In Wikipedia, it is mentioned that Hulagu Khan sent the following letter to Sultan of Egypt, Saif ad-Din Qutuz in 1260:

From the King of Kings of the East and West, the Great Khan. To Qutuz the Mamluk, who fled to escape our swords. You should think of what happened to other countries and submit to us. You have heard how we have conquered a vast empire and have purified the earth of the disorders that tainted it. We have conquered vast areas, massacring all the people. You cannot escape from the terror of our armies. Where can you flee? What road will you use to escape us? Our horses are swift, our arrows sharp, our swords like thunderbolts, our hearts as hard as the mountains, our soldiers as numerous as the sand. Fortresses will not detain us, nor armies stop us. Your prayers to God will not avail against us. We are not moved by tears nor touched by lamentations. Only those who beg our protection will be safe. Hasten your reply before the fire of war is kindled. Resist and you will suffer the most terrible catastrophes. We will shatter your mosques and reveal the weakness of your God and then will kill your children and your old men together. At present you are the only enemy against whom we have to march.

Sultan killed the envoys who brought that letter in rage.

I read the page on the Sultan's life but I can't find any mention of the Sultan meeting the Mongols in battle before Battle of Ain-Jalut so It doesn't make any sense for Hulagu to claim that the Sultan had fled before to escape from Mongol swords (Unless of course Wikipedia is incomplete, that's why I am here).

In Sultan's life account however it is mentioned that he was captured and sold as a slave by Mongols when he was a child:

Qutuz was of Turkic origin. Captured by the Mongols and sold as a slave, he traveled to Syria where he was sold to an Egyptian slave merchant who then sold him to Aybak, the Mamluk sultan in Cairo. According to some sources, Qutuz claimed that his original name was Mahmud ibn Mamdud and he was descended from Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, a ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire.

Is this what Hulagu's insult was referring to? If yes, How can he accuse Qutuz of fleeing when it was the Mongols who sold him in the first place? If no, Which armed confrontation did Qutuz take part in against Mongols before the above mentioned letter and subsequent Battle of Ain Jalut?

1 Answer 1


It looks like there are several versions of the 'threatening letter' sent to Qutuz. The version from the wiki about Qutuz has the following phrasing:

Let al-Malik al-Muzaffar Qutuz, who is of the race of Mamluks who fled before our swords into this country, who enjoyed its comforts and then killed its rulers, let al-Malik al-Muzzafar Qutuz know, as well as the Emirs of his state and the people of his kingdom, in Egypt and in the adjoining countries, that we are the army of God on His earth.

So here it is the Mamluks in general that are being accused of fleeing before the Mongols, which they did as the Mongols approached Damascus:

...and the Mamluks decided to kill an-Nasir Yusuf that night. However, he managed to escape with his brother to the citadel of Damascus. Baibars and the Mamluks then left Syria, travelling to Egypt where they were warmly welcomed by Sultan Qutuz, who granted Baibars the town of Qalyub.

The above again from the entry on Qutuz

So it appears the letter(or at least the second translation), though sent to Qutuz, was an insult aimed at the Mamluks in general as well, since Baibars and Qutuz had joined up to oppose the Mongols advance. The only thing he left out was a comment about someones Mother. I don't think he was really looking for a surrender.

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    Mamluks was of course a generic term for slave military class throughout Middle East and Near East. The ruler you are mentioning is from Sultanate of Syria and those Mamluks are Syrians, not Egyptians. They fled to Sultanate of Mamluk Egypt which was ruled by Qutuz. The letter is addressed to Qutuz, not Baibars who indeed fled from Syria with his companions. (That is of course if we speak of first version of the letter)
    – NSNoob
    Jan 3, 2017 at 6:33
  • That being said, The second version (More or less the same) you cited seems more plausible because It is not only cited from a contemporary source but is also technically correct as the first letter uses the title "Great Khan" which was reserved for the Great Khan back in Mongolia, not for Khan of Ilkhanate. That letter correctly uses "Mighty Khan" instead of Great Khan. The first letter is modern translation by David W. Tchanz so even tho it is almost same, it is less reliable. So have a +1. Let's see if someone can top your answer within 24 hours after which I will proceed to accept it
    – NSNoob
    Jan 3, 2017 at 6:35
  • It is kinda amusing however that Helagu called Mamluks a race even though he must have been fully aware that Mamluks were multiracial Turkic, Caucasian group (As Mongols personally sold slaves to be made Mamluks).
    – NSNoob
    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:02
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    @NSNoob Race hasn't always meant what it means now. This is mostly relevant to the translator and not to Helegu, who undoubtedly used a different word in Persian or Arabic whose translation could be hotly debated.This quote is from a 1913 translation of a 1355 encyclopedia. If you've read much Victorian-era history or anthropology, you'd see that race is used in a way which would much more likely be translated as people today.
    – kingledion
    Jan 4, 2017 at 1:16
  • @kingledion Thanks I did not know that. That makes me think of another question now. The language used in official correspondence by Ilkhanate :) Wonder If I can turn it into a question here
    – NSNoob
    Jan 4, 2017 at 6:24

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