November 5 – Happy Birthday, Ghazan!

Posted on November 5, 2016

It always surprises me when we know the exact birthday of someone who lived a really, really long time ago. Naturally, when we do, it's the birthdate of someone really important. A king, probably, or an emperor or some other sort of ruler.

From 1295 to 1304, Ghazan was the ruler of the Ilkhanate. If you don't know what “the Ilkhanate” refers to, you are not alone! Most of us do not know that Genghis Khan's grandson created a state – a part of the Mongol Empire – that was made up of most of what we know call Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was called the Ilkhanate.

The Mongol Empire shortly before the breakup, above.
After the partitioning of the empire, below.

This region was ruled by direct descendants of Genghis Khan, and it remained a Mongol khanate even after the the Mongol Empire was split up into four chunks.

One of those descendants-of-Genghis-Khan was Mahmud Ghazan. Born in 1271, Ghazan spoke several languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Latin, and his own native language of Mongolian. He had many hobbies, including saddle making, metal smithing, and other craftswork. Also, Ghazan did a bit more in the vein of diplomacy than (it seems to me) other leaders of his time cared to do. I mean, don't get me wrong, he had his cousin killed so that he could take over as ruler of the Ilkhanate and he waged war often, and well...But he also put a stop to some of the religious persecution other rulers did, he tried maintained alliances with other Mongol khanates, and he tried to establish diplomatic relations with European powers. He introduced standardized coins and measures, he constructed hostels and hospitals and schools, and he is known for other reforms, as well.

Ghazan is not that famous for those good traits, however. Instead, he is most famous for converting from Buddhism to Islam. He did so in order to gain and keep political power, but that did change things so that Islam became the dominant religion of Mongols in the region.

By the way, Ghazan's principal wife was a Mongol princess sent by Kublai Khan, escorted from the Mongol capital to the Ilkhanate by Marco Polo.

Although I have never heard of Ghazan (or his wife, Kokochin) before, I have definitely heard of several people in the tale of his life: Genghis khan, Kublai Khan, and Marco Polo!

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Pumpkin Destruction Day 

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