Archetypes of destruction appear throughout history, but their relationship withreality is tenuous at best, especially in the pre-modern era. Each society can identify itself at least partially by naming the force of destruction against whom it stands inopposition. This paper will seek to compare two such figures, connected by similarcataclysmic events, united in location but separated by more than a century; the sack of Baghdad by Il-Khan Hulagu in 1258 AD and by Tamerlane in 1401 AD
. A variety of contemporary sources exist, as well as later histories and commentaries on the sources,and a multitude of modern interpretations. The manipulation of sources suggests that Arab nationalism
and Sunni struggles against Shī„ah incursions may have played some
role in the shaping of histo
ry, namely because Hulagu‟s attack has been redefined as adestruction of Arab culture and even a „vengeful‟ action against the mighty Arab
, while Tamerlane‟s equally ferocious action is rarely given the same attention.
The sacking of Baghdad earned both Hulagu and Tamerlane the epithet
it will be shown that Hulagu‟s reputation has suffered more, acting as
the scapegoat for later failings of Muslim empires.
Tamerlane‟s reputation has
fluctuated over time in various locales, being scorned by his contemporary neighborsand lauded in Europe as a possible savior, even immortalized in song, prose, and on the
Hulagu and Tamerlane are the transliterated forms of the names that the author will use for clarity, though
Khüle’ü and Tīmūr bin Taraġay Barlas, respectively, would be more accurate.
Osama bin Laden attempted to incite Muslim (mainly Arabs) to violence
, saying “Colin Powell and Dick Cheney destroyed Baghdad worse than Hulagu of the Mongols” which has confused American journalists intoseeking Mongolian history from the Arabs they conquered, producing prose like this: “Other Mongol facts: On
ss steppes, they tended to get hit by lightning a lot. Thunder terrified them.”
(Collomb), (Simons), (Silvester)
(Grousset) p. 367
Similar studies have been conducted on the real and perceived effects of the so-
called “Tatar Yoke” in
Russian history, discussing the actual weight of Mongol rule in Golden Horde Russia versus the convenienceof a reason for every imagined failing and slight of luck.