By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Explain the evolving relationship between the Western Christian church and the rulers and people of Europe
- Identify the factors that led to the strengthening of Muslim control over the Middle East
- Discuss the limits of Mongol expansion and the states in North Africa and South Asia that remained independent
Largely oblivious to events in the Inner Asian Steppe, the thirteenth-century followers of the teachings of Jesus and Muhammed continued their struggle for control of the once-mighty Roman Empire in Europe and the Middle East. Islamic rule was slowly ending in the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal), as new Christian kingdoms in the region rose and pushed the remaining Islamic states southward to a small strip around Granada. In the East, Christian forces continued their retreat before the successors of Salah al-Din (known in the west as “Saladin”), while Catholics of western Europe dealt near-fatal blows to those who considered themselves to be Rome’s true heirs in Byzantium.
The Christian Pope and the Papal States
Politically, thirteenth-century Europe was a series of confederations of warriors who had sworn oaths of vassalage, or loyalty, to one of the titular European kings. There were no real centralized governments, courts, or bureaucracies. The real power of kings rested on the resources they could draw from their own personal lands, and on the willingness of their vassals to provide them with the support they had pledged, which in turn depended on the willingness of lesser nobles who had sworn vassalage to them. The church was more unified, having a multinational bureaucracy ostensibly to meet the spiritual needs of the population, but also to extract society’s wealth for church leaders. This gave the church a direct and recurring relationship with the people that few lords had with the vassals on whom they relied for defense and order. Most people saw their parish priest much more often than their feudal lord.
In the 1230s, Pope Gregory IX created an Office of Papal Inquisition to centralize the persecution of heresy throughout Western Christendom. Thus began the Inquisition, a centuries-long effort to impose religious homogeneity on western Europe, through torture and execution, if necessary. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture on suspected heretics, who had to prove their innocence, confess, or face execution, sometimes by being burned at the stake. The fact that inquisitors could seize the lands and property of the condemned provided an unfortunate incentive to keep the persecution going.
Citing the precedent of Pope Leo III’s coronation of Charlemagne, the church argued that kings held their position because the pope granted it to them. The kings and their vassals did not see it that way. Some insisted they had the right to appoint and control church officials in their lands. While the church did not gain total control of the appointment and supervision of its officials, it obtained substantial protection against arbitrary monarchial rule and some leverage over kings in most countries.
The Hohenstaufen family ruled both the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which encompassed much of the southern half of the Italian peninsula and the island of Sicily. Thus, the papal lands in Rome were surrounded by the Hohenstaufens, causing recurring conflict between the two. In 1241, the Hohenstaufens gained the upper hand when two popes died in quick succession while Hohenstaufen armies were laying siege to Rome. As a result, the papacy remained vacant for two years. A new pope incited revolt throughout the Holy Roman Empire, however, and the last Hohenstaufens succumbed to malaria in 1254. Their fall ushered in a long period known as the Great Interregnum, in which no Holy Roman emperor existed and Germanic nobles swore oaths of vassalage to rival kings. With such divisions in place, the papacy on occasion intervened—sometimes successfully, sometimes not—in political matters as well.
The church-state conflict played out differently in the Two Sicilies, where the monarchy established secular political control through the 1231 Constitutions of Melfi, considered the oldest surviving written constitution in the world. The Constitutions of Melfi increased the power of the monarch by replacing vassals and church officials with royal bureaucrats as local administrators and judges. The bureaucracy was funded by revenue from royal monopolies on essential products like salt, iron, and copper, along with tariffs and tolls. This revenue also allowed the king to build infrastructure, including fortifications in strategic parts of the kingdom staffed with soldiers paid from the royal coffers. The state created by the Constitutions of Melfi resisted church encroachment on its authority better than the Holy Roman Empire had.
Tension between the Rulers and the Ruled
A stronger central government also emerged in France over the thirteenth century. As in the Two Sicilies, this resulted from a restructuring of local government so that royal bureaucrats replaced vassals and church officials, and the monarchy had sufficient income to pay for their loyalty. Beginning with King Phillip II in the late twelfth century, French monarchs exploited opportunities to add to their royal holdings by taking land from their nobles. These new lands were managed by salaried royal appointees, not vassals who could pass their holdings to heirs. By the early fourteenth century, much of France was under direct royal control, greatly enhancing the resources French kings could call upon in conflicts with their vassals and the church.
By the reign of Phillip IV, which began in 1285, the French crown’s relationship with the church had drastically deteriorated. The crisis escalated until 1303, when Phillip sent soldiers to Rome to remove Pope Boniface. This act so intimidated church officials that when it came time to select Boniface’s successor in 1305, the cardinals picked a Frenchman allied with Phillip who then moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon, France, where it remained under the watchful eyes of French kings until 1376.
England developed differently than other European states. The monarch’s power over its vassals and the church was limited from the thirteenth century onward, and the basic rights of commoners, generally interpreted to mean adult males not bound as servants or apprentices, were protected. After King John was forced to become the pope’s vassal and pay him tribute, John’s vassals, emboldened by his capitulation, compelled him in 1215 to reaffirm those rights and expand them in Magna Carta, a document that reiterated existing rights and relationships of vassals. The document confirmed the papal position that the church was above the state and “shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired . . . by our heirs in perpetuity.” Among the rights spelled out in Magna Carta, perhaps the most important was that “no free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals.” This requirement created a precedent for trial by jury, which remains a staple of the judicial system in the West to the present day.
The other key development leading toward centralized government with limited and specified powers was the creation of a deliberative body of nobles, clergy, and commoners that replaced the Great Council of the king’s vassals and high clergy. This new body evolved into Parliament, designed to represent the interests of the people. Membership was expanded to representatives elected by the vassals of the king’s vassals, and starting in 1265, selected towns could send representatives to speak for the interests of merchants.
Parliament had two primary powers. One was to approve all tax increases. To establish uniform rule by the monarch, as opposed to a decentralized set of laws from the nobility and a potentially conflicting set from the church, Edward I asked Parliament to also approve laws. Parliamentary approval made the laws England’s laws, not just the king’s laws. Even if the king had drafted them, the nobles, clergy, and wealthy commoners had to agree to them. Edward I called his first Parliament in 1275, and the body met forty-six times during his thirty-five-year reign.
In the thirteenth century, the Iberian Peninsula was split between Christian kingdoms and parts of the Islamic Almohad Caliphate. The Christian kingdoms of Portugal, Leon, Navarre, Castile, and Aragon held about three-fifths of the land. Not only did these kingdoms fight each other and their Islamic rivals, but the same conflicts occurred between vassals and king and between monarch and church that existed in other Christian kingdoms. The church and vassals joined together to provide the king with revenue they deemed sufficient to keep the kingdom safe and orderly. Further resources had to be agreed upon by a council of vassals, clergy, and merchant representatives called the Cortes. As in England, the church and vassals were able to avoid being bypassed by kings and to assert checks on royal finances and power.
The Almohad Caliphate
Since the 1170s, Islamic Iberia had been ruled by the Almohad Caliphate, but they struggled to unify Muslims throughout the region and at times struggled to assert their authority. The Almohads were Imazighen (Berbers) from what is now southern Morocco. Leadership positions and economic advantage disproportionately went to members of the tribe from which the Almohad movement originated, often causing resentment. Support for the Almohads among other Muslims in North Africa and Iberia was broad but not especially strong.
Pope Innocent III arranged a truce among the Iberian Christian kingdoms in the early thirteenth century, convincing them to crusade to restore Christian rule to Iberia. In 1212, the Christian kingdoms devastated the Almohads at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Within a year, the Almohad caliph died without an heir, plunging the Muslim states in Iberia into a civil war from which they never recovered.
This four-minute animation depicts the back-and-forth between Christian and Muslim control of Iberia, from the first Muslim invasion in the early eighth century to the final Christian conquest of Granada in 1492. This final success of the Christians in the peninsula is often called the Reconquista (reconquest), but historians have been moving away from that term because it privileges a Western Christian worldview on the period.
Squabbling among Iberia’s Christian kings caused their alliance to collapse. Nevertheless, over the next forty years or so, each kingdom expanded independently into what had been Almohad territory. By the late 1260s, only the area around Granada, about 5 percent of the peninsula, remained under Muslim control. Even there, however, the rulers swore vassalage to the secular kings of Castile.
Iberian Muslims now under Christian rule were generally not driven out and could work and practice Islam. The less fundamentalist Islamic law of pre-Almohad days was brought back for them, though church law called for discriminatory segregation in dealing with non-Christians. To ensure that minimal interaction occurred, for instance, Muslims were required to wear distinctive dress. They also had to pay taxes to the Christian church and observe Sabbath restrictions on Sundays, although they were not compelled to work on their own holy day of Friday. Muslims could work in Christian businesses but not in Christian households. Marriage between Christians and Muslims and Jews was forbidden, as was trying to convert Christians.
The Later Crusades and the Limits of Mongol Rule
Although Muslims lost ground to Christians in Iberia in the early thirteenth century, they were much more successful against them in their heartland. Despite incessant conflicts over which individuals should rule the Levant for Islam, Muslims rebuffed Christian attempts to reassert control of the Holy Land (modern Israel). Meanwhile, Catholic and Orthodox Christians killed each other in the struggle that mortally wounded Byzantium, known as the Fourth Crusade. By midcentury, several more crusades had been defeated, and Muslims seemed well positioned to expel Christians from the Levant and make gains against the dying Byzantine Empire.
After the Third Crusade, crusaders held only Tyre, Acre, and scattered fortifications in the interior of the Holy Land. Pope Innocent III, hoping to regain the Holy Land for western Christendom, and by virtue of that victory to convince the eastern churches to accept papal sovereignty, called for a Fourth Crusade soon after assuming the papacy in 1198. The plan was to attack the Muslims through Egypt to seize Jerusalem, as the last two (failed) crusades had attempted.
The Fourth Crusade never made it to Egypt, however, much less the holy lands of the eastern Mediterranean. The expense of transportation and supplies left the crusaders in debt to Venetian merchants, who insisted they settle the obligation by reconquering the city of Zadar (in modern Croatia, called “Zara” by the Venetians) for Venice. Pope Innocent was opposed to the idea. Not only was it a distraction from retaking the Holy Land, but Zadar was a Catholic city. Nevertheless, the crusaders agreed, taking the city in 1202.
While wintering in Zadar, the crusaders were offered the opportunity to make more money and recruit Byzantine soldiers for the crusade if they installed the son of a recently deposed Byzantine emperor on the throne in Constantinople. Perhaps to forestall Innocent’s objections, the Byzantines’ offer also included subordination of the Orthodox churches to Catholicism, a long-term goal of the western crusaders. Pope Innocent ordered the crusaders to go on to the Holy Land, but they accepted the Byzantines’ offer and made their way to Constantinople instead (Figure 14.12).
After a great deal of bungling and confusion on both sides, the crusaders were able to put their young patron on the throne of Byzantium as Alexius IV in the summer of 1203. It turned out, however, that Alexius could come up with only half the promised money, and his attempts to raise the remainder provoked a coup that ended in his death. As they awaited payment from the Byzantines, the crusaders found their expenses increasing, and getting to Egypt looked increasingly daunting. Defeating the heirs of Salah al-Din would be no easy task. The Byzantine army had already fled before them, and many crusaders had not seen their homes for almost three years. Clergy among them pointed out, however, that bringing a usurper (Salah al-Din) to justice was a holy cause that could fulfill their vows of fighting for causes aligned with Christian principles and God’s will, and one that would guarantee their entrance into heaven. However, restoring a legitimate ruler to the Byzantine Empire became the mission of the Fourth Crusade, accomplished in short order in the spring of 1204.
This new mission of the Fourth Crusade was radically different from that of the previous crusades, which had focused on expelling Muslim rulers from formerly Christian lands. The First Crusade, near the end of the eleventh century, had been the most successful, reestablishing Christian control over areas of Palestine and Syria and creating four Christian-ruled sovereign states in the Levant. After Muslims reclaimed much of the area, two more crusades occurred in the late twelfth century. Neither was able to reassert Christian dominance over Jerusalem or other key Christian sites. The Fourth Crusade had sought to complete the mission, but now it shifted to righting the supposed moral wrongs of Byzantium’s latest internal intrigues.
Once they had stripped Constantinople bare, the crusaders appointed a new Byzantine emperor and one of their own priests as Patriarch of Orthodox Christianity, thus putting the leadership of the Byzantine church in the hands of someone loyal to the papacy. Within a year, most of them had drifted back to their original homes, taking a share of Byzantium’s wealth with them. As they expected, Pope Innocent accepted the reimposition of Catholicism on Eastern Christianity as sufficient for fulfilling a crusader’s vows, even if not a single drop of Muslim blood had been shed or an inch of Islamic territory added to Christendom.
The Ayyubids and the Crusaders
The land the crusaders had intended to invade was ruled by the heirs of Salah al-Din and called the Ayyubid dynasty. Although Salah al-Din had directed that his empire be split among his brothers and sons upon his death in 1193, his brother al-Adil I had centralized it under his own control by around 1200. The actual power of any Ayyubid ruler rested on his ability to maintain the loyalty of mamluk armies; mamluks were soldiers, generally enslaved men taken from the peoples of the Eurasian Steppe as boys or adolescents. They had limited property and marriage rights and could move into high administrative and leadership posts if talented. They had no loyalties to the populations they policed and defended, and they were much less likely to rebel than members of communities that might become unhappy with the caliph’s rule. Their position and future completely depended on the continuation of their owner’s rule. Many caliphs thus preferred mamluk armies to civilian ones.
With Jerusalem still in Muslim hands after the Fourth Crusade, Pope Innocent called for a Fifth Crusade, dedicating church funds to avoid the financial issues that had lured the Fourth Crusade off course. Reusing the intended strategy of the Fourth Crusade, the Fifth Crusade departed for Egypt in 1217. Taking advantage of the turmoil caused by al-Adil I’s death in late 1218 and the ensuing rebellion against his son al-Kamil, the crusaders captured Damietta in 1219. With his lands in disarray, al-Kamil tried to bribe the crusaders to leave Egypt. He offered them all of what had been the former crusader state centered around Jerusalem and a thirty-year truce between Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.
Confident they could defeat him, the crusaders rejected al-Kamil’s offer, a choice that proved unwise. By 1221, al-Kamil and his brothers had reasserted control over their father’s empire and joined together to trap the crusader army in the Nile delta. Faced with the threat of death by arms or by drowning, the crusaders agreed to withdraw from their conquests and return to Europe, ending the Fifth Crusade in yet another failure.
To placate the papacy, Hohenstaufen ruler Frederick II agreed to lead a new crusade, but personal misfortune and lack of enthusiasm among Europe’s vassals hindered his ability to get underway. The delays were so severe that the exasperated Pope Gregory IX excommunicated him, cutting him off from the church and its sacred rites. Even after Frederick set sail in 1228, Gregory condemned his venture as an unjust war, not a holy crusade.
Breaking with the strategy of the four previous crusades, Frederick landed in Acre, the main port still in Christian hands. His slow pace allowed word of his excommunication to precede him, causing him to be greeted with suspicion by his fellow Christians. Recognizing the power balance between Christians and the Ayyubids, Frederick fell back on his highly effective diplomatic skills to obtain the crusade’s objectives, concluding the Treaty of Jaffa with Sultan al-Kamil in 1219 (Figure 14.13).
The agreement allowed Frederick to be the titular king of Jerusalem, though with limited power. Muslims were under the rule of local Islamic scholars, not Christian officials; they could not be expelled or have their wealth confiscated, they could practice Islam, and the Islamic holy sites of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock remained under Muslim control. The treaty prohibited Jerusalem’s city walls, destroyed in the course of the crusades, from being rebuilt, leaving the city defenseless if Muslims attacked. A ten-year truce between Muslims and Christians was put in place.
The agreement was widely seen as a capitulation by both Muslims and Christians. Frederick’s decision to favor negotiation over battle sapped morale among the crusaders and furthered mistrust of him among the Holy Land’s Christians. Nevertheless, a Christian was king of Jerusalem, more Christians were under Christian rule than had been the case for at least two generations, and all had been accomplished without spilling a single drop of human blood.
By the time the truce expired, al-Kamil’s sons were fighting each other and ambitious generals for control. New crusaders arrived sporadically, augmenting Christian forces in the area. They tried to expand Christian territory by playing rival Ayyubid factions against each other, but it was all for naught. Al-Kamil’s son al-Salih stabilized his rule over the Ayyubid Empire, retook Jerusalem, and pushed the Christians back to a strip of coastal ports by 1244. He owed much of his success to bands of wandering Turks who had been displaced by Mongol expansion into central Asia and whom he incorporated into the Ayyubid mamluk army. While helpful for the moment, however, these additional soldiers entered the status of mamluk as independent adult refugees, not as adolescents with no life experience to compare mamluk service to.
While al-Salih consolidated his power, the French king Louis IX called for another crusade to liberate Jerusalem from Islamic rule, hoping to repeat the initial successes of the Fifth Crusade by taking Damietta in Egypt. He succeeded, but while Salih’s death in 1249 gave the crusaders hope, they met the same fate as their predecessors almost thirty years earlier. The Ayyubid mamluk army, led by al-Salih’s son Turan Shah, trapped the crusaders in the unfamiliar terrain of the Nile delta, capturing Louis and much of his army in 1250. Those deemed sick or unworthy of ransom were killed. Louis and the vassals with him were held hostage until Damietta was abandoned by the crusaders and a ransom of 6.4 million ounces of silver (more than USD$134 million at 2020 prices) was paid in advance, with the crusaders pledging to pay an equal amount later. This and the later crusades were often failures for a variety of reasons, which included unfamiliarity with the land and its peoples and more than a century of distrust that had continued to build between the crusaders and the indigenous eastern Christians.
The Rise of Egypt’s Mamluk Dynasty
Turan Shah did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his success. The wandering Turks turned mamluks who were the backbone of his army were convinced that the ransom money from the crusaders would be used to replace them with more traditional mamluks from Africa. To secure their position and gain control of the ransom money for themselves, they overthrew Turan Shah. His stepmother, al-Salih’s surviving widow Shajar al-Durr, briefly assumed the throne, but the mamluks were not willing to follow a female sultan, so they forced her to marry their leader Izz al-Din Aybak and abdicate in his favor. Historians consider the ascension of Aybak to be the end of the Ayyubid dynasty and the beginning of the Egyptian Mamluk dynasty. The Ayyubids left important marks on the history of the Islamic Levant. They restored the primacy of Sunni Islam after over two hundred years of Shia Fatimid rule. They built new madrasas—Muslim schools of learning, often with an emphasis on studying the Quran—in Aleppo, Cairo, and Damascus.
While Christians and Muslims were fighting each other, Hulagu Khan and his troops were ready to return to expanding Mongol domains. Satisfied with their looting of Baghdad and the security of their supply routes, they moved north to lands more hospitable to the enormous herds the army required. Hulagu decided the Mamluk areas of Syria and Egypt would be his next targets and demanded the Mamluk sultan become his vassal and pay tribute. The sultan declined. In 1259, after securing cooperation (or at least noninterference) from Islamic forces in Anatolia and crusader forces in the area, Hulagu attacked the Mamluks. Initially he had great success, taking Aleppo, which was annihilated as Baghdad had been, and Damascus, which surrendered unconditionally and was largely spared. Hulagu’s participation was short-lived, however. In early 1260, he received word that his presence was needed at a kurultai in Karakorum.
Hulagu appears to have underestimated Mamluk military prowess. Despite withdrawing possibly 90 percent of his forces as he returned to Karakorum, he still ordered Kitbuqa, one of his top generals and a Nestorian Christian, to take twenty thousand troops to conquer Egypt. Augmenting Kitbuqa’s forces were Christian Armenians and some of the remaining crusaders. In the fall of 1260, the Mamluks attacked the invading Mongols at Ain Jalut and soundly defeated them, killing Kitbuqa and most of his force. While the loss was relatively small compared with Hulagu’s overall force, it was enough to save parts of the unconquered Islamic world from further Mongol attack. Hulagu soon had his hands full defending his territory from his fellow Mongols, especially those of the Golden Horde. Meanwhile, the Mamluks were able to liberate Syria and Palestine from both the Mongols and the remaining crusaders and give some support to the Golden Horde in its conflicts with the Il-Khanate.
The Delhi Sultanate
There are many parallels between Mamluk Egypt and the Delhi Sultanate (in present-day India). The Delhi Sultanate had been created by the inhabitants of what is modern Afghanistan and was led by Muhammed of Ghur, who conquered the sultanate established by Mahmud of Ghazna in the late twelfth century. When the Mongols encountered it, the sultanate was ruled by a dynasty of former mamluks whose founder, Quṭb al-Din Aybak, had seized power after Muhammed’s death in 1206. Perhaps his efforts served as inspiration for the mamluk general Izz al-Din Aybak, who led the overthrow of Egypt’s Ayyubid dynasty almost fifty years later.
A feature the Delhi Sultanate shared with both its Mongol neighbors and the later Egyptian Mamluk dynasty was frequent bouts of civil war over succession. Aybak died from an injury after falling from a horse in 1210, leaving the task of stabilizing the sultanate to his son-in-law Iltutmish. Iltutmish did a remarkable job, asserting authority over other commanders of mamluk armies. After his death in 1236, however, decentralization and turmoil reigned for sixty years. During that time, there were ten sultans, only one of whom died from natural causes. The population suffered the disruption of economic activity and the destruction of crops, goods, and production centers during these multiyear struggles for leadership.
The conflict after the death of Iltutmish foreshadowed the turmoil of the Mamluk seizure of power from the Ayyubids and the role played in each case by a talented and forceful Muslim woman. Among the Mamluks this was al-Salih’s surviving widow, Shajar al-Durr. In the Delhi Sultanate, it was Raziya, Iltutmish’s daughter, whom he considered the most capable of his children to rule. A half-brother seized power with help from factions unwilling to accept a female sultan. Raziya, who had administered Delhi when her father was away on campaign, outmaneuvered her half-brother by directly appealing to the people of Delhi. When the army saw the public behind her, they deposed her decadent and incompetent brother.
Raziya ruled as sultana for four years and is remembered as a capable administrator, even leading successful military campaigns (Figure 14.14). Politically shrewd, she came to power despite the objections of nobles primarily because of popular support from her people. Breaking with Islamic convention, she dressed as a man, wore pants and no veil, and kept her hair short. This was too much for some Muslims in the sultanate. Another half-brother capitalized on their discontent and organized a rebellion of several military units, which drove Raziya into hiding. She was, however, cunning; she was eventually captured by one of the generals and married him; whether the marriage was a romantic alliance or a case of political opportunism is unknown. Ultimately, the couple was defeated and killed.
To keep down rebellion and internal power struggles, the later Delhi sultans developed a series of authoritarian policies. For example, a secret police network was established to watch civilian administrators and military officials. Rules were so strict that these elites were banned from having celebratory gatherings with their peers, because sultans feared coups were planned at such events. Although already prohibited by the Quran, alcohol was officially outlawed, at least in the administrative area of Delhi. Peasants were largely spared in an effort to prevent rebellions, but other classes lost their financial independence and were placed under state control. Land that had been given to soldiers and war widows was confiscated, and bureaucrats’ salaries were kept low. Price controls limited merchants’ profit potential, and high taxes prevented the accumulation of large amounts of private capital. All these policies deprived subjects of wealth to fund rebellions and gave the sultan the ability to control people by cutting off their income.
Despite frequent internal turmoil, the Delhi Sultanate performed well against external foes and expanded greatly during the hundred years after Iltutmish’s rule. When he died in 1236, the sultanate controlled the area from the Himalayas through the Ganges River valley to the Narmada River at the northern edge of the Deccan Plateau. By the end of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq’s conquests in 1336, it held almost all the subcontinent’s land as well (Figure 14.15). This expansion not only enlarged the territory Muslims ruled from Delhi; it also facilitated the conversion to Islam of more of the Indian population. A per-person tax was imposed on Hindus, but it was graduated based on income. Those at the extremes of wealth and poverty, the Brahmans and the Pariah, respectively, were largely exempt. Furthermore, no sultan imposed sharia, which would likely have caused resentment. Those like the Pariah and Sudra, who felt caste discrimination, could easily find a home and increase their social standing by converting to Islam, and a good number chose to do so.
The Delhi Sultanate was also effective at repulsing Mongol attacks. While Chinggis Khan had bypassed it in his war against the Khwarazmians, both the Il-Khanate and the Chagatai Khanate, despite their own domestic turmoil and conflict with neighboring Mongol khanates, launched periodic raids against it for plunder. It was not until the 1290s that the Chagatai Khan Duwa made the first of several attempts not just to pillage but to conquer at least parts of the Delhi Sultanate. Duwa never led these efforts himself because he was engaged against the Yuan dynasty for most of this period. At least six attempts failed between 1296 and 1306, however, in no small part because Duwa had chosen to attack when the sultanate had one of its most capable rulers, Alauddin Khilji.
Tarmashirin made one last attack on the Delhi Sultanate for the Chagatai Khanate in 1327. Taking advantage of Sultan Tughlaq’s moving his capital and the bulk of his forces south to the center of his expanded empire, Tarmashirin, while struggling to assume the Chagatai Khanate throne, laid siege to Delhi. After extorting a great deal of tribute from Sultan Tughlaq, useful in raising an army to complete his own ascension to power back home, Tarmashirin withdrew his forces. Some scholars suggest his subsequent conversion to Islam was an attempt to minimize the possibility of a major retaliatory strike by the sultanate. Regardless, the fracturing of the Chagatai Khanate after Tarmashirin’s death ended any serious efforts by Mongols to conquer the Delhi Sultanate.