The Fall Of The Khwarezmid EmpireBy Manojj Dhinakaran
January 21, 2019
Have you ever wondered what happens when you do something without thinking? The actions that we do resonate through, the cascade of time affecting not only ours but also of others having grave consequences; such as in the case of the Muhammad II the Shah of the Khwarezmid Empire leading the entire country to be wiped out of existence just because of one fatal mistake of an official.
Genghis Khan and the Alliance request:
Genghis Khan had a hard childhood and that explains his brutal nature and warrior instincts. He worked hard in unifying Mongolia and the neighbouring countries as a single political power under him. After achieving most of the present day China, he was quite satisfied. From the historical records, one could clearly see that Genghis Khan had no intentions of conquering other nations and was totally exhausted from the process of the unification of Mongolia itself . It was during this time the Islamic nations were getting popular with their scientific and spiritual advancements that attracted the Mongols especially the city of Khwarezimia, the heart of the Islamic trade centre. With a vision of making an alliance with the western world, Genghis Khan sent a 500-man caravan of Muslims led by a single Mongol official as a representative to make ties with the Shah and seek a possible alliance with the nation in the year 1218. During this time the party had to go through the city of Otrar ruled under the stewardship of Inalchq. On seeing such a large party, without proper investigation and clouded by his vanity considered the incoming party to be bogus and possible invasion method against the empire. The governor of the Otrar attacked the emissaries who were unarmed, plundered their valuables and even dared to execute them. When this incident reached the ears of the Khan, he demanded the Khwarezmid Empire to make amends to this and release their citizens, which was refused by Inalchq without second thoughts. Khan then decided to send a company of three men (two Mongols and a Muslim) to meet the Shah directly to talk about the issues and try to reason with him for the acts of his official, for which the Shah replied by shaving the heads of the Mongols and executed the Muslim and sent his head along with the two Mongols. This incident infuriated Genghis Khan furthermore as he considered the messengers and the emissaries to be “inviolable and sacred” that he mobilised the greatest army in the history of the Mongolian invasion to attack an Empire.
The Invasion of Khwarezmid Empire
The war had a total of 700,000 warriors in the army of the Khan overpowering the 400,000 membered armies of the Shah. Apart from that the Khans militarist strategy and war weapons were highly sophisticated containing long-range catapults of massive size, gunpowder, wall ram horns and others borrowed from the Chinese engineers. The Khwarezmid Empire mostly depended on their moats and high mud walls as their first line of defence apart from their army. The brutality was initiated when the Shah and his advisors thought they had more time before the actual attack and thus failed to protect the natural mountain pass of Dzungaria Gate, which became a major advantage for the invading Mongols.
The brutality of the War:
The first city that was to be attacked was Otrar itself in the year 1219. The city resisted the forces behind their high walls for over five months until the city gates were opened by a traitor within. Thousands of people were mascaraed within the night. Inalchq fought valiantly even till his end by throwing tiles at the invading hoard. He was captured and was executed in the most brutal way by the soldiers who poured hot molten silver into his eyes and ears for his treason against the Mongol emissaries. People of the city were also massacred by beheading them individually. The city of Bukhara also met the same fate. Except for its people like, the artisans and craftsmen were shipped to Mongolia. Young women were given as slaves for the Mongol soldiers and the able men were absorbed into the Mongol army. The rest of the people were made to assemble in the city square near the mosque where he declared himself as the destroyer sent by the gods to punish for their sins and executed them. The next siege was at the capital of the Khwarezmid Empire itself in March 1220. The city of Samarkand was itself highly fortified with stonewalls and had deeper moats than other cities of its empire. On arriving in the city Genghis Khan used most of the people of the empire, to construct a human bridge to cross the moat by killing all the people in it and the other half were used as human shields against the raining arrows. Despite the fact that Shah’s army knew that they were killing their own people, the firing continued. That was the level of desperation for the Khwarezmids to escape the invading hoards. Khan’s tactics to enter was to lay siege and break the weakest points of the wall by hurling and battering them with huge boulders of stone which was indeed successful. The war only lasted for five days; the Shah along with his son Jalal al-Din fled the city to an island in the Caspian Sea, only leaving a handful of the soldiers who also surrendered. Khan ordered two of his most able generals, Subutai and Jebe to hunt down the two.The people were moved in masses and the Mongol army beheaded each and every one of them and made a pyramid out of their skulls as a sign of humiliation and amusement, the similar scene was also seen the siege of Baghdad and other places. The Shah died in a mysterious way in the island on December 1220 and his son too was murdered after facing a lot of hardships and wars over the Mongols and the others later years by August 1231. The final major city and the brutalist of all the siege were that of the Urgench. A total of 50,000 Mongol soldiers were assigned in the killing of 1.2 million people with 24 persons each. This was quite challenging for the Khan, thus he decided to dispatch his youngest son Tolui, into the battle to conquer Khorasan, the western provinces of the Khwarezmid Empire that consisted of three major cities of Merv, Balkh and Nishapur. The same fate followed the rest of them without any mercy. It was during this time, in April 1221 was the attack on the city of Nishapur, Khan’s son-in-law Toquchar was killed in battle due to an arrow shot. On hearing this, the Khan’s daughter was enraged and ordered her brother Tolui to wipe out every living person in the empire. The scourge killed every man, woman, and infant of the empire. Even, the animals like the cats and dogs were not spared in action. Still unsatisfied, the Khan’s daughter ordered every single one of them to be beheaded and made into skull pyramids just to be sure that not one of them was spared alive. There are a few scholars who argue that about a million people were massacred just about in an hour in this incident. Whether true or not, the war had completely wiped out the Khwarezmid Empire. Not a single trace was left of its existence as all the buildings, fields and others were crushed to the ground. Even then a few cities did fight against the attacking forces but were futile.
Thus, a single act of humiliation and self-pride lead to the destruction of an entire Empire itself without a trace from the pages of history with only its occasional mention in some of the archaeological records. Thus, before you do something, think before you decide and act on it. Maintaining politeness and being thankful may actually have saved the empire.
- Secret History of the Mongols
- Hidingwe, Eri – Amilitaty History of Central Asia
- Peawdin, Michael- The Mongol Empire
- Rashid Al Din – Comprehendiu Of Chronicles
- Wikipedia – Mongol Conquest of Khwarezmia
- Juvayani, Rashid Al- Din
- Jhon (2007) Genghis Khan, Life, death and resurrection.
- Did Genghis Khan really kill 1,748,000 people in one hour? an article by JoshClark
- Picture Courtesy: manuscript of Rashid al-Din’s Jami’ al-Tawarikh at the Edinburgh University Library via Wikimedia