The Ilkhanate (also spelled Il-khanate or Il Khanate) was one of the four divisions within the Mongol Empire. It was centered in the land of Persia and included present-day Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan. It was based, originally, on Genghis Khan's campaigns in the Khwarezmid Empire in 1219-1224, and the continual expansion of Mongol presence under the commands of Chormagan, Baiju, and Eljigidei.
The founder of the Ilkhanate dynasty was Hulegu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan and brother of Kublai Khan. Taking over from Baiju in 1255 or 1256, he had been charged with subduing the Muslim kingdoms to the west "as far as the borders of Egypt." His expedition, however, was halted in Palestine by the death of the khan Möngke, after which the Mongols largely withdrew, and suffered a sharp defeat at the Battle of Ain Jalut.
After the accession of his brother Kublai Khan, Hulegu returned, and the succession thereafter continued through his family--the true start of the Il-Khans, a term which means "subordinate khan", and refers to their initial deference to Kublai in ultimate sovereignty. Hulegu's descendents ruled Persia for the next eighty years, ultimately converting to Islam. (Ghazan was the first khan to do so.) The Il-khans remained opposed to the Mamluks, (who had defeated both Mongol invaders and crusaders); but were never able to gain significant ground against them, eventually being forced to give up their aims on Syria, and their stranglehold over their vassals the Sultanate of Rum and the Armenian kingdom in Cilicia. This was due to the hostility of the khanates to the north and east--the Chagatai khanate in Mughulistan and the Blue Horde of Batu threatened the Ilkhanate in the Caucasus and Transoxiana, preventing expansion westward. Even under Hülegü's reign, the Ilkhanate was engaged in open warfare in the Caucasus with the Mongols in the Russian steppes.
Under the harsh reign of the succeeding emperors after Hulegu, the Muslim majorty were oppressed under the Buddhist emperors, who encouraged the flourishment of Tibetan Buddhism and Nestorianism. However, with the conversion of Ghazan to Islam, Islam rose once again, and their Buddhist and Christian counterparts were severely harassed. This pattern continued under his brother Öljeitü .
After Abu Sa'id's death in 1335, the khanate began to disintegrate rapidly, and split up into several rival successor states, most prominently the Jalayirids . The last of the obscure Il-khan pretenders was assassinated in 1353. Timur the Lame later carved a state from the Jalayirids, ostensibly to restore the old khanate.
The historian Rashid al-Din wrote a universal history for the khans around 1315 which provides much material for their history.
Last updated: 08-16-2005 19:10:00