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Scourges of God

Scourges of God

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Published by Michael Hancock
Term paper - short research paper - comparing the depiction of Mongol Il-Khan ruler Hulegu and Tamerlane, the Turkic conqueror, with regard to their sacking of Baghad centuries apart.
Term paper - short research paper - comparing the depiction of Mongol Il-Khan ruler Hulegu and Tamerlane, the Turkic conqueror, with regard to their sacking of Baghad centuries apart.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Michael Hancock on Jan 25, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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05/12/2013

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Scourges of God
A General Comparison of Tamerlane and Hulaguin the History of Baghdad
 
Michael Hancock
 
 
2
 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
1
. 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
2
 
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
Empire
3
, while Tamerlane‟s equally ferocious action is rarely given the same attention.
 The sacking of Baghdad earned both Hulagu and Tamerlane the epithet
„scourge
of God
4
,‟
though
it will be shown that Hulagu‟s reputation has suffered more, acting as
the scapegoat for later failings of Muslim empires.
5
 
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
1
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.
 
2
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
their treele
ss steppes, they tended to get hit by lightning a lot. Thunder terrified them.”
(Frazier)
3
(Collomb), (Simons), (Silvester)
4
(Grousset) p. 367
5
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.
 
3
stage
6
. Tamerlane, unlike Hulagu, has more recently been recreated in the form of anUzbek national hero
7
for use by the ruling elite of newly independent Uzbekistan. Thispaper will explore the portrayal of both conquerors in turn, chronologically.Certain epithets and titles have appeared throughout history to be reapplied todifferent persons and entiti
es. One such title is „
scourge of God 
.‟ The famous first use of 
this term was applied by the Romans (
 flagellum dei 
) to the leader of invading horsemenfrom the steppes of Eurasia, Attila of the Huns. Due to the nature of steppe warfare andthe similarity in nomadic steppe culture over time, there is some utility in describing theHuns in brief before considering the Mongols or the Timurids. The Huns, like theMongols and Timurids after them, had an affinity for the horse, and according tohisto
ric sources as related in Howarth, “Hun children learned to ride almost as soon as
they learned to walk 
8
.”
The Huns were practitioners of mounted cavalry warfare againststanding infantry and static defenses, with a focus on raiding for plunder to pay off themilitary and reward loyal officers. Also familiar to the case of the Mongols and Timuridsis the eventual consideration of the invasion as a punishment for poor administration.
„scourge of God
9
is a tool of divine punishment, an atoning skin-flaying from the Lord. Apocryphally, Temujin (Genghis Khan) claimed the title for himself at the sack of Bukhara, the legend of which lives on in Uzbekistan
10
.
6
 
See Handel’s opera
Tamerlano
, Nicolas Pradon's play
Tamerlan, ou La Mort de Bajazet,
Christopher
Marlowe’s play
Tamburlaine the Great 
, and Edgar A. Poe’s epic poem
Tamerlane
7
(Duin)
8
(Howarth)
9
(Gordon)
10
(Whitehead)

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