Monday, August 16, 2021

The Christian Women in Genghis Khan’s Dynasty

It is suggested in The Secret History (Genghis Khan’s biography) that Genghis Khan dismissed Christianity as a failed experiment of a defeated people. His view of Christianity was developed through his observation of the poor performance of the Western Crusaders and the Byzantine Empire in the political contest for the control of the Levant. The Secret History also suggests that Genghis Khan felt that the Christian women were good for bringing up children. He admired the Christians for their skills, knowledge, and their worldly wisdom. From his marriage to 1294, every Mongol Khan was either born to a Christian mother or had a Christian wife. 

Some thirteenth century Christian chroniclers in Western Europe have claimed that Genghis Khan’s wife was a Christian—they identified her as the daughter of the legendary King David or Prester John. There is no evidence to back this claim. 

The most important woman of the Mongol Dynasty, Sorghaghtani Beki, was a Christian. She was married to Genghis Khan’s youngest son, Tolui Khan, with whom she had four sons: Möngke Khan, Kublai Khan, Hulagu Khan, and Ariq Böke. She took charge of the Mongol Empire at a period of transition and power struggle, and maneuvered her family’s internal politics to ensure that her sons became the inheritors of Genghis Khan’s legacy. First Möngke became the Great Khan and when he died, Kublai took the title. Kublai and Hulagu vastly expanded the boundaries of the Mongol Empire. All four sons of Sorghaghtani married Christian princesses.  

Doquz Khatun was Hulagu Khan’s Nestorian Christian wife. She is seen by historians as the influence behind Hulagu’s barbaric war on the Islamic kingdoms of the Levant, especially his catastrophic sack of Baghdad in 1258, during which the Abbasid Caliphate was decimated, much of the population was executed leaving the city depopulated, and numerous other atrocities were committed. She was the mother of Hulagu’s son Abaqa Khan, who married Maria Palaiologina, daughter of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1265. Batu Khan’s son Sartaq Khan converted to Christianity due to the influence of the Christian women in his family. 

When the Mongols sent their envoys to Western Europe, they claimed that Doquz Khatun and her aunt Sorghaghtani Beki were the daughters of Prester John.

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