Chapter Two

Armenia and the Turco-Mongol Invasions (continued)


[94] In the early 1220's, Armenia was subjected to a number of Turco-Mongol invasions. These invasions, all related to one another (though hardly coordinated) were made from different geographical directions. Varying in scope, participants, and intent, all of them nonetheless contributed to the destruction of the military capabilities of the Armeno-Georgian armies. Taken individually, the consequences of each invasion might have been overcome. But the invasions were, in a sense, a chain reaction. One followed the next within the space of a few years. This quick succession of attacks more than anything else explains how the mighty Armeno-Georgian forces, so recently on the aggressive offensive against hostile and far-flung powers, were so quickly humiliated, destroyed or neutralized before the onslaught of the Mongol conquerors in subsequent decades.

Chronologically, the first incursion was made in 1220/21 by a detachrnent of some 20,000 Mongols who had been sent across Central Asia by Chingiz-Khan in pursuit of the Shah of Khwarazm (162). The latter succeeded in evading [95] his pursuers and had, in fact, died in obscurity on an island in the Caspian Sea the same time the Mongols were entering the Caucasus (163). The Mongols' route into Armenia was from the southeast, from western Naxijewan north to the Aghstev region. A certain disagreement exists among the sources regarding the location(s) of the Mongols' first battle(s) with Caucasian forces. But the outcome apparently was that some 10,000 Armenians and Georgians, commanded by king Georgi IV Lasha of Georgia and his atabek Iwane Zak'arean were defeated in the Kotman area of northeastern Armenia (164) [pages 96-97 are footnotes, continuing note #164]. Through espionage the Mongols [98] learned of an alliance forming against themselves to include besides Armenians and Georgians, those forces still loyal to the rulers of Xlat' and Azarbaijan. Consequently, without delay the Mongols invaded Georgia in January, 1221 taking along an Azarbaijani defector plus his troops of Turkmens and Kurds whom they obliged to fight in the vanguard—a typical Mongol battle tactic (165). Northern Armenia and southeastern Georgia were looted, and then the invaders returned to their base in Utik' . In spring of the same year they moved south toward Tabriz, plundering and destroying the cities of Maragheh, Hamadan, Naxijewan, Ardabil, and later Utik's largest city, Baylakan, carrying off large herds of horses, mules, donkeys, oxen and sheep (166). Despite its success, this army had not been sent for conquest but to pursue the Khwarazm Shah and to conduct reconnaissance for future operations. Thus, considering their mission accomplished, the Mongols departed via the Caucasus mountains to the north, destroying the city of Shamk'or enroute (167). Seen in retrospect, this Mongol campaign, conducted by a relatively small army of 20,000 was nothing short of astounding, accomplishing the defeat of 20 peoples and a complete circuit of the Caspian in less than two years (168).

The second invasion of the Caucasus took place immediately after the Mongol departure in 1222, and was caused by it. This time the participants were nomadic Qipchaq Turks from the plains to the north. In their turn defeated by the Mongols, one sizable body of Qipchaqs fled from them in a southward direction. Requesting dwelling places in the Caucasus, they were disbelieved and refused at Darband, whereupon they pillaged and looted there, as well as at the Georgian city of Kabala, and all the way south to the city of Ganjak in Caucasian Aghbania/Aghuania (169).

[100] The emir of Ganjak permitted the Qipchaqs to settle in the environs of the city, intending to use them against Georgian incursions. The atabek Iwane mustered troops and went against them, but he was defeated, having underestimated their strength. What was worse, many naxarars and didebuls were captured, then killed or ransomed for huge sums of money (170). The Qipchaqs continued looting and raiding different parts of the Caucasus until 1223 when Iwane, in alliance with Azarbaijanis, Lezghians and other peoples finally defeated the Qipchaqs, killing or selling them into slavery (171). The Qipchaq raids, though less serious than the invasions which preceded and succeeded them, nonetheless contributed to the continued unsettled state of affairs initiated by the Mongols, depleted the Armeno-Georgian military of some choice leaders, and undoubtedly weakened the army's morale.

The third devastation of Armenia took place from 1225 to ca. 1230, during which time various parts of the country were subjected to raids and invasions by the ethnically diverse armies of the new Khwarazmshah, Jalal al-Din Mangubirdi (172). Resembling his father, he offered stubborn and occasionally successful resistance to his Mongol pursuers (173). This was, however, at the expense [102] of other peoples, notably the Armenians and Georgians. At the head of an army of some 60,000 Turkmens and Qipchaq mercenaries, Jalal al-Din invaded northeastern Armenia following the age-old route of invasion, through Naxijewan and northward (174). He took and devastated Dwin, and at Garhni defeated the 70,000 man strong Armeno-Georgian army commanded by Iwane (175). This was followed by the capture [105] of Ganjak, Lorhi, and Tiflis in which city a frightful massacre of Christians ensued with the active participation of resident Muslims who looked upon Jalal as a liberator (176). The northern cities of Ani and Kars, and the southern cities of Xlat' and Manazkert were besieged unsuccessfully in 1226 (177). Certain areas such as Tiflis and Dwin soon were [106] retaken by the Caucasians, but Jalal al-Din continued devastating one or another section of Armenia until 1230 when he was decisively beaten near Erzinjan by a united force composed of troops of Malik-Ashraf of Xlat', the Saljuq sultan of Rum, Kai-Qubad, and Cilician and Crusader detachments (178). Jalal was murdered the next year by a Kurdish peasant (179). His raids and devastations [107] had lasted seven years. Not only did he bring mass destruction of human life and property, but also famine and pestilence, since, as Step'annos Orbelean noted, Jalal al-Din and his unruly troops frequently cut down fruit trees and vineyards and burned the crops (180). [108] Following the deaths of king Georgi IV Lasha (1223) and Iwane Zak'arean (1227), Christian Caucasia, already seriously weakened now lost the possibility of united resistance against attackers, and this at the very moment when it was needed most.

The fourth invasion of Armenia occurred in 1236. It was short and merciless, and confined to the northeastern and northern regions. In that year the Mongol general Chormaghun, now established at the Mongol summer camp in the Mughan plain of Azarbaijan, sent out detachments under various commanders to capture all the key fortresses in northeastern Armenia (181). Unlike the first appearance of the Mongols in the Caucasus which had been for the pursuit of a fugitive, their reappearance now was for the purpose of conquest and occupation. On this occasion, the Mongols travelled with their families, carts, and herds—their "portable economy" (182). Upon receiving news of the return of the Mongols, the ruler of Georgia, queen Rusudan (1223-47) with many of the naxarar/didebuls fled to the security of western Georgia, while others secured themselves in their fortresses. But no one was secure. Molar took the territories of Iwane's nephew Vahram of Gag: Shamk'or, Sagam, Terunakan, Ergevank', Gag, Tawush, Kacaret', and K'awazin. The Kiwrikean fortresses of Macnaberd and Nor Berd fell, and about the same time the clerical historians Vanakan and Kirakos Ganjakec'i were captured. Ghatagha-noyin took Gardman, Ch'arek', Getabek, and Vardanashat. Ghaghatai-noyin took the Zak'arid holdings of Lorhi; and soon Dmanis, Shamshulde and Tiflis fell. Iwane's son Awag surrendered when his fortress of Kayean was besieged by Dughata-noyin. Upper and Lower Xach'en were taken by Jughbugha, while Aslan-noyin took the Siwnik' district (183). [111] As will be seen in the next chapter, in many cases the local Armenian princes, instead of resisting surrendered to the Mongols, were spared, reinstated in their holdings and sometimes even promoted. However, surrender did not always elicit Mongol sympathy. Fearing the harsh fate suffered by Ani, Kars surrendered but was devastated nonetheless (184). Surmari was attacked and ravaged. Shirvan fell (185). Thus, during the course of 1236 the Mongols [112] subjugated by sword or treaty all of northeastern and northern Armenia. They met with no serious resistance anywhere.

The Mongol conquest of western and southern Armenia took place between 1242 and 1245. These lands, it will be remembered, though inhabited by Armenians were under the political domination of the Saljuqs or, in the case of Xlat', of the Ayyubids (186). In 1242 Baiju-noyin (the successor of the former supreme commander Chormaghun who had lost his hearing) took Karin/Erzerum after a siege of two months. The population was massacred and led away into slavery (187). The Mongols spent the winter of 1243 at [113] their base in Azarbaijan, but returned in springtime to crush the forces of the Saljuq sultan of Rum, Ghiyath al-Din Kai Khusrau at Kose Dagh/Chmankatuk near Erzinjan (188). [115] The defeat of the Saljuqs at Kose Dagh was an event of the greatest significance for the Armenians both locally, and abroad in the independent state of Cilicia. Like dominoes the remaining key cities of central Asia Minor fell: Erzinjan, Caesarea, Sebastia/Sivas, Melitene/Malatya, and Divrigi (189). In 1245 Baiju captured Xlat', Amida, Edessa, [116] and Nisibis (190). By that year the Armenian populations, be they in Caucasian Armenia, western Armenia, southern Armenia, or even Cilician Armenia were to a greater or lesser degree all formally under the overlordship of the Mongols. A unique situation had been created.

During the more than 100 years of Mongol domination, the Armenians experienced periods of benevolent, even enlightened, rule and of capricious, benighted misrule. From 1236-43 Mongol rule resulted in little if any radical change in the lives of Caucasian Armenians. As was mentioned above, many if not most of the naxarars retained control of their lands. Probably Mongol garrisons were maintained in the key cities, but, as was the case during the Saljuq conquests, it seems unlikely that there would have been enough troops to police all areas. During this early period the sources unanimously note that the Mongols returned each winter to the warm Mughan plain of Azarbaijan, so for part of the year the majority of them were outside of Armenia (though hardly very far away) (191). Apparently, prior to 1243 no permanent [117] formal taxes had been imposed on Armenia, the conquerors contenting themselves instead with the rich booty and plunder to be had from the many areas taken by military force (192). But the sources maintain that in 1243 by command [119] of the Great Khan Guyuk himself, taxes amounting to between 1/30th and 1/10th ad valorem, were imposed on virtually everything movable and immovable and a heavy head tax of 60 silver drams was collected from males (193).

[120] The severity of the taxes and the brutal manner of their collection triggered an abortive uprising of the naxarar/didebuls in 1248/49. This rebellion, which was discovered by the Mongols while still in the planning stages was crushed at the expense of human and animal lives and crops in numerous districts of northeastern Armenia and southern Georgia. Some of the arrested Armenian and Georgian conspirators, unable to raise the huge ransoms demanded for their release, were tortured or killed (194). But the main [123] causes of the unrest remained unaddressed by the Mongols.

After the accession of the Great Khan Mongke (1251-39) a thorough census was made of all parts of the empire during 1252-57 (195). The Iranian emir Arghun personally conducted the census of Caucasia in 1254. Although the study made by Arghun has not survived, modern scholars estimate the Armenian population of Greater Armenia (excluding Cilicia) to have been about 4 million in the mid-13th century (196). The thoroughness of Arghun's work boded ill for Armenian laborers. Kirakos Ganjakec'i [124] described it as follows:

"[Census-takers] also reached the lands of Armenia, Georgia, Aghbania, and the districts around them, and began recording all those from 11 years and up, excepting the women. And they demanded the most severe taxes, more than a man could bear. And people became impoverished. They harassed the people with unbelievable beatings, torments, and tortures. Those who hid were seized and killed. Those who were unable to pay the rate had their children taken to pay their debt, for [the census-takers] circulated around with Persian Muslim attendants... all the artisans, whether in the cities or in villages were taxed. Furthermore, fishermen of the seas and lakes, miners and blacksmiths and painters/plasterers [were taxed] ... And they alone [i.e., the Mongols] profitted. They took all the salt mines in Koghb and in other regions. Arghun similarly profitted greatly from the merchants and heaped up vast quantities of gold, silver, and precious stones. Thus everything became expensive and the lands became filled with lamentation and complaints. Then he left in charge of the lands a wicked governor (ostikan) who demanded the same amount every year by list, and in writing" (197).
Another administrative change occurred regarding Armenia in the mid-13th century. This was the establishment of the Il-Khanid Mongol state over the territory of Iran, and the inclusion of Caucasia into it, beginning in 1256. Prior to that time the Caucasus had formed a single administrative unit composed of five vilayets. Of these five, the first two were areas of Armenian population, namely 1) the Gurjistani (Georgian) vilayet, and 2) the vilayet of Greater Armenia. The Gurjistani vilayet consisted of eight tumans or districts each capable of providing 10,000 soldiers. Three of the eight tumans in the first vilayet were Armenian and included Ani, Kars, northeasternmost Armenia, Siwnik' and Arc'ax. The second vilayet, that of Greater Armenia, embraced some of the quasi-independent Armenian principalities, such as the Mamikonean/T'orhnikeans of Sasun and the Arcrunid Xedenekeans of Vaspurakan. The center of this vilayet was Karin/Erzerum (198).

Following the granting of Iran as a hereditary appanage to Hulegu-Khan in 1256, the situation was somewhat altered. First, Hulegu chose as his residence Mughan in Azarbaijan which until then had been the camping grounds of Baiju-noyin. Hulegu ordered the latter and all the [126] nomadic Mongol and Turkmen warriors subordinate to him to evacuate the Caucasus, in order to create room for his own entourage. With considerable grumbling the displaced Baiju and his hosts moved westward, sacking the cities of Erzerum, Erzinjan Sivas, Caesarea and Konya as they went (199). Almost simultaneously some of Chingiz-Khan's grandchildren descended on the Caucasus through the Caspian Gates in order to settle near their relation, Hule'gu. [127] This unruly group also caused much damage as it travelled, and extorted whatever it could from the sedentary population (200). The establishment of the Il-Khanid state in 1256 brought about yet another change, albeit one somewhat more difficult to evaluate than the damage occasioned by nomads on the move. In the pre-Il-Khanid period, those Armenian naxarars heading tumans in the two Caucasian vilayets had had direct access to the Great Khan of the Mongol empire in Qara-Qorum. Now, with the establishment of the Il-Khanate (itself a vassal of the Great Khans) these same nobles became as it were sub-vassals whose direct access to supreme and ultimate power was lost (201). On the other hand [128] the proximity of new powerful masters as of 1256, plus the information obtained by them from the census of 1254 had yet another immediate ramification for the Caucasus. Now the naxarars were obliged to participate in all military ventures of the Il-Khanids on a regular ongoing basis, providing a specified number of troops yearly. Armenian and Georgian warriors fought in all the major Mongol campaigns in the Middle East from 1256 onward. This in turn resulted in the deaths or enslavements of large numbers of Christian Caucasians abroad and, secondly, in the absence of native defenders within the Caucasus itself, where they were needed to protect that area from the persistent raids and sorties of Mongols, Turks, and local rebels (202).

Heavy taxation, coupled with the onerous burden of military service in distant lands led, not unexpectedly, to rebellion. The second Armeno-Georgian rebellion occurred between 1259 and 1261. Though of longer duration than the rebellion of 1248/49, this one too eventually was brutally crushed (203).

[130] Dealing with the rebellions of subject peoples and waging war against Muslim powers in the Near East were not the only military operations occupying Il-Khanid generals. Beginning with 1261, the Caucasus became an occasional theater of warfare between Il-Khanids and yet another Mongol state, that of the Golden Horde centered in the lower Volga with its capital at Sarai. The organizer of this state, Berke-Khan (1257-66) a devout Muslim, was outraged by the anti-Muslim policies of the shamanist Hulegu and especially by his massacre of the Muslim population of Baghdad in 1258. Not only did Berke and his successors attempt to infringe on the uncertain boundary between his realm and Hulegu's (i.e., the Caucasus), but they also entered into an alliance with the increasingly powerful Mamluk state in Egypt (204). The latter were the most ferocious enemies of the Il-Khanids in the Near East, and the only power to have dealt the Mongols a severe military defeat there in 1260 (205).


Footnotes 162-205

Continue


Return to Turco-Mongol Menu