Today in Middle Eastern history: the Mongols sack Baghdad (1258)

Still, imagine the psychological shock to Muslims around the world to see Islam’s greatest city and its symbolic leader brought down like this. I don’t think we have any modern reference for it–maybe seeing the Nazis march into Paris, though I don’t even think that does it justice. Constantinople’s fall to the Ottomans was probably comparable to some degree, although as weakened as the Abbasids were in 1258, their fall surely didn’t seem as inevitable as the Byzantines’ fall probably seemed in 1453. It must have been particularly galling that the deed was done not by other Muslims, or even by Christians, who at least were in the same religious ballpark. Granted, there were some Christians and even some Muslims among the Mongol forces by this point, and Buddhism was on the rise among Mongolian elites, but for the most part they were still an animist/pagan bunch, the kind of people Muslims were supposed to convert by force or kill. The thing is, while they may not have been part of the Abrahamic world, the Mongols at their peak were perhaps the most irresistible conquering force the world has ever seen, and in 1258 they were still near that peak.

Source: Today in Middle Eastern history: the Mongols sack Baghdad (1258)


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