The Mongols waged organised terror as a war tactic to inspire surrender. When they approached they, they often did so in a great tumult. Sometimes they simply beat drums outside a walled city for days before an onslaught. Or they hurled incendiary missiles, or bombarded the the city walls in a perfection of siegecraft. Even as terrified inhabitants did not sleep, the Mongol warriors rested and dined on the stores they had carefully pre-positioned.I would like to think that we are a more enlightened species than the Mongols were 800 years ago. At least these days have the good grace that when we lie, we lie about how few civilians we killed rather than exaggeratedly bragging about it ...
Unliked other invaders, their goal was not conquest and domination but utter destruction. Typically, an overrun city would be completely dismembered and rendered useless. Every living thing had to die - men, women, children, even cats and dogs. Death to opponents was a cruel, panful exercise - the more gruesome the murder, the greater the Mongol vindication. The Mongol custom was to report body counts by chopping off ears of their victims. Bag after bag was filled and delivered to ranking offiers as proof. This was more than warfare, more than plunder and subjugation, more than mere triumph - this was extermination.
... At Nessa, 70,000 people were ordered to bind each other's hands behind their backs. Then each one was systematically slaughtered as the masses awaited their turn ... At Merv, a major commercial hub in northeastern Persia, the population was cunningly convinced that they could safely exit the city in an orderly fashion, taking their most valued goods.It took four days for thousands of families to frantically gather their possessions and then nervously pass through the gate. They expected the promised safe passage. Instead, the 200 wealthiest men were identified and heinously tortured until they betrayed all their commercial agents and revealed their hidden troves of wealth. Then all the families were brutally torn from one another and and hideously butchered.
... At Nishapur, everything was burned, crushed, and pillaged, and all who lived were savagely murdered. The city disappeared. It was leveled to rubble, reduced to a space - except for three pyramids. To prevent any survivors from hiding among the heaps of corpses, orders went out to decapitate everyone. Those heads were towered into three ghastly monuments of extermination: one pyramid of male heads, one female, and one comprised of children. They stood as grotesque beacons and warnings.
... On February 5, 1258, after a six-day siege, the eastern fortifications [of Baghdad] were won. Entourage after entourage tried to reason with Hulagu [Khan], who would not life his siege or the invasion. Escape was impossible. The rivers were blocked. The roads were choked off. The mountain passes occupied. Finally the people of Baghdad obeyed an invitation to peaceably file out of the city gate. They were promised safe passage to Syria. But first, a census. Normally Baghdad's populations was hundreds of thousands, but with the swell of terrified refugees from the surrounding suburbs and village, it may have exceeded a million ... [they] filed out to the field, defenseless, their weapons left behind as instructed. Then, one by one, family by family, thousand by thousand, the Mongols did what they always did ... It is thought that Hulagu himself later bragged to King Louis IX of France that more than 2 million were killed. A Persian historian of the period stated the number was closer to 800,000. Others have estimated much more. The city's normal bustling population of nearly a million was swelled by multitudes of fleeing Moslems from the suburbs and surrounding villages. The higher death tolls are probably more accurate.
Monday, June 19, 2006
we are amateurs
From Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit and Conflict by Edwin Black. Excerpts from pages 41-47.