Saturday 23 December 2017

Mongol Empire under Ögedei Khan

Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of Mongol Tribes in East Asia under leadership of Genghis Khan and was the one of the largest empire in history. Genghis Khan died in August 1227, during the fall of Yinchuan, which is the capital of Western Xia. The empire began to split due to wars over succession, as the grandchildren of Genghis Khan disputed whether the royal line should follow which of his sons.

Mongolian Grasslands

Genghis Khan left behind an army of more than 129,000 men; 28,000 were given to his various brothers and his sons. Tolui, his youngest son, inherited more than 100,000 men. This force contained the bulk of the elite Mongolian cavalry.

Statue of Genghis Khan at his mausoleum, China

Ögedei Khan, was the third son of Genghis Khan and second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, succeeding his father. He continued the expansion of the empire that his father had begun, and was a world figure when the Mongol Empire reached its farthest extent west and south during the Mongol invasions of Europe and East Asia. Like all of Genghis' primary sons, he participated extensively in conquests in China, Iran, and Central Asia.

Coronation of Ögedei in 1229. Rashid al-Din, early 14th century

Among his first actions, Ögedei sent troops to subjugate the Bashkirs, Bulgars, and other nations in the Kipchak-controlled steppes. In the east, Ögedei's armies re-established Mongol authority in Manchuria, crushing the Eastern Xia regime. In 1230, the great khan personally led his army in the campaign against the Jin dynasty (China). Ögedei's general Subutai captured the capital of Emperor Wanyan Shouxu in the siege of Kaifeng in 1232.

General Subutai - Medieval Chinese Drawing

The Jin dynasty collapsed in 1234 when the Mongols captured Caizhou, the town where Emperor Wanyan Shouxu had fled. In 1234, three armies commanded by Ögedei's sons Kochu and Koten, as well as the Tangut general Chagan, invaded southern China. With the assistance of the Song dynasty, the Mongols finished off the Jin in 1234.

From 1235–38 Ögedei constructed a series of palaces and pavilions at stopping places in his annual nomadic route through central Mongolia. The first palace Wanangong was constructed by North Chinese artisans. The Emperor urged his relatives build residences nearby and settled the deported craftsmen from China near the site. The construction of the city, Karakorum (Хархорум), was finished in 1235, assigning different quarters to Islamic and North Chinese craftsmen, who competed to win Ögedei's favor.

Stone tortoise of Karakorum

In an offensive action against the Song dynasty, Mongol armies captured Siyang-yang, the Yangtze and Sichuan, but did not secure their control over the conquered sites. The Song generals were able to recapture Siyang-yang from the Mongols in 1239. After the sudden death of Ögedei's son Kochu in Chinese territory, the Mongols withdrew from southern China, although Kochu's brother Prince Koten invaded Tibet right after their withdrawal. Batu Khan, another grandson of Genghis Khan, overran the countries of the southern Russian steppe.

Batu Khan, another grandson of Genghis Khan, overran the countries of the southern Russian steppe.

Ögedei appointed Dayir commander of Ghazni and Menggetu commander in Qonduz. In winter 1241 the Mongol force invaded the Indus valley and besieged Lahore, Pakistan. However, Dayir died storming the town, on 30 December 1241, and the Mongols butchered the town before withdrawing from the Delhi Sultanate.

Lahore, Pakistan

Ögedei was considered to be his father Genghis Khan's favorite son, ever since his childhood. As an adult, he was known for his ability to sway doubters in any debate in which he was involved, simply by the force of his personality. He was a physically big, jovial, and very charismatic man, who seemed mostly to be interested in enjoying good times. He was intelligent and steady in character. His charisma was partially credited for his success in keeping the Mongol Empire on the path that his father had set.

Portrait of Ögedei Khan (the 14th century)

Ögedei Khan fell victim to alcoholism. Chagatai entrusted an official to watch his habit, but Ögedei managed to drink anyway. When he died at dawn on 11 December 1241, after a late-night drinking bout with Abd-ur-Rahman, the people blamed the sister of Tolui's widow and Abd-ur-Rahman. The Mongol aristocrats recognized, however, that the Khagan's own lack of self-control had killed him.

Statue of Ögedei Khan in Mongolia

The advance into Europe continued with Mongol invasions of Poland and Hungary. Before Batu Khan's forces could continue into Vienna and northern Albania, news of Ögedei's death in December 1241 brought a halt to the invasion. As was customary in Mongol military tradition, all princes of Genghis's line had to attend the kurultai to elect a successor. Batu and his western Mongol army withdrew from Central Europe the next year.

Modern Day Vienna

Sunday 10 December 2017

Spanish rule in Nicaragua

Spanish launched a campaign against the natives of the territory now incorporated into the modern Central American republic of Nicaragua during the colonisation of the Americas. Before European contact in the early 16th century, Nicargua was inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples. In the west, these included Mesoamerican groups such as the Chorotega, the Nicarao, and the Subtiaba. Other groups included the Matagalpa and the Tacacho. 


Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for the Kingdom of Castile and Leon in 1492. Private adventurers thereafter entered into contracts with the Spanish Crown to conquer the newly discovered lands in return for tax revenues and the power to rule. The Spanish founded Santo Domingo on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the 1490s. In the first decades after the discovery of the new lands, the Spanish colonised the Caribbean and established a centre of operations on the island of Cuba.

Portrait of a man said to be Christopher Columbus

In the first two decades of the 16th century, the Spanish established their domination over the islands of the Caribbean Sea, and used these as a staging point to launch their campaigns of conquest on the continental mainland of the Americas. From Hispaniola, the Spanish launched expeditions and campaigns of conquest, reaching Puerto Rico in 1508, Jamaica in 1509, Cuba in 1511, and Florida in 1513.

Coast of Puerto Rico

In 1513, while exploring westwards, Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean, and in 1519 Pedrarias Dávila founded Panama City on the Pacific coast. Various expeditions were then launched northwards involving notable conquistadors such as Pedrarias Dávila, Gil González Dávila, and Francisco Hernández de Córdoba.

A church in Panama City

Gil González Dávila first entered what is now Nicaragua in 1522, with the permission of Pedrarias Dávila, governor of Castilla de Oro (modern Panama) but was driven back to his ships by the Chorotega. In 1524, a new expedition led by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded the Spanish towns of León and Granada. Within a century of the conquest, the native inhabitants had been all but eliminated due to war, disease, and exportation as slaves.

Granada, Nicaragua

Hernández was able to collect a substantial amount of gold in Nicaragua, collecting more than 100,000 pesos of gold in a single expedition. In May 1524, Hernández sent a brigantine back to Panama with the Royal fifth, which amounted to 185,000 gold pesos. By 1525, Spanish power had been consolidated in western Panama, and reinforcements had arrived from Natá, in Panama, which had become a key port of call for shipping between Nicaragua and Panama.

San Juan, Nicargua

In 1526, Pedrarias was replaced as governor of Castilla del Oro; Diego López de Salcedo, governor of Honduras, took advantage of the change in leadership to extend his jurisdiction to include Nicaragua. He marched to Nicaragua with 150 men to impose his authority. He arrived in León in spring of 1527. León became the capital of the Nicaraguan colony, and Pedrarias transferred there as governor of the province in 1527.

Leon, Nicargua

In 1530, an alliance of Matagalpa tribes launched a concerted attack against the Spanish, with the intention of burning the colonial settlements. In 1533, Pedrarias Dávila requested reinforcements to pursue the Matagalpa and punish their revolt, in order to discourage neighbouring peoples from allying with them against the Spanish.

Pedrarias Dávila

By 1543, Francisco de Castañeda founded Nueva Segovia in north-central Nicaragua, some 30 leagues from León. By 1603, the Spanish had established their dominion over seventeen indigenous settlements in the north-central region that the Spanish named Segovia. The Spanish drafted warriors from these settlements to assist in putting down ongoing indigenous resistance in Olancho, in Honduras.


Tuesday 28 November 2017

Tughlaq Dynasty - Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim kingdom based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five Dynasties ruled over Delhi over this period starting from Mamluk(Slave) Dynasty. Four of these dynasties were of Turkic Origin and the last one was of Afghan Origin. The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack by the Mongol Empire.

Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaq dynasty, was the third Muslim dynasty of Turko-Indian origin which ruled over the Delhi sultanate in medieval India. Its reign started in 1320 in Delhi when Ghazi Malik assumed the throne under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. The dynasty ended in 1413. The dynasty came after the  Khilji Dynasty and preceded the Sayyid dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.

Tughlaqabad Fort

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq(died c. 1325) was the founder of the Tughluq dynasty, who ruled from 1320 to 1325. He built a city six kilometers east of Delhi, with a fort considered more defensible against the Mongol attacks, and called it Tughlakabad. In 1323 he appointed his son Muhammad Shah as his heir and successor and took a written promise or agreement to the arrangement from the ministers and nobles of the state. His reign was cut short after 5 years when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1325.

Tomb of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq was succeed by his son, Muhammad bin Tughluq who ruled from from 1325 to 1351 CE. He was interested in medicine and was skilled in several languages — Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit. In his reign, he conquered Warangal (in present-day Telangana, IndiaMalabar and Madurai, (Tamil Nadu, India), and areas up to the modern day southern tip of the Indian state of Karnataka.

Tughlaq Dynsaty at it's height

In 1327, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq passed an order to shift the capital from Delhi to Deogiri in present day Indian state of Maharashtra (renaming it to Daulatabad) in the Deccan region of south India. However, in 1334 there was a rebellion in Mabar. While he retreated back to Daulatabad, Mabar and Dwarsamudra broke away from Tughluq control. This was followed by a revolt in Bengal. Fearing that the sultanate's northern borders were exposed to attacks, in 1335, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi.

Daukatabad Fort

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq raised an army of possibly up to three million and seven hundred thousand soldiers in 1329 with the help of nobles and leaders of Transoxiana. In 1333, Tughluq led the Qarachil expedition to the Kullu-Kangra region of modern-day Himachal Pradesh in India. His army was not able to fight in the hills and was defeated by the Katoch clan of Kangra.


Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq died in 1351 on his way to Thatta, Sindh in order to intervene in a war between members of the Gujjar tribe. He had lived to see his empire fall apart. It was during his reign that Turkish empire of Delhi collapsed by two fold resistance. One was from Rana Hammeer Singh Sisodia of Mewar and other from Harihara and Bukka of South India. All these three warriors were able to inflict humiliating defeats on the Sultanate army and crush the empire. At the time of Tughlaq's death, the geographic control of Delhi Sultanate had shrunk to Vindhya range (now in central India).

Vindhya Range

After Muhammad bin Tughluq died, a collateral relative, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad, ruled for less than a month. Thereafter, Muhammad bin Tughluq's 45-year-old nephew Firuz Shah Tughlaq replaced him and assumed the throne. His rule lasted 37 years from 1351 CE till 1388 CE. Due to widespread unrest, his realm was much smaller than Muhammad's. Tughlaq was forced by rebellions to concede virtual independence to Bengal and other provinces.

Golden Tanka of Muhammad bin Tughluq

Firoz Shah Tughlaq tried to regain the old kingdom boundary by waging a war with Bengal for 11 months in 1359. However, Bengal did not fall, and remained outside of Delhi Sultanate. Firuz Shah Tughlaq was somewhat weak militarily, mainly because of inept leadership in the army. He banned torture in practice in Delhi Sultanate by his predecessors. After the death of his heir in 1376 AD, Firoz Shah started strict implementation of Sharia throughout his dominions.

Remains of buildings at Firoz Shah Kotla, Delhi, 1795

Firuz Shah Tughlaq is credited with patronizing Indo-Islamic architecture, including the installation of lats (ancient Hindu and Buddhist pillars) near mosques. Hindu religious works were translated from Sanskrit to Persian and Arabic. He had a large personal library of manuscripts in PersianArabic and other languages.

Wazirabad mosque

When the Qutb Minar struck by lightning in 1368 AD, knocking off its top storey, Firuz Shah Tughlaq replaced them with the existing two floors, faced with red sandstone and white marble. After Feroz died in 1388, the Tughlaq dynasty's power continued to fade, and no more able leaders came to the throne. His death created anarchy and disintegration of kingdom.

Top two stories of Qutb Minar

The first civil war broke out in 1384 AD four years before the death of aging Firoz Shah Tughlaq, while the second civil war started in 1394 AD six years after Firoz Shah was dead. Tughluq Khan, the then wazir assumed power, but died in conflict. In 1389, Abu Bakr Shah assumed power, but he too died within a year. The civil war continued under Sultan Muhammad Shah, and by 1390 AD, it had led to the seizure and execution of all Muslim nobility who were aligned, or suspected to be aligned to Khan Jahan II.

In 1394, Hindus in Lahore region and northwest South Asia (now Pakistan) had re-asserted self-rule. While preparations were in progress in Delhi in January 1394, Sultan Muhammad Shah died. His son, Humayun Khan assumed power, but was murdered within two months. The brother of Humayun Khan, Nasir-al-din Mahmud Shah assumed power - but he enjoyed little support from Muslim nobility, the wazirs and amirs. The Sultanate had lost command over almost all eastern and western provinces of already shrunken Sultanate.


The lowest point for the dynasty came in 1398, when Turco-Mongol invader, Timur (Tamerlane) defeated four armies of the Sultanate. During the invasion, Sultan Mahmud Khan fled before Tamerlane entered Delhi. For eight days Delhi was plundered, its population massacred, and over 100,000 prisoners were killed as well.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmud Tughluq

After his invasion of Delhi, Timur collected and carried the wealth, captured women and slaves (particularly skilled artisans), and returned to Samarkand. The people and lands within the Delhi Sultanate were left in a state of anarchy, chaos, and pestilence. Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, who had fled to Gujarat during Timur's invasion, returned and nominally ruled as the last ruler of Tughlaq dynasty, as a puppet of various factions at the court until 145 CE.


Sunday 19 November 2017

Heian period of Japan

The Heian period is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It precedes the Kamakura period(1185 - 1333 CE) and succeed the Nara period(710 - 794 CE). Throughout the period, Although the Imperial House of Japan had power on the surface, the real power was in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful aristocratic family who had intermarried with the imperial family.


Emperor Kanmu, the 50th emperor of Japan moved his capital to Heian-kyō (present-day Kyōto). Kanmu first tried to move the capital to Nagaoka-kyō, but a series of disasters befell the city, prompting the emperor to relocate the capital a second time.  A rebellion occurred in China in the last years of the 9th century, making the political situation unstable. The Japanese missions to Tang China was suspended and the influx of Chinese exports halted. The emperor died in 806 CE and reigned for 25 years.

Emperor Kanmu
Emperor Kanmu was succeeded by Emperor Heizei(51st emperor of Japan) who ruled for three years from 806 till 809 CE. He was succeeded by Emperor Saga(r. 809 - 823 CE). Emperor Saga played an important role as a stalwart supporter of the Buddhist monk Kūkai. The emperor helped Kūkai to establish the Shingon School of Buddhism by granting him Tō-ji Temple in the capital Heian-kyō (present-day Kyoto).

To-Ji Temple

Emperor Junna was the 53rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession who reigned from 823 to 833. In the 10th year of Emperor Junna's reign, the emperor abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by his adopted son who became Emperor Ninmyo. He reigned until 850 CE and died at the age of 41. He was succeeded by his son who became Emperor Montoku. He had six Imperial consorts and 29 Imperial children.

Emperor Montoku(55th Emperor of Japan)

Emperor Seiwa was the 56th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession during the Heian period. Seiwa's reign spanned the years from 858 through 876. He was succeeded by Emperor Yozei who reigned from 876 - 884 CE who was in turn succeeded by Emperor Kōkō who ruled from 884 - 887 CE.

Emperor Seiwa(56th Emperor of Japan)

As the Soga clan had taken control of the throne in the sixth century, the Fujiwara by the ninth century had intermarried with the imperial family. Toward the end of the ninth century, several emperors tried, but failed, to check the Fujiwara. For a time, however, during the reign of Emperor Daigo (897–930), the Fujiwara regency was suspended as he ruled directly. He was buried at Daigo-ji temple at Kyoto, Japan.

Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Fujiwara Clan were not demoted by Daigo but actually became stronger during his reign. Central control of Japan had continued to decline, and the Fujiwara, along with other great families and religious foundations. Within decades of Emperor Daigo's death, the Fujiwara had absolute control over the court. By the year 1000, Fujiwara no Michinaga was able to enthrone and dethrone emperors at will.

Fujiwara no Michinaga

Emperor Ichijo was the 66th Emperor of Japan and reigned from 986 - 1011 CE. During his reign, Imperial visits were first made to the following four shrines: Kasuga, Ōharano, Matsunoo, and Kitano; and in the years which followed, Emperors traditionally made yearly Imperial visits to these shrines and to three others: Kamo, Iwashimizu and Hirano. He was succeeded by Emperor Sanjo whose reign spanned the years from 1011 through 1016.


The Fujiwara controlled the throne until the reign of Emperor Go-Sanjō (1068–1073), the first emperor not born of a Fujiwara mother since the ninth century. Go-Sanjo, determined to restore imperial control through strong personal rule, implemented reforms to curb Fujiwara influence. He also established an office to compile and validate estate records with the aim of reasserting central control.

Emperor Go-Sanjō(71st Emperor of Japan)

Emperor Shirakawa was the 72nd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Shirakawa's reign lasted from 1073 to 1087. He was succeeded by Emperor Horikawa who reigned from 1087 until 1107 CE.  The period from 1086 to 1156 was the age of supremacy of the In-no-chō and of the rise of the military class throughout the country. Military might rather than civil authority dominated the government.

Emperor Shirakawa(72st Emperor of Japan)

A struggle for succession in the mid-twelfth century gave the Fujiwara an opportunity to regain their former power. Fujiwara no Yorinaga sided with the retired emperor in a violent battle in 1156 against the heir apparent, who was supported by the Taira and Minamoto (Hōgen Rebellion). In 1159, the Taira and Minamoto clashed (Heiji Rebellion), and a twenty-year period of Taira ascendancy began.

Heiji Rebellion

With Yoritomo firmly established, the bakufu system that would govern Japan for the next seven centuries was in place. Yoritomo then turned his attention to the elimination of the powerful Fujiwara family, which sheltered his rebellious brother Yoshitsune. Three years later, he was appointed shogun in Kyoto. One year before his death in 1199, Yoritomo expelled the teenage emperor Go-Toba from the throne. Two of Go-Toba's sons succeeded him, but they would also be removed by Yoritomo's successors to the shogunate and the end of Heian Period.

Yoritomo, founder and the first shōgun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan

Sunday 5 November 2017

Visigothic Kingdom of Europe - Kingdom of Toulouse

The Visigothic Kingdom was a kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of Aquitaine in southwest France by the Roman government and then extended by conquest over all of the Iberian Peninsula.


Wallia , (c. 385 – 418) was king of the Visigoths from 415 to 418, earning a reputation as a great warrior and prudent ruler. Early on, Wallia made peace with Emperor Honorius and accepted a treaty with the Roman Empire. In 418 he honored the alliance by invading Hispania, where his army destroyed the Siling Vandals. He died in 418 CE.

Willia, King of Visigoths

Theodoric I succeeded king Wallia to become the King of the Visigoths and ruled from 418 to 451. After the death of Roman Emperor Honorius and the usurpation of Joannes in 423 internal power struggles broke out in the Roman Empire. Theodoric used this situation and tried to capture the important road junction Arelate, but the Magister militum Aëtius, who was assisted by the Huns, was able to save the city.

Theodoric I

When Attila the Hun advanced with his large army to Western Europe and finally invaded Gaul, Avitus arranged an alliance between Theodoric and his long-standing enemy Aëtius against the Huns. Theodoric accepted this coalition because he recognized the danger of the Huns to his own realm. The Visigoth and Roman troops then saved the civitas Aurelianorum and forced Attila to withdraw (June 451).

Attila the Hun

Then Aëtius and Theodoric followed the Huns and fought against them at the Battle of Châlons near Troyes in about June 451. Theodoric's forces contributed decisively to the victory of the Romans, but he himself was killed during the battle. Immediately his son Thorismund was elected as successor of his father. Other sons of Theodoric were Theodoric II, Frederic, Euric I, Retimer and Himnerith.

Thorismund(c. 420 – 453) became king of the Visigoths after his father Theodoric was killed in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451 CE. He was murdered in 453 and was succeeded by his brother Theodoric II who ruled from  from 453 to 466. Theodoric was himself murdered in 466 by his younger brother Euric, who succeeded him to the throne.

Theodoric II

Euric ruled as king of the Visigoths, after murdering his brother, Theodoric II, from 466 until his death in 484. With his capital at Toulouse, Euric inherited a large portion of the Visigothic possessions in the Aquitaine region of Gaul, an area that had been under Visigothic control since 415. In 470 Euric defeated an attempted invasion of Gaul by the British king Riothamus and expanded his kingdom even further north, possibly as far as the Somme River, the March of Frankish territory

Toulouse, France

At Euric's death in 484 the Kingdom of the Visigoths encompassed all of Iberia except for the region of Galicia (ruled by the Suebi) and a third of modern France. Euric was succeeded by his son  Alaric II (484–507). He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour (Vicus Julii) in Aquitaine. In 506, the Visigoths captured the city of Dertosa in the Ebro valley. The Visigoths now came into conflict with the Franks under their King Clovis I, who had conquered northern Gaul.

In 507, the Franks attacked again, this time allied with the Burgundians. Alaric II was killed at the battle of Campus Vogladensis (Vouillé) near Poitiers, and Toulouse was sacked. By 508, the Visigoths had lost most of their Gallic holdings save Septimania in the south.

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