0849 GMT December 03, 2022
Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulegu (663-1265 CE) founded this dynasty during his campaign to the Middle East, which entailed the extinction of the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad in 1258.
The Ilkhanid rulers revived the term ‘Iran’ as a territorial-political designation and adopted it as the official name of their realm at the turn of the 14th century.
Tabriz is well known as the principal urban center of the Mongols in Iran. The ruler most closely attached to the city was Hulegu’s great-grandson Ghazan (1304 CE) who embraced Islam shortly before his accession to the throne in 1295, ultimately securing the conversion of the Ilkhanid Dynasty.
Ghazan had a massive pious endowment complex erected just outside the walls of Tabriz, which included the mausoleum of the ruler, a congregational mosque and a number of other structures.
After the collapse of the house of Hulegu in the middle of the 14th century, several successor dynasties of the Ilkhans up to the early Safavids at the beginning of the 16th century likewise accorded Tabriz the distinction of being the principal urban Centre.
In the 15th century, the leaders of the Turkmen Qara Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu proclaimed themselves king of Iran as soon as they captured Tabriz, like the Safavid Shah Esma‘eil when he took the city in 1501.
In order to study the changes in the idea of Iran in the wake of the Mongol conquests and to develop it further we should trace the emergence and perpetuation of the idea of a territorially distinct Islamic kingdom named Iran for which Tabriz would stand as royal city.
First, the Ilkhan Ghazan epitomized this idea and his mosque-mausoleum complex at Tabriz became its foundational pillar signalling the special royal status of the city.
Second, similar complexes or other royal monuments erected in and around Tabriz by major post-Ilkhanid rulers helped perpetuate the special status of the city through the 14th and 15th centuries. Such complexes and monuments continued to mark Tabriz as royal city and it was and is possible to view them as constantly renewed material manifestations of the idea that it stood for a territorially distinct Islamic kingdom named Iran.
Advancing this twofold thesis implies raising the question of whether the territorial vision of Iran and the application of the name to the realm of the Ilkhans does indeed represent a Mongol notion. The same question arises with regard to the special status of Tabriz as royal city, especially as perpetuated in the 14th and 15th centuries.
In the Turko-Mongol nomadic tradition, it was not uncommon to associate notions of legitimacy and sovereignty with specific localities. However, it seems unwise to assume that Ghazan and all other lords of Tabriz during the period under study shared the same notions of legitimacy and sovereignty.
The above is a lightly edited version of part of a chapter entitled, ‘The Local and the Universal in Turko-Iranian Ideology’, from a book entitled, ‘The Timurid Century’, Edited by Charles Melville, published by I.B. Tauris.