th Centuries, R. Bedrosian's Ph.D. Dissertation (Columbia University, 1979)
  10. The Caucasian Borderland. (Excerpts from A lecture by WED Allen delivered at the meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, London, on May 4, 1942
  11. W. Barthold, ' Die persische Inschrift an der Mauer der Manucehr-Moschee zu Ani ', trans.and edit. W. Hinz, ZDMG, Bd. 101, 1951, 246;
  12. Spuler, Die Mongolen in Iran, p. 121;
  13. Marxist historians believe that George repulsed the Ilkhanids and his country became independent. However, no original sources and historical records mention any open challenge of George after 1327. He remained neutral during the internal strife of the Ilkhans in 1336-1353.
  14. Wakhusht, Sak'art'velos istoria, p. 276
  15. ZDMG, Bd. 101, 1951, 246.
  16. Tea Tsitlanadze, Tea Karchava, Giorgi Kavtaradze - Towards the Clarification of the Identity and Sphere of Activities of the Missionaries who Visited the Orient and Georgia in the 14th century,p.187
  17. Ta'rfkh-i Shaikh Uwais (History of Shaikh Uwais), trans. and ed. J. B. van Loon, The Hague, 1954, 56-58.
  18. PETER JACKSON and Lockhart - THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF IRAN, vol.6, p.97


See also

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.