Ilkhanate: a Khanate from the Mongol Empire's Southwestern Province


The Ilkhanate, also written Il-khanate and referred to the Mongols as Hülegü Ulus, was a khanate from the Mongol Empire's southwestern province. The Mongol House of Hulagu governed the Ilkhanid Empire, which was officially known as Iranzamin. After his brother Möngke Khan passed away in 1260, Hulagu Khan, the son of Tolui and grandson of Genghis Khan, inborn the Middle Eastern section of the Mongol Empire. Its primary land is now occupied by Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, respectively. Parts of current Iraq, Armenia, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Pakistan, part of modern Dagestan, and part of modern Tajikistan were all part of the Ilkhanate at its peak. Ghazan, the first emperor of the Ilkhanate, turned to Islam in 1295. The Black Death decimated the Ilkhanate in the 1330s. The khanate collapsed after its last khan, Abu Sa'id, died in 1335. Despite their non-Iranian origins, the Ilkhanid rulers attempted to establish their power by linking themselves to Iranian history. Scholars were hired to portray the Mongols as pre-Islamic Iran's Sasanian heirs.


From 1256 to 1335


Itinerant empire and Division of the Mongol Territory


  • Maragheh (from 1256 to 1265)
  • Tabriz (from 1265 to 1306)
  • Soltaniyeh (from 1306 to 1335)

Common languages

  • Persian (lingua franca, official, government, documents)
  • Middle Mongol (reigning dynasty, documents)
  • Arabic


  • Shamanism
  • Nestorianism
  • Buddhism
  • Islam



  • From 1256 to 1265: Hulagu Khan
  • From 1316 to 1335: Abu Sa'id




  • Formed in 1256
  • Disestablished in 1335


1310 est.



3,750,000 km2

Preceded by

  • Mongol Empire
  • Abbasid Caliphate
  • Nizari Ismaili state
  • Sultanate of Rum
  • Kingdom of Georgia
  • Qutlugh-Khanids
  • Ayyubid dynasty

Succeeded by

  • Jalayirids  
  • Chobanids
  • Muzaffarids          
  • Kartids      
  • Sarbadars 
  • Injuids       
  • Mihrabanids         
  • Eretnids    
  • Kingdom of Georgia         
  • Ottoman Beylik    
  • Mamluks  
  • Sutayids    


After defeating Ariq Böke, Kublai Khan bestowed the title of Ilkhan to Hulagu (Hülegü), according to historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani. The name ilkhan refers to the early reverence to Möngke Khan and his successor Great Khans of the Mongol empire, and this inferior "khanship" mentions to the initial respect to Möngke Khan and his inheritor Great Khans of the Mongol kingdom. However, the designation "Ilkhan," which was given to Hulagu's descendants and later other Borjigin princes in Persia, does not appear in records until about 1260.



In 1219, Genghis Khan launched the war on the Khwarazm-Shh dynasty when Muhammad II of Khwarazm murdered a party of merchants dispatched by the Mongols. Between 1219 and 1221, the Mongols conquered the empire, capturing the key cities and population centres. The Mongol detachment led by Jebe and Subutai devastated Iran, leaving the country in ruins. Following the invasion, the Mongols took control of Transoxiana as well. After fleeing to India, Muhammad's son Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu returned to Iran in c. 1224. Jalal rapidly won the support of the opposing Turkic nations, which were all that left of his father's empire. Thus, he thwarted the first Mongol invasion of Central Persia. In 1231, however, Jalal ad-Din was defeated by Chormaqan's army, dispatched by the Great Khan gedei. Azerbaijan and the southern Persian kingdoms of Fars and Kerman voluntarily submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tribute during the Mongol incursion. Chormaqan secured Hamadan and the rest of Persia to the west. Invasion of Armenia and Georgia by the Mongols took place in 1234 or 1236, with the conquest of the Kingdom of Georgia completed in 1238. The following year, they launched an invasion on the Seljuk-controlled western sections of Greater Armenia. By 1237, the Mongol Empire had conquered the majority of Persia (including modern-day Azerbaijan), Armenia, Georgia (except for Abbasid Iraq and Ismaili strongholds), Afghanistan, and Kashmir. The Mongols under Baiju seized Anatolia after the battle of Köse Dağ in 1243, and the Seljuk Sultanate and the Territory of Trebizond turned out to be Mongol vassals. In 1236, Ögedei ordered the restoration of Greater Khorasan and the repopulation of Herat. The Mongol military rulers usually camped in what is now Azerbaijan's Mughan plain.

The kings of Mosul and Cilician Armenia submitted to the Great Khan after realizing the threat posed by the Mongols. Based on the Mongol military structure, Chormaqan split Transcaucasia into three regions. Georgia's population was divided into eight tumens for a time. Güyük Khan ceased collecting revenue from Persia's regions in 1244 and provided tax exemptions to others. Möngke Khan banned ortog-merchants (Mongol-contracted Muslim tradesmen) and nobility from exploiting relay stations and citizens in 1251 after receiving a governor Arghun the Elder complaint. He ordered a new census and mandated that each man in the Mongol-ruled Middle East pay according to his wealth. Under Arghun, Persia was divided into four districts. Herat, Farah, Pushang, Gharjistan, Ghor, Khaysar, Firuz-Kuh, Sistan, Jam, Kabul, Tirah, and Afghanistan were all given to the Kartids by Möngke Khan.

Hulagu Khan

Hulagu Khan, the Ilkhanate's first khan, was the 3rd son of Tolui, grandson of Genghis Khan. He is a brother of both Möngke Khan and Kublai Khan. Hulagu was appointed as administrator of North China shortly after his brother Möngke became Great Khan in 1251; however, North China was entrusted to Kublai the following year. Hulagu was tasked with conquering the Abbasid Caliphate. He was given a fifth of the Mongol army for the campaign, and he brought his sons Abaqa and Yoshmut with him. Hulagu also brought numerous Chinese intellectuals and astronomers with him, from whom the famed Persian astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi learned about the Chinese calculating tables' way of operation. On the hill of Maragheh, an observatory was constructed. Hulagu formed Mongol rule from Transoxiana to Syria after succeeding Baiju in 1255. In 1256 and 1258, he overthrew the Nizari Ismaili state and the Abbasid Caliphate, respectively. Hulagu declared himself Ilkhan in 1258. (subordinate khan). In 1260, he went as far as Gaza before briefly conquering Ayyubid Syria and Aleppo. Hulagu was forced to return to Mongolia after Möngke's death to attend the kuriltai for the next Great Khan. He left a small force of roughly 10,000 in Palestine, defeated by the Egyptian Mamluks at the Battle of Ain Jalut. Berke of the Golden Horde declared war on Hulagu in 1262 after the strange deaths of three Jochid princes in Hulagu's service. Hulagu may have massacred Berke's army and refused to divide his war spoils with Berke, according to Mamluk historians. Berke wanted to attack Hulagu with Baybars, so he allied with the Mamluks. The Golden Horde dispatched invasion of the Ilkhanate, but Hulagu forced him back in 1262. The Ilkhanid army then crossed the Terek River, capturing an unoccupied Jochid encampment before being routed by Nogai's forces in a surprise attack. As the ice on the Terek River thawed, many of them drowned. Hulagu awarded Abaqa Greater Khorasan and Mazandaran in 1262 and Yoshmut northern Azerbaijan. Hulagu himself lived as a nomad in Azerbaijan's south and Armenia's north. Except for the Seljukids and Artuqids in Anatolia and Mardin, the Ilkhanate saw mass revolts by its subjects during his early reign. Things began to calm down once Shams al-Din Juvayni was named vizier in 1262, and a more lasting administration was implemented. After several days of banquets and hunting, Hulagu became unwell in February 1265. His son Abaqa succeeded him in the summer after he died on February 8th.

Middle Period

Following Abaqa's accession, the Golden Horde's Berke launched an invasion, which concluded with Berke's death in Tiflis. Abaqa repulsed an invasion by Ghiyas-ud-din Baraq of the Chagatai Khanate in 1270. Tekuder, Abaqa's brother, attacked Bukhara in vengeance. Invading Anatolia in 1277, the Mamluks defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Elbistan. Abaqa, enraged by the setback, executed Mu'in-ad-Din Pervane, the local regent, and replaced him with the Mongol prince Qongqortai. Mongke Temur was dispatched against the Mamluks by Abaqa in 1281, but he was beaten at Homs. After Abaqa died in 1282, a power struggle erupted between his son Arghun, who the Qara'unas backed, and his brother Tekuder, backed by the Chinggisid elite. The Chinggisids chose Tekuder to be their khan. Tekuder was the Ilkhanate's first Muslim monarch, yet he made no aggressive efforts to proselytize or convert his realm. He did, however, endeavour to supplant Mongol political traditions with Islamic ones, which cost him the army's loyalty. In addition, Arghun exploited his religion against him by seeking assistance from non-Muslims. Tekuder discovered this and murdered some of Arghun's supporters before apprehending him. Buaq, Tekuder's foster son, released Arghun and deposed Tekuder. In February 1286, Kublai Khan confirmed Arghun as Ilkhan. Arghun vigorously strove to counter Muslim dominance throughout his reign and fought both the Mamluks and the Muslim Mongol emir Nawruz in Khorasan. Arghun allowed his viziers Buqa and Sa'd-ud-dawla to centralize expenditures to pay his campaigns, but this was unpopular and turned his erstwhile allies against him. In 1291, both viziers were killed, and Arghun was assassinated.

Religious Shift

Under the reign of Arghun's brother, Gaykhatu, the Ilkhanate began to fall apart. The Mongol court remained Buddhist while the bulk of the Mongols converted to Islam. Gaykhatu had to buy the allegiance of his adherents, causing the realm's finances to collapse. Sadr-ud-Din Zanjani, his vizir, attempted to shore up the state finances by adopting Yuan dynasty paper money, which backfired tragically. With his reported sexual contact with a kid, Gaykhatu also offended the Mongol old guard. In 1295, Gaykhatu was deposed and replaced by his cousin Baydu. Baydu only ruled for a year before being deposed by Gaykhatu's son, Ghazan. For the next eighty years, Hulagu's descendants ruled Persia, allowing various religions, including Shamanism, Buddhism, and Christianity, before finally accepting Islam as the state religion in 1295.

Despite this, the Ilkhans remained hostile to the Mamluks, who had beaten both Mongol invaders and Crusaders. The Ilkhans attempted several invasions of Syria but could not gain and maintain significant territory against the Mamluks and were eventually forced to abandon their plans to conquer Syria and their stranglehold over their vassals, the Sultanate of Rum and the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. This was due largely to the Mongol Empire's civil strife and the khanates' animosity to the north and east. The Ilkhanate in the Caucasus and Transoxiana was threatened by the Chagatai Khanate in Moghulistan and the Golden Horde in Transoxiana, blocking expansion westward. Even during Hulagu's rule, the Ilkhanate was at odds with the Mongols in the Russian steppes in the Caucasus. The China-based Yuan Dynasty, on the other hand, was an ally of the Ikhanate and exercised nominal suzerainty over it for many decades (the Emperor was also Great Khan). Under the influence of Nawrz, Ghazan converted to Islam and declared Islam to be the official state religion. Subjects who were both Christian and Jewish lost their equality and were forced to pay the jizya protection fee.

Ghazan forced Buddhists to choose between conversion and deportation, as well as the destruction of their temples, though he ultimately softened his stance. Ghazan made religious intolerance punishable and attempted to repair contacts with non-Muslims after Nawrz was ousted and slain in 1297. In terms of international affairs, the Ilkhanate's conversion to Islam had little to no impact on its antagonism toward other Muslim powers. The fight with the Mamluks over Syria persisted. The Mongols' lone major victory over the Mamluks, the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, terminated the latter's control over Syria for a few months. Despite rumours that he would begin to embrace the Shi'a form of Islam after coming under the influence of Shi'a theologians Al-Hilli and Maitham Al Bahrani, Ghazan's policies largely maintained under his brother Öljeitü. Öljeitü, who had been baptized in Christianity as a child and had dabbled in Buddhism, converted to Islam and became a Hanafi Sunni, albeit he kept some shamanism. He converted to Shi'ite Islam in 1309-10. Öljeitü, who had been baptized in Christianity as a child and had dabbled in Buddhism, converted to Islam and became a Hanafi Sunni, albeit he kept some shamanism. He converted to Shi'ite Islam in 1309-10. Some Buddhists who survived Ghazan's attacks attempted unsuccessfully to reintegrate Öljeitü into the Dharma, demonstrating that they had been engaged in the realm for more than 50 years.


The last Ilkhan Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, Öljaitü's son, was crowned in 1316. In 1318, he faced a rebellion from the Chagatayids and Qara'unas in Khorasan and an invasion by the Golden Horde. Irenchin, an Anatolian emir, also revolted. On July 13th, 1319, Irenchin was defeated by Chupan of the Taichiud in the Battle of Zanjan-Rud. The Ilkhanate made peace with the Chagatais, who assisted them in suppressing the Chagatayid insurrection and the Mamluks under the influence of Chupan. Abu-Said replaced Chupan with "Big" Hasan in 1327. Hasan was sent to Anatolia in 1332 after being suspected of attempting to kill the khan. The Mongol emirs were irritated when the non-Mongol emirs Sharaf-ud-Din Mahmud-Shah and Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad, were given unprecedented military authority. The Black Death decimated the Ilkhanate in the 1330s, and by 1335, both Abu-Sai'd, and his sons had succumbed to the epidemic. Ghiyas-ud-Din installed Arpa Ke'un, a descendant of Ariq Böke, on the throne, ushering in a series of short-lived khans until "Little" Hasan conquered Azerbaijan in 1338. Jani Beg of the Golden Horde captured Chupanid-held Tabriz in 1357, effectively ending the Ilkhanate.

Franco-Mongol Association

In the 13th and 14th centuries, commencing around the Seventh Crusade, Western European courts attempted numerous attempts to create an alliance with the Mongols, mainly with the Ilkhanate. However, despite their shared antipathy to Muslims, particularly the Mamluks, the Ilkhanate and Europeans could not successfully coordinate their forces against their common foe.


The Ilkhanate administered their territory through a Central Asian-Persian administration in conjunction with Turco-Mongol military officers, in contrast to the China-based Yuan dynasty, which barred natives from holding important positions. Not all Persian officials were Muslims or from the Seljuq and Khwarazmi families who had previously served the Seljuqs and Khwarazmians (e.g., the Juvayni family). For example, Sa'd al-Dawla, a Jew, was the Ilkhanate vizier from 1288 to 1291, whereas Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, a renowned vizier and historian, was a Jewish convert to Islam. The Ilkhanate Mongols continued to live nomadic lifestyles till the end of the dynasty. Central Iraq, northwest Iran, Azerbaijan, and Armenia were all part of their migratory itineraries. Except for Georgia, the Artuqid sultan of Mardin, and Kufa and Luristan, the Mongols directly controlled Iraq, the Caucasus, and western and southern Iran. Khorasan was administered as an independent country by the Qara'unas Mongols, who did not pay taxes. Herat's local Kart dynasty stayed independent as well. Anatolia was the Ilkhanate's richest province, accounting for a quarter of its revenue, while Iraq and Diyarbakir combined accounted for roughly 35%. The acquisition of Abkhazia in 1330 brought the Kingdom of Georgia back together. However, due to wars and famines, the Il-Khans' payment from Georgia fell by around three-quarters between 1336 and 1350.


The Ilkhanate's rise to power had a significant historical impact in the Middle East. The creation of the unified Mongol Empire greatly facilitated trade and commerce throughout Asia. This progress was aided by links between the Ilkhanate and the Yuan Dynasty in China. The Ilkhanids wore Imperial Chinese dragon attire, and the Ilkhanids utilized the Chinese Huangdi (Emperor) title due to the Chinese system's sway over the Mongols. Apart from the seals they got from the Yuan dynasty, which contain references to a Chinese government organization, the Ilkhanids constructed their seals with Chinese characters. The Ilkhanate also paved the way for the succeeding Safavid dynasty and, eventually, the present Iranian state. Hulagu's conquests also allowed China to gain influence in Iran from the east. This, paired with patronage from his successors, would help to build Iran's unique architectural quality. Iranian historians transitioned from writing in Arabic to writing in their Persian language under the Ilkhans. The Ilkhanate used the rudiments of double-entry bookkeeping, and the Ottoman Empire later adopted merdiban. These changes occurred independently of European accounting practices. The agricultural and fiscal reforms of Ghazan Khan in 1295-1304 established socio-economic needs that led to the adoption of this accounting system.





House of Hulagu

Hulagu Khan


Abaqa Khan








Mahmud Ghazan


Muhammad Khodabandeh, also recognized as Oljeitu or Öljaitü


Abu Sa'id Bahadur


House of Ariq Böke

Arpa Ke'ün


House of Hulagu





Sati Beg




Jahan Temür




Ghazan II


House of Hasar

Togha Temür




Last updated: 2021-October-11
Tags: Mongol Empire
Share this Article
Facebook Google+ Twitter